Breeding success for Nathalia school

By Alana Christensen

St Mary of the Angels Secondary College in Nathalia has welcomed two new members to the school community, courtesy of its South Suffolk Sheep Breeding Program.

Now 18 months into the program, agricultural program co-ordinator Vanessa Byres said it was exciting to welcome the new additions.

‘‘We currently have two rams and five ewes involved in the breeding program and our first drop has produced twins, a ram and a ewe who are now a little over one week old,’’ she said.

‘‘We couldn’t be happier with the result. This was our very first breeding attempt, and we’re not done yet; with four more ewes preparing to lamb, we’re very hopeful for more successful results.’’

With the current breeding stock coming from Willow Drive South Suffolk Sheep Stud (90km south-west of Ballarat), Ms Byres said there were already plans to show at Finley, Cobram and Melbourne shows this year.

‘‘While the program is still in its infancy, our aim is to eventually get to a stage where we can on-sell some stock,’’ she said.

‘‘The breed is predominantly meat sheep, so, all going well, we’re hoping to trade with first-cross breeders in the future.’’

Currently students at St Mary of the Angels are given the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the program, with the aim of building a more accessible program, particularly for students interested in the sheep industry.

Opportunities to enter junior judging competitions in the wool and meat areas also provide students with the opportunity to gain industry knowledge from their peers and industry leaders.

‘‘The program caters for students from Year 7 to 12 where they learn to understand the requirements of a breed and what a sheep’s confirmation needs to be to meet a certain standard — and how we achieve that,’’ Ms Byres said.

‘‘Stud breeding demands high standards and quality genetics so it is a wonderful learning opportunity for our students every step of the way.’’