Innovative agricultural leaders like David and Rebecca Comiskey are a new breed of farmers who are updating management practices and on-farm technology to improve the viability of their family businesses.
Running ‘Melton’, a grazing property near Alpha, about 450km west of Rockhampton in Queensland, the couple are taking a strategic, organic approach to cattle breeding in a sector that continues to battle a severe drought.
It’s not just the people eating the product that are going to be healthy, but it’s also the people producing it.
The blueprint is clear: implementing long-term business plans; complying with organic certification; employing rotational grazing techniques, using data collection systems to monitor livestock; complying with Meat Standards Australia benchmarks for beef quality; and focusing on soil and grass quality.
“If we can keep the ecosystem healthy we find that we get a much better response when it rains,” Rebecca says. “Focusing on the ecology of our pastures has helped us to keep our business profitability healthy as well.”
The Comiskeys, who bought the property from David’s family in 2007, say they have been more fortunate than graziers further west of them – “You can’t compare our situation to what’s happening out there” – who have had no rain for three years. To maximise output, they have increased water points on the property through troughs, tanks and dams and carefully managed stocking rates as part of a plan to deliver healthy spoil and pasture, healthy cattle and healthy property owners.
“It’s not just the people eating the product that are going to be healthy, but it’s also the people producing it,” Rebecca says.
LEADERS AND MENTORS
Strong leadership and mentoring efforts involving established and emerging farmers will be crucial to sustainable grazing, according to Rebecca.
“I value leadership of all ages,” she says. “It’s great to touch base with our older graziers who have so much experience, embraced change and innovated.”
She says while distance can limit one-on-one contact, email and phone hook-ups are great ways for graziers to learn from each other, and rural-based training programs are also invaluable.
Part of the Comiskeys’ learning curve has been appreciating the importance of business plans as they strive to produce the most tender beef for domestic and international markets.
“It’s written down and it’s there for both of us to see,” Rebecca says.
Their 20-year vision is set: “To see our cattle improve our landscape and enjoy the grass-fed grazing business that we choose to be in regardless of seasons.”