Making the most of partially developed country at Cobar takes innovation and some lateral thinking, however, John and Ann Crossing are determined to make it work.
The Broken Hill-born couple, who moved to Cobar to follow careers in the mining industry, run the 3642-hectare property, “Glenace”.
Mr Crossing said the property was largely undeveloped, much of it being scrub, with the sheep restricted to just 809ha of formerly cultivated country and some country the couple had cleared under cultivation and grazing permits.
So with the sheep restricted in area, the Crossings had to be smart about their marketing to make the most of their small flock.
In the six years since they bought the farm, their flock has grown to 240 ewes. The Crossings chose Dorpers because of the breed’s easy-keeping characteristics which suited their lifestyles while working off farm.
Mr Crossing grew up on a cattle and Merino property, but no longer has the time to be so hands on.
“They (Dorpers) do well on what people would call poor pasture,” he said.
The Crossings have mostly sold their sheep through the Dubbo or Forbes saleyards but were also keen to try AuctionsPlus as their flock grew.
Meanwhile, they have also begun investigating direct to consumer marketing. Mr Crossing said they recently attended a Western Landcare forum at which the focus was the relationship between healthy landscapes and healthy food.
“We were really quite keen to see if there were other people looking to do the same thing,” he said.
The Crossings have already started down this path, and have launched the brand, Nourish and Grow, with the aim of selling directly to consumers in Cobar.
However, establishing a supply chain between the farm and the consumer has proven challenging with the project put on hold after an initial attempt at a launch earlier this year.
“We really enjoy working with customers instead of just sending the animals away – we enjoy the feedback too,” Mr Crossing said of their tentative foray into direct selling so far.
“When we first decided to go paddock to plate, we didn’t want to be a butcher’s shop – we wanted to sell either a full or half carcase and that customer could then specify to the butcher how they wanted it cut up.
“However, this also requires educating people about how to eat a whole carcase, including how to cook the different cuts.”
This required engagement including on social media.
With that aim in mind, Mrs Crossing was completing a course with 2016 Australian Rural Women of the Year, Sophie Hansen, Orange, to grow her social media skills.