WALLACE Binnie has been breeding Poll Dorset for 50 years, but he’s far from old-school when it comes to his stud.
Starting with 40 ewes to breed rams for his family’s farm, Wallace soon “caught the bug for the stud job” as he puts it.
And It was the “addiction to sheep”, plus the friends he has made along the way, that kept him involved in the Poll Dorset breed for so long.
“There was a lot of camaraderie in Goulburn Valley area back in the beginning, we went into showing locally and they were wonderful days because we had fairly major line ups of rams in our region,” he said.
“We’ve had a wonderful journey with people from all over Australia purely because we were in the breed.
“And also because they were a sought-after commodity, it would be very disappointing breeding good stock if no one else wanted to use them.”
Wallace, wife Sue and one of their three daughters Kirsty now run the Coledale stud at Devenish, joining about 450 ewes and selling about 150-160 rams a year.
After half a century in the game Wallace know what to look for in a good sheep, but he’s also keenly adopted new technology.
“All forms of agriculture are now based on scientific research, and if you say you aren’t going to be part of it you get left behind,” he said.
“We’ve adopted performance recording, because that is the new marketing tool for the commercial breeder, a lot of them now look at the indexes. .
“We have pursued that without going to extremes and still tried to maintain a structurally sound sheep with high growth rates and clean points.
“It must be structurally sound, it doesn’t matter what the indexes tell you about things if the animal isn’t structurally sound.”
“It is only a part of the selection of the rams we will use, firstly we select on basic traits of confirmation and type, and then if they appeal will look into the index and see if the index measures up to the visual appraisal.”
Wallace believes eating quality is also crucial, and says the Terminal Carcase Production Index, which will replace the Carcase Plus and Lamb 2020 Australian Breeding Value Indexes, is a step in the right direction.
“TPC is taken as a collective of all the indexes - taking into consideration the eating quality which is based upon the intramuscular fat composition of the sheep.
“Now to do that they have been able to through genomic testing identify which animals have the best intramuscular fat dispersion, which then gives the meat flavour and tenderness.
“In the future with our science and technology, advancements are being made for very high and quick growth, and we need to have quality. - artificial meat is so readily made and available and we have to keep looking over our shoulder for substitutes.”
Wallace judged the Poll Dorset breed at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo recently, and said it was a great experience.
“I’ve always liked the showing of animals, even though its been put down for being artificial, because it does give a benchmark for excellence,” he said.
“Everyone has champions at home in the paddock but it is only when you take them out and compare them side by side you see what the structure is like.”
Despite this, Wallace said the breed’s success in the show ring hadn’t been all positive, with breeders able to cover up wool coverage on animals legs and faces.
“And the commercial farmer didn’t like that because of grass seed issues and it was why the White Suffolk was developed, because Poll Dorset breeders didn’t see that fall down.
“They (White Suffolk) still need to maintain 60 per cent of the genetics, so Poll Dorsets have a big influence in that breed.
“Poll dorset is a wonderful breed, but unless the Poll Dorset don’t look to all avenues of progression they will become complacent and out of date.”
With costs rising more rapidly than income throughout the years, Wallace says it the passion rather the profit that keeps him working towards improvements on farm.
His passion, and that of his daughter Kirsty’s.
“I probably wouldn’t still be farming without the help and enthusiasm of our daughter Kirsty,” he said.
“With her input and enthusiasm I got all fired up again and have taken it to another level with her assistance.”