The Blake brothers are in the business of luxury. Buying a jacket made from their 12 micron unshedded, unmulesed wool could set you back more than $28,000. Their story is one of many the Australian Government wants us to celebrate on November 21 as part of the nation’s first National Agriculture Day.
Ross and Stuart Blake run the family property ‘Millbank’ in Walcha along with their wives Rebecca and Alex. The Blake family’s passion for wool dates back to 1853 when Thomas Blake immigrated to Australia and started sheep farming in Walcha. Thomas’s grandson Eric purchased Millbank in 1932 and passed it on to his son Keith – the brother's father who continues to live and work on the property with their mother, Heather.
The brothers took over in 1997 and now Stuart and Alex specialise in the running of an artificial breeding service, Ewetec for sheep and Millbank Genetic Services for cattle, while Ross and Rebecca tend to focus on the flock of 20,000 sheep in the fine wool side of the business.
They aim to sell most of their wool directly to mills and processors at the top end of the market with their finest wool (12.4 microns and below) contracted exclusively to Loro Piana, a luxury clothier company within the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA empire. Loro Piana market this fibre under the ‘Gift of the Kings’ project and they source wool from only four farms in the world –Millbank and Pyrenees Park in Australia and Somerton and Visulea in New Zealand with the majority of supply coming from Millbank.
On the cattle side the brothers manage a Wagyu breeding herd at Millbank for Whyalla Beef, part of the Japanese owned Nipponham Group, to supply full-blood Wagyu for feeding at Whyalla Feedlot and as seed stock for the company’s F1 Wagyu breeding property “Scheelite” on King Island.
The operation at Millbank has changed dramatically since the brothers took over the business. Evolving from running western wether weaners, producing wool at the broader end of the spectrum, to supplying ultrafine micron wool and fullblood Wagyu beef for consumption by some of the most discerning customers on the planet.