YOU may have heard of the terms paddock to plate and even cow to cup, but what about bale to body?
An enterprising young farmer north of Orroroo has launched a knitwear label, with the fine micron wool from the family's Merino sheep flock made into premium fashion garments.
Jonathan Byerlee's Wyndhurst Knitwear endeavour was inspired by the need to value-add to his family's farming enterprise, but is also providing an oppurtunity to showcase the Byerlee's - and the wider region's - enduring ability to produce premium products in a marginal area.
The Byerlees are located north of Goyder's line in the rocky hills of Eurelia, mating 600 ewes a year.
"It's not a huge farm and that is part of the reason I started the knitwear business," Mr Byerlee said.
"Six hundred sheep won't make you a lot of money by themselves so I looked at other ways of making income and have always liked the idea of value-adding.
"The wool industry is the same as grain, in that there's always someone taking a slice of the pie right the way along the supply chain."
The knitwear label has been in the development stages for several years, primarily due to COVID-related processing hurdles, but is about to hit full steam.
Selected scarves and jumpers are available from Wyndhurst's first processing run, with the second batch of wool for the label expected to be ready for the manufacture of six new designs any day.
Mr Byerlee's out-of-the-box thinking did not just start with the knitwear label.
The first step down a new path was with the purchase of fine-wooled, soft rolling skin Merinos. Fine wools are a rarity in SA, let alone the unforgiving conditions of the Upper North.
"When I first bought the sheep, I don't think anyone believed we were going to run sheep with 17-18 micron wool," Mr Byerlee said.
"To begin with, we were getting paid the same for our 17-18M wool as someone with 22-23M wool so the knitwear is also a way of getting appropriately paid for the premium product we're producing."
Mr Byerlee said having SRS genetics had also resulted in a flock with good fertility and no need for mulesing - a potential marketing advantage if selling to a welfare-conscious market.
Mr Byerlee said he had to comb wool twice because of the prevalence of clover burr in the area, but there was only minor management differences compared with a regular flock.
"We shear every six months because the sheep get a long staple, but the sheep whose wool goes into the clothing - young ewes that we aren't going to mate - are shorn every nine months to get the optimal length for processing," he said.
At the core of the Byerlee's Wyndhurst Knitwear venture is a focus on endurance and transparency.
Jonathan Byerlee, who farms with parents Brenton and Robyn, is proud to detail the complete journey of Wyndhurst's wool from fleece to fashion.
After shearing, the wool is transported to Adelaide, then Geelong, Vic, for scouring, Bacchus Marsh for combing and carding, to New Zealand for spinning into yarn, and back to Melbourne for manufacturing.
Mr Byerlee says the endurance aspect relates to the fibre's decades-long longevity and is also a testament to his family's history at Eurelia, which dates back to 1876.
The family have long been one of the northernmost SA farming families growing crops.
"Every farming family has a unique story and we certainly do, being original settlers in the region," he said.
"The females in our family in particular led interesting lives and have been the ones that have held the show together so it's good to tell their stories.
"People like to have that connection with the product, the farm and its history."
Mr Byerlee's great-grandmother, with 10 kids in tow, started running the farm after her husband's death at a young age. His grandmother also took charge of a family farm from the age of 18 after her father's death and steered the ship during a decade-long drought and 1930s depression until marrying Jonathan's grandfather eight years later.
Wyndhurst Knitwear's products are for sale at wyndhurst.com.au and in Orroroo's 5431 Collective store.
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