A half century of loyalty to wool

RECOGNITION: John and Pam Phillips, of Strathlea, receive a commorative jug from Ferguson Wool managing director David Martin for their 50 years of supply.
RECOGNITION: John and Pam Phillips, of Strathlea, receive a commorative jug from Ferguson Wool managing director David Martin for their 50 years of supply.

DRIVING from Newstead to Maryborough, it's not unusual to spot an emu or two grazing on the horizon.

Or even 50 emus.

But the property of John and Pam Phillips at Strathlea runs much deeper than just its iconic Australian birds.

The couple have notched up their 50th year as a seller of wool to Bendigo merchant Ferguson Wool.

Their herd of sheep have provided plenty of supply for the merchant's sales to its buyers over the years, ever since they formed a partnership in 1964.

Mr Phillips said he was proud to remain loyal to the local business.

"Only once in 50 years did I jack up on him and tell him, 'That's a lousy price'," he said.

"For a small farmer, sticking with the same buyer is always suitable.

"It helps to be loyal because they know your wool. They know what they're going to get."

The partnership started 50 years ago as the Phillips farmed sheep in Kyneton, convenient for the Kyneton-based Ferguson Wool.

John and his brother Ron Phillips ran a property called Trio, after their father moved to the area in 1949 from Gippsland.

John married Pam in 1966, and six years later the couple moved to their current Strathlea property.

They continued to sell their wool to Ferguson every year, now with the Bendigo branch.

Mr Phillips said local buyers often made it easier than those based in Melbourne.

"We got to the stage where we found selling it to Ferguson was just as good as selling in Melbourne," he said.

"You have no freight, no commission costs, no storage or handling costs. You have the wool tax no matter what, but for net returns, Ferguson has always been just as good as Melbourne."

Each bail of wool goes through the same testing regime, where a sample is taken for seed content, microns, thickness and wool content.

Now with 600 sheep, the Phillips' continue to work their 315 acre property.

Once a year, contractors come by to shear the sheep, with the wool always sent to the same place.

Ferguson Wool managing director David Martin has worked with the Phillips for a number of decades.

He visited the property on Tuesday to present the couple with a commemorative jug on behalf of the business in recognition of their continued loyalty to the brand.

Mr Martin said it was a small token of recognition.

"They can use it for water, beer, milk or emu oil," he said.