Growing wool in Australia using regenerative agriculture works to foster diversity and resilience in ecology, people and economy.
Working to support the environment rather than degrade it, regenerative agriculture is a holistic farming approach that focuses on developing the biology and fertility of soils as the basis of the entire farm ecosystem.
As passionate stewards of almost 50% of Australia’s landmass, Australian farmers work hard to leave the land, waterways, vegetation and soils in better condition for future generations.
Pioneering Australian woolgrowers are leading the way by using age-old farming techniques with cutting-edge science to practise farming in a way that reverses the degrading impacts of conventional agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture works to:
Support soil systems
Improve water cycles
Increase resilience to climate fluctuation
Strengthen soil health and vitality
By planting trees, rotational grazing, sequestering carbon in dry matter compost, nurturing diversity through pasture cropping, improving water retention in farm soil through ‘leaky weir’ techniques, repairing erosion and using revegetation to remove pollutants from waterways, Australian woolgrowers are innovating to improve the health of the environment of which they are custodians.
Through our dedicated research and development department, woolgrowers are investing in research and development initiatives that will support regenerative agriculture.
Studies are currently under way to investigate perennial pasture species that sequester atmospheric nitrogen and imbed these nutrients into the soil to support soil structure and increase ground cover. Another study is looking into the benefits of controlled grazing pressure on the overall farm biodiversity including native flora and fauna and the environmental benefits of rotational grazing.
Moving toward a regenerative agricultural business model is by no means an easy feat, but increasingly, Australian woolgrowers are seeing the diverse benefits of working in sync with nature.
These are a selection of woolgrowers practising regenerative agriculture.
Over the last 40 years David, his wife Judith and their three children, have implement a permaculture design at Millpost with their superfine Merino flock and the property is now a self-sustaining and diverse ecosystem that holds extensive benefits for the land, the animals and the family.
Nan Bray’s wool-growing production system relies on three main commitments: excellence in nutrition, a conservation land ethic, and thoughtful animal welfare. She has eliminated herbicides, fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides to ensure the property and its animals thrive in a completely natural state.
In six years, Harry Youngman has taken the organic matter of his soil from around 2.5 per cent to 7.2 per cent, well above the district average of 1.5 per cent. For every one per cent of organic matter, each hectare of the soil will hold around 150,000 litres of additional water through the growing season.
Legumes, while fixing nitrogen from the air, also increase carbon levels in the soil. David Vandenberge has sewn legumes such as French Serradella on his property ‘Red Gully’ to improve the soil to benefit both the soil and his Merino sheep.
One of the key concepts of permaculture is the idea of self-reliance and the woolgrowers at Millpost have embraced this whole-heartedly. Along with a self-sustaining water supply and solar panel energy supply, Judith manages a large vegetable garden, orchard, house cows and chickens.
Roderick O’Connor is a participant in Greening Australia’s Tasmanian Island Ark program which aims to recreate more than 6,000ha of new habitat across Tasmania. To date, Greening Australia, in collaboration with local woolgrowers, has restored more than 1000ha of the landscape through the planting of some 250,000 native plants in grassy woodlands and river-flats.
As the next generation, Harry has continued the regenerative work of his parents. Every paddock is dotted with old and young trees, both native and exotic, whilst fenced-in wildlife corridors and shelter belts connect remnant forests and woodlands to provide shelter for the sheep and to allow birdlife safe passage across the entire property.
As the manager of Tiverton, an 800-hectare Merino sheep farm in the Western District of Victoria, Tim Hill rotationally grazes the Merino sheep flock, mimicking the cycles of nature. The native grasses and herbs that rotational grazing encourages to grow, provides an extended growing season and more uniform protein supply for their fine wool Merino sheep.
The Wallace family have planted thousands of trees in some of the worst saline areas; collectively, about 250,000 trees, whilst native orchids and saltbush are dotted around the property to naturally absorbing the salt from the soil to restore balance in soil structure.
After forty years of practising permaculture at Millpost, the property is now a self-sustaining and diverse ecosystem that holds extensive benefits for the land, the animals and the family.
The team behind Tiverton measure their economic goals against environmental ones with the intention of not only minimising environmental impact, but improving the land quality for the future.