Dunblane Pastoral Holdings
Dunblane is a 15,000Ha wool sheep property on the eastern edge of the Mitchell grass pastoral zone in central western Queensland and is located west of Barcaldine on the Landsborough Highway. Dunblane has run merino wool sheep for over 90 years. Our rainfall is predominantly summertime with an average annual rainfall of 490mm.
The business is run by David and Genevieve Counsell. David, a graduate of the Mackinnon Project, a farm consultancy and advisory group operating out of the University of Melbourne Vet School, holds degrees in Veterinary Science and several other business qualifications including a MBA from the University of New England. David is actively involved in a wide range of farm consultancy activities in addition to running Dunblane Pastoral Holdings. Genevieve has a Bachelor of Science and prior to Dunblane Pastoral Holdings, had a career in multinational corporates working in the sales, marketing and human resources areas.
Protocols & Procedures
Here are some exercpts from our Protocols & Procedures manual. These paragraphs give some indication of the planning and activities that has gone on behind the scenes to make Dunblane Pastoral Holdings a leading edge western QLD wool growing business.
We recognise the imperative to farm in a progressive manner consistent with the expectations of society and consumers of wool products. It has therefore been a priority for us to implement a wide range of animal welfare measures which far exceed industry expectations.
We have developed our own Animal Welfare Standards document to detail our practices concerning the health and well being of production animals on Dunblane. This document exceeds the standards outlined in the Australian Animal Welfare Standards - Sheep. As socially responsible wool producers and livestock owners, we consider it an imperative that our standard of animal husbandry at Dunblane complies with animal welfare standards being discussed by various world textile organisations.
Best practice animal health and welfare equates to an economic benefit for us so we undertake a multitude of practices to ensure our sheep are happy and well cared for.
- No mulesing has been carried out on Dunblane for over 9 years. Blow fly strike has not been an issue because we have addressed the risks with genetics, changes to our management calendar and minimal use of chemicals.
- We display the AWI developed Animal Husbandry/Welfare posters in our shearing shed and all shearing staff recognise the critical importance of a positive shearing experience for every sheep. During shearing, we welcome large numbers of non-farming visitors to observe see our shearers at work.
- High mortality rates are an indicator that major welfare issues may be occurring regularly on the farm. Being a commercial business, we undertake a significant amount of measuring of biological benchmarks. Low mortality rates are critical to farm profitability so we closely track our mortality rates. Since we constructed wild dog exclusion fences, our mortality rates ahve fallen to well below industry levels.
- We implement grain feeding systems to better target supplement feeding programs to all sheep in the paddock. This has significantly reduced mortalities and low Condition Score (CS) sheep during dry seasons.
- Laneways to 65% of paddocks allow sheep to return to paddocks in a low stress manner.
- Sheep do not like to be individually handled by humans, so to minimise both handling time and to facilitate low stress handling we have invested in a wide range of sheep handling equipment. Additionally, cradle crutching is used employed to reduce time that individual sheep are handled at crutching time.
- To eradicate the stress to sheep caused by dogs, we do not use working dogs on the property and we have significantly reduced the use of contractor's dogs for mustering and yard work.
- Our increased use of polled rams means no ram horn tipping as well as the sheep being easier to shear with far less poll fly strike.
- Our adherence to vaccination programs significantly reduces incidence of disease.
- All large paddocks have 2 water points so sheep have less distance to walk.
- OVER 45km of WILD DOG EXCLUSION FENCES constructed. In 2015-2017, we invested heavily in wild dog exclusion fences to address the massive animal welfare issue of wild dog predation. This year, we marked over 1,500 additional lambs reflecting the often unseen impact of wild dog predation in previous years.
We are excited about the continuous improvements to improve sheep and animal welfare standards on the horizon, including:
- Several new pain relief chemicals are about to become available to sheep farmers, Dunblane plans to use these chemicals for tail docking and lamb castration to improve the welfare outcome for lambs.
- The science of selecting sheep inherently resistant to fly strike continues to improve with AWI looking at the science of odour detection and how blowflies find sheep. Dunblane's genetic program means we are well placed as it is likely the science will involve DNA or genetic markers and our sheep selection is well equipped as new technologies emerge.
Dunblane has been held by the Counsell family for over 4 generations. We advocate sustainable agriculture which encompasses being economically viable, socially responsible and environmentally sound. Climate change is a serious threat to our grazing business, with predicted long term changes including increased temperatures, longer droughts and more sporadic and intense summer rain events. Already it feels as though these trends in weather patterns are occurring with recent hotter summers and the 2013-2019 drought.
In response to our environmental conscience, Dunblane invested in two on-farm 10 KW solar systems to minimise the emission of green house gases. Our solar arrays at the house and shearing shed equate to our business having a neutral carbon emission position, whereby the green houses gases emitted by our use of fossil fuels is offset by the renewable electricity we are exporting into the national grid.
We are also fortunate to be part of a group of private investors into Queensland's first private large scale 10MW solar farm located on the outskirts of Barcaldine. Dunblane Solar Pty Ltd commenced electricity production at the end of November 2017.
Our vision for environmental sustainability continues to drive us to find ways to return more to the environment than what we take.
Responsible Wool Standard
In 2018, Dunblane proudly became certified under the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), a global, voluntary standard that recognises farming best practice, thus ensuring that wool comes from sheep that have been raised with respect to their five freedoms and that the grazing land has been managed responsibly.
Whilst the responsibilities are perhaps onerous to run a wool production system to the independently audited standards of the RWS system, we believe that it is critical if we are to fulfil the expectations of the global wool consuming community.
Click on the logo to the right to go to the RWS website.
Safety is critically important to all who work, visit or stay at Dunblane. If you do come across warnings or directives concerning farm safety, please respect and take heed of these.
Farms are great places to visit and experience. However, the unfortunate truth is that farms can be quite dangerous places. Farms are not only homes where good folk live, work and play but nowadays are recognised as workplaces and as such fall under the relevant legislation concerning workplace practices, etc.
Farms offer many unusual and unexpected experiences, and this means people need to be conscious that there may be risks and dangers, particularly to people unfamiliar with farming environments.
Dunblane wants to make sure everyone goes home with great memories and experiences.
To this end, at Dunblane, comprehensive procedures and protocols have been developed to ensure as best as possible, everyone including family, workers and visitors stay safe. Whilst this is not the spot for a complete run-down on our farm safety protocol, be aware that during your involvement with Dunblane, you may be engaged with some of our safety processes, and we ask that you respect and heed these warnings or directions as you encounter them.