Turkey Lane Merinos inspiring rebuild just in time for ram sale

NEW GENERATION: Hannah Robins and her father John Symons and their sole surviving dog Jackson in front of all the hand-reared lambs. Photo Stan Gorton
NEW GENERATION: Hannah Robins and her father John Symons and their sole surviving dog Jackson in front of all the hand-reared lambs. Photo Stan Gorton

Progress and rebuilding at Turkey Lane Merinos is just amazing after what the family went through with the summer bushfires on Kangaroo Island in January.

Leading the on-farm recovery at Middle River has been father and daughter team, John Symons and Hannah Robins, together with her partner Brian and John's wife Jo.

They are very grateful for all the help received from the Army to BlazeAid volunteers, who finished boundary fencing back in April, as well those who donated hay and other items.

The recovery effort is remarkable given what they've been through, losing almost everything, except their prized ram lambs and also one of the farmhouses, which survived by pure chance.

The shearing shed was rebuilt just in time for their annual ram sale, held last Monday, November 9, while a new farmhouse for John and Jo is also almost finished.

Working on the Australian Wool Innovation-designed, four-stand shearing shed was the team from Higgins Construction, who have a total of nine sheds to build on the Island.

Hannah said they were very happy with the result of the ram sale, selling 61 rams from 65 offered, at an average price of $1295.

As is traditional for Turkey Lane, the sale is a helmsman auction, where bidding cards are placed on each ram.

The top ram went for $3000 to Mike Smith, KI Freight Services, who runs several properties.

The volume buyers were David and Lisa Busch, whose property next door was also razed by the fire.

There was also good support from three buyers from the state's South East.

Turkey Lane is proud to be rated in the top 1 per cent of ASBV index in Australia, and the rams offered this year average in the top 10pc.

John has worked on developing these genetics over the past 20 years and the fact that 130 ram lambs survived by pure chance has helped keep the line going.

"We lost two thirds of our nucleus flock and so we are having to build up again," he said.

"We might amplify our use of embryo transfer and use whatever technology we can."

A good winter and excellent lambing season also helped and the family went out of its way to save every neglected and triplet lamb.

In the end, Hannah ended up hand-rearing and bucket feeding 60 lambs, which will now be reintroduced into the flock.

In the weeks after the fire, their hospital flock numbers were around 1100, many of which would have been destroyed by livestock authorities.

But through dedicated vet care, they were able to save 850 of those injured Merinos.

"They're all doing well now and some have even produced lambs," Hannah said.

"We are optimistic now, but I don't think its an gross underestimate to say it will take five years to get back on track."

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