Laurie Thompson has been inspecting Poll Dorsets at the Melbourne Royal for 49 years - “hopefully I wrack up 50 in 2020 and it might be time to retire”.
Laurie started breeding Dorset Horns in 1956 at Myrniong, and switched to Poll Dorsets just over a decade later.
“I approached my father when I was 15 to ask if I could buy som stud sheep - as a dairy farmer he wasn’t that impressed with the idea. I said I will earn the money to buy them, and if I can run them on the family farm until I get some dirt of my own, I will give you half. He said I don’t expect to get much out of this deal, but away you go!”
And away he went, establishing the Gartlee stud.
“Gartlee is where my great grandfather came from in Scotland, he came out to the (Myrniong) area in 1856.”
Gartlee was sold to a family at Yea two years ago but Laurie is still involved with it in an advisory role. Laurie said he has always loved the challenge of breeding sheep.
“Selecting rams and always trying to breed something better and you’ve got to change with the times with the type of sheep that are required and that has certainly changed a huge amount over the years - same purpose but much better sheep.”
He started inspecting at the Melbourne Royal in the early days of his career alongside some of the leaders in the business, and describes it as a great learning tool. In 2013 he was awarded the RAS President’s Medal for 43 years of service.
“I considered that an honour, but this is the greatest honour at all, it’s the biggest thrill I’ve ever had.”
Laurie’s highlight of his years in Poll Dorsets has been the friendships however.
“You make lifelong friends that is the greatest achievement.”