Ahead of the times at Roseville Park
Matthew and Cherie Coddington are energetic and passionate about farming and take a progressive, forward thinking approach in all that they do.
Their primary business is producing top quality genetics for the Australian wool industry at Roseville Park, south of Dubbo in New South Wales.
By improving their Merino rams each year with an eye on balancing desirable traits, they are helping wool producers around the country improve their fleece quality and weight, flock health, productivity and returns.
At the same time, they’re producing their own fine wool, finishing cattle in the good years, breeding Charollais sheep, marketing Merinos internationally and growing their family business.
“We pride ourselves on being ahead of the times and being the first to adopt and implement industry initiatives,” said Matthew.
“As traditional as the Merino breed is, it’s also a very scientific and data driven industry.”
Matthew Coddington, Roseville Park.
“We’re using genomic technology to identify top performers and improve breeding values and collecting and utilising data to drive better performance.”
Ramping up data collection
For the past three years, Roseville Park has been involved in a state-of-the-art remote monitoring project run by livestock scientists from the University of Sydney.
Platforms are placed in the field, capturing body weight data for individual sheep when they cross it, at any time, 24 hours a day.
“This shows us an individual ewe’s weight in real time and then when her lamb follows her, we can link them and determine the lamb’s birth date, weight and growth rate,” Matthew explained.
“The sheep walk over independently to access Causmag, salt and lime and the whole process is stress free for the sheep and labour free for us.”
Data collected through remote monitoring is added to the information collected in the race, such as body condition score, pregnancy scan results, weaning weights and wool attributes.
The project sees them working closely with their Elders Wool Manager, Greg Sawyer, who visits the farm each week as part of his PhD studies.
The MLA Donor Company funded project will benefit the Australian sheep industry as a whole, but it has also been valuable for their business, particularly in the Covid-19 era.
“Up to 60 per cent of our ram sale clients are based in Victoria so they haven’t been able to visit the farm to physically inspect the sheep before purchase, but because of the quality of data we have on our rams, they still have the confidence to buy,” he said.
“There is now starting to be a premium paid for rams with ASBVs, as buyers are recognising that it makes breeding more predictable.”
In fact, Matthew and Cherie had their best ever on-farm sale result last year. Roseville Park offered more rams than usual and recorded high average prices and a new record top price of $31,000.
Matthew is now preparing for their September 2021 sale, which will see 220 merino rams auctioned and a further 600 rams available for private sale.
Excellence in wool growing
Roseville Park’s wool operations are also achieving excellent results.
“We love being involved in the wool industry, it’s been good to our family for a long time now”
Matthew Coddington, Roseville Park.
Matthew believes the prospects for wool are strong, particularly for finer wool with online shopping keeping the market going and a developing demand for wool-based athletic wear.
“There’s also a growing demand for an ethically produced product with traceability,” he said.
“Wool has excellent credentials as a sustainable product. There are no fossil fuels needed to grow wool – the sheep run on grass, water and sunlight – and it’s biodegradable and adds to the carbon sink.”
Six years ago, the Coddingtons moved to shearing twice a year. Shearing is timed for October, two months before joining, and March, two months before lambing.
Matthew explained that more frequent shearing helps them keep wool lengths in line with buyer requirements and there were a range of benefits for the ewes.
“It means the ewes are better able to thermo regulate in summer and we get more ewes in lamb,” he said.
“Having a shorter fleece at lambing time in May/June means the ewes are better at sheltering the lambs with their bodies in cold conditions, and it’s easier for lambs to find the udders, increasing survival rates.”
Roseville Park’s wool is among the best in the industry. They recently won the Allflex Woolgrower of the Year award for improving the quality and quantity of the fleece they grow by employing cutting edge breeding technology.
Improving the farm for the next generation
The Coddingtons are pushing on with farm improvements as they recover from a severe three-year drought.
“Australian farmers are all learning how to adapt to increasing climate variability,” said Matthew.
“I think the only way we’re going to be able to keep increasing production is by adopting new practices like the twice yearly shearing, joining ewe lambs and using improved technology.”
During the drought, they protected their country with confinement feeding, so that when the rain returned, ground cover was in place to catch that water. Even so, it may take up to three years for the farm to recover fully.
Matthew said post-drought recovery works included increasing on-farm fodder storage to have up to two years of feed available, building new fences and laneways and establishing improved pastures.
“We rely on advice from Elders when it comes to cropping and pastures and they’re also good with advice on new products like drenches and rotating chemicals.”
The Coddingtons have five children and are working towards a succession plan that will give the next generation the best opportunity to build on the farm’s success.
“We’re not into sustainability – that’s just maintaining the farm at the same level. We’re about improving the farm with more trees, better biodiversity and through building soil carbon,” said Matthew.
Speak to your local District Wool Manager to see how they can assist your business.