For a small producer to be win these awards ... is a wonderful reflection on the wool industry.
A COMMERCIAL Merino family wool operation in Victoria's south-west has been recognised for leading the way in sustainable and ethical wool production.
Kia Ora Merino, north of Warrnambool, was crowned the champion in the Victorian Premier's Sustainability Awards small and medium enterprises category and also scored the Premier's Regional Recognition Award for their commitment to sustainable farming.
The Finnigans, who run the farms have used ethical and sustainable techniques along with existing data and knowledge to change farm practices like reducing chemical waste, changing genetic selection of sheep, sowing permanent pastures and limiting runoff into rivers.
"We believe sustainability is a challenge with great opportunities and responsibility for the future," Kia Ora co-owner Susan Finnigan, who runs the property with her husband Brendan, son James and daughter-in-law Nicole, said.
"For a small producer to be win these awards - when all we really do is follow best practice guidelines and surpass consumer expectations - is a wonderful reflection on the wool industry."
The farm business model, which is based on sustainability and productivity, concentrates on stock health and nutrition, infrastructure, stock handling, soil management, biodiversity planning and inputs.
Ethical practices include breeding plain bodied sheep which don't require mulesing and are not prone to fly strike, reducing sheep chemical usage, and regular soil testing to maintain soil health.
Other sustainable practices include fenced rivers and well-grassed banks to reduce sediment runoff and plantations of native trees to increase biodiversity while welfare changes to shearing have reduced risk of injury.
"Our focus on sustainability has increased demand for product, as it completes the provenance of the product," Kia Ora co-owner Brendan Finnigan said.
"It verifies that what we're doing is appreciated and shows our customers that we're doing the best we can."
Kia Ora was recently selected to supply wool to high-end fashion label Wolfgang Scout, a label based on ethics and sustainability.