Wiltshire Horn in demand at Kallista

Wiltshire Horn in demand at Kallista

Sheep
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Marty and Karen Koolstra are struggling to meet consumer demand with their home-grown product highly sought after in the Dandenongs.

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Struggling to meet demand in most cases is not good news but Marty and Karen Koolstra couldn't be happier.

Perched on a ridge in the Dandenong Ranges, the Koolstras have been quietly working away at one of Kallista's best-kept secrets.

The couple are running a small-scale Wiltshire Horn stud operation, producing home-grown quality meat to more than 80 consumers annually through word of mouth.

"Our biggest challenge is that we don't have enough product because consumers want more," Ms Koolstra said.

The family-run Kallista Wiltshire Horn stud started in 2012 after a trial with another breed of sheep failed.

"We'd been running woolly sheep before but we'd been finding it difficult to manage with the complications of fly strike and foot rot and other things," Dr Koolstra said.

"There are not a huge number of Wiltshire sheep in Victoria but there is one big breeder in South Australia which has several thousand sheep ... but most breeders have 20 or 30 sheep or even fewer mainly because they're low maintenance for the average hobby farmer."

What started as a hobby quickly grew into a small profit after the pair decided to sell direct to consumers rather than through a store market.

"What we found with taking our sheep to market was that you were very much at the mercy of what was happening on the particular day," he said.

"Ideally, we'd like to sell directly from the farm and have them killed on farm, however, you can't do that unless you have an abattoir setup so we take them from the farm to the abattoir and then from there they go to the butcher who cuts them up however the consumer wants them."

The stud has grown to include eight rams and more than 80 stud sheep plus the commercial operation.

"Our product tends to have a 25-kilogram carcase, which is a little bit larger than your normal carcase you have in the butcher shop...and the meat in itself I can attest it's a good product to eat and I haven't got sick of it yet," he said.

The Koolstras will be one of six breeders to show Wiltshire Horns, the 2019 feature breed, at the Royal Melbourne Show this weekend.

"We're looking to show off the breed because [unlike] a lot of the bigger breeds...the Wiltshire community is much smaller and tighter because of the numbers."

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