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Sustainable farming driven by values

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November 21, 2017

Mr Kirby herds sheep out of a paddock before moving the chooks in.

Some of the meat produced at Killawara Farm.

The chooks play a critical role on Killawarra Farm as Mr Kirby found through study via the Sampson Leadership Trust.

The chooks manure provides phosphorus to the soil, and they have "fantastic laying ability", according to Mr Kirby.

The chooks manure provides phosphorus to the soil, and they have "fantastic laying ability", according to Mr Kirby.

Eggs are just a small part of the produce the family sells.

On nearly 117ha at Killawarra (24km north-west of Wangaratta), you will find Blonde d’Aquitaine and Limousin beef cattle, Dorper sheep, Isa Brown chooks and a small hive of bees.

The property, Killawarra Farm, is also the home of the Kirby family — Josh, Clare, Florence, 3, and Lucille, 1 — who run an environmentally-friendly paddock to plate niche farm.

‘‘Our philosophy is following patterns seen in nature where large herbivores come in and make a disturbance by grazing, which lowers the grass,’’ Mr Kirby said.

‘‘Then we bring in smaller animals like chooks.

‘‘The cows will deposit manure and there will be worms and bugs in that. If they re-graze, they will digest these.

‘‘By pulling the cows out, we are giving the paddocks a rest and then we bring the chooks in to get rid of those bugs and worms to stop the cycle.

‘‘By doing this we are trying to build fertility through manure rather than through fertilisers.’’

Mr Kirby said the reason for farming in this way was because of what he had seen on his family farm at Cobram.

‘‘I was born on a family farm in Cobram and saw the financial inputs of fertiliser/chemicals to keep everything going,’’ he said.

‘‘We couldn’t farm that way. Driven by our own values philosophy, we decided to become a niche regenerative farm.’’

The idea to bring in poultry came after Mr Kirby was offered a study opportunity.

‘‘Through the Sampson Leadership Trust I was given the opportunity to study environmental projects and regenerative farming,’’ he said.

‘‘I learnt the benefits of bringing chooks into the system through the study.’’

Mr Kirby said he and his wife had chosen the breeds for specific purposes.

‘‘The family bred Blondes so it was only natural to keep those,’’ he said.

‘‘Crossing them with an Angus bull increases the fat content, which the Australian market prefers.

‘‘Dorpers are a great-tasting lamb and the meat has sensational flavour and you don’t have to shear them, so there’s a lot less maintenance.

‘‘Isa Browns have fantastic laying ability and are suitable to conditions and the environment we have.’’

Mrs Kirby said the family business used social media to its advantage.

‘‘We’ve found Facebook is a good medium — one, it’s free; and two, we can get a lot of people (interested),’’ she said.

‘‘We find what we like about social media is there is a lot of (good) feedback.

‘‘It sort of sells itself that way.

‘‘The hardest thing for us will be keeping up with demand.’’

If you wish to purchase some of the products, you can visit the Kirby family at 242 Frost Rd, Killawarra, order online at killawarrafarm.com or via the farm’s Facebook or Instagram pages or purchase at Watts in Bundalong Cafe, Wangaratta Wholefoods, Your Everyday Gourmet Wangaratta and Wangaratta’s Olive Health.

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