A familiar and respected identity in the sheep industry, the passing of Bill Mildren in June 2021 has robbed us of an experienced sheepman, a steady yet innovative mentor, a strong sounding board and, most importantly, a valued friend.
Extract from AFA Newsletter 2020
BILL MILDREN – SHEEP STALWART
By Chris Bowman – AFA Stud Consultant & Commercial Sheep Classer
Bill Mildren is a graduate of the old school of pastoral and Stud Merino breeding management. His broad based training, in conjunction with Bill’s natural affinity for sheep and people, clever thinking, perceptive insight and dedication to excellence produced a long and distinguished pastoral career for Bill, who has now reduced his sheep pursuits, but not his interest in an industry that has been a life long passion.
Growing up in Queensland, where his father managed big runs stocked with both sheep and cattle, Bill went to jackaroo at the Raby Stud at Warren in NSW when he left school. Two years at Raby culminated in a stint in the Ramshed, where his focus was on the preparation of sale rams.
From Raby, Bill continued his education at ‘Buckinguy’ at Nyngan and then at ‘Zara’ at Wanganella, which at that time was the base for the Poll Boonoke Stud.
The natural progression for a keen young sheepman who had proven himself through hard work and commitment was to an Overseer role, which Bill duly took up at the Isis Downs Stud at Blackall, Queensland.
In 1963, Bill returned to NSW, having been offered the Overseer role at the Wonga Stud at Jerilderie under the mentorship of Tom Culley. This was to be a pivotal time in both Bill’s Merino education and career; he subsequently went on to build up a classing run that took in four states, thousands of sheep and made him a familiar and respected identity in the sheep industry.
Bill was unwavering in his desire to breed better Merinos that satisfied industry requirements, and he took a great interest in the promotion and marketing of them. At the end of every sale, Bill would work out a full break down by sire with price averages, where the rams went, who the new clients were and where the potential for new business lie.
Although Bill has a great working knowledge of Merino history and the characters that have contributed to it, he was never a slave to it; preferring to concentrate on producing a type of sheep that resulted in profitable flocks for his clients.
I am fortunate to have had a long association with Bill, we worked closely together at Uardry for 15 years, and then subsequently at AFA for 7 years. I especially admired Bill’s ability to communicate with people across all generations; in particular he enjoyed working with young people, was happy to share his knowledge and skills with them, but was equally keen to learn and discover from them and therefore has been an early adopter of industry innovations.
Bill has been an integral part of the AFA Stud Team; a steady and experienced source of advice for stud management and marketing issues that we have all valued. An organised man and always concerned for his clients, Bill had been working on a succession plan for his retirement prior to his illness, having arranged that I would class for his Victorian clients and Angus Munro his northern clients.
Bill will no longer be clocking up enormous hours driving to visit clients and attend industry days; and he will have more time to study up on his other passion of horse racing, but I have no doubt that he will remain as current as ever on the status of the sheep industry and a strong sounding board for all of us.