Farmer in Focus: Jack Durie

Tom Draffen

BCG recently caught up with Bunguluke farmer, Jack Durie, on his property Rivers Run, 10km east of Wycheproof. Jack, his partner Naomi and their growing family, manage 2500Ha of cropping country and a self-replacing flock of merino ewes.

Mechanics apprenticeship and share farming

Jack’s pathway into full-time farming saw him leave school at 17 to undertake a mechanics apprenticeship at Michael’s of Donald: “I have always loved fixing things and the qualification allows me to maintain my machinery as a farmer,” explained Jack. “While I was doing my apprenticeship, I was also share farming a small portion of family property which kept me engaged in the industry.”

After his apprenticeship Jack started his own mechanics business which he operated for two years, while at the same time taking on more share farming opportunities and leased acreage: “It was flat out for a while,” Jack explained. “We had a goal to get to a point where we could buy a property and in 2016, we managed to secure Rivers Run. I had to give-up on the off-farm mechanic work at that point and focus on the farm as a full-time business.”

Bakery on Broadway connection

The Durie family are rusted-on Wycheproofians, and Jack is the eldest of three siblings. His parents Marcus and Ann own farmland adjacent to Jack’s property and are part owners of Bakery on Broadway.  “We used to run a few pigs to keep the cool room full and they were probably the best fed animals in Victoria because they mostly ate the daily leftovers from the bakery,” said Jack. “We haven’t got the pigs anymore though and the bakery is selling out so often now there wouldn’t be as much for them anyway.”

Soil type and tap rooted crop types

“We’ve got a mix of soil types ranging from red clay loams as hard as a cat’s head to self-mulching black dirt on the river,” said Jack. “That can also be a challenge, but it’s manageable. We sow feed for the sheep as part of our rotation and we’re using tap rooted crop types like tillage radish mixed into our vetch as a plant-based solution to try and break-up some of the tougher soils, and it does seem to have a good effect.”

“It’s is just the best lifestyle you can have,” said Jack, when asked about his thoughts on farming.  “You get freedom to operate and work through the challenges which is something I enjoy.”

Livestock goals

Looking to the future, Jack’s long-term plan has a strong focus on the livestock aspect of the enterprise. “We have just bought a bit more dirt this year and while we’re looking to continuously improve our cropping systems, sheep have become a larger focus for our business,” he explained. “Previously we have focused on producing fat lambs—cross breeding the merinos with a White Suffolk ram but it was getting harder and harder to get quality replacement ewes so we’ve taken on a self-replacing flock and we’re focussed on improving our lambing percentages and bloodline.  We are classing for wool, pregnancy testing and tracking lambing rates and survival. We are trying to breed for finer fleeces and higher lambing percentages.”


When it comes to advice, Jack uses local resources and firsthand experiences to improve his knowledge and skills. “Roy Daykin at Elders in Wycheproof is my go-to for crop agronomy. I’m getting sheep advice from the old man and through the breeders at Charinga Stud at Berrimul where we source our rams,” said Jack. “We also get great nutrition advice from Virbac Australia.”


Reflecting on the challenges currently facing farmers Jack is optimistic about the future: “Farmers accept a level of uncertainty is a part of the business,” he explained. “Some years we’ll get no rain, some years we get too much, you can’t change that. In those years when the floodplains go under it’s a disaster, but you do get set up for a good couple of years after that, so you take the hit, and you keep moving forward. Now prices are up for everything, but that includes the saleable product we produce so it’s not too bad.”


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