Thai farmers buying up on the Southern Downs
IT WAS a meeting of different cultures and farming practices that could have a lasting impact on the Southern Downs.
Last week, three visiting Thai farmers stopped in at Josh Milton's farm at Hendon to take a look at some sheep.
Mr Milton, a piggery owner, also runs Milton Park Suffolk Stud and said his visitors were so impressed with what they saw, they immediately made an order of 10 ewes.
"They were really taken with my Suffolks," he said. "I thought they were just coming for a look, but they were really impressed with the genetics and plan to start their own breeding program back in Thailand."
The man behind the visit was Frazer McFarlane, a Harrisville farmer with links to Thailand and the Milton family.
"My brother, Dr John Milton, had great interest in agriculture in Thailand stretching back decades," he said.
"He actually received the Crown Jewel award from King of Thailand for his contribution to agriculture in that country.
"Through that work he met the McFarlane family and a friendship and business relationship was forged that continues today. So a few weeks ago, Frazer called and said he was bringing a few Thai farmers over to attend Beef Week."
The farmers were also planning to use their visit to select an order of brahman heifers and Suffolk sheep.
After flying to Rockhampton, the farmers visited Sarina, Comet, Bajool and Baralaba looking at brahmans before moving on to Hendon.
The journey culminated at Mr Milton's property to select a foundation mob of Suffolk breeder sheep.
The sheep will be imported by Sittichai Jamikorn, who is from the Cha Choeng Soa region in eastern Thailand.
Mr Jamikorn runs brahman cattle and goats, as well as some sheep.
Mr Milton said Mr Jamikorn was looking at Suffolk sheep for their favourable traits.
"These sheep have a great feed conversion efficiency and of course they have much sought after meat-eating qualities," he said.
"These will be the first Suffolk sheep ever imported to Thailand.
"Sheep farming is not a huge industry in Thailand, due to the countryside and the space available.
"But these farmers are trying something a bit new and were very impressed with the Suffolk sheep, it's a breed that suits their environment."
Mr Milton said the Thai farmers' goal was to start breeding the Suffolk sheep.
"I put them in touch with a friend of mine in Dubbo who owns Kurrali Suffolk Stud, and they've ordered two rams to get started," he said.
"It's a long way to come for a few sheep, but I think it's really interesting and pretty exciting.
"The sheep were just a part of a larger itinerary, I believe they also checked out a Boer goat farm near Toowoomba.
"It was a real fact-finding mission for them, looking at what we do and how we do it."
Mr McFarlane will now take over to arrange the export.
"I'm not sure how long that will take," Mr Milton said.
"I'd imagine it will take a while, Thailand has very strict regulations and quarantine guidelines."
The sheep will be flown direct to Thailand via air freight. The buyers selected younger, smaller animals due their size and weight being more suitable for air freight purposes.