OUR MERINO FARMS

DISCOVER THE ORIGINS OF OUR WOOL

DISCOVER THE ORIGINS OF OUR WOOL

Since 2010 we have been obtaining our merino wool from six farms in Tasmania. Our relationship with the farmers is shaped by friendship and mutual trust. Our focus is on the sheep and the people in their environment. Discover the stories that make each merino farm unique!


ASHBY

A FAMILY WITH HEART & A PASSION FOR SHEEP

In the east highlands of Tasmania, Will Bennett, his wife Nina and their children Alice, Percy and Dougal run Ashby Farm with around 9,000 Yalgoo merinos. This is the fifth generation of the family to farm their 2,800 hectares of land here in this isolated expanse. Will is a pioneer and advocate of sustainable farm management in Australia.

FACTS:

  • 43,000kg of wool are produced per year – half of which is used by ORTOVOX
  • One sheep produces around 6kg of wool per year
  • The Ashbys have been rearing their particularly robust Yalgoo sheep for many years
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MIXED ENTERPRISE FARM

Ashby is a mixed enterprise farm – in addition to their merino sheep, the Bennetts also keep some cattle and grow poppies and wheat. The family has won awards for the purposeful design and orientation of their business: for “Sustainable and Ecological Farm Management” and for “Ecological Cultivation of the Scrubland Ecosystem”.

PRIMORDIAL SCRUBLAND

35% of the 2,800 hectares is primordial scrubland. However, the sheep graze in the extensive grassland. Many years ago now, the Bennetts decided against the practice of mulesing and have instead chosen to rear Yalgoo merinos, which are not as susceptible to the dangerous flystrike infection – while also producing particularly fine wool fibers that are just 17.5 to 18.5 microns in diameter.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

The Bennett’s commitment to the future is also fueled by family tradition. Will and Nina wish to preserve the land for their children, and people in Australia are particularly aware of how fragile nature really is. For the Bennetts, the effects of climate change can be clearly seen and are keenly felt – which is why they are so extremely dedicated to increasing sustainability.


Ortovox Wool Promise

OUR COMMITMENT TO FAIR WOOL

LEARN MORE ABOUT WILLS CONVICTION FOR THE OWP

Rothamay

Sheep and nature, craftsmanship and understanding

Frost, snow and icy temperatures in the winter but nearly 40 degrees in summer: This is Rothamay in Bothwell, Tasmania. Duncan and his family look after 11,000 Merino sheep and 3,500 hectares of land here. A life's work to which the family is dedicated with passion and a sense of pragmatism.

FACTS:

  • The farm is now managed by the fifth generation of the Campbell family
  • Four dogs keep order in the herd at Rothamay 1
  • 1,000 merinos are spread across 3,500 hectares on two different elevations
  • The merinos at Rothamay provide wool with a diameter of 18 to 19 microns

They love what they do

Duncan, his wife Anita and the children Will, Mollie and Oscar live and breathe Rothamay. They all like to wear high-quality products made of merino wool because they are nice and warm in the winter and because they look so good. But a lot of work goes into producing the sustainable raw material and bringing it to the market.

Rothamay has belonged to the Campbell family since the early years of the 20th century: Duncan now represents the fifth generation. He feels a responsibility to pass on the farm to the next generation in an even better condition and therefore to operate on a sustainable basis. 

Rothamay’s special feature

One of Rothamay’s special features is that the grazed land extends across two plots of land: In the summer (December to April) the sheep graze on a stretch of land by a lake. During this time the lower land can recover and the plants have time to prepare for the impending cold winter. This two-stage model is also reflected in the different types of landscape: While the land by the lake is covered with bushes and gets some snow in the winter, the lower country is more like classic, grassy pasture.

equipped for the future

To make the farm sufficiently equipped for the future, Duncan has taken on the task of safeguarding some very rate and important types of shrubs. He is also careful to avoid overworking the land and keeping too many sheep. For him, it is more important to regularly check that all the animals have enough food and water and that they have everything else they need.


LEWISHAM

SHEEP AND THE ENVIRONMENT – ALWAYS THE FOCUS OF ATTENTION

Lindsay and Rae Young use their combined resources to look after their flock of sheep in Lewisham. Rae has a degree in botany and so she can use the analytical approach from research for the benefit of the farm. Lewisham consequently became a showcase farm for sustainable management.

FACTS:

  • 6000 sheep are spread across 1,000 hectares
  • The amount of rain determines how many sheep can actually be kept
  • The sheep are shorn every eight months
  • And individual property plan shows which aspects have to be considered in sheep farming
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the young family

Lewisham was purchased by the Young family in 1946; the current owner Lindsay extended the land bit by bit and managed the farm together with his wife in a very sustainable way.

property plan

Lewisham follows an individual property plan which addresses particularly important aspects of sheep farming and establishes criteria for the care of land and animals. Precise planning with resources is especially important for precise quantities of food. Lindsay and Rae calculate the needs of their animals precisely and feed them on a daily basis instead of simply scattering a large quantity of food. In this way they can better care for their sheep, which is also reflected in the quality of the wool.

The provision of water for each paddock is controlled by an irrigation system so that the sheep always have enough to drink. The Youngs use an ingenious rotation system for their paddock to give the relevant pastures sufficient time to regenerate. Different types of grass and crops grow in the various pastures which provide the sheep with different nutrients.

sheering-shed

The Youngs shear the sheep every eight months in order to achieve a certain length of wool. There is room for 1,100 sheep in the sheering-shed. The sheep are shorn at five stations. The wool is then assessed on sorting tables and placed in boxes. The wool is pressed in 200kg bales in nylon bags, marked and transported away.The Youngs work with breeding animals and genetic selection to improve the wool quality with regard to the fineness of the wool. Rams with precisely analyzed genetic characteristics are purchased repeatedly for this purpose.

Mixed enterprise farm

One of the biggest challenges today is management of water as a resource. On account of the low quantity of rain in recent years and the smaller flock of sheep resulting from this, Ray and Lindsay have had to switch to a mixed enterprise farm (which is common in Tasmania): Rae for example has been experimenting for years with the cultivation of various crops such as berries, garlic and beans.

at home in the world

Lindsay and Ray feel at home on the farm even though they are frequently travelling around the world: Thanks to their excellent organization they can both take a couple of weeks out each year to travel. During this time, they hire a farm sitter. This way, they can continue to explore the world – for example, their last vacation was in Bhutan.


kenilworth

Wool expertise down to the finest fiber

Kenilworth has a special story: It is a farm that formerly belonged to the famous Eliza Forlonge from Glasgow, who was the first person to import merino sheep from Saxony to Australia and Tasmania. She herded the sheep on foot to the port of Hamburg in order to ship them to Tasmania. At that time it was a risky and courageous undertaking – particularly for a woman travelling alone.

FACTS:

  • The finest wool anywhere comes from the Campbelltown region 
  • Kenilworth extends across 1,400 hectares of land
  • The dry climate facilitates successful sheep breeding
  • 400 of the 7,000 sheep are selected for breeding
     

Eliza’s sheep provided the foundation for Australia’s fine-wool industry. In 1835, after the death of her husband, Eliza sold the farm and parts of the herd to one Dave Taylor.

dave taylor

Nowadays visitors to Kenilworth are greeted by a young Dave Taylor, who runs the farm with his family in what is now the sixth generation. A hectic pace is unknown on the farm, and so the family feel very happy here. Social contacts are much more intensive in Tasmania than on the Australian mainland: Everybody knows everyone and the climate is much more pleasant and balanced. Children grow up in a natural environment and with outdoor life.

optimum wool quality

A typical day at Kenilworth starts between 6 and 7am. Dave checks the animals and pasture to make sure that there is enough food and water – that’s the only way to achieve optimum wool quality. In the district of Campbelltown, they produce one of the finest Merino wools you can find.

SHEEP BREEDING

In sheep breeding, Dave combines tried-and-tested traditions with modern approaches: He uses contemporary examination methods to keep his animals healthy and maintain wool production at a high level.

SHEARING

Each year parameters such as wool thickness (microns) and wool length are used to produce a ranking, which is used to ensure the herd is always built on the best breeding animals. Shearing is scheduled for six weeks every year: A sheep provides approx. 6 kilograms of wool, meaning Dave produces around 43,000 kilograms of wool a year. Around 50% of his best wool goes to ORTOVOX.

DAVE'S CAPITAL

Dave knows that his animals and land are his best and only capital. If that weren’t the case, he admits, there’s no way he could still be running this farm in the sixth generation.


beaufront

EXTRAORDINARY ROLE MODELS

There can be no animal welfare without human welfare – something Julian and Anabel von Bibra are absolutely convinced of. Thanks to their leadership, Beaufront is not only one of the largest farms in Tasmania, but also one of the most respected. They believe in valuing their employees and their sheep. They do not believe in a growth-driven economic system.

FACTS:

  • The farm covers 14,000 hectares
  • Beaufront is home to 25,000 merino sheep

AN ECOLOGIST ON THE FARM

Ecologist and university professor Kerry Bridle works at Beaufront two days a week. Her job is to optimize the farm’s sustainability management and discover new approaches. She studies plants, insects, the ground and the flock, tests new solutions and establishes pioneering measures.

EQUALITY AT EVERY LEVEL

The people working at Beaufront Farm have neither job titles nor hierarchies. The idea is for employees not to take their motivation from what they can achieve, but instead from their own inner drive. If a person loves what they do, they will see it as useful, enriching work – and the company will profit from it, too.

WITH STRONG CONVICTION

The von Bribras’ farm (and their great success) is based on a solid foundation. The cornerstones of the Beaufront philosophy are: Get to know every aspect of the farm; learn from your mistakes; remain flexible and adapt quickly; trust the employees and give them responsibility.


bicton

ECONOMICALLY COMPELLING

A few years ago, George Gatenby took over his father’s farm in the Tasmanian midlands – and gave it a whole new focus. George is an analytical, critical soul, a man who was convinced by the facts and figures of ecological pioneers. Now he doesn't shy away from confrontation with associations that still practice mulesing.

  • His farm covers 3,000 hectares and is home to 9,000 sheep
  • The Gatenby family has lived in Tasmania since 1823
  • George is the eighth generation of his family to run the farm

PROFIT FROM SUSTAINABILITY

George was actually a banker when he took over the running of Bicton farm from his father. As a number-driven business economist, the first thing he did was look at the books and at other farms. He noticed that profitability really was directly related to the welfare of the animals and nature. Therefore, he gradually changed how things were run.

HOLISTIC AND INDEPENDENT

Another thing that George Gatenby values about his farm: For him, it’s the holistic approach over which he has complete control. “The animal, the wool, the meat – it’s all so valuable and in this kind of cycle you aren’t as dependent upon others, upon markets or companies.”

FROM THE GROUND UP

Soil is a key topic for the young farmer. That’s why he focuses his attention upon caring for it sustainably. If soil has air to breath, it provides a healthy, balanced foundation for natural growth – for juicy grass and ultimately for robust sheep and exceptionally good wool.


glenelg

SIXTH-GENERATION SHEEP BREEDING

Andrew Downie left Scotland for Tasmania in 1822. He was gained 400 hectares of land for a sheep farm in the Derwent Valley. Today, Charles Downie is the sixth generation of his family to run the farm. Even though the farm has grown considerably over the years, the original sandstone building is still at the heart of Glenelg today.

  • Gelnelg produces 60,000 kilograms of wool per year
  • The property includes 3,000 hectares of forest
  • Charles Downie has run this family farm since 2003

INCREASED UNDERSTANDING

According to Charles, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that everything is connected, and of how important sustainability is to everyday life: “Sheep farmers are being given more recognition. People value natural products that have a significantly lower impact on the environment than synthetic fibers.”

FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION

Charles and his wife Sally have three children, and their proud awareness of tradition alone is enough for the family to pursue purposeful farm management. “Every generation has really looked after the land and tried to pass it on to their children in a better condition than when they received it. We want to continue in this vein.”

CARING FOR THE LAND LONG-TERM

The hilly, rather dry land in the Derwent Valley is the perfect environment for the farm’s 16,500 merino sheep. To ensure it stays that way, the Downies make every effort to protect the ecosystem. “For us, it’s not about the results at the end of the year – it’s about ensuring the landscape is still healthy in 30, 60 or even 100 years’ time.”


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