Close to 60 leading pastoral women from across the North embarked on a journey of shared best management practice discovery during the NQ Dry Tropics Women in Grazing Bus Tour held around the Upper Burdekin on Wednesday, August 31.
It was the second iteration of the tour with the inaugural event meeting with great success in the Bowen region last year. Guests shared their knowledge and experiences as they travelled to four grazing properties, concluding with a dinner in Charters Towers.
The day began with a meet and greet breakfast at the Cattleman’s Rest Motel in Charters Towers after which guests on the tour visited the Bennetto family property, Virginia Park Station, where Sonia Bennetto spoke how she has used her marketing and business background to automate many processes on the property.
As well as getting all her systems in check, she has also refined her own expectations and priorities, restructuring her work environment so she can still be productive while minding her three children.
The next stop was a tour of Sue Hammer’s Annavale Station. Ms Hammer does absolutely everything on the property from fencing to book work. She is also extremely interested in genetics and breeds everything from bulls to sausage dogs and race horses.
“With the drought, we have deliberately sought to value-add, including expanding our feedlot in the past 18 months – it’s cheaper for us to grow it here than to buy it in,” she said.
“Our commercial cattle herd supplies stock to the feedlot and bulls are sold from the stud herds, so the whole operation complements itself well.”
The third leg of the tour saw guests enjoy lunch at Roger and Jenny Landsberg’s Trafalgar Station while their daughter and fellow beef producer Kate Lansdberg gave a rundown of the challenges the family contends with on the 3500 head – predominantly Brahman – operation.
One of the fourth generation of the Landsberg family on the Charters Towers station, she is actively involved in all aspects of the property, and also looks after her own herd of 440 Charolais-cross cattle which are on agistment at Trafalgar.
She said she started purchasing Charolais cattle because she eventually wants to realise her dream of owning her own stud and because she wanted to breed “something different to dad”.
“I manage the stud operation where I recently re-introduced artificial insemination back into the program, which has proven successful,” she said.
“We’re inseminating our Brahman cows with pure Angus semen, to produce a line of Brangus bulls.”
She said working with family can be a challenge but is also very rewarding.
“We might not always agree on the best way to go about things, but we always show a mutual respect for each others decisions.”
The last stop on the tour gave guests the opportunity to explore Kylie Stretton’s Clancella Downs Station, while she spoke on the importance of soil health.
In four years, the Stretton’s have doubled their carrying capacity, while improving ground cover, soil health and plant biodiversity - despite being in drought the whole time.
While in transit between properties, guests heard from Basalt-based grazier Lynda O'Brien, The Brook Station discussed her journey from practicing solicitor, to managing the family Grazing BMP Accredited business.
Bec Comiskey talked about her 8500 hectare EU/ PCAS/organically certified beef business, Melton Grazing, north of Alpha.
Through managed grazing and the efficient conversion of grass into high eating quality grassfed beef she is driven to seeing her cattle improving soil fertility.
She said holistically managing the business and looking at different grazing systems has made a pronounced difference in productivity.
“Drought is a great teacher. It highlighted our weaknesses and what we needed to change,” she said.
Donna Rankine shared the journey on the family’s 30,756 hectare spinifex block Bunuro south of Torrens Creek.
By distributing waters and installing fencing, within a short period they were able to double the carrying capacity. Through their grazing management planning, they have run up to 2000-head in a single mob rotation.
Jane Weir from Amelia Downs discussed her involvement with the Dalrymple Landcare Pasture Budgeting since 2014 and her passion for the land and linkages between doing the right thing by your country and your business.
The tour was completed with a top notch dinner at the Cattlemans Steakhouse where guests continued to chat well into the night while hearing from keynote speakers Emma Robinson who is the founder of The Beef Co-op Project and beef producer herself at Caerphilly Station in Charters Towers, and Alice Greenup: A business woman, mother, professional writer, public speaker and industry educator.
NQ Dry Tropics program coordinator Colleen James said the aim of the tour was for women in the beef industry to share the stories of their on-property journeys.
“Their has been a really supportive atmosphere over the course of the day, which has given guests the confidence to open up share their stories,” Ms James said.
“The tour also provides the ladies with an opportunity to benchmark their own on-farm productivity against other grazing operations to see areas where they are going well and/or may be able to improve,” she said.
“They can then work out an action plan and implement it using the resources available to them.
“A number of the ladies here today are already BMP accredited, and a lot of stories that they’re all sharing are really resonating.
“It allows them to see that they aren’t alone, while they learn about the challenges others have faced in their businesses operations and how they have overcome those barriers.”
From all accounts the tour achieved its aim of empowering women in the beef industry by exposing them to innovative management practices and ideas over the course of the day.
Sharon Yensch from Woodlands Station at Julia Creek, said said the guest speakers had been chosen well.
“The operations the speakers run are quite distinct, which really opened my eyes to the possibilities of practices and innovations I can put in place on my property,” Ms Yensch said.
“The tour is also a great way to break down the communication barrier as well, and get to know the other ladies involved in the industry locally,” she said.
Kellie Dobe, Desalis Station, Charters Towers said for her the day was about hearing the personal stories from the other ladies involved in the tour.
“It was great to hear about how they started out with their operations and where they’re at now, and the mistakes they’ve made and challenges they faced along the way and how they corrected and overcame them,” Ms Dobe said.
“Its also a great way to catch up with other ladies in the industry without the blokes around,” she said with a grin.
Janet Barden from Bullock Creek, Ingham said she had gotten a lot out of the tour.
“It has been a great day, I’ve been learning heaps about how other ladies run their operations, and the speakers have been great.”
Ms Stretton said the tour provided a unique opportunity to connect with a other women who share the same mindset.
“I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from the topics and issues the other ladies have spoken about today, it makes you want to go home and test new strategies in your own operation straight away.”
The tour was supported through the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Grazing BMP project – a partnership between the Queensland Government Department of Agriculture, The Fitzroy Basin Association and AgForce and was funded through NQ Dry Tropics.