The Northern Rivers may not be traditional sheep country, yet local farmer Warren Wiggins has established a successful stud on his 80 acre farm in Bexhill. His secret? The breed of sheep.
‘Dorpers are suitable for almost any climate and grazing conditions, and I’ve always loved the breed so it was an obvious choice,’ says Warren. ‘They’re fast growing, adaptable, and you don’t have to shear them. And they taste great!
‘Dorpers are also one of the only breeds of sheep that have genetic marbling in the meat. A bit like a sheep version of the Wagyu. The flavour is slightly stronger than average lamb – closer to mutton or hogget.’
This flavour has proven popular, not only with Warren’s regular customers at the local farmers markets, but also with a number of local cafes and restaurants who feature the lamb on their menus. Pretty impressive considering the farm is only 10 years old.
Despite not growing up in an agricultural family, Warren always wanted to be a farmer. After leaving school he worked on a sheep and wheat farm in Moree, but when the work dried up, Warren went in a different direction, including the hotel industry and Coles supermarkets.
Ironically, it was Coles that led Warren to the Northern Rivers and farmers markets. After marrying and starting a family, he decided he needed a better-suited job and took up a position with Coles. When the supermarket chain transferred Warren to Ocean Shores the move took him full circle – back to farming, only this time with his own farm.
‘I didn’t like the way Coles was operating, and I still wanted to get back to the land, so we looked around the area and ended buying land at Bexhill, which is the farm where we still live,’ Warren says. ‘It took some time to build up our breeding stock, but we’re really happy we made the move. I think this is God’s country.’
More recently, Warren has started using regenerative farming practices, incorporating fermented seaweed, which he makes himself, into his farm plan.
‘It’s about getting good microbes into the soil, which improves the pasture,’ he says. ‘Instead of spraying it, I feed it directly into the sheep’s water. It gives them a good hit of probiotics, which helps them fight off worms. In turn, their excrement, including those microbes, goes back into the soil. It’s great.’
You can find Warren at the Local Dorper Lamb stall every Thursday at Byron Farmers Market and every Saturday at Bangalow Farmers Market.
Byron Farmers Market is held Thursdays 7–11am at the Cavanbah Centre and Bangalow Farmers Market is held Saturdays 7–11am behind the Bangalow Pub.