Historic buildings at Bothwell, Tasmania. Image by Rudolf Ramseyer

 
 

Bothwell and its past

 

Bothwell is a historic township with a rich agricultural and architectural heritage, nestled in Tasmania's beautiful Central Highlands . Established in 1822 and situated seventy kilometres Northwest of Hobart, It is the Southern gateway to our spectacular lake country.

 

Agricultural land and distant ranges surround Bothwell. Image by Rudolf Ramseyer

 

The tiny town with a population of around 400 was established by Scottish settlers. They named the settlement ‘Bothwell’ and named the river which runs through it the ‘Clyde’. It was previously known as the ‘Fat Doe’. The Scots brought with them the Aberdeen Black Angus cattle and many families worked the land.

 

Old barns on the edge of town. Image by Rudolf Ramseyer

 

Bothwell is one of Australia’s oldest townships and is classified as a historic town. It boasts a large number of well preserved historic buildings and homesteads, comprising sandstone quarried from the hills adjacent to the town, bricks made from local clay and timber sourced from local sawyers.

 

St Luke's church constructed of sandstone quarried from nearby hills. Image by Rudolf Ramseyer

 

The township is home to around one hundred buildings of architectural heritage interest, an exceptionally large number for such a small town. Significant properties include Strathbarton, Clifton Priory, Wentworth House, Cluny, Llanberis, Dungrove, Sherwood, Montacute, Nant and Ratho Farm. Incidentally, the oldest golf course in Tasmania, if not Australia, is located at Ratho Farm.

 
 

The surrounding highland plateau, at an altitude of 350m above the sea, provides rich soils for agriculture, the primary industry in the area. Bothwell produces high quality crops of wasabi plants and  pharmaceutical poppies, Angus Beef cattle and thousands of sheep roam the pastures.

 

 

The Cormo Fleece

 

Unique to the district, the internationally accepted breed originated at nearby Dungrove. The flocks graze from 610 metres to 1000 metres above sea level and take dry, hot summers and cold, snowy winters in their stride. A ram-breeding nucleus and a commercial flock are both run all year under these natural environmental conditions.

 

Cormo ewes waiting to return to pasture after shearing at Dungrove Farm. Image by Jess Downie

 

Ian Downie, the owner of Dungrove, was running a high quality flock of Superfine Saxon Merino. He recognised the need for a more fertile, higher wool producing and larger framed sheep. He also saw a trend towards wool being purchased according to objective measurement. It was in 1960 when he decided a breeding programme should be instigated to meet this demand.

In seeking scientific help, he learned of large scale breeding trials conducted at Trangie, New South Wales, Australia, by Dr Helen Newton-Turner, chief geneticist with the Division of Animal Genetics of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in collaboration with Dr RB Dun and Dr F Morley.

The Senior Sheep and Wool Officer of Tasmania’s Department of Agriculture, Mr BC Jefferies, devised a breeding programme which was based on the Trangie experiments and designed to meet Mr Downie’s requirements.

Stud Corriedale rams were crossed with 1200 Superfine Saxon Merino ewes and those progeny which met rigid selection criteria, assessed by objective measurement, became the Cormo ram breeding nucleus. The word Cormo is derived from the letters from the names of the two parent breeds.

Scientific breeding has given the Cormo a remarkable range of commercial virtues, suited to both the wool and meat industries. These include:

  • Long staple, white high yield wool (average fleece weight 5.5kg)
  • Soft, dense fleece with exceptional consistency (90% within two microns of the average)
  • Resistance to fleece rot and mycotic dermatitis
  • Long and large carcasses with flock ewes averaging 55kg and export wethers averaging 60kg
  • High fertility with over 110% of lambs weaned
  • Open faces
  • Easy management with no stalling or artificial feeding.

 

Thank you to Ian and Anne Downie and Peter and Ann Downie of Dungrove Farm at Bothwell, Tasmania, for providing us this information.

An archived ABC Rural article about Mr Downie and his sheep can be found here.