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The working life of Wurrook - The Ballarat Courier

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On a sprawling 2833-hectare property at Rokewood on Victoria’s Western Plains, value adding at Wurrook Superfine Merino Stud is taking Paul and Kylie Walton into their farming future.

The Wurrook Stud is highly regarded in the merino industry and it regularly wins top awards for its quality at sheep shows across the country.

Orders are received from overseas wool producers for genetics and rams.

But the Waltons took that success a step further three years ago when they diversified into providing Wurrook Superfine Merino Meat to the retail and restaurant industries.

“We were told from the beginning it was no small task what we were trying to do and it would be a lot harder than we could ever imagine,” Kylie said.

Using the Wurrook bloodline and a stringent selection process, Kylie said only the best superfine merinos, slowly matured naturally, were primed with a unique blend of grains to produce their product.  The result was a premium meat product with superior characteristics as a fine grained, lean, tasty red meat.  The range includes specialty meat cuts and gourmet sausages.

“The meat is a very specific hogget-mutton product which is a sweet flavoured, fine grained meat, “she said.

It took years of research and fine-tuning the eating quality of their merino meat and preferred cuts.

Marketing wasn’t a foreign concept, with the Walton family having sold and marketed their sheep and genetics for many years.

Wurrook Superfine Prime Merino Meat was eventually launched into Melbourne through farmers’ markets two and a half years ago.

It quickly established a very devout group of merino meat lovers.

“Many comment on how they enjoy the sweeter, deeper flavour,” Kylie said.

With growing demand and a limited shop front offered with farmers markets, the Waltons began retailing their meat in selected fine food outlets.

Soon after, restaurants started approaching them and today the range is available in more than 35 whole food stores and fine dining restaurants across Melbourne and  Regional Victoria.

“We have found that our customers really do want to know where their food is coming from and how it has been treated,” Kylie said.

“We offer our customers a unique recipe booklet with specific how to cook methods including information about our farm and flock.”

Paul said some of the challenges had been getting other businesses to work with them when first starting out and operating in small numbers of everything.

As the seasons change, the cuts the consumer demands are different which means it is a constant challenge to sell the whole carcase.

Paul said that like most farmers, they initially only had a basic perception of what happened when their livestock left the farm for processing.

“After being involved in this venture, we certainly have a greater respect for the processors and retailers that form the supply chain of the lamb and sheep meat industry,” he said.

The future for the Wurrook enterprise looks strong.

Paul said the stud would continue as it had for decades.

“Our property is most suited to growing and grazing merino sheep, which really do provide you with two incomes which spreads the risk,"  he said.

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"I have been using Wurrook Superfine Prime for its leaner meat and superior flavour on my menu at Stones of the Yarra Valley for the past year and have been very impressed with the consistency of the product.  We have been cooking the meat sous vide to enhance its flavour." 
Dale Prentice
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