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Plain, But Not Ordinary

Making good decisions for your wardrobe, doesn’t start and end at the cash register. For Victorian woolgrower, Ben Duxson it starts a lot earlier than that – right at the source.

Six generations of Ben’s family have grown wool and while they have a proud family history, as the years have passed, their farming practices and merino flock has undoubtedly evolved. Ben has kept his practices and merinos up with the times through careful genetic selection, measurement and keeping on top of what the rest of the world is demanding of wool.

‘We run 6000 Multi Purpose Merinos (MPM) and have always measured for carcass through Australian Sheep Breeding Values (ASBV). We were one of the earlier adopters of that. MPM’s are an all rounder, high fertility, carcass and wool sheep.’

‘80% of the traits that you want in a sheep, you can’t physically see. Things like growth, muscle, fat, eating quality and mothering ability. You can’t just look at a sheep and know all that, so you need to be able to measure it.’

‘The younger generations of wool producers are going to want all that information on hand, to go forward. They just won’t run sheep the old way, it (ASBV) certainly is having a big effect out there. More and more merino rams are being sold with ASBV’s.’

Ben leaves nothing to chance. While he strongly believes in low stress stock handling, the sheep on Glendemar are meticulously monitored and measured for desirable qualities, their health and future on their farm.

‘Within our breeding objective is to have a productive carcass, which is growth, muscle and fat. On the wool side we go for staple length and clean fleece wool. We also aim for the highest fertility as we can get, through a number of ways – short, tight joining, using rams out of the first joinings and rams out of ewe lambs. We also aim for genetic acceleration as well, using younger sheep, earlier.’

‘We also push for no (skin) wrinkle, which has eliminated the need for muelsing for the last 19 years. We could see way back then that it was going to be an issue. Even through rams are the sires, we believe that ewes play a really intrical part. They are the breeders. You need to breed good mothers, and that’s the one thing we noticed during lambing. If you have to mother up, the good ones stand out like a sore thumb. We measure them all, but their personality and mothering instinct are also very important.’

Doing the right thing by their flock for their health and wellbeing isn’t just good for the sheep, but smart business. Full transparency is what the world is demanding of farm grown fibres and that’s exactly what Ben is delivering.

‘The clearest thing in our industry is that our consumer has confidence in that we are doing the right thing .There needs to be quality assurance and it’s not an impost to our business,  I look as it making our business greater by making better decisions and better planning.

‘We’re part of Schneider Wool’s, ‘Authentico Integrity Scheme’ and it’s the first time anyone has wanted to get close to the actual primary producer. They can see that in this digital world everyone is walking around with computers in their pocket, so someone over in London can scan a garment and trace it right back to our farm. That adds value to it and the person buying the garment can make a conscious consumer decision.

‘For us, it’s important to work with what you believe in. To say that I do this and I believe in it, instead of just doing something methodically that has been done for generations is really important.’

It’s a no brainer for us really, that more and more people will be demanding this transparency and traceability. They will want to get closer to the grower. ‘

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