Guy Bowen’s history with sheep has a dubious beginning. His great-great-grandfather stole a sheep during Ireland’s famine and was subsequently shipped off to Western Australia where he became a farmer. Today the principal of record-breaking Mount Ronan Stud (which only a decade ago was home to 9000 hens) jokes he inherited a little karma with the occasional theft of his rams. Such is the demand for his genetics, he set a new sale record for Western Australia this year.
The Western Australian record for the amount of lots sold online in one interfaced stud was broken this year at the The Mount Ronan Maternal Composite and White Suffolk stud on-property ram sale in York. Fifty-nine lots were sold to online buyers and a top price of $9200 was achieved.
Mr Bowen’s passion for producing consistent genetic expression is popular with buyers seeking his Mount Ronan Maternal stock. Curiously, he credits this ability to identify proven-elite females in the flock through his lifetime in the chook shed. (You see, until 2008, Mount Ronan was home to a commercial egg farm with 9000 laying hens.)
“I saw the incredible rate of genetic development over those years where the hens all looked the same, laid bigger eggs, needed relatively less feed so the feed efficiency improved, their temperament could be markedly improved and they’re all techniques I’ve applied to the selection of my sheep,” Guy tells me.
“Most of the industry keeps talking about looking for rams but I breed rams from outstanding females. In the poultry farm we noticed those females that were outstanding producers and we mirror that. It just makes sense to me and I’ve never been much of a mystery.”
With the stud sale catalogue packed with volume buyers from Western Australia and the eastern states, Mr Bowen now has a calendar full of farm visits ahead.
He tells us these visits to buyers are somewhat social but also a top business priority. It’s his way of ensuring his dedication to genetic development produces rams that thrive in their new environment.
“Even though we anticipate excellent results, we take nothing for granted. Our business depends on the profitability of our customer’s sheep enterprises so if there’s an issue it needs to be sorted out,” he said.
“Western Australia is a wonderful area to find animals who are capable of working harder under harsher conditions and so of course when those genetics go elsewhere they really do stand out, particularly in more favourable conditions.”
“Our genetics are excelling both in Western Australia and the eastern states and I put that down to the fact that we’ve been looking for those attributes for such a long time. It makes sense, it’s a no-brainer really.”
It’s been 52 years since Mr Bowen registered his first flock at age 16. At just 11 he had his first flock of unregistered, commercial sheep. Their unregistered status didn’t phase him - he was still devoted to his record keeping and started sharpening his powers of observation.
To this day he believes this attention to detail combined with his commitment to accurate trait measurement with consistent comprehensive recording of Lambplan Australian Standard Breeding Values (ASBVs) are the cornerstones of his enterprise.
“I’m always observing, observing, observing and I have to admit I think it’s a bit of a gift. People can look at livestock and see different things but when they run past me I see a million pictures. I can almost identify them on the gallop,” Mr Bowen said.
"It’s a passion really and it’s the passion of it all that makes the difference. If you’re passionate about it then it puts you in a different basket and if your passion is going in a sensible direction as opposed to some weird direction then the ramifications from a profitability and management perspective are all the better.”
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