A North Queensland couple are bucking the trend of conventional agriculture on their livestock operation with the results helping them achieve record breaking prices for their stock.
Stevan and Odette Plozza of Butchers Creek run a mix of British White heifers and cows with Speckle Park bulls on their property on the Atherton Tablelands. They are also biodynamic farmers.
Going against the grain both in their choice of cattle breed and conventional farming, the duo are reaping the rewards of their efforts at both the saleyard and on the ground.
The couple, who are both from cattle backgrounds, met in the Gulf country after working on different properties.
Originally intending to go west, the opportune moment struck when they relocated to the Tablelands in 2001 and purchased their land where they have lived for the last two decades.
"It was originally a dairy farm," Mrs Plozza said.
"When de-regulation happened, the previous owner wanted out.
"He put it on the market and we bought it. It's the best move we ever made."
The couple originally had Charbray cattle on agistment before transitioning to British Whites.
"We were conventional farmers at that stage," Mrs Plozza said.
"We originally had 400 acres and we decided with the costs we weren't going to make it.
"We also weren't into chemicals, so we looked for an alternative."
An organic conference in Cairns the lightbulb moment when Mrs Plozza chose a biodynamic workshop.
"Afterward I just thought, wow this is for us," she said.
Biodynamic farming aims to create healthy soil using compost, crop and grazing rotations.
"It focuses on very little inputs and it just felt right for us," Mrs Plozza said.
"So we went from conventional straight to organic. We've got no regrets."
The couple later expanded to 700 acres and continued to build their British White herd, whilst incorporating biodynamic principles through practices such as horn manure and horn silica preparations for soil health and plant quality.
"We continued to breed up British Whites and it was getting stronger and stronger," Mrs Plozza said.
"Then one year we couldn't buy for love or money a British White bull here in Australia.
"This Speckle Park breed had just appeared on the scene and it was at the time when cattle prices were probably at their lowest.
"I said to Steve; we've got to do something for our bulls."
The couple purchased a Speckle Park bull from central-west New South Wales and began the process of cross-breeding with their female British White herd.
The diversification has paid off in dividends with the couple selling top priced cattle at the local saleyards.
Most recently, their Speckle Park infused females set a new Mareeba saleyard record for meatwork cows, which sold for 570c/kg, weighing 481kg to return $2742/hd.
Back in November they shared the then record for meatworks steers when they reached 418c/kg at 663kg to return $2771/hd and sold to JBS Dinmore.
When asked why the breed was so successful, Mr Plozza said it came down to flavour and taste.
"It comes down to eating quality and taste," he said.
"We went down the butcher-steer line, and most importantly, it had to have flavour, which I think we have achieved."
So much so the couple have collected accolades for their beef at prestigious chef awards beating their counterparts in southern states.
The duo have continued to sell their cattle to local butchers and meatworks, but also to interested breeders as the British White cattle become more common on the Tablelands.
"If it didn't work out in two years, we'd give it a miss and go back," Mrs Plozza said.
"You have to breed something that people want to buy. We think it worked out."
With retirement on the cards, the couple will begin the process of selling their land and de-stocking their herd before transitioning into the next chapter of their lives.
A two decade long tenure, the couple said the conversion to biodynamics along with their cattle herd were standout achievements.
"Our cattle had a good life with us," Mrs Plozza said.
"Breeding has given us more satisfaction than if we just bought in stores.
"Also not having to work for bosses. We have really appreciated working for ourselves."
Mr Plozza said their chance meeting in the Gulf had led the couple to live and achieve a shared dream.
"When we got married we both wanted to go in the same direction," he said.
"We both wanted a property and we never lost sight of the dream.
"We finally got one and we achieved all that we wanted too."
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