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    CHAMPIONS: Glenpaen stud principal Rod Miller and son Harry celebrate success at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo in 2019. This year’s show season has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and sheep breeders are adjusting to challenges.

AgLife: Millers adapting to ‘unknown’


This time last year, Brimpaen’s Miller family was celebrating its most successful showing at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo and gearing up for three big days at Hamilton’s Sheepvention.

Fast forward 12 months, Glenpaen’s show rams are shorn off and in a paddock, Sheepvention is the latest in a long line of events cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty surrounds the format of the studs’ annual on-property sales. 

Glenpaen stud principal Rod Miller said like all industries, sheep breeding was facing plenty of challenges in the wake of COVID-19.

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“It’s all a bit of an unknown at the moment,” he said.

Mr Miller, who breeds merino and poll-merino sheep at the western foothills of the Grampians, said he had been excited for the 2020 show circuit following a standout 2019.

Glenpaen won champion ram and champion ewe at the national show in Bendigo last year, with the ram also named supreme champion. The ram sold for $26,000, equal top price in the show sale.

Mr Miller said he had come close to the main prize two or three times since he started exhibiting at the Australian show, when it was in Melbourne.

He said the ‘big prizes’ had eluded the family stud until 2019, with the outcome exceeding his greatest expectations.

Glenpaen’s success at Bendigo and other sheep shows in western Victoria had a flow-on effect, with additional interest in the stud’s on-property ram sale in October.

“It was one of our better ram sales,” Mr Miller said.

“We got a lot more people coming to have a look and our semen sales also went up from our leading sires and our show sheep.” 

Before the pandemic hit, the Millers planned to enter sheep in premier shows in Tasmania, Ballarat, Bendigo and Hamilton.

“Last year we also went to the inaugural Marnoo Field Days, which was really good and was only going to grow,” he said.

“The cancellation of Sheepvention was a big loss, because we have a display there. There’s probably not one year where we don’t pick up at least one or two new clients – it’s one event we can’t afford to miss out on.

“As well as not being able to show sheep, by missing out on these things we don’t get to see what sires are breeding well out there.

“There’s also the social and networking side. You always pick up knowledge and ideas from one another – at Bendigo, you’re talking to people from all over Australia.”

Mr Miller said other breeders were in the same boat and needed to push ahead with plans and programs despite uncertain times. 

“We’ve just got to keep going on the same,” he said.

“We actually just picked out our show sheep for next year and have shorn them off, hoping there is going to be a show. It mightn’t happen yet, but we’ve still got to get the wheels in motion in case it does.”

Mr Miller will also pick sires for his artificial insemination program, which starts in December. 

“I actually wasn’t so concerned about my ram sale, but now with this second wave of the virus, I’m starting to get concerned,” he said.

“We still should be able to have it, but if this pandemic keeps going the way it is and we’re only allowed limited numbers at the sale, we’ll probably have a pre-selection day.

“We will bring people in according to a timeline so there’s not too many and then we’ll do the sale in conjunction with an online service like AuctionsPlus or some sort of format like that.”

Business at AuctionsPlus, an Australian online platform for agricultural and livestock sales, is booming throughout the pandemic as producers adapt to changes in the industry.

Mr Miller said Wimmera studs had already started participating in online multi-vendor sales, including the Victorian Stud Merino and Poll Merino ram sale planned for Bendigo.

Nhill’s Glendonald stud had the top-priced ram at $10,750.

Mr Miller said he deemed the sale a success.

“I think it went okay,” he said.

“It’s hard to buy online because I think you need to physically see a sheep, especially if you’re buying more than one, because you want to try to match them up. 

“It’s a big outlay – to not be able to see them and buy them online, is a big risk.

“I think there might be a few more people looking to buy rams after ram sales, a bit more private selection.

“We’re going to have to rely on the agents a bit – they’re going to have to know what’s working and what’s not. 

“But this is the way things are at the moment. It’s all a bit of an unknown.”


The entire July 29, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire July 29, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!