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Forward-thinking farming operation in Southwest NSW

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Forward-thinking and adopting best practices which suit their environment are just two aspects of the business savvy being shown by the Hooke family in taking out the 2021 Weekly Times Coles Sheep Farmer of the Year Award.

Hooke Family Standing on the MCG feild as the are pictured recieving the Farmer of the year award.
The Weekly Times Coles Farmer of the Year Awards held at the MCG. The Hooke Family embracing the award. Pictured Bill, Dianne, Tom and Marcus Hooke.

The awards, now in their 10th year, were held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in March and embrace and reward those who are innovators in their field. Fifth-generation farmers Tom and Marcus Hooke, who run East Loddon Merinos with their parents Bill and Dianne, are a fine example.

Tom described the nomination and judging process as thorough and interesting.

“We had previously been asked to do an article with The Weekly Times, and then recently, we sat down with them and went through the ins and outs of our business for about half a day. They sent a photographer out to take photos, and we later received an email to say we were finalists,’’ he said.

“We like to think we are forward-thinking and will have a crack at most things. There are experts out there telling us about best practices, and if we can use or adapt these to our environment, then we will. It needs to be realistic, but there is generally something you can take from the research.’’

The Hookes’ currently run 10,000 breeding ewes, along with ewe and ram lambs, on 65,000 acres of the unimproved pastoral country between Hay and Deniliquin in NSW. They breed SRS merinos selecting for high-quality wool, high growth rate, and fat on a wrinkle-free body.

“Jim was a mentor to us with his SRS merinos. We grew up with him in the classing race and got into some pretty deep science. He set the bar for how we do things, and while he did gain criticism, we could see the results on the ground, and now we have a very productive non-mulesed commercial flock and a rapidly growing stud enterprise,’’ Tom said.

Tom attributes his father getting Jim Watts involved in the business as one of the main turning points.

“Jim was a mentor to us with his SRS merinos. We grew up with him in the classing race and got into some pretty deep science. He set the bar for how we do things, and while he did gain criticism, we could see the results on the ground, and now we have a very productive non-mulesed commercial flock and a rapidly growing stud enterprise,’’ Tom said.

“Our commercial flock ewes are cutting 7.3kg of 19-micron wool and are weaning 110 percent lambs annually in what can be a tough, low rainfall environment.”

“We also have Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) accreditation which extends beyond non-mulesed and sees our practices audited once a year.’’

The RWS accreditation opens lucrative markets with elite buyers seeking wool produced ethically and sustainably.

AWN’s National Wool & Livestock Marketing Manager Mark Quartermain is very proud to call the Hookes’ his clients and congratulates them on the tremendous result.

“They came to AWN about five years ago and are a great family organisation to do business,’’ he said.

“They are great thinkers and always looking at the bigger picture. They are very client-focused, and when selling rams, they are always following up and looking at where and what they can do better.’’

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