Wild nature for the finest wool
Excellent conditions for unique 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.
- 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.
A PASSION FOR SHEEP IS AT THE HEART OF THE FAMILY
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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 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.
A sandstone fortress – a paradise for sheep
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.
- 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.