Helen Sykes, foreword to our 50th Anniversary Sale
I have been asked to write a few words on the foundation of Mawarra. I could write on and on about its development, the sires and cows we used, and the incredible amount of breeding skills and emerging technologies needed…but not now. Put simply, I just want to say what a joy it has been.
I grew up with Herefords, as did my father, L. C. (Dick) Rogers.
As a young man in the beginning of the 1900’s, he helped run the family herd in the bush around Black Mountain Station, in far East Gippsland. The station was in its development stage, so the young cattlemen lived in the bush for days at a time. Herefords, the prevalent breed of the era, were ideal for these conditions, and my father’s preference for them would continue throughout his life.
As a young girl, growing up at Wulgulmerang (still in that Snowy mountain country), I was surrounded by Herefords, along with some sheep, and they were our “bread and butter”. Later, on more developed country at Swan Reach (near Bairnsdale), the sheep were to go, and the cattle became our livelihood. It was at this stage that my father decided to develop a Hereford Stud, “Norwood”.
I can remember as a young teen, driving my father all round eastern Australia (in those days anyone could drive as long as you had a licensed driver sitting beside you), visiting many studs looking for suitable females for his herd. And so Norwood, which many years later became the foundation of Mawarra Genetics, began.
Norwood was a quiet, but very successful stud, selling bulls at annual sales from our own cattle yards. There was no showing or special feeding – just naturally- raised cattle offered by a recognised cattleman. Its success continued even after my father relocated to a tiny property in Kew, Melbourne., There came a
time when those stud females had to go.
I was practising my profession, and about to be married and return to the East Gippsland high country, when my father gave me the opportunity to select and buy seven of his most successful cows. I, and my fiancé, Robert, saw this as a wonderful opportunity.
It would supply not only our own herd’s needs, but also those of neighbouring farmers, if we could breed bulls suitable for them.
As I had been brought up in the industry, and assisted my father for many years, we felt we should take on this new challenge. With the purchase of stud sire, Silverton Cyclone, in 1963, “Mawarra Herefords” was born.
Looking back nearly sixty years, Rob & I could never have predicted where this decision would take us. Never did we dream of being dependent on the stud for our living, or of the highs and lows that went with it. We never thought of shows and sales, of championships or record prices, or of Mawarra genetics being utilised in international breeding programs… but I had married a cattleman, and we had a son of the same ilk, and these things, in time, became part of our family life, and Mawarra.
I remember the old show cow who used to shake the pear tree with her horns so she got the fruit before us. The client who gave me “visiting rights” to see my favourite bull when she bought him, and the fit 17-year-old cow who used to lead the mob at a trot from the yards. She was the first of our Minerva family, a bloodline which remains dominant in our herd today.
I remember the anticipation of waiting to see the first calves of a new sire, and those cold, snowy nights when occasionally the newborns needed help to get to their feet for that first drink. Sometimes it was our lounge room fire that warmed them up…how our three-year-old Andrew loved that! So many more happy remembrances remain with me, and amongst the hard work, and ups and downs, it has all been so rewarding. Now, approaching 90 years of age, I know that I couldn’t leave Mawarra Genetics in better hands than those of my son, Peter, his wife, Deanne, and their family, who have been integral in bringing the stud to where it is today. For those of you purchasing from them, I wish you much success, and the same pleasure that I have experienced with Herefords.
Since writing this I have heard some lovely news. My granddaughter, Taylah, has her own little Hereford stud, which she has called Norwood! We have come full circle.
I now have three grandchildren with their own stud Herefords: Brandon & Brittany running Mawarra B; Logan, who operates under the Mawarra prefix; and Taylah’s ‘Norwood’. Who knows what lies ahead. My three – year-old great grandson, Carter, loves Herefords too!