Branxholme farmer Jim Gough has been recognised for significant contributions to the livestock industry over 55 years, receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2022 Australia Day honours.
Mr Gough pioneered selective breeding practices in Australia for both Corriedale sheep and Hereford cattle, in addition to a deep, ongoing engagement in the local community.
Growing up on the family farm in Branxholme, where his family has been for five generations, there was never much chance Mr Gough was going to pursue any other career.
"I went off to Melbourne to get my agricultural science degree then came home on the farm," he said.
"When I married I was given a small part of the farm and my last year at university my father bought me some Corriedale stud ewes as a 21st birthday present."
It was the start of a lifelong association with the breed, which has long been prized for both its meat and its wool.
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But Mr Gough wasn't happy with the way things were done at the time, swiftly joining the Australian Corriedale Association to "get things done the way I thought they should be done".
"The breed societies in those days assumed that all animals were the same, but I didn't want to just reproduce other people's genetics, I wanted to improve them," he said.
And improve them he did, meticulously recording reams of data about every one of his sheep and selecting the best animals to continue as breeding stock.
"I was tutored by experts in the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit from the University of New England," he said.
"We were able to select for faster growing animals, earlier maturing animals, and more fertile animals."
As the first president of the Corriedale Performance Group, he has worked with other breeders across Australia and New Zealand to develop the best examples of the breed in the world.
He has passed the knowledge on to his son, who has continued to improve the genetics of their sheep.
"He has taken the marking percentage (the number of surviving lambs from ewes mated) from 80 per cent to 157 per cent."
Mr Gough has made similar improvements in his Hereford stock, making changes that have since been adopted around the country and beyond.
"It was after the '67 drought that I decided to do Herefords as well as sheep, because they can reach foliage the sheep can't," he said.
As a founding member and the southern representative of the National Beef Recording Scheme (now known as BREEDPLAN), he led the first selective breeding program of Herefords in Australia.
But Mr Gough's farming reforms extended beyond breeding. He also led changes in the way wool was sold as the first person to sell presale-tested Corriedale wool in Australia.
"Wool used to be sold by just opening the bale and letting the buyers look at it and they'd value it on its handle, the colour, and what they estimated the fibre diameter and yield to be," he said.
"We actually measured the fibre diameter and the yield.
"Everybody said we'd go broke presale testing it at the time we did it, but there's not many selling wool now that isn't presale tested."
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