Welcome Georgina Wallace of Trefusis

We are thrilled to welcome Georgina Wallace as the newest addition to our esteemed Board of Directors. Georgie brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise as the Principal of Tasmania’s Trefusis stud. Georgie steps into the role previously held by her husband, Hamish, who served as a dedicated member of the TWC Board for twelve years, leaving an indelible mark with his invaluable contributions. Georgina is a Committee Member and former President of the Stud Merino Breeders Association of Tasmania and The Midland Agricultural Association – Campbell Town Show. Read on to find out more about Georgie’s background and the history of Trefusis.

Sheep Merino breeding is your passion – where did this come from?

We had a lovely childhood; both Mum and Dad encouraged us to do anything that needed doing on the farm. I suppose during school holidays and so forth we were cheap labour for lamb marking and shearing time, but I’ve always loved it and it’s all I ever wanted to do actually. Dad was always very encouraging. We did anything that all the other men were doing. We were expected to do that and there were no bones about it because we were female, so to me it was second nature. From there straight after school that’s all I wanted to do was work and fortunately, I was able to do that and I worked at Trefusis for four years after I left school, before I got married. Dad was a good teacher and there was another good mentor there, Bruce Forster, who was a sheep classer at Trefusis at the time and he was very good at encouraging you to learn and teach you along the way. One of the things my father taught me, and I think it stands in good stead today, is the power of observation and it’s so important – being able to observe. Are your sheep doing well? Are they happy? It’s so important in the farming game, as well as having that passion for wool fibre. My husband and I had a place up near Deddington, called Uplands, when we were first married and we had a superfine flock there, and for the first few years it was just Hamish and I and we improved the place a lot and were reasonably successful in that time. Then the situation arose that my parents wanted to retire, so we did a bit of succession planning and the opportunity for Hamish and I to move back to Trefusis arose which was wonderful and we’ve loved every minute of it and I’m still very passionate about wool and wool growing and so long as I’m vertical, I always will be.

Trefusis has a wonderful history of success with Superfine Merinos – where did this begin and how much is attributed to the breeding program or the land that they graze on?

Trefusis Merino Stud was based on the Saxon bloodline. In the last few years, we’ve introduced some new genetics from New South Wales; they’re still superfine/fine wool. In this day and age, in the Merino industry, you’ve got to have a dual-purpose Merino – you’ve got to have a sheep that’s going to produce a good fleece of wool and cut plenty of it and the ability to have a good carcass as well, which means a good size so that it gives you options. There’s been big progress made in Merino breeding Australia-wide in the last 50 years, so we’re seeing slightly plainer-bodied sheep with less wrinkle. Those wrinkles were a bit of a nightmare for shearers, but also too, for attracting flies. Sheep could get fly-struck pretty easily in the right weather conditions.

Trefusis is quite undulating, from improved pastures to semi-improved, through to native bush country, but sheep are a bit like you or I, they like a balance in their diet and variety. A lot of our paddocks are semi-improved which means they’ve got improved pasture in them as well as native pasture and if you watch sheep they do graze and they do pick and choose what they eat, so they do well on the semi-improved country as they can ‘self-diagnose’ what they need. It’s interesting when you take them off a really rich pasture, they tend to go straight for something native, to wattles for example – they like the change. Seasonal conditions can always factor into tensile strength in wool, but you just can’t factor that in, so you try and keep your sheep on a fairly even plane nutritionally if you can, but it doesn’t always work that way. When you strike drought times, you’ve got to supplementary feed your sheep with grain and all of a sudden weather conditions can turn around very quickly, but generally, we do try and keep the sheep on an even plane of nutrition, because it does improve tensile strength and that can be one of the big factors that affect price.

Can you tell us about winning the grand champion fleece at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo?

I was totally blown away because it was a ewe that we bred back in 2012 and it’s just a beautiful sheep – beautiful fleece and a very structurally correct sheep. She was Champion ewe at Campbell Town and the following year her fleece went on to be Grand Champion Fleece at Campbell Town, so I thought I’d enter her into the Sheep and Wool Show because it’s Australia’s major sheep and wool show – it’s where the cream of the crop from all states come to compete and I got a call to say she’d won Grand Champion Fleece out of 500 fleeces that were entered and it was a real shock! I’d actually named the ewe after my mother, Josie, and I’ve kept her fleece from every year that we’ve shorn her, and she’s gone on to breed some really good lambs.

What are the qualities you look at when you’re judging a Champion Merino?

When I’m judging, I like to judge sheep visually first and foremost and you use some of the objective measurements. In a show ring, I like to stand off the sheep to start with, and I like to eyeball them all in a line-up. I like to see very structurally correct sheep, that stand up well and have a good spring of rib and are well covered with wool from head to toe. For me confirmation is very important – a sheep has got to be able to walk properly, it’s got to have a good, sound mouth, and the teeth have got to be set on the palette correctly. I like the wool to be nice and bright and well crimped and be very soft to the handle. Length of staple is also important – they’re the major things.

You’re one of four sisters and you and Hamish have three daughters – do you see any of the girls following in your footsteps?

At the moment they all enjoy farming and when they’re home they’ll come and help, doing whatever jobs are on the go, but I don’t think they quite share my passion for the Merino industry. I think they can appreciate the industry and wool as a fibre and it is interesting to see when they’re shopping that they look at clothing labels and often won’t buy something if it doesn’t have a reasonable percentage of wool in it, which is good to see. Hamish and I will probably be at Trefusis as long as we can, because he enjoys it too – I don’t think either of us are the type of people to hang up our boots and retire. I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can.