After 50 years on Coledale Stud, Wal­lace Bin­nie is al­most ready to hand the reigns over to his daugh­ter

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAR­RAH LOH [email protected]­me­

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.”

PHOTO: Jar­rah Loh

FA­THER AND DAUGH­TER: Wal­lace Bin­nie and Kirsty Tay­lor share the fam­ily pas­sion for sheep farm­ing.

PHOTO: Jar­rah Loh

SOME­WHERE UN­DER THE RAIN­BOW: Wal­lace Bin­nie and his daugh­ter Kirsty Tay­lor work the sheep at Coledale Stud.

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