Creating the Camden White Toulouse
Australian story on Camden White Toulouse – Insights to Michael Peel’s breeding plan.
Michael Peel’s favourite saying is “we breed the birds we love AND love the birds we breed”. Michael is a lover of waterfowl with a passion for geese. He has kept waterfowl from a very early age growing up in Kellyville in the Sydney hills district. Being less than 20km from Hawkesbury Agricultural College, Michael was able to acquire very high quality geese that were the foundation of his flocks.
When you visit Peel Ridge, the first thing that strikes you is the natural position of the farm and layout. Waterfowl is Michael’s speciality and he has arranged his pens to have a constant supply of good fresh water. The water ponds and troughs are fed by gravity from a great tank automatically filled with water from the Nepean River. Even the spent water is catered for with a large concrete tank used to capture and irrigate it back to the pasture.
The farm is not elaborately laid out. It is not adorned by a large fancy driveway, white railing fence or an ornamental house. Instead the money has been put back into where Michael’s true love lies, his water fowl, with fox proof fencing, water points and housing arranged in a practical manner to serve & protect waterfowl.
Looking over the farm you will see all manner of waterfowl. There are ducks and geese of every breed, with large colourful Rouen ducks taking the forefront. It is paramount to Michael to maintain the proper class of stock where no expense or effort has been spared in their breeding.
The centre piece of what Michael refers to as the Bar’n’Grill is a water feature custom built for waterfowl. As we sat under the verandah a majestic flock of Camden White Toulouse arrived. Their immense size and quality is indeed a sight worth seeing, they are striking proof of what can be done by systematically breeding from the selection of the right quality of stock.
Why am I writing this?
There has been some confusion as to where/when and by who the White Toulouse were created so I thought I would take the time to have a chat with Michael Peel to get his take on how the White Toulouse goose came about.
When were the Australian White Toulouse first created?
There has been much discussion in several local Australian Facebook poultry groups. The two main theories on when the Australian White Toulouse were first exhibited are as follows;
The first theory is that the Australian White Toulouse may have been first exhibited in 2008 by Grahame Webb at the 2008 National Poultry Show. This was raised in the Exhibition Poultry Facebook group in 2016 and Cathy Newton took the time to interview one of the parties mentioned in the Facebook discussion. After approaching Graham Webb, here’s what he had to say:
The second theory comes from Michael Peel who had the following to say: ‘I never felt the need to document any history of the birds and when I first exhibited them. Especially in the case of a new breed because the general public are never really interested until a breed is looking to be added to the Poultry Standards. There was so much discussion around this matter I had to think back pretty far.
I decided to approach the RAS to find out if they had any records of when the Australian White Toulouse were first exhibited by myself at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. They managed to dig up a photo (shown below) from the Animal Nursery that dates back to 1992. I may have exhibited them before then in any other variety, or colour classes, but this so far is the only photo I found with a date on it.’
So take from this what you will, but it seems 1992 is (at this moment) the earliest recorded date of exhibition.
Camden White Toulouse 1992
Camden White Toulouse 2018
When asked about how the Camden White Toulouse started, Michael replied “They really have been a labor of love, floating around in the background flocks since late 80’s. My Grey Toulouse had achieved exhibition status, my Embdens were in high demand and the White Chinese were a great success.”
Michael decided to create a Toulouse with the best traits of his White Embdens and his Exhibition Grey Toulouse. Early crosses produced blue (splash) coloured geese at a young age, which were quite spectacular and a great contrast to the white and grey colours. However as these goslings grew and developed adult plumage the blue (splash) gave way to white.
Michael progressed with his efforts and aimed for the Blue (splash) colouring. Unfortunately blue (splash) did not hold, and the White Toulouse grew in numbers and quality at every generation. Every time Michael went back to the core breeding project the whites got better, even when he put the flock on the back burner to concentrate on other projects the whites got better again.
Michael Peel had the honour of supplying birds at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for the centre display in the animal nursery from its earliest days in the 1960’s and he still supplies them with a variety of birds till this day. Michael’s beat up old white Datsun ute with geese and ducks packed under the canopy was an iconic sight.
A breed doesn’t happen overnight
Michael started his work in the early 1960’s and has always strived to improve his breeds. He has always had breeding projects running producing breed variations along the way. In the early 70’s Michael’s work lead to the development of White Chinese geese and received wide acclaim as a great success. This didn’t happen overnight though.
Throughout the 70’s and 80’s Michael’s passion for good quality geese flourished and he was hatching 1500 to 2000 goslings each year. This gave Michael the desired stock levels necessary to develop and improve in all goose breeds. Michael’s success was so great the King of Tonga requested he export Peel ridge’s White Embdens to Tonga after he personally visited Michel’s farm. To this day they still roam the palace grounds under royal protection.
So how long did it take? “Fortunately, I could call on experience gained when I developed White Chinese geese in the 1970s. I developed the white Chinese because I was looking at breeding for the meat industry and needed to develop a better laying goose. I initially crossed the Embden over the Brown Chinese as the Embdens had the white plumage and size needed for commercial birds and the brown Chinese had high egg production for greater number goslings. And so the White Chinese were created.
I remember seeing photos of White Chinese geese from overseas and thinking that I’d like to develop them. I can’t deny that taking the step to become a meat producer didn’t push things along. Initially, I had been working in the family dairy, helping with milking twice daily. The geese were just a sideline then. It wasn’t until numbers multiplied rapidly that geese production got big enough to sustain itself. Geese prices were better during the years I bred commercially than they were for other stock like sheep and cattle because of dry conditions and drought. I sold under the Telstar Juicy Goose Farm banner.”
“The biggest lesson I learnt from those years was that if you can produce the numbers, you have a better chance of improving quickly and achieving the traits that are lacking than if you’re just working with 20 goslings. As well, there is a likelihood of more sports appearing and they often save several years’ work. Of course, if you don’t have the numbers in the breeding flock it’s going to take longer because Toulouse are not known for high fertility. It’s virtually once a year breeding with them and if you miss out it’s a long wait for the next season.
“I had all these factors in mind with the White Toulouse. Even though they have now been recognised by the Australian Poultry Standard I still feel like I haven’t finished perfecting them and there will always be room for improvement.”
By 2008 he had a strong foundation flock of white Toulouse, after years of being displayed in the Sydney Royal Easter Show as a developing breed, judged in competition and the flock inspected by a number of national and international experts. Michael was advised his White Toulouse were indeed a breed and more importantly a breed line. With this confidence he named his line the Australian Camden White Toulouse.
The Final Product
In 2015 Michael made a written application for the Inclusion of the White Toulouse into the Australian Poultry Standards with all the required documentary proof and detailed reports from accredited judges. The application was successful and the White Toulouse was added to the APS in 2016.
Michael is humbled and grateful for the support he received from the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, especially the Late Councillor David White, Kerry Pearce, Councillor Grahame Sharp and many others. The RAS has always encouraged Michael to exhibit in competition, or display all of his breeding efforts. This support gave Michael the ability to meet the Australian Poultry Standards Committee procedure and have his Camden White Toulouse recognised by the breed’s inclusion in the APS.
Don’t believe everything you read about not having the genetics to produce the quality of birds seen across the globe. We are all breeding from the same gene pool and there is no big secret to producing premium quality geese except for the 3 P’s – Passion, Patience and Perseverance.
Geese have always held a special place in Michael’s family, especially Toulouse. They are gentle in nature and graceful in the field. For those of you that know him well you’ll know that his days are spent in the paddocks with his animals. Helping them grow to their full potential, watching over them like a shepherd and his flock, he’s forever in thought about his next challenge.
MICK’s Tips – Wanting to develop a new breed? Here are the top 5 Tips from Mick.
- You need to have or develop a good eye for livestock.
- Numbers are key, the more you are producing the faster your breed will develop.
- Good foundation stock is paramount to your success.
- Talk to reputable and or professional breeders. Definition of a professional live stock breeder: A professional livestock breeder is a person who’s professional vocation it is to selectively breed carefully selected mates, normally of the same breed, to reproduce offspring with specific, consistently replicable qualities and characteristics over a long period of time.
- Love what you do – Well fed, well watered and well cared for stock will produce and develop well.
Michael’s letter to breeders, (kind of like a letter from the editor in a magazine)
There seems to be a lack of breeders prepared to back themselves and push the quality up to if not better than overseas birds. As quoted by Maria Creeks in a post I recently shared on facebook. The post has a picture of two Toulouse geese taken in 1903“The Earl of Derby is credited with creating the Exhibition Toulouse in England with stock from France. It should also be noted that the Australian imported Toulouse Geese were of the same stock that was exported by the Earl of Derby to the United states and other countries. The Earl of Derby’s line of Toulouse Geese held world acclaim as being superior magnificent specimens and were sought after by many waterfowl breeders from across the globe.”
In Australia we all have the same gene pool to work with and I feel as though it is an uneducated comment to say “we don’t have the same genetics as overseas so we can’t provide the same quality of birds.” with some patience, dedication and perseverance we can produce the same standard if not better than those bred and shown on social media from other countries. On top of this there are a number of people who consistently disparage and or release unresearched and ill informed information pushing the genuine breeders and seekers of knowledge in a misguided direction. We live in a world of social media and although it brings the world together at times it can also be confusing, sifting through the overwhelming amount of knowledge and fiction. I still believe that a reputable breeder will always let their livestock do their talking. If you are looking to get the right information and guidance you should look to talk to someone who is consistently breeding good quality birds year after year, social media content just cant beat years of industry experience.
Author: Jane Fredrickson
*Some of the information provided in this article has been taken from the below Australasian Poultry article.
Australasian Poultry Story: Creating the Camden White Toulouse
I cannot claim the high quality of writing found in the article. This is an article written by the wonderful Meg Miller, Editor of the Australasian Poultry Magazine. It was written in 2013 and details the creation of the Camden White Toulouse here in Australia and I thought rather than try re-writing something written so well… I’d ask Meg if it was ok to post her article here on the site. Thanks Meg!
Michael Peel has long admired the majestic carriage and quiet nature of Toulouse geese. Not content with just the traditional grey variety, he set himself the goal to breed a blue-plumaged Toulouse. This was nearly a decade ago.
In 2008 after the Canberra National, English waterfowl judges Mike and Chris Ashton visited Peel Ridge Stud at Teresa Park, NSW. They looked at the four or five years’ work Michael had put into the blue project and advised him it wouldn’t work, he would just end up with buff or white-plumaged birds.”So it was the failure to breed blue-plumaged birds that launched me into a white Toulouse”, Michael said. “When I looked around at the outcome of a number of years of wasted breeding l realised I could make something from the mish mash I had. The bottom line was that there were some nice white-plumaged birds from the blue efforts and all I had to do was get large numbers on the ground so there would be quality birds there to pick from.”
White Chinese Precedent
Fortunately, I could call on experience gained when I developed White Chinese geese in the 1970s. I was looking at breeding for the meat industry and needed to develop a better laying goose. I initially crossed the Embden over the Brown Chinese and this gave more goslings. The crossbreeds were ideal commercial birds.
Then I did a line from pied birds out of Brown Chinese. I’d come across the pieds and quickly bought the flock. Some white birds were bred out of these. This meant that I had two lines to work with. In going commercial, any rejects from the White Chinese project were able to be processed. As a breeder, especially of a new colour, you know there are going to be lots of culls. It’s an advantage if you can process and sell them.
The development took 14-15 years for the White variety to stabilise. Ten years of that had gone into playing around with the pied white line, then things sped up.
I remember seeing photos of White Chinese from overseas and thinking that I’d like to develop them. I can’t deny that taking the step to become a meat producer didn’t push things along. Initially, I had been working in the family dairy, helping with milking twice daily. The geese were just a sideline then. It wasn’t until numbers multiplied rapidly that geese production got big enough to sustain itself. Geese prices were better during the years I bred commercially than they were for other stock like sheep and cattle because of dry conditions and drought. I sold under the Telstar Juicy Goose Farm banner.
“The big lesson I learnt from those years is that if you can produce the numbers, you have a better chance of improving quickly and achieving the traits that are lacking than if you’re just working with 20 goslings. As well, there is a likelihood of more sorts appearing and they often save several years’ work. Of course, if you don’t have the numbers in the breeding flock it’s going to take longer because Toulouse are not known for high fertility. It’s virtually once a year breeding with them and if you miss out it’s a long wait for next season.”
“I had all these factors in mind with the White Toulouse and wasn’t prepared to wait the 15 years I did with the Chinese”, Michael said.
Egg Management at Peel Ridge Stud
“With Toulouse geese every egg counts, although I have observed that the early eggs are not usually fertile and neither are those in a second clutch. Fertility peaks in Spring; at my place that’s the middle of September and every egg is set”, Michael said.
“All eggs are collected and marked. As I keep a number of breeds this is a big job, but my wife Kunthida, my daughter Katie and granddaughter Olivia can be roped in to help. I tell them it’s family bonding time, but they are less enthusiastic and mutter about danger money.”
“Picking up the eggs in Spring is hazardous because both the males and females are toey. The best method is to do it at night and shine a torch in their eyes, then get in quick. If you hesitate they will have time to start bashing you with their wings and this is potentially dangerous. It’s not a job for the faint hearted, but even people who allow their geese to set naturally need to get in and check fertility, so they may benefit from our method.”
“Some people use a metal rubbish bin lid for protection, and that would suit nervous handlers, but it is always easier at night when the torch can be used to temporarily dazzle the birds’ eyes.”
“We candle those birds that are hatching naturally. Special eggs are often put out under a goose or a turkey. Candling is done weekly both for natural and incubator hatching eggs. The time this takes is substantial. Then the incubator eggs are moved to a hatcher a week before they are due to hatch.”
Hurdles that Arose
Michael found getting the numbers up the biggest challenge as he wasn’t able to source appropriate birds to get going. It was a case of starting from scratch. He produced the nucleus flock himself. With traditional crossing Toulouse and also getting onto birds that he’d helped others with, but who subsequently found they didn’t have the time to do the breeding and culling work. “I finally had a flock of around 50 birds to breed with for the 2012 season, then when Graham Hicks, the Canberra national waterfowl judge from England visited, he made some recommendations. We culled the flock down to l4 females and five ganders, a far cry from the 50 I thought I’d be breeding with. Graham judges in Europe and the US as well as being a UK exhibitor so his opinion was valuable”, Michael said.
Michael admits he has been in the right place at the right time and picked up an odd suitable breeding bird at an auction. Often the first cross will have been done and introducing the bird adds fresh blood to the flock. “You just have to be careful that you’re not taking a backwards step”, Michael advised.
The other hurdles encountered relate to geese generally and not just to White Toulouse, Michael has found that pair mating is problematic and only worth pursuing if it is a key mating. Progress can be set back considerably if you’re relying on fertile matings and for one reason or the other they don’t occur.
“Geese can be fussy and don’t always want to mate with their partner, or one of them is lazy and doesn’t exert itself. The competition generated in a flock keeps all birds on their toes and I’ve noticed some partner swapping goes on. Water, such as a pond or dam, excites them and all the best intentions about being faithful get forgotten. I have found with pair mating that if the usual male partner is shooting blanks and you want to try another male, then the regular male partner needs to be removed well away or all hell breaks out.”
The White Toulouse geese are breeding true though Michael has noticed that some in their first year show a little light grey or blue in wing feathers. He has found that not only does this usually disappear after the first moult, but in the 3% of birds that it has been present they are normally females.
Check out the Whites
Geese are the feature breed at the 2013 Sydney Royal Easter Show and although White Toulouse are not included in the Australian Poultry Standards, they are in the British Poultry Standards and a special class has been included for them as part of the feature breed. Michael will be entering specimens and will also offer a pair for the Royal Show auction. Limited stock will be available after Easter as the Whites have got to the stage that he’s happy to relocate them.
“I like a challenge and there is a big one when you set out to breed a new colour. Achieving it is what you want and when you’re there it is satisfying, but the real fun in such a project is the process. Planning, chasing up potential additions for the breeding scheme, breeding and seeing the gradual improvement or development, that is by far the best part of the project”, Michael said.
Written by Meg Miller – Australasian Poultry Magazine
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