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Century of change at Woodridge

FUTURE FOCUS: Woodridge Dorper breeder Sandra Green with an Amarula Kruger ewe, which she bought for $2200.
FUTURE FOCUS: Woodridge Dorper breeder Sandra Green with an Amarula Kruger ewe, which she bought for $2200. Toni Somes

CALL it pure of heart, or maybe it's just pure focus, but there's a history of breeding purebred animals on Geoff and Sandra Green's property that stretches back a century.

The couple owns Woodridge, a Darling Downs grazing property that has been in Geoff's family since 1906.

At the start the holding was dairy. From there it became Woodridge Guernseys, but the family stopped milking and sold their stud herd in 2000 when deregulation prices slipped below 30c a litre.

"It was a tough decision, but in many ways it was a relief, because prices were so low," Sandra said.

"The rural industry is a business and you have to run it like one, but there is also an emotional attachment."

The Greens had also run a beef operation alongside their dairy. Fittingly it was a stud enterprise, Woodridge Charolais, but they have gradually reduced cattle numbers. Yet the drive to bred the perfect animal lingered and a little over a decade ago they moved into dorpers.

Like their previous enterprises, Woodridge Dorpers is a stud operation.

"The really good money has traditionally been in purebreds and we come from a stud background," Sandra said.

"For us it is about chasing that dream ultimate animal and we can always eat our mistakes."

This year that quest for dorper perfection took a heartbreaking hit when they lost their daughter, Samantha.

She had been an integral part of their stud operation and her tragic death from a brain tumour left an aching void in their lives as well as their business.

"It has been hard to cope," Sandra said.

"We've always believed if you are going to breed animals you need to do it professionally.

"Samantha was such a part of that. She really kept us going."

In the wake of Samantha's death they made the decision to downsize.

This year they will keep 40 elite ewes - from an initial flock of 250 - and continue to focus on producing champion-quality stud stock.

"What has always appealed to us about dorpers is their weight for age gains," Sandra said.

"Ideally we like to turn them off at under 26 weeks weighing 40-50kg off quality grass country."

Even through the dry years dorpers have retained their market share, but prices have slipped by up to 50% in the past 12 months.

A year ago Sandra said their purebred Woodridge Dorper ewes were making $1000 a head. Now they are selling for $500.

"Our clients have largely been other studs along with smaller landholders looking to invest in quality animals," she said.

At the core of the females they hold onto will be ewes of the calibre of Amarula Kruger, an animal they paid $2200 for in lamb a few years ago.

She's not their most expensive breeder to date - they paid $3100 for a ewe at Dubbo in 2008.

"Our motto has always been to buy the best bloodlines we could afford."

Topics:  greenmount