F.W Gibson mid 1950s
In 1928, Wonga sheep were introduced to Riversleigh by the family partnership of F.W. Gibson and Sons and were the foundation of Plevna Merino Stud. In 1935, 1 ram and 50 ewes were bought to form a special ram breeding flock. A nucleus to supply sires for use on Plevna and Riversleigh. In 1942, the ram breeding flock was moved to Plevna.
In 1977 John and Frankie bought Plevna outright, trading as J. and F. Aveyard Pty Lty. The flock was registered in 1979 and at that time had been operating virtually as a closed stud for 16 years.
In 1970 John Aveyard engaged the services of Frank Donnelly, district sheep and wool officer with the NSW Department of Agriculture in Parkes, as the property’s sheep classer. John Aveyard originally contacted Frank because he had a problem of low lambings (only about 60%) in his maiden ewes. The relationship grew from there as John also appreciated Franks then innovative approach to objective measurement.
From 1970 to 1974, Frank studied the sheep in regards to neck fold and body wrinkle and how these characteristics effected ease of management and maintenance of productivity. Frank found that the plainer type sheep were more likely to offer better reproduction, have fewer lambing problems and be more consistant performers generally. Frank Donnelly was well ahead of his time. From then on lambing percentages have steadily climbed.
John Aveyard decided at this time that the existing nucleus flock was too small to afford a decent selection as he was gaining interest in rams from graziers around the district who were interested in the plainer style sheep. John had long formed the opinion that these sheep were to be the base of a much larger stud flock. One of the main criteria apart from visual classing was that each ewe was selected on the basis of rearing a lamb from consecutive lambings. After doing this for 5 years he discovered the survival of lambs in this group of ewes had significantly increased. This was the base of the Plevna merino stud.
John had produced a sheep that was similar in wool cut and micron, better in reproduction, hardier in tough seasons, better shearing, less prone to fly strike and over all a much easier animal to manage.
These days this type of sheep is called the modern merino. John and Frank had achieved breeding this type of animal in the 70’s.