Dubbo National Show
I had the great pleasure of working with Pieter van Schalkwyk from Namibia and his partner David Curtis and his family at Bellevue Farms in Australia this summer. To say the least it was a great adventure. I flew to Brisbane and was to be picked up by one of David’s daughters. After arriving at the Brisbane airport I found I could not use WIFI or get my cell phone to work. I tried to make a credit card call and got Pieter’s voicemail then the credit card cut me off. I was denied any further calls. Imagine being in a foreign country with no way to communicate and waiting for someone you don’t know to pick you up. The airport was not too large and the people were clearing out. All that was left were families with children and Asian people. I figured I stuck out like a sore thumb so I’d just wait outside and hope someone would rescue me. After a short wait that seemed like hours a lovely young blonde in a neat Toyota SUV stops and with a most curious look asks “are you Philip?”. I was rescued and after a two hour drive we arrived at Bellevue. Although I had been traveling for nearly 24 hours I changed clothes and headed for the shearing shed where Pieter and David’s daughter Sophie were busy shearing the Dorpers. The National show in Dubbo was just a few days away and the show team (in Australia the show sheep are called a show team) needed to be sheared and washed. After several days of sheep work along with the most wonderful hospitality from David and Robbie Curtis and their daughters it was time to leave Bellevue for Dubbo. They have smaller pickups and trailers than we do here in the USA so we loaded the beds of three Ute’s as they call them and one trailer with a great set of Dorpers and White Dorpers. It was an 8 hour drive to Dubbo from Bellevue farm and what scenery. From flat fertile farm lands to mountains it was a real delight to make this drive from Queensland to New South Wales.
After arriving in Dubbo we organized the sheep in the barn. On arrival all lambs are weighed so that they can be placed into weight classes. Then as is customary at any show the sheep are penned. The show sheep are on one side of the barn and then the sale sheep on the other. This was a big event with a barn full of sheep. Some in the show, some in the sale, and some entered in both. It was an exciting time with many quality animals in one location. The show was, as you can imagine, done a bit differently that what we are used to. Each exhibitor wears a white coat with a number to identify their stud. This is supposed to provide anonymity for the judge. The coats are nice because they keep your clothes clean from a long day of showing. As far as the anonymity goes I’m not too sure it works since I was a Texan in Australia being judged by a South African judge and he is calling me by name in the ring! Tiens Botha was doing the judging with an Aussie named Nick by his side. As each class is called the judge checks teeth then allows each exhibitor to release his or her sheep in to the show ring to evaluate their movement and structure. Then the sheep is penned as a #1, #2, or #3. Most would end up in #1 with a few in #2 ,especially in large classes, and #3 according to some exhibitors was deemed the sausage pen. Now that each sheep has been evaluated on the move and penned accordingly the #1 pen will walk their sheep out in to the show ring for placing. After the sheep are placed the judge will give his reasons and congratulate the class. The show moves along at a decent pace but with so many sheep the rams and ewes show on different days and the sale taking place the third day. This provides ample opportunity for socializing each day after the Dorper events are completed. The evening before the sale they had a very nice dinner at the Golf Club in Dubbo. It was a good opportunity to meet many of the people in the Dorper business and learn from them.
The highlight for me was getting to actually show the Dorpers and White Dorpers. I took one of the many ram lambs and he won his class. When it came time for the champion drive I got the ram and was going to hand it off to Pieter to take in the ring. At that point he said no you won the class with him you show him in the drive. He was junior champion. Pieter and David won many classes especially in the Dorpers and had Supreme with a fantastic Dorper Ewe. They were premier exhibitor with most points overall. In the White Dorpers Terraweena Farm had a very good showing with some high quality animals.
Sale Day arrives and with it I realize it is my last day before the long journey home. The 2010 Dubbo Sale totaled $580,000 which was a record setting event. This was the biggest sale offering Australia has seen to date. Top selling ram was a White Dorper Ram at $18,000 from Terraweena that went to High Veld Stud. Their auction selling is done quite differently that ours here in the United States. Here we are accustomed to the auctioneer to be asking for the next bid by voicing the amount of the bid to come. In Australia they are calling the current bid and if you bid then the amount goes up by $100-200 depending on what the auctioneer has been doing. So in other words if you are at an Aussie sheep auction and the auctioneer is calling $1000 and you bid then you just bid $1200. It took me a while to get a handle on this system. Then as each sheep is sold they call out the buyers name and his agent. They have an agent system where everyone in the country has a private agent they can call for help in buying and selling sheep or livestock related products. Australian auctions are a lot of fun to witness but quite different.
We all stayed up late sitting around the fire in the African Boma at the home of Francois and Lynn Malan. Lynn and Francois are South Africans who now live in Australia working with sheep AI and ET. We enjoyed steak and lamb chops right off the grill and Australian beer and wine was served. On a quiet night at the Malan’s you can hear the lions roar at the nearby Zoo. Wow Africa in Australia!
We head for the airport the next morning where I have to say good bye. I had such a great time I now call the Bellevue crew my second family. Another couple from near Perth in Western Australia travel with us to the airport. Again I get the chance to gain another perspective on Dorpers from a very large producer who was asked to fly to Dubbo and be on the producer panel at the seminars. We get on the plane in Dubbo for Sydney. Just flying into Sydney is an experience because of the great view of the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House as you make a U turn to land.
I can’t wait until I am able to attend another Dorper show in another country. What an experience! I hope as life moves along that Dorper sheep will enrich your life the way they have for me.