Science, experience and two new sheep breeds are driving success at the Victorian operations of Murnong Farming.

Story and photos Nathan Dyer

As general manager of Murnong Farming, located about 35 kilometres west of Geelong in the rich soils of the state’s south-western volcanic belt, Josh Walter has helped transform the family-owned enterprise into an intensive cropping and livestock operation. At the forefront of those changes are two new sheep breeds: the Highlander in this paddock, bred for its superior maternal ability to produce more kilograms of weaned lambs, and the high-yielding Focus Prime, which is more meat-production focused. Imported from New Zealand seven years ago through a partnership with Kiwi company Focus Genetics, the two new breeds have changed the face of farming on Murnong.

“Before we switched to the Highlanders we were running an Australian composite with an average ewe weight of 90kg,” says Josh, driving across a paddock to check on lambs born last night. “We now average 65kg, which means I’ve got the same total amount of ewe kilos on the farm, but I’ve got 20 percent more ewes because they’ve dropped 20% in weight.” 

On top of that, Josh says the Highlanders are producing 18% more progeny and averaging 87% survival of foetuses into saleable animals, compared to the industry average of 70% for crossbreeds. “And our commercial lambs, out of the terminal sires, are three weeks earlier and 3kg heavier when they go off farm, and that affects gross margin.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #115

Outback Magazine: October/November 2017