Passion for sheep showing fulfills Marong farmer

For this week’s celebration of the Year of the Farmer ELOISE JOHNSTONE features a man who is passionate about breeding and showing sheep.

DON McKinnon and brother Roland’s expansive property spans far and wide through the outskirts of Marong.

The brothers from Leichardt bought the historical property Parkview on Glover’s Lane in 1960, which had, unsurprisingly, been owned by the Glover family for the previous 100 years.

As other neighbours around them left, the brothers bought more land in the area until they came to be on the 700 hectare plot they sit on now. 

Don said he always felt a drive to run a sheep stud, despite his cropping farm origins.

“I always had a wish to produce a stud of quality sheep of some breed,” he said.

“I suppose I was following an instinct. It was just something I always wanted to do.

“It’s a professional way of farming. I wanted to run a farm that way.”

Don, Roland and Roland’s daughter Rosemary Bailey have worked in tandem on Derby Downs Dorset Stud for the past 52 years.

The roles each has played in the family business has varied throughout the years.

Both men initially worked on the stud, before they decided to start an off-farm enterprise in the 1970s.

Don said the development of their bulldozing company McKinnon’s Earthmoving was in response to the tough nature of farming.

“Farming has always gone up and down. There have been tough times,” he said.

“There have been restrictions on grain and the wool market has fallen away, so we looked for an off-farm enterprise. 

“We started with one bulldozer and then eventually got more involved and then we started a branch in Queensland.” Roland and Rosemary ran the stud while Don focused on the business.

Despite their different roles on the land, Don said the farming partnership flourished.

“Whatever was on the go, we were all in it together, which is how a partnership should work,” he said.

Don has now retired, but for him retirement has meant a return to the farm.

He said working at the stud had been an enjoyable way to spend his senior years.

“I have enjoyed the freedom of doing my own thing and working close to nature,” he said. 

Retirement has also let Don indulge is another of his life-long passions – sheep showing and judging.

Don first showed his sheep at the Bendigo Show in 1958 and has been consistently involved since. 

He was president of the show society and is also a life councillor.

Don has also shown and been a judge at shows across Australia. He said one of his proudest moments was when he was invited to be one of the judges for the first Poll Dorset competition at the Sydney Royal Show in 1976. 

He also was a judge when the show first moved to Homebush.

“It’s always an honour and a privilege to be asked to judge the big shows,” Don said.

This year he has had success showing Poll Dorsets at Cowra, the Australian Sheep and Wool Show and the Australasian Sheep and Wool Show in Ballarat and Hamilton.

He is now gearing up to bring his Poll Dorsets to the Bendigo Show on October 26 and 27.

“I just love the showing,” he said.

“Retiring has given me time to do those things and socialise and interact with fellow stud breeders.

“It’s important to support the local show so I’ll be there with some of my best sheep.”

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