Saturday, 5 July 2014

Victoria Downs Merino Stud

Article from the Australasian Saturday 28 August 1920 describing the operation and development of Victoria Downs, established in 1906, plus information about A P Lord. The article was transcibed from Trove.

Victoria Downs is situated six miles north-west of Morven, within 50 miles of Charleville, and 430 miles west of Brisbane. It is a grazing farm with an area of 30,000 acres, and was originally part of Victoria   Downs Station, one of the early pastoral principalities of this district, which embraced a number of other holdings, such as Etona, Ivanhoe, Brunell Downs, and several other selections, large and small, some of which have since been further sub divided. The Lord family came here in 1906, and have therefore been here but 14 years. Up to the year 1911 general attention was paid by them to grazing and woolgrowing, but always with the set purpose of steadily improving the standard of both sheep and cattle. In 1911 an opportunity occurred of venturing into stud merinos. A small line of Deniliquin Stud Park ewes, cast for age (274 in all), was purchased from Sir. Thomas Millear, and with them some rams of from 50 to 100 guinea standard. Finding the results satisfactory, and a local demand having set in for some of the flock rams bred from these ewes, a further extension of the stud was resolved upon, and at different intervals the following purchases were made: In 1912 100 stud ewes, and again in 1914, 160 stud ewes were purchased from Mr. Millear. Both these lots were young ewes. Experience went to prove that the best results were obtainable from the older ewes, so in 1915 1,500 ewes, cast for age, were obtained from the same breeder, and again in 1916 500 more, making in all a total of 2,334 Stud Park ewes. Some of these ewes were nine and ten years old, and it was only natural that the losses should be heavier than would be the case with young sheep. Rams were purchased from the same breeder. In 1911 five stud rams were secured, the top price being 100 guineas. In 1912 four stud rams were bought at auction in Sydney at prices which favoured the buyer. In 1913 three stud rams were added, one at 200 guineas, the highest price paid up to this period. - This ram proved a great success, and has left his mark. In 1914 11 stud rams were added, including two at 300 guineas. Of these 11, 7 were purchased from Wanganella Estate (Falkiner's), one of them at 210 guineas and another at 170 guineas. In 1915 20 rams were added, prices being particularly low in Sydney that year. These were from Deniliquin Stud Park, and contained two numbered 1,905 and 1,840, which proved exceptionally good, the latter being one of the best ever, purchased. In 1916 another draft of 26 was obtained from the same quarter, 11 of these being old rams, which had been used in the Deniliquin Park Stud, including some which Mr. Millear had used singly. Of this lot 14 were bought privately, the balance being secured at the Sydney sales. Included in this lot was a ram bred at Wanganella Estate, a son of Ajax. For this sheep 460 guineas was paid at auction. Five others were purchased from Wanganella Estate. In 1918 special stud ram No. 410 was purchased from Mr. Millear for 300 guineas. This sheep has proved to be one of the best of all sires. In this year also Mr. Millear's exhibition ram at the Sydney Stud Park No. 10. was purchased for 2,500 guineas, a record price for a six year-old ram. It is too early as yet to make mention of the stock by this ram. At the-same time 700 more ewes of a similar denomination were purchased. The stud-breeding ewes on Victoria Downs at the present time number 3,000, all above this total having been passed on to Chatham. These are divided into 500 extra specials, 500 specials. 1,000 first stud, and 1,000 second stud. The lambings are up to Riverina performances, notwithstanding the fact that foxes help to keep down the annual percentage. This season the lambings have been poor, but there is likely to be an excellent summer lambing. The stud is worked on the basis of an annual output of 1,000 sale rams, flock and selected, at 4, 6, 8, and 10 guineas. For these there is a ready sale, with orders booked ahead. In Brisbane, in 1919, two stud rams brought 130 guineas, one 120 guineas, one 166 guineas, and one 90 guineas.

This year's draft at the Brisbane sales was not as good as it might have been, and provided several southern visitors with an altogether incorrect impression as to the standard of sheep now being bred on Victoria Downs. Of the home-bred article I was afforded every opportunity of making close inspection. I examined the extra special ewes including some of those from Stud Park, in the wool-shed yards. Some of the young home-bred ewes were set aside by themselves to give me an opportunity of observing how they compared with the Riverina-bred article. I also examined special and first stud ewes and second stud ewes, and of the rams, all the reserves and workers. The tops of these, both rams and ewes, are a credit to the studmaster, Mr. Robert Lord. He has consistently paid attention to the make and shape and to the size of frame. He has established, width of carcase and length of body, with a straight back and a well-squared off rump. He makes a practice of classing, not only for wool, which must be well and evenly put on, but also for make and shape. His tops have got to stand wide fore and aft, have soft faces, good hocks, and well-covered backs. He is altering somewhat the type from the original Riverina article, and for the better, in which direction he receives considerable help from the local pasture and climate. There is an annual rainfall of 21in. average, and an abundance of good summer grasses-Mitchell, Flinders, Blue, and other sorts. Usually these black soil downs are not noted for their excellence during the winter months. This year, which, as explained elsewhere, is phenomenal, it would be practically impossible to overstock the herbage. The wool is bright, clean, well-nourished, and of good character. It is sound, sweet, healthy country, the choicer parts being open, rolling downs, with 20,000 acres free from prickly pear. Shearing is much later than in Riverina, September 1 being voted quite early enough.
The elevation of this country above sea level is responsible for a colder winter than one would expect from the latitude. On the other hand, at Biddenham, 90 miles north, and recently purchased by these brothers, it has been the custom for some years past to shear in March. It will take some manoeuvring and three or four years to bring the dates into line. Among the 200 reserve rams and workers at Victoria Downs I saw some sheep of extra high class -typical Wanganellas, with strong heads and horns, broad, soft faces, wide, straight backs, and deep bodies; well-grown, shapely animals of the best Riverina standard.   With such a painstaking enthusiast as Mr. Robert Lord at the head of this stud, nothing can keep it back. It is only a matter of time for him to command the practical attention of many of the big flock masters located in Central Queensland. His sale rams have the advantage of being thoroughly acclimatised, and can be delivered at a minimum expense anywhere within the State, thus avoiding the risks and cost of either sea or land carriage. There is no doubt in my mind that this country can breed good stud sheep, more especially where it has been possible to subdivide pad docks, so that they contain a reasonable amount of shelter and shade. _ Water is plentiful below ground, and easily obtained by sinking. Windmills and tanks are in use, although, like the underground water supply, they have been, from a local stand point. a discovery of comparatively recent years. I saw Stud Park No. 10 out of the wool. He had cut 18½lb. for six months growth, and previous to that 35½lb. for 12 months' growth. He is now seven years old, but has all the appearance and vigour of a younger sheep, and, so far as could be seen from the little wool that was left on him, has improved somewhat in uniformity since he was introduced here. He is a very large-framed animal, and one of more than ordinary constitution.

Mr. A. P. Lord, the head of this family, has all through life had a hankering after pastoral pursuits. For many years it has been his ambition, not only to establish his sons on the land, but to give them every possible advantage within the com pass of his means. None realise this more fully than the sons themselves, who speak of their father, and of all that they owe to him, in terms of the highest respect. Although himself more skilled at finance than at practical sheep-farming, Mr. Lord was bitten with the desire to go on the land very early in life, and when still but a lad, assisted to form Woolooga, in the Wide Bay district. This place is now known as Booker's. Droughts and low prices settled all his youthful ambitions, and he dropped cut of the industry about 40 years ago for 15 years. During this period he entered the A.J.S. Bank as a junior, and made rapid progress up to the management of the Maryborough branch, and then to that of Gympie. Following on some judicious investments in Gympie mines, he got back to his old love and on to the land again, in the Monaro district in New South Wales, buying Kiah Lake, near Cooma. It was here that the sons got their first experience among stock. Finding the country somewhat inhospitable, Mr. Lord sold Kiah Lake, and drifted to Narrabri, where he remained about five years. After the big drought of 1902 Mr. Lord made out to Queensland, purchasing Maryvale. Finding it unsuitable for his requirements, and being compelled to look around for grass for his sheep, he secured paddocks on agistment at Victoria Downs. At the same time, he secured an option over the property, which had been obtained as a grazing farm in 1905. This deal was duly finalised, Maryvale being disposed of. Mr. Robert P. Lord, the eldest son, was the first of the family to make his home here. There are five sons in the firm as now constituted under the name of Lord Bros., Robert and Arthur, who live at Victoria Downs; Reginald, who is established at Biddenham; and Victor and Guy, who are at Chatham. With these two last named properties I shall be dealing more in detail later on. For the time being, it will suffice to say that Biddenham is a recent purchase of 90.000 acres, about 60 miles north-west of Victoria Downs, in a line with Chatham. It consists of grazing farms and leases, the majority of it first-class country. It was purchased from Mr. J. Rogerson, who had acquired it some years previously from that well-known pioneer, Mr. R. D. Barton. Biddenham was purchased in February of this year, and is to be worked in conjunction with Chatham and Victoria Downs. The sheep are of a high standard, mainly Wanganella blood. It has a carrying capacity of from 25,000 to 30,000 sheep   and 1,000 head of cattle. The merino stud is gradually being extended to Chatham, which is situated 85 miles nor' nor' west of Victoria Downs. Chatham has an area of 615,000 acres, made up of grazing farms and leases. About half of it is rolling downs, and the balance first-class open timber country. This property was bought as a going concern in August, 1909. For some time past it has been absorbing the surplus stud sheep from Victoria Downs, and has a carrying capacity of 14,000 sheep, and of about 600 mixed cattle. The general flock is of a high standard, bred up on Haddon Rig and Wanganella blood. All these three places grow wool of high quality and an excellent carcase.

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