Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

On a winner

July 14, 2011

Winner Michael BlakeChampion wool grower shows better biosecurity equals higher profit

The winner of last year’s inaugural Biosecurity Farmer of the Year and Wool Producer of the Year awards, Michael Blake, puts the success of his business largely down to best practice biosecurity measures.

And he is urging fellow farmers to get recognised for their efforts.

Michael runs a combination of superfine Merinos, crossbred sheep, Hereford and Limousin cattle, and fodder crops on Bally Glunin Park, his 1800-hectare property near Hamilton, Victoria, supplying niche Italian apparel and European meat markets.

“Over the years I have been dedicated to trying new and innovative ideas and processes – and it’s something I enjoy sharing with others for the overall benefit of the Australian agricultural industry,” Michael says.

To ensure his property remains weed, pest and disease free well into the future, Michael started operating largely as a ‘closed farm’. Rams and bulls are only ever purchased from reputable breeders and are always spelled in isolation paddocks, to be carefully monitored for health problems before mixing with other livestock.

He also makes sure his boundaries are well maintained and secure. All visitors enter the property through one controlled entry/exit point after seeking permission, having their vehicles washed at the local sale yards and inspected on entry.

A natural worm resistance breeding program led to the successful eradication of parasites without the need for any external chemicals, which have not been used at Bally Glunin Park for the past fifteen years.

“Biosecurity on your farm is not expensive or hard to implement,” says Michael. “It just requires you to consider the consequences of your actions.”

“For example, when buying livestock you need to be aware of the possible diseases those livestock may have and bring to your farm. Can they be eradicated or managed with minimal cost? If not, should you make the purchase?”

But Michael adds that demonstrating successful biosecurity practices is not only part of responsible farming, it could also be great for business. With mounting consumer pressure on the agricultural industry to introduce sound and ethical food safety and animal welfare practices, farmers need to be looking closely at biosecurity if they want to remain competitive into the future.

“I think it’s just good management, although the extra spin offs are that you are able to sell products to a wider consumer group who in turn are influenced by end-use consumer demand,” Michael says.

“You can also give credit to your products and in a lot of cases you will become the preferred supplier. And that puts money in your pocket because buyers will pay extra for your goodwill because they know they’re buying a product that doesn’t have risk associated with it.”

Jointly sponsored by Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, the Biosecurity Farmer of the Year award promotes a positive image of Australian farmers, encouraging people to take on agriculture as a career choice.

You can nominate yourself, your neighbour or anyone else deserving, by calling 1800 677 761 or online. The criteria are straight forward and it doesn’t take much time to put the nomination together.

Michael urges biosecurity conscious farmers to cast modesty aside and put in a nomination.

“Awards such as these are invaluable tools for marketing your products,” he says.  “Plus it is a great feeling to be recognised by your peers for your efforts.”