Courtesy of the Douglas family
Max was born in 1939 in Bendigo, Victoria, as one of eight children born to parents, Kenneth and Irene Douglas. As a young boy, Max grew up on the original family property at Woodstock West, known as “View Hill", farming sheep and growing crops, including wheat and oats.
He attended the small local Woodstock school before leaving to work at home alongside his father. From a young age, Max had always helped his father and grandfather Thomas Douglas with the sheep and Farm work.
Thomas established a Dorset Horn stud in 1935, which was called “View Hill” at Woodstock West. He was a big man who had lost his right arm in a farming accident, however, continued working on the farm until 1942, before handing it to Kenneth and retiring to live in Kangaroo flat.
Kenneth continued to work the “View Hill” property at Woodstock West, with Max’s keen interest in Dorset horns, leading them to develop the stud further. In 1958, Kenneth and Max decided to expand the stud to include the Poll Dorset breed with a purchase of the Ram Timberlea 31/1957 and 33 Dorset Horn Ewes from their View Hill stud.
In 1961, the Woodstock West property was sold to a Douglas cousin and Kenneth and Max purchased a smaller property with irrigation at Eddington. Situated on the Loddon river, about 24 km away. This property was then called view Hills.
The view Hills stud was very successful throughout the 1960s with the 1960 Dorset Horn show team, winning 18 out of a possible 20 championships at shows from Albury to Melbourne. it was an incredible first year of showing for Max and Kenneth, culminating at the Melbourne Royal show where they won the novice Ram and Ewe class, then winning the open classes, before taking out both Ram and Ewe champions. A feat not achieved before or since by a first time exhibitor.
Max met Coral Mooney in Melbourne, and they were married in 1962. During the years at Eddington, Max judged many small country shows, and was well known and respected for his knowledge of the Dorset breed.
On the retirement of Max’s father, Kenneth, the view Hills stud was dispersed in 1973. Max and his family moved to Oberon to manage the Karawina Poll Dorset stud, owned by the Dickson family.
On arrival to Oberon, Max, and members of the Dixon family attended the Poll Dorset Stud dispersals of Marleybone and Lindsbury to purchase sheep for the Karawina stud. With Max’s expertise and knowledge of breeding, Karawina progressed to be one of Australia’s top studs within four years.
In the second year at Karawina, the stud won Champion Ram at Sydney Royal. Max was also nominated and won an award in the local area for farmer of the year, he was judging in Tasmania at the time, so was unable to attend the awards dinner, but was quite honoured , especially as he was still quite young at the time.
In 1977, Max & his family moved to Tamworth and established the Abelene Park Poll Dorset stud.
Max judged at every Royal show in Australia, including Melbourne royal show three times, while it was the largest Poll Dorset sheep show of the time. Those years being 1974, 1981, and 2000. The Shorn Ram class in 1981, holds the record number of entries in one class at 81 Rams.
He was also excited to win the ballot for 2000 and felt honoured to judge in the millennium year. The last royal show Max judged was in 2003 at Adelaide, then retired from judging, as he always thought it was good to have younger judges.
Max was proud to be on the inaugural committee of the Australasian Dorset championships in Bendigo since it was formed in 2008, until retiring in 2016. Max always liked to support this major Poll Dorset exhibition in Bendigo with the best of their show team every year.
Although Max was unable to attend the last few championships, he loved watching the live stream of judging, and was extremely proud when the stud took out Supreme exhibit in 2019. He also took a keen interest in the auction as well and was excited when Abelene Park gained top price and average six times in the last 10 years of exhibiting.
Max had a long involvement with assisting young people with skills at schools and junior sheep judging, as well as helping new studs starting out. The Tocal Ag College, in the Hunter region of NSW regularly visits Abelene Park as part of their annual farm production tour. This has occurred for the past 30 years with up to 40 students coming to have a look at what the stud does. Max always liked to get the young people out and put their hands on the sheep.
Max said it was difficult in the early days to get breeders to share their secrets about preparing and showing sheep. He always talked of when Joe Turnbull, manager of the renowned “Deepfields” Dorset Horn stud took a liking to him, and at Albury show, taught him so much in just a couple of days. This made him realise how important it was to be able to help out others looking to get a start.
Max always commented how he loved breeding Dorset sheep and the enjoyment he got from it. He was always striving to breed the perfect sheep.