Dorwards strive for quality at North Shields

DORWARD is a name that is synonymous with the North Shields farming district on Lower Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, hence the local oval with the same name, and it is set to continue for many years yet.

Craig Dorward is the fifth generation farming in the area, together with his wife, Haley, and parents, Allan and Wendy.

Craig returned to the family property, ‘Clifton’, eight years ago after previously working as a glazier.

Receiving about 400 millimetres of rainfall annually, the property comprises about 570 hectares of loam over clay soils, while the family also leases land and operates a contract sowing business.

‘Clifton’ was the home of a community shearing shed restored after the 2005 bushfires that ripped through the area. The Dorwards now own the shed, however it is still used by some local growers.

Today the family aims to run 1700 Merino ewes, including 600 mated to White Suffolk terminal sires, and 400-500 wethers, while about 700ha, including leased land, is also cropped to wheat, barley, lupins and canola.

Running on mainly clover-based pastures, with some medic in some paddocks, the sheep have been based on the Collandra and, earlier, Tewinga bloodlines. The Dorwards have consistently purchased the top price rams at Collandra’s sales near Tumby Bay, selecting for size as well as wool quality.

The family also culls up to 50pc of the ewe flock to maintain a good line.

The sheep cut 6-6.5 kilograms of wool per head, with yields hovering around the 70pc mark.

The main fleece line averages 20-21 microns and while the hoggets’ wool is generally 18.5-19.5 microns, it has been in the low 17 microns.

“We target nice bright, good length, high yielding wools with defined crimp,’’ Craig said.

The sheep are drenched on to stubbles over summer and are later fed hay and a lupin and barley mix from late February/early March.

“The feeding has really boosted the fleece weight and the lambs are a lot healthier,’’ Craig said.

Lambing occurs in May and vaccinations are later carried out for pulpy kidney, cheesy gland and tetanus.

Shearing is held in September for a week and the family works with local Quality Wool marketing representative, Ben Price, to sell its 60-80 bale clip at auction through the company.

“Our wool goes straight to auction and we generally get more than the price estimates, so it has been very good,’’ Craig said.

Lamb sales occur at about 12 months of age, allowing for a fleece. Ewes are sold to local buyers, while wethers are sold “over the hooks’’ or at the Dublin market.

Other wethers are kept for up to three years before sale.

Ben and Craig inspect some of the Dorward’s quality ewes and lambs on their ‘Clifton’ property.

Ben and Craig inspect some of the Dorward’s quality ewes and lambs on their ‘Clifton’ property.