After 50 years on Coledale Stud, Wallace Binnie is almost ready to hand the reigns over to his daughter
THE Binnie family has been farming out of Bungeet in North East Victoria for 100 years, and as Wallace Binnie watches the clock tick over to 73 years of age, he is thankful that his daughter Kirsty Taylor will be the fourth generation to take up the sheep.
Though they are now in the early stages of a succession plan, Mrs Taylor never envisioned taking up her dad’s lead.
“I grew up around the sheep and always helped out, droving them and going around to the shows,” said Mrs Taylor.
“But at that time, it wasn’t really something I had a huge passion for.”
Mrs Taylor left the family farm in her twenties and moved to Western Australia for over a decade, where her husband is in mining.
But since returning nine years ago, her zest for farming has blossomed. Searching for that genetic pot of gold
“Growing up here, I never wanted to marry a farmer or live on the farm,” said Mrs Taylor.
“But now that I’m older and have a family of my own, that’s exactly where my interests lay.”
Coledale farm is a 1000 acre Poll Dorset sheep stud located between Benalla and Yarrawonga.
The stud was originally started by Wally’s father, Alec, when he bought some Poll Dorset ewes in October of 1969.
“We used to buy rams in Shepparton,” recalled Mr Binnie.
“And one year there was a line of Poll Dorset ewes for sale.
“On a whim, we bought them to breed our own lambs and that’s how it all started.”
The family had been running fat lambs for years, but the spurof-the-moment decision sent the family into a direction that has decided its fate ever since.
“We started getting more rams than we needed on our own farm, so we sold them to other farmers.
“Then we started thinking that a few of our sheep looked pretty good, so we’d take them to the shows, and it went on from there.”
Soon, Mr Binnie was bitten by the genetics bug and began working hard improving his sheep – and it is an obsession that still drives him to this day.
“The genetics is where the real challenge lies,” he said.
“Some farmers try and grow a better crop each year, but I find it more satisfying to produce a living animal according to my genetic choices. “I love it.” His daughter Kirsty can also see the spark in her dad’s eye when the topic of genetics comes to the table.
“It’s like the thrill of a gambler,” she said.
“Maybe the next ram will be the one.
“We’re always looking for that perfect specimen.”
And the kind of specimen that Mr Binnie likes is a big one.
“I always hear people say that big sheep aren’t any good and you can’t sell them – I can tell you right now, I’ve never seen the biggest sheep unsold, only the smallest ones.
“They can be harder to sheer, but when they are shorn, it’s impressive.”
But the balancing act between a big rangy sheep and one that puts meat on is a careful craft, and he believes the Poll Dorset has the goods all round.
“Obviously, we don’t just want great big sheep that can’t put meat on.
“But, I believe the Poll Dorset breed has the advantage of being able to turn off prime lambs all the way from 16kg all the way up to 33kg, with a fat score of three or four.
“People are starting to take up shedding sheep, which are good, but they only grow to a certain size, and they have no skin value.
“Poll Dorset can be turned off at any stage. “And they can breed all year.” And although he is starting to take those first steps back from the farm, he won’t be turning his back on the sheep game anytime soon.
“I guess we would be about ready to disperse our stud about now and I would be living miserably in town somewhere, worried about my neighbours,” said Mr Binnie with a laugh.
“But with Kirsty taking up interest, I can still keep on with it a bit.”
His wife Sue, who has been by his side for 50 years, is look- ing forward to getting some more of his time,
“I do want more of his time now, away from the sheep,” she said.
“But it hasn’t been happening yet.”
Mrs Binnie was a town girl from Wangaratta when they met, and knew nothing about farming.
“We met at a dance in Wangaratta on May 8, 1965,” she said.
Though Mr Binnie remembers it differently.
“The truth is, we actually first met before that, at a dance in Moyhu – but she was with another bloke,” he said. “So, I had to bide my time.” The couple now look on eagerly, not just at their daughter Kirsty, but further on to the fifth generation in Kirsty’s daughter Imogen, who at the age of 14 is already showing strong interests in the family business.
“She’s already my right-hand girl,” said Mrs Taylor.
“I think she will do so well at it,” her grandfather agreed.
“You have to have that passion for it, and she does.”
And as he gets ready to hand it all over, Mr Binnie couldn’t be more positive about the sheep farming future in Australia.
“Things are looking really great,” he said.
“We had a wonderful lambing this year.
“We joined about 450 ewes, and tagged 670 lambs from them.”
FATHER AND DAUGHTER: Wallace Binnie and Kirsty Taylor share the family passion for sheep farming.
SOMEWHERE UNDER THE RAINBOW: Wallace Binnie and his daughter Kirsty Taylor work the sheep at Coledale Stud.