Great Southern farmers shine at national awards

NO BY LINECountryman

WA farmers have won three of the 11 categories of the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards, announced in Melbourne last week.

Great Southern mixed sheep cereal producer Bindi Murray was awarded the Young Farmer of the Year, Kojonup farmer Rob Egerton-Warburton received the Rural Leader of the Year award and Frankland River's Richard Coole took home the Wool Producer of the Year prize.

Overall 2012 Australian Farmer of the Year, hosted by the Kondinin Group, ABC Rural and the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF), was South Australian grain producer Peter Kuhlmann.

Ms Murray runs a livestock and canola, barley, wheat, oats and hay enterprise in the Great Southern with her parents, husband and brother-in-law.

She said her approach to farming was geared around maximising profit while maintaining the land resource and making a positive contribution to industry and the community.

Judging panel member Jim Phimister said there was a very high calibre of candidates in the Young Farmer of the Year awards this year but Ms Murray was the most well-rounded and was an outstanding role model for young farmers in Australia.

He said it was clear she was an excellent livestock practitioner, highly innovative in the way she approached stocking rates linked to seasonal pasture productivity and had a great outreach and engagement with the wider community.

"She is a member of four sheep grower groups and panels and intends to set up a benchmarking group with local farmers to provide feedback on business performance," he said.

A passion to educate the agricultural industry about best practice earned Mr Warburton his leadership award.

He and wife Jennifer produce sheep and grains on their Kojonup property and have diversified into a retail wildflower business.

For the past 15 years, Mr Warburton has been actively involved in advancing agriculture and innovation has been one of his top priorities, including pioneering the use of grazing cereals in his area and founding a new lice control device for sheep.

He was awarded a Nuffield scholarship in 2010 and became the inaugural chairman of the Sheep Industry Leadership Council (SILC) in WA in 2011, through which he has been a key driver in forming the 100%+ club to try to boost lambing percentages in the State.

ARLF chairman Wendy Craik said Mr Warburton exemplified the rural leader of today.

"He is passionate about rural Australia and by sharing information with others," she said. "He has a long future in front of him as a rural leader."

Mr Coole, Australia's new Wool Producer of the Year, runs about 39,000 sheep for wool, meat and prime lambs with his wife Debbie and four children.

He has spent almost 40 years in the sheep industry as a producer, involved in research and development and undertaking global trade missions.

Mr Coole is president of the WA Sheep Breeders Association and a member of the SILC.

AWI on-farm research and development manager Jane Littlejohn said he had demonstrated a love of wool and had actively contributed to the industry through extension programs.

"His willingness to share his knowledge with others and the positive promotion of the wool industry are strong attributes," she said.

"He has worked hard to increase the scale of his business over time when others have chosen to focus on cropping instead of wool."

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