Blanch Family

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“Westvale” is owned by the Blanch family and comprises some 3,100 acres. Judy Blanch explains the history of the property and and how they export traditional superfine wools.

> Where is Westvale situated?

Westvale is situated on the southern end of the Northern Tablelands of NSW, south of the village of Kentucky, in an area known as Wollun.

> Who were the first settlers?

Westvale was first settled by the Blanch family in 1907, after purchasing a portion of Terrible Vale from the Taylor family.

Arthur and Elizabeth Blanch saw an opportunity to move from Watson’s Creek with their large family of nine children to better country.

Within months of arriving  and living in a shepherd’s hut while the homestead was being built, Elizabeth died giving birth to her tenth child. The child lived and was reared by relatives (the Blanch family of Thunderbolts Inn and Rock) but the older girls in the family had to rear the rest of the children – the youngest of whom was two. 

As the years passed and the older children left home, Arthur gave each a portion of land so that they could start their own properties. The youngest, Roy, stayed with his father until Arthur’s death, and then Roy inherited “Terrible Vale West” or “Westvale” as it is now known. 

Soon after Roy married Olive Williams, and together they reared three sons – who in turn were given land (some of which had been purchased by Roy from his siblings) when they were old enough to manage their own property. Arthur sold his land when he started in country music, Noel worked alongside Leo until his death in 1984, and Leo retained the homestead after the death of his father and his marriage to Judith Moore. Leo later purchased the homestead block, along with family member blocks, plus two adjoining neighbours blocks.  

 > Describe the property? 

Today Westvale comprises some 3,100 acres situated on the Great Dividing range. Water flows east and west, and it is mainly plateau country. Pasture improvement was commenced by Roy and carried on by Leo, and annually new pastures are sown and fertiliser is spread both by ground and air. Superfine wool merino sheep are grazed, and Leo still conducts the Merino Stud started by his father in 1948.

Charolais cattle were introduced in 1970 by artificial means, when they were first allowed into Australia. Today the property runs 8,000 merinos and 130 breeding cows and their progeny – plus purchased cattle when needed. A small number of pure bred bulls are sold each year. These have proved very popular, as they are “Palgrove” blood.  

Land care has been a major force over the past 25 years, with many thousands of trees being planted and large water storages fenced in for gully control and wet lands. 

> How does the business produce premium wools at a sustainable level?

Two full time employees are housed on Westvale – one of these being Leo’s right hand man (Scott) with the sheep breeding.Using a younger brain with computer skills to record sheep families, Scott and Leo are able to follow traits and keep up with modern day requirements for the Italian market, for which the property grows its wool. 

This is enhanced greatly with advice from our son Andrew, who is Managing Director of New England Wool Pty Ltd. This company is one of the major exporters of  traditional superfine wools. Using figures and measurements from sheep genetics for monitoring  internal parasites helps to keep worm burdens – and thus costs – down. 

Using wool measurements of micron, staple strength etc. provides guides for breeding. Following the involvement in Sheep Genetics, we were pleased to find that we had several families in the top bracket of worm resistance and staple strength. Leo has judged at major sheep shows in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, and he has found this has helped him to look at sheep more objectively and judge one’s own sheep the same way. Leo has been invited to once again judge sheep at a show on the Southern Island of New Zealand, in March 2009.

Each spring a program is undertaken to spray thistle to help keep vegetable matter out of the fleece, and the tractor and slasher have a great role to play in opening up the country and eliminating some grass seed.

> What are some of the business’ major achievements?

Westvale has been showing sheep competitively for many years, with the major achievements being: Three (3) Grand Champions at the Sydney Royal Show and Champion and Reserve Superfine Ewe at the Queensland Sheep Show. Being judged The Land Master Farmer in 1989 for the northern region was surprising and greatly rewarding.

In 2004 Westvale won the Grand Champion Fleece at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Victoria, and again in 2007 won the reserve Grand Champion Fleece. Westvale has been involved with the New England Merino Field Days since its inception in 1978, attracting many hundreds of visitors to the New England. We have a large Show team again this year and will be exhibiting at all the local shows, along with the Sydney Royal.

> Will there be on property sales during 2009?

During 2009 Westvale will be part of the Armidale Ram Breeders Show and Sale on February 3rd/4th, offering three (3) Stud Rams, and on 11th February will be conducting their 25th On Property Sale, offering 62 rams in both short and long wool. On property sales have been very successful over the 25 years, with sales topping at $14,500 for a 2 year old ram and an average up to $2,170. In 2008 rams reached $8,250 and averaged $1,970. Clientele range from Victoria in the south to the granite belt in New South Wales/Queensland. Semen has been sold to many parts of Australia and exported to New Zealand.

> Thank you Judy.

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