A century-and-a-half of breeding underpins the Boonoke Merino Stud in the New South Wales Riverina.

Story By Genevieve Barlow

For a stud ram, life is rather good on Boonoke Station in the southern Riverina region of New South Wales. Breakfast is served at 6.30am. Then there’s communal lazing about indoors, eight to a pen in the ram shed, with fresh water on tap. Around lunchtime, if the weather’s not too inclement, the doors to the shed are opened and the rams take a short trot down the ramp to the lush, irrigated, white-fenced lawns beyond. By 5pm it’s time to head back indoors for the night. There are no dusty paddocks or scratching around on the plains for this lot. Every year, from March until September, rams are kept like this to ensure they look their best for the spring sales.
“They like it here,” says the man who sweeps out their pens and feeds, waters and watches them. At 28, Angus Munro has a big responsibility. He looks after these A-listers of the wool world, some of which are valued at tens of thousands of dollars. The product of 151 years of breeding, these are the famous Peppin Merinos, so named after the Peppin family who, in 1861, began selecting for sheep that produced big, lustrous fleeces in the heat and dry of Australia’s interior.
With his big hat, blue shirt, jeans and boots, Angus is every inch a sheepman. He’s just joined the Boonoke staff following in the footsteps of his father Ian ‘Darby’ Munro who began as an overseer there in 1962 and eventually became the stud manager and a (self-employed) stud classer until his death in 2001. Known as ‘the gentleman sheepclasser’, Ian is memorialised with an engraved stone on the Boonoke ram-shed plots.
Last year one of the A-listers, a poll ram (one without horns) from the Boonoke poll stud, sold for $50,000, the top price ever paid for a poll ram at an on-farm auction.
Boonoke, at 43,000 hectares, is part of the Burrabogie Pastoral Company empire, an aggregation of 219,154ha that runs from north of Deniliquin to Hay and Coonamble, NSW. The holdings include the famed F.S.Falkiner and Sons (FSF) properties Boonoke, “Billabong”, “Warriston”, “Parklands”, “Peppinella”, “Wanganella”, “Zara” and “Barratta”, and span 75 kilometres from east to west.

This story excerpt is from Issue #84

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2012