WA farmers in mix for national awards

NO BYLINECountryman

WA farmers are well represented in the 2012 Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, to be announced in Melbourne next week.

This State has nine finalists in 11 categories, the winners of which will vie for the prestigious top award.

The Farmer of the Year Awards is being co-ordinated by the Kondinin Group, ABC Rural and the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.

Great Southern farmer Bindi Murray, who runs a 6000-hectare mixed cereal and 19,000 head sheep enterprise with her husband and extended family, has been selected as a finalist in the Young Farmer of the Year category.

She said the family was motivated to maximise profit while maintaining the land resource and making a positive contribution to the agricultural industry and community.

Nominated for the Rural Leader of the Year, Rob Egerton-Warburton has taken on various industry roles in this State - most recently as president of the Sheep Industry Leadership Council.

He is a seventh-generation wheat and sheep farmer based at Kojonup and passionate about the agricultural sector, often speaking at industry events.

He said he had a shared vision about the future direction of agriculture so that consumers would not only respect farmers for the food they produced, but also for how they produced it and who they were.

Biosecurity Farmer of the Year (animal) finalists include West Australians Robert Reed, who farms 100km east of Esperance, and Ivan Rogers, who runs a mixed property and Kylagh Cattle Co grain and grassfed cattle in the western Wheatbelt.

Mr Reed said he monitored animal health regularly to prevent the spread of pests and disease and as a result, his livestock had been lice-free for the past 12 years.

Concerned about the growing presence of ovine Johne's disease, he said he joined the WA ASHEEP committee to be more proactive in preventing an outbreak.

"Don't wait for disease to overwhelm your stock; it is easier and cheaper to act fast," he said.

Mr Rogers' experience in biosecurity requirements for market access has given him sound knowledge of biosecurity practices required on-farm.

He said his company's biosecurity plan was integral to the supply of slaughter cattle to local WA processors and gave them confidence that the cattle were being prepared at minimum risk of biosecurity breaches.

"Consumer and customer confidence in the biosecurity of any food production system, especially livestock, is paramount," he said.

Frankland River wool producer Richard Coole has been involved in the State's wool industry for the past 40 years and has been nominated for Australian Wool Producer of the Year.

He, wife Debbie and four children run 39,000 sheep (at peak) for wool, sheep meat and prime lamb production.

A great believer in breeding efficient animals with easy care features, the weaning rate on their property averages about 99 per cent.

"Despite the difficult times a decade or so ago, agriculture has once again found that running sheep is an integral part of a successful, resilient and robust business model," he said.

Livestock Producer of the Year WA nominee Rupert Phillips is living his dream of working with and educating the public about bees, of which he has had a 42-year fascination.

He opened the House of Honey in the Swan Valley two years ago and operates 180 hives with the help of his wife, Kim.

WA has two nominations for the Grain Grower of the Year award - David Cox, of Esperance, and Ty Kirby, of Beacon.

Mr Cox farms about 8000ha with his wife Sally-Anne and said that in the past nitrogen management had been a major issue due to high rainfall.

"But through research, I have been able to develop a calculator that helps to make an accurate nitrogen recommendation," he said.

"We regularly host grower group and visitors from around the State who travel to see our stocking system and nitrogen management."

Mr Kirby, a third-generation farmer, owns Sun Valley Ag and across the 7700ha property, sows wheat, barley, oats, canola and field peas.

He said the increasing variability of seasons during the past decade had taught him to become more flexible.

"The challenges of growing grain in my area are low rainfall, unpredictability, unreliable breaks, increasing out of season rainfall, salinity and herbicide resistance," he said.

All award winners will be announced at a function at the Melbourne Grand Hyatt next Wednesday night and will be eligible to take home the Farmer of the Year Award for 2012.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails