Lucky rams that survived fire now for sale at Taljar Polwarth auction

The ash-grey fleece of the Polwarth rams at the Taljar stud is testament to the ferocity of Kangaroo Island fires and their aftermath.

Nine months after the fires swept through David and Lynne McArdle's property, their surviving stock still have dark fleeces from living in the ash in the weeks and months after the fires.

"The rams gathered out in the open and the fire went right around them and burned everything up around them," David McArdle said.

Now as part of their rebuilding process, the Taljar Polwarth Stud is going ahead with its ram sale next month.

The McArdles will offer 70 of their surviving rams at an on-property auction at 1812 East West One Highway on Tuesday, October 6.

Getting the rams ready...

After a few months of trying to survive the KI winter cold, living in a donated bus and a Minderoo Foundation pod, the couple purchased a house in Parndana to get them by until they can rebuild at Taljar.

The McArdle family over the years have won so many ribbons and trophies for their sheep, they had a whole trophy room in the farmhouse.

That room and its priceless ribbons, along with the rest of their belongings, were destroyed when the fire attacked their two properties on the afternoon and evening of January 9.

They loaded up what sheep they could into a trailer, the dogs and some clothes and fled to their daughter's property at Haines at about 6pm.

David said he attempted to return that evening but the fire was just too fierce. He eventually returned and was faced with the awful task of putting badly injured sheep out of their misery.

"I couldn't get back until the Saturday and that's when the shooting started," he said. "Thankfully we had friends helping but that was the toughest thing I have ever faced. The sheep are like your family."

In all they lost 160 stock as well as both the farmhouse, cottage, sheds, all their boundary fencing and most internal fencing.

To this day, he can't get his head around how all the rams survived and the random nature of the fire as it burned through properties.

"You just can't explain it and that happened with everyone, some things were burned and other things weren't touched," he said.

"We lost 30 young stud ewes that we would have selected this year to continue our blood lines and that was a blow."

The McArdle family has bred the original dual purpose sheep for three generations now, with son Jared and daughter Talisa and her partner Jock Kerr all heavily involved in the breeding program.

It all started with a family trip to the Adelaide Show in 1957, not long after David's father Vincent moved his family to the Island as a Soldier Settler.

There Vincent saw the Polwarth sheep on show, taking an instant liking to the breed and the rest is history.

More good news is they've had a 110 per cent lambing rate this year and the paddocks are green and creeks flowing, thanks to 3 inches of rain this month so far.

As hard as the bushfire has been, COVID-19 and the cancellation of the their beloved shows has been another bitter pill to swallow.

"We always look forward to going to Bendigo and really miss the shows," he said.

This story Lucky rams that survived fire now for sale at Taljar Polwarth auction first appeared on The Islander.