1938 – 2013
Life & Achievements
Obituary written by Frank Donnelly
John Robert Aveyard (1938 – 2013) of “Plevna” Trundle had an enormous impact on the breeding, management and husbandry of Merino sheep in Central Western NSW for over 50 years. He passed away peacefully on 27th February 2013.
John started his career as a Jackaroo at “Jemalong” with Australian Estates. At 21 he was made overseer and in the same year he was to meet his life long partner, Francis (Frankie) Gibson. They married in 1960 and moved to “Plevna” in the same year and John was offered the job to manage by Herb Gibson (Frankie’s father).
Soon after he came to “Plevna”, John started to make changes to the sheep breeding program. He expanded the ram breeding flock of 50 ewes to a closed nucleus flock of 250. John was never interested in the show ring preferring to breed a commercial type of sheep well suited to mixed farming enterprises. He was only too happy to be the first or among the earliest adopters of new technology and scientific breakthroughs to improve sheep husbandry practices.
John was one of the first clients of the NSW Department of Agriculture’s Sheep Fertility Service and the Trangie Fleece Measurement Service. He was quick to see the value and benefit of Objective Measurement. A lot of the developments of the Sire Sine harness and the wetting and drying technique for identifying dry ewes occurred at “Plevna”. Since 1970 and right up to the present day every lamb and ewe at “Plevna” is inspected to identify those which fail to rear a lamb and then removed from the Merino breeding program. This long term strategy has helped achieve the fecundity that the Plevna sheep are renowned for.
John made his property, his sheep, his staff and equipment available over a period of 40 years to be a testing ground for important research and development of the Merino sheep industry by the Department of Agriculture.
The Plevna sheep were to become the foundation of the Centre Plus ewe flock.
One of the most important trials was conducted in the early 70s, comparing a plain type of Merino ewe to the more traditional heavier skinned type. The trial was named Plain vs Wrinkly Ewes and was conducted by Frank Donnelly. John was one of the first ram breeders to make a step towards today’s modern Merino. This was not the normal practice in the Industry at the time.
John was the first Merino breeder to investigate the pros and cons of the use of Real Time Ultrasound Scanning of breeding ewes. Including a 2 year trial to identify what commercial benefit could be gained. This again was ground breaking work 30 years ago to what has become today common agricultural practice.
A lot of the collaborative and cooperative work involved the NSW Department of Agriculture, Universities and Wether Trial committees. John shared the authorship or is included in the acknowledgements of several papers in scientific journals with National and International circulation.
The name, John Aveyard has a unique place amongst the Merino sheep industry because of this involvement.
John is survived by his wife, Frankie and 4 children, Kate, John (Boydie), Mat and Bill. His eldest son, Boydie and his wife, Alex are the current owners and operators of Plevna Merinos. Boyd is following in his fathers footsteps.