Green shoots in a tough time for innovative Wiltipoll breeder

INVENTIVE: Julie Huie and Jeff Lucas from Westmoreland Wiltipolls with a tray of barley sprouts grown using a hydroponic system.
INVENTIVE: Julie Huie and Jeff Lucas from Westmoreland Wiltipolls with a tray of barley sprouts grown using a hydroponic system.

SEVEN years ago, Julie Huie embarked on a journey to establish a Wiltipoll Stud on her property at Wisemans Creek in the Oberon region. 

"The Wiltipoll breed was the right choice for us as they are shedding, easy care, great tasting meat sheep that require minimal work and yet are hardy and tolerant of varied climatic conditions," she said. 

Ms Huie said in late 2017 she was excited to be registered as a stud with the Australian Wiltipoll Association.

"The news, however, was a little bittersweet, as the pasture in our paddocks continued to disappear, our stored feed was depleting and buying feed had become cost prohibitive or near impossible," she said.  

"In June 2018, like many others, we were forced to make a choice: either destock or look at any other options that may be available to feed our stock. 

"We remembered helping out our neighbour from time to time a decade ago growing barley fodder for his cattle from a purpose-built shed and the option of us growing fodder in his shed started to become our only realistic option.  

"After many weeks of research, overcoming difficulties sourcing grain, germination problems, controlling mould and temperature, we finally succeeded in turning 80kg of barley grain into 500 to 750kg of lush, green, nutritionally-rich fodder in a six to seven day cycle. 

"Our stock thrived on the fodder and while the process is a little labour intensive, harsh times mean looking outside the square at all options available and this one worked for us.

"We have now dropped our production back from harvesting every two days to every three days and intend to continue using the fodder as an option for supplementation of feed or during hard climatic conditions to keep our stud viable."

Ms Huie said many people gave their time and advice to them while they were starting out "and we are so grateful for all that assistance".    

"While it might not be a solution for a lot of people, it is an option that might help some and we would be more than happy to pass on any knowledge that we have."