The Makers: Don Mudford
Ever wondered what goes on before our Shleep products are ready for
sale? In this series, The Makers, we offer a unique first-hand insight into the
Australian wool industry, in partnership with the talented Chantel Renae Photography.
The Mudford family from ‘Parkdale SRS Merino Stud’ has been proud woolgrowers in the
Dubbo, New South Wales district for more than 100 years. While their love for wool and their home town has remained the same during the past century, the wool they grow and the type of Merino sheep they breed has kept up with the times.
“We have a family business where we run Merino sheep and use the SRS classing method to produce high-quality Merino sheep, which produce some beautiful wool,” explains fifth generation woolgrower Don Mudford, who along with his wife Pam, children Robert, Scott, Tammy and their partners live and breathe all things wool. “Having been here for over 100 years, we have bred Merino sheep all of that time, but it’s only in the past 20 years have we really learnt a lot about sheep. Rather than just taking advice from mainstream industry, we are now producing a really elite product.”
Don looks further than just the fleece on the wool table when breeding his Merinos; he knows that elite wool starts from the ground up and this is where he starts his genetic selection and care of his sheep.
“The ideal fleece has very small bundles. These develop from under the skin, so therefore when classing sheep we like to class the skins. It is like the soil grows the crop, therefore the skin grows the wool. It is a very soft and lustrous skin and the sheep have a white sheen to them when they are first shorn.”
“This comes through with the fleece when it comes across the classing table. We see a fleece with very small bundles with well crimped and defined fibres. There are very few crossfibres present – those are usually a broader fibre and that is where you can get variation within the fleece micron and qualities of wool. So that’s where we breed a sheep that have a beautiful fibre, that’s very soft and lustrous.”
“The wool grown on the sheep’s back at Parkdale SRS Merino Stud also benefits the sheep carrying it, ensuring they are happy, healthy and more comfortable throughout the year.”
“My main goal at the moment is animal welfare, lamb survival, good animal health and
selecting sheep for that, while at the same time producing beautiful wool. We have had retailers out here to see the raw wool and they’re just blown away that this product was grown on an animal in an environment that can be marginal. When they see that our Merinos are growing such a beautiful, unique product, it blows them away and that is a real thrill for us.”
For Don, and Australia’s other 60,000 woolgrowers, animal health and welfare continues to be front of mind every day. They know that happy, healthy sheep are needed to produce a luxury product such as Merino wool. It’s why Shleep only uses wool from Australia in its bedding and babywear. In addition, woolgrowers like Don are also passionate about the health of the environment on which they live and work.
As custodians of the land, many Australian woolgrowers tirelessly work to leave the land in a better condition than how they found it.
“The wool we produce is a very natural product because there is no interference with
chemicals. There’s just no need for them. We use holistic grazing management where we look after the environment and animal welfare. Two things that are very important to us.”
“As farmers we are really good at managing the land, livestock and producing a quality
product. But, we are not good marketers, just hopeless. We rely on other people to market
our product and they tell us that it’s bloody great.”