Holts helping nature

Holts helping nature in wool production

Australian Sheep and Wool Show
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One farming family is making animal welfare a major point of discussion.

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HELPING ANIMALS AND THE LAND: Sophie and Tom Holt, Coonong Station, Urana, NSW, with son Thomas, run a large woolgrowing operation.

HELPING ANIMALS AND THE LAND: Sophie and Tom Holt, Coonong Station, Urana, NSW, with son Thomas, run a large woolgrowing operation.

Wool producers Tom and Sophie Holt believe good animal welfare practices for all animals should be the most important aspect of any farming operation.

The couple, along with their son Thomas, have been shortlisted in the Allflex Woolgrower of the Year award and run about 30,000 Dohne sheep across 29,000 hectares in southern NSW.

Their main property, Coonong Station, is based at Urana, NSW, with additional properties including Coolbaroo Station, Jerilderie, NSW, Walteela, Urana, and Glencairn, Jerilderie, included in their impressive portfolio.

The operation produces about 600 bales of 19.5-micron wool a year.

Mrs Holt said the family followed regenerative and holistic pasture management practices, combined with the highest animal welfare standards, to produce their non-mulesed wool.

"We are committed to manage livestock production in a way that does not damage or impeach on native habitats," she said.

"Our target wool market is the medium micron ethical sustainable textile manufacturing sector."

The Holt family's sustainable philosophy is so entrenched in their woolgrowing operation that they developed the Coonong Policy and Procedures Manual, which relates to good land management and animal welfare practices.

Coonong's staff are expected to know and understand the manual and are tested on its contents each year.

The operation uses pain relief in all invasive husbandry practices and follows strict stock movement and low-stress handling practices which are laid out in the manual.

The Holts' two station holdings are protected native grasslands, which prevents them by law from sowing, seeding or disturbing the soil.

"We practice below-average stocking rates, pasture monitoring and protection of the valuable seed bank by destocking paddocks and allowing seed cycles to regenerate," Mrs Holt said.

Their home property, Coonong Station, is also classified as a Native Wildlife Sanctuary and partners with NSW's Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) to operate a native wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release facility.

About 200 hectares on Coonong is never grazed by livestock and preserved for wildlife and protected flora.

The family are working with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust to place the area in perpetual trust.

The policy and procedures manual is the go-to for all farm-related aspects, including Coonong's conservative stocking rate of 1.8 dry sheep equivalent per hectare, compared to the district average of 2.4 DSE per hectare.

Mrs Holt said the family often invited visitors from all aspects of wool manufacturing and retail sectors, including hosting field days, to showcase the benefits of sustainable wool production and how it could work hand-in-hand to improve the environment.

She said the operation had three goals when marketing their wool which included promotion, transparency and accountability.

"We employ a social media company, TAG Melbourne, to manage and assist with social media content for Coonong Station and Ethical Outback Wool," she said.

"The aim is to reach the maximum [amount of] people and encourage people to become enthusiastic about the wonderful qualities of wool."

Mrs Holt said the operation strictly followed five principles of freedom, which highlighted their commitment to value the sentience of all animals farmed on their properties.

The five freedoms included freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury and disease, fear and distress and to express normal animal behaviour.

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