Moree-based Dorper stud breeders have been recognised for their efforts to regenerate their land.
Amarula Dorpers, run by Justin and Lorroi Kirkby, has taken out the Australian Government Landcare Farming Award.
The Kirkbys received the accolade in the 2021 National Landcare Awards and say it was humbling to be recognised in such a way.
Mr Kirkby was also a finalist in the prestigious Bob Hawke Landcare Award.
Using a combination of sustainable agriculture methods, the Kirkbys take an approach that sees profitability and environmental custodianship go hand in hand.
In late 2004 the Kirkbys bought the 280-hectare Glen Avon, 50 kilometres east of Moree, sparking their regenerative agriculture journey.
"When we first went there we could tell it was in a bad way," Mr Kirkby said.
"We didn't intentionally go about it with the mindset of doing regenerative farming, it was sort of by default.
"We went to a few field days and thought that it looked like something that would be beneficial to us, that we would probably save money in the grand scheme of things.
"We sort of started from nothing and we didn't have any spare cash lying around so that was more the drive but as we got into it we found we were really enjoying the fact that it wasn't necessarily 100 per cent organic, but we just sort of seemed to think it was a better way of farming."
In 2008 the Kirkbys bought neighbouring property, Inverness, adding a further 610ha to their operation, again starting with poor soil conditions.
These days the two blocks are thriving thanks to the Kirkbys' efforts.
"It was pretty much just dry and scalded, with not a lot of vegetation and now it's thriving and vibrant, even after the drought," Ms Kirkby said.
"Through the drought we tried to keep as much ground cover as we could and when it did actually rain we just came out of it so quickly, the grass came away and we had sheep back in paddocks within about three or four weeks after it rained.
"That's how quickly our land responded just because it was so healthy."
Within a year of the drought, the Kirkbys have managed to rebuild their flock to include nearly 1000 breeding ewes.
"We're quickly improving our numbers because the nutrition's there, which is enabling us to lamb them every six-and-a-half to eight months," Ms Kirkby said.
"Because we're not pushing the limit, we're not pushing our production, we're actually getting more lambs per year than we normally would with less ewes."
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