Woolgrowers diversify income

28 February 2014

Anlaby near Kapunda in the Mid North of South Australia is rolling sheep country and home to one of the oldest continuously operating Merino studs in Australia and the oldest in the state.

Peter Hayward and Andrew Morphett at the Anlaby shearing shed.
Peter Hayward and Andrew Morphett at the Anlaby shearing shed.

It maintains a genetic line that started 175 years ago in 1839 when 5000 sheep owned by Mr F. H.  Dutton were driven overland from the Colony of New South Wales to South Australia in an epic droving venture that lasted from May to December. The first shipment of wool to be sold in London from South Australia included wool from Anlaby.

In 2004 Andrew Morphett and Peter Hayward took over the ownership of Anlaby and in 2006 purchased the woolshed and stud, both of which had been subdivided off in the 1970s.

Mr Morphett says, “We sold the wool from our first shearing into the wool market and were dismayed to see how undervalued this fantastic product is. We decided then to stop treating our wool as a commodity. We would produce a range of quality woollen products that would showcase the amazing properties and heritage of this Australian icon.

“We would only use wool grown on the property and we would have the wool processed and the products made entirely in Australia.

“We started with the production of a fringed bed-throw, and have subsequently expanded the range to include a ladies wrap, a cot blanket and bassinet blanket; each bound in pure silk satin.

“We do not dye the wool so in response to requests for some added colour, we have recently introduced a range of throws edged in William Morris embroidered silk and cotton fabric.

“We are aiming to produce classic products that will remain in style and be able to be handed down from one generation to the next.

“With the emergence of the internet and e-commerce, we realised that we didn’t need bricks and mortar stores to sell our products – we could sell them online, which has the advantages of reduced overheads, an expanded geographical reach, a broader potential customer base, and we’re open 24 hours a day. All our products are available through our online shop on the Anlaby website.”’

The Anlaby product range is also available at the Purely Merino stores in the international terminals (airside) of Sydney and Melbourne airports. Mr Morphett and Mr Hayward are also taking advantage of Anlaby’s historic buildings, setting and heritage by diversifying into the hosting of weddings and other functions on the property. They also provide group tours of the property and Bed & Breakfast accommodation.

“Anlaby resembles a historic Victorian village rather than a farm, with its collection of cottages and houses built around “the quadrangle” – the village square – for the 70 staff including butlers, maids, 12 gardeners, coachmen, kennel masters and farm workers and their families that used to live and work here,” Mr Morphett says.

“The property was built on the sale of Merino wool back when the whole country was being built on the sheep’s back. The sheer size of the historic Anlaby woolshed – it had 32 stands – says a lot about those days. In its heyday about 70,000 sheep were shorn here each year. They were shearing for nine months.” To mark the 175th anniversary of the establishment of Anlaby, there will be a gala performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in the property’s quadrangle on 12 April. The opera will be performed by Co-Opera, a professional touring opera company with a 20 year history of performing in regional and urban Australia.