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FOR Carboor Valley graziers Harry and Nicola Bussell, much of what they do comes down to a simple equation: "It's 80 per cent feed and 20pc breed, that's something we have known and discussed for many years," says Mrs Bussell.
They run Dorpers on their farm in Carboor, near Wangaratta, selling prime lamb directly from "paddock to plate" – delivered to the door, butchers and supermarkets, in addition to running a stud.
"Because we have the stud, we know what the genetic potential is, or should be in each individual animal, however you've got to get the nutrition and feed right to fully express that potential in those animals," Mrs Bussell said.
"We know you can make a genetically bad animal look great, or you can make a really good animal look bad, if you don't have the feed right. Correct, balanced nutrition is crucial to realising the full genetic potential of the animals."
Harry Bussell said he would not use a sire in the stud if the animal could not grow 500 grams a day, "less than that is a flock ram."
"In Dorpers, growth is king, but this goes back to recognising that the rams that can grow fast are the ones which are utilising the pasture better," Mr Bussell said.
The Bussells – Harry is a fourth generation sheep farmer – say they "live, breath and eat prime lambs".
"We are interested in producing the best prime lambs we can, in a way that's sustainable and in a way that's leading in animal welfare," Mrs Bussell said.
The Dorpers were chosen due to their ability to continue to grow in hot, dry conditions and their excellent meat yield and eating qualities.
And as they are a shedding breed they did not need shearing or crutching.