Tattykeel setting a white hot pace in livestock breeding

Tattykeel has become a byword for livestock breeding excellence

Livestock Leaders
TEAM TATTYKEEL: Ross and Samantha Gilmore, the late Martin Gilmore (whose work ethic and talent were a key to Tattykeel's success), James and Melinda Gilmore and Kirsty and John Gimore.

TEAM TATTYKEEL: Ross and Samantha Gilmore, the late Martin Gilmore (whose work ethic and talent were a key to Tattykeel's success), James and Melinda Gilmore and Kirsty and John Gimore.


Advertiser content: From humble beginnings the Gilmore family has built a prime lamb empire at Oberon on the NSW Central Tablelands over four generations.



When Graham Gilmore saw a haired Santa Inês meat sheep in Brazil it completely changed the direction of his family's acclaimed Tattykeel sheep stud near Oberon on the NSW Central Tablelands.

It triggered a light bulb moment. "Why do we need wool on a meat sheep?" he thought.

Mr Gilmore returned home determined to design a new sheep breed that puts all its protein into meat rather than both meat and wool.

"No wool means more meat," he said.

Faced with a lengthy and difficult process to import Santa Inês sheep from Brazil because of foot and mouth disease, he looked around for a similar haired sheep already in Australia that could be used in the breeding mix to realise his dream.

He found what he wanted in the Van Rooy, a fat-tailed and haired sheep developed in South Africa and first imported into Australia in 1998.

Three other foundation breeds were added to a crossbreeding program - stud Poll Dorset and Texel ewes from the renowned Tattykeel flock along with White Dorper rams.

Mr Gilmore and his late brother, Martin, who sadly died last July as the result of a torn artery near his heart, then used a large-scale embryo transfer program to rapidly build numbers.

"We put them into one mob and, just like a tin of biscuits, we took out what we liked. We didn't care about the genetic make-up of the animal, we were looking for a phenotype and just selected for that," Mr Gilmore said.

Aussie Whites 

The Gilmores launched the Australian White in 2011 and the new breed has been a runaway success in Australia and overseas.

They had achieved their aim of producing a high-performing, early-maturing and fully haired meat sheep.

Australian Whites also had the other desired traits of low-maintenance, good temperament, polyoestrus (can be joined at any time of the year) and black feet.

"We wanted it to (be able to) compete with the Poll Dorset second-cross lamb, that's the benchmark in the industry," Mr Gilmore said.

And then they happily discovered Australian Whites had one valuable attribute they hadn't selected for - meat eating quality that has been compared favourably with Wagyu beef.

They sent samples of Australian White lamb to Professor Aduli Malau-Aduli from Charles Cook University, Townsville, who has spent much of his research life in Japan and Australia looking at the link between eating quality and the melting point of intramuscular fat.

He was shocked to find Wagyu beef and Australian White lamb had similar low melting points for intramuscular fat.

Mr Gilmore said unlike the Wagyu, the Australian White didn't need grain feeding for "300 to 400 days" to achieve high levels of intramuscular fat.

"There are some people in the industry feeding lambs for 100 days to get intramuscular fat, they are too old. You don't want to be feeding them (lambs) at all," he said.

"The intramuscular fat of an Australian White melts at a much lower rate than any other breed Professor Aduli has tested," Mr Gilmore said.

This has made the Australian White lamb softer, quicker to cook and didn't leave a fatty taste in the mouth.

Mr Gilmore believes the low melting point of the intramuscular fat came from the Van Rooy sheep and selection for the trait is now being guided by the results from blood samples from young animals and biopsies.

There was potential for branded premium Australian White lamb which could compete with the most expensive meats on the market, he said.

Keen overseas demand for Australian Whites in countries like China, Mexico, the US and Costa Rica has transformed Tattykeel into an export driven business, a far cry from the Gilmore family's early days as fledgling Dorset Horn breeders.

Humble start

Graham Gilmore's father, John, bought 80 hectares of scrub country in 1956 which he named "Tattykeel" in honour of the name of his ancestors' farm back in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

His father, Alfred, emigrated from Northern Ireland in the 1920s and bought a heavily timbered 200ha block south of Oberon near Black Springs.

John and Mavis Gilmore established their Dorset Horn stud in 1959 and added a Poll Dorset stud in 1964.

The Dorset Horns have gone but Tattykeel Poll Dorsets are renowned among stud and commercial breeders and abattoirs across the country. Tattykeel Poll Dorsets have dominated the major shows in recent years.

Mr Gilmore said his father was a fine stockman who instilled a great work ethic into his family.

The Gilmores - Graham and wife, Kirsty, and John's sons, James and Ross, and their wives, Melinda and Samantha - now operate 1700ha including 283ha at Tarcutta in southern NSW.

Their breeding flock includes 1200 stud Australian White ewes and 1100 stud Poll Dorset ewes along with small numbers of Texels and East Friesians.

They have also started an Angus cattle stud and enjoyed major success at this year's Sydney Show winning a haul of ribbons including reserve senior champion bull, champion female and second in the Hordern Trophy.

While they remain major sellers of stud and commercial Poll Dorset and Australian White genetics in Australia, their main focus now is the export of Australian White animals and embryos.

Australian Whites are popular in China and Mr Gilmore also believed Turkey could be a potential major market.

Interest in high-quality, haired meat sheep was increasing around the globe.

Mr Gilmore said positive thinking had played a big part in the family's success along with striving to stay ahead of the opposition and listening to and looking after clients.

"The most important thing about business is work ethic, you make your own luck through working hard and making good decisions."


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