Western District woolgrowers add value to their business with flavoursome Merino mutton and hogget

Out in Victoria’s west, where the red gums stretch from horizon to horizon and the Grampians rise from the plains, Ricky and Marni Luhrs grow Merino sheep. While they shear the sheep for wool and send their lambs to market, they hold some of the older animals back for their special Merino hogget and mutton program.

The farm is at Mooralla, about 30 kilometres north of Hamilton. Here, the sheep selected for the program graze on a mix of native and improved pasture, supplemented with grain and silage in drier months.

“A sheep is called a lamb from the day it is born to just over a year old,” explains Ricky. “The term ‘hogget’ refers to a sheep that is older than a lamb and up to two and a half years old, and mutton refers to meat from a sheep older than two and a half years.”

Ricky says that while there is a lot of discussion about the tenderness of lamb, the mouthfeel of hogget and mutton is exceptional, and they have so much more flavour. “As Merino sheep get older they produce exceptional intramuscular fat,” says Ricky. “But while that marbling increases they don’t lay down vast amounts of fat on the outside of the muscle.”

Mooralla Merino mutton and hogget grace the table at the Bunyip Hotel in nearby Cavendish, where chef James Campbell, formerly of MoVida, takes whole carcasses and cooks the juicy flesh in myriad dishes.

The Mooralla Merino mutton and hogget program gives the Luhrs direct consumer feedback on the taste and texture of the breeding flock. The couple service the southwest of Victoria, delivering directly to a handful of restaurants and to the public.

Product: Mutton and hogget