OUR MERINO FARMS

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!
The country of Tasmania

MONTACUTE

Wild nature for the finest wool

Merino farm Montacute
Farmer Richard AAA is the maximum level of wool quality

The best natural conditions for the best merino wool: That’s exactly what we find on the Llanberis Pastoral farm, where the Hallett family keep their sheep and where especially fine wool is produced. Montacute is the brand name for this wool and for the ecological way in which it is obtained. The farming family, consisting of three households, is proud to produce a product that combines natural values like no other product.  

FACTS:

  • 25,000 merino sheep are spread across 8,100 hectares
  • The farm is 150 to 660 meters above sea level
  • Montacute has been a wool brand for 100 years
  • The Hallett family has been running the Llanberis Pastoral farm since the 1880s


The Halletts' land is on the driest stretch of earth in Tasmania – this provides the perfect conditions for producing high-quality merino wool. The sheep roam across the open or wooded terrain; they gather under the eucalyptus trees or in the wide pens where they find protection from the sun and wind. The sheep are free to move across irrigated pastures or to settle down on stony, untouched areas. Within the enclosure there are so many types of landscape that the sheep can always benefit from the whole range of nutrition that the Tasmanian countryside has to offer.

At Llanberis Pastoral, great emphasis is placed on the well-being of the sheep: The mouths, teeth and feet are inspected on a regular basis, mostly in the course of shearing in July or November/December when 70% of the wool is shorn. 

A farmer examines the grazing herd every other day and checks whether the animals are well and whether they have enough food and water. 

The Halletts live in two households at Llanberis Pastoral: In addition to Richard and his four children, his brother James lives here with Allison and their children. 

  • Montacute's Merino sheep

The brothers' parents have largely transferred the farm to their sons already and they live in Hobart, an hour away by car. The family produce merino wool with great passion – it is part of their farming DNA and it ensures that the land is maintained. 

Part of the farm area is also used for cultivating crops that are then sent to Germany. However, the greatest part of the agricultural production is accounted for by Montacute merino wool which measures 16 and 20 microns. The genetic characteristics of the herd make for a strong, bright and clean raw material which has exceptional wear properties. 

Richard emphasizes that he and his family regard themselves as “guardians” of their land, whose most important objective is to pass on the land and animals to the next generation – in the same or even better conditions than they themselves received them. 


ASHBY

A PASSION FOR SHEEP IS AT THE HEART OF THE FAMILY

Merino sheep on Ashby
The Bennett family Ashby merino sheep farm

The eastern highlands of Tasmania are home to one of the farms where we obtain merino wool for our mountainwear collection. The Bennett family has lived at Ashby Farm for over 100 years. Will, Nina and the children Alice, Percy and Dougal have approximately 9,000 merinos on 2,800 hectors of land. 

FACTS:

  • Will Bennett is the fifth generation to manage the farm
  • 43,000kg of wool is produced per year, half of which goes to ORTOVOX
  • One sheep produces approximately 6kg of wool per year
  • As a mixed enterprise farm, Ashby is one of the few facilities where sheep have already been bred for nine years


No typical farm: The Bennett family live in Ashby, in a splendid sandstone property built in 1835. The house is surrounded by a wonderful garden with lots of flowers and roses. The old, tall trees are exclusively of European origin – poplars, limes, birch trees and many others. Despite the agricultural expanse, the family are very down to earth and in no way isolated:

The next town with shops and the next farm with important social contacts are only a few minutes away by car, and they can even get to a large city like Launceston in just under an hour. But the sheep tend to remain together:

It is not uncommon for them to go weeks without seeing any people, making them dependent on themselves. 35% of the farmland was originally scrubland, mainly in the hilly regions – the valleys consist of grassland. Will has been concentrating on one particular type of merino, the "Yalgoo merinos". These animals represent a great deal of breeding experience which facilitates production of super-fine merino wool measuring 17.5 to 18.5 microns. 

  • The shearing process at Ashby

The extremely fine wool produced at Ashby feels very pleasant on the skin and keeps you very warm despite the thin layers. 

Ashby is a mixed enterprise farm, which means that apart from merino sheep the Bennetts also keep some cattle as well as growing poppies and wheat. There has even been a farm management plan in the last few years, the reward for which was the “Certificate for sustainable and ecological farm management” and for “ecological cultivation of the scrubland ecosystem”.

Interview with farmer will

ROTHAMAY

Sheep and nature, craftsmanship and understanding

Sheep and nature at Rothamay
  • Wool from the 11,000 Merino sheep

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
  • 11,000 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 is a sustainable merino sheep farm
Farmer Duncan and his son Shearing a Merino sheep

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. 


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.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

LEWISHAM
Lindsay and Rae Young 6000 sheep are spread across 1,000 hectares

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


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. 

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.

  • The land of Lewisham

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.

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.

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 extends across 1,400 hectares of land
Merino farm Kenilworth Merino sheep

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. 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. 

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.

    Farmer Dave controlling the wool quality
  • Only the wool will be processed to yarn

    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.

    Farmer Dave

STONEHENGE

A sandstone fortress – a paradise for sheep

7,000 sheep are spread across 3,800 hectares
Elliot and Felicia McShane The sheep produce the perfect fibers for the sports industry

Just like at other farms, there is a long working day at Stonehenge: When there’s bookkeeping and organizational matters to be attended to, it often doesn’t end before 9pm. Work during the day alternates between driving through pastures, checking animals, grain farming and harvesting. Depending on the season, different tasks arise on almost a daily basis.


FACTS:

  • 7,000 sheep are spread across 3,800 hectares
  • Every 4 to 5 days the sheep go to different pastures to allow the grass to recover
  • Changing the wool thickness by breeding takes a long time, up to 10 years
  • Stonehenge has belonged to the McShane family since the beginning of the 20th century


When you come to Stonehenge, you can already see the impressive building on the hill from quite a distance. Yellow sandstone walls, large white windows and white balconies. The house was built from hard sandstone in the 18th century. It remains in excellent condition to this day. 

Elliot and Felicia McShane manage the Stonehenge part of the farm, which was once much larger and which Elliot's grandfather acquired for the family at the beginning of the 20th century. Elliot's brother Markus manages the other part of the business. Elliot and Felicia look after the farm together; external helpers provide support for shearing, sorting the wool and other jobs as is customary on all farms. In addition, “Flea” looks after the gigantic house and garden and energetically supports her three children who all go to boarding school and are only home at weekends. Elliot himself grew up on a farm and very much enjoyed his childhood in the open air as well as working with the animals. Flea studied horse management and has been using her knowledge on the farm and in wool production at Stonehenge for 25 years. In 2015 she also renovated a small cottage where horse lovers can spend the night close to their four-legged friends. 

Merino sheep at Stonehenge
  • Merino farm Stonehenge

A rotation system is used at Stonehenge, which means there is a switch of pasture every 4–5 days so that the areas can regenerate for a period of about 90 days, and the grass can grow properly again. Each year Elliot buys rams which are bred to produce wool fibers 18 microns thick – from his point of view the ideal strength for wool which is in demand in the sports sector.  It takes a long time, up to 10 years, to change the wool thickness by breeding. Elliot has set up a shearing barn with two levels. The sheep can keep nice and dry there during the two shearing days. Special shearing frames are also used at Stonehenge in order to leave more wool on the sheep depending on the weather so that they don't freeze. There are also natural shelters like trees and bushes that provide sufficient protection from the weather.

The demands of wool trading have become harsher in recent years on account of the price fluctuations and the increasing drought. Big vacations are therefore not usually possible for the McShanes, but they visit friends and relatives in Tasmania or on the mainland 1 or 2 weeks each year – but even then they return to the farm once or twice to check that everything is okay.“Famers are custodians of land” – in Elliot's opinion farmers are the “guardians” of their land and they must do everything in their power to manage it in a sustainable and future-oriented way.