Brunckhorst - Isisford | Rabobank Australia Client
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Brunckhorst Family, Isisford

Whatever the challenge – be it drought, fire or changing family circumstances – nothing has been able to keep down western Queensland wool growers Rob and Pauline Brunckhorst, who have come out on top every time.

The owners of Sunbury Pastoral Co, Rob and Pauline run about 16,000 sheep, along with some cattle, on 45,000 hectares with the help of their son, Tim, who works full-time in the business.

Their 15,400-hectare home block has been in Rob’s family for 60 years and has been expanded over the years through the purchase of additional blocks of adjoining land.

“We needed more country so we could grow more wool,” Pauline said.

“This is mainly good wool growing country, but to be viable and make a better living you need to get bigger.

“For the last few years, we’ve been producing about 400 bales of wool a year, and the most we have had was 604 bales in 2000.”

The path hasn’t been easy. In fact, during a drought in 1965, while Rob was just a boy, sheep numbers on the family farm dropped to just 500.

Despite a number of droughts over the years, the Brunckhorsts have always managed to keep strengthening their business – even when hit in recent times with what Pauline described as a ‘triple whammy’.

The first came with the death of Rob’s father in 2013, then his mother in 2015, and the need to find the right financial solutions for restructuring farm business twice in a matter of two years.

Not long after, the Sunbury house burnt down, with the last ‘whammy’ coming in 2017 when their shearing shed also burnt down.

To make matters worse, Pauline said they found out that their shearing shed was under-insured.

From adversity to opportunity

Not to be deterred by either cost or time pressure, Rob and Pauline turned adversity into an opportunity by opting to go bigger and better with the new shearing shed.

“We put big improvements into our new three-tier shed. We went from a five-stand to a six-stand shearing shed and we now have up to 800 sheep under cover, up from about 200 previously,” Pauline said.

She added that one of the big benefits of the new shed was the ease of shearing.

“It just makes shearing so much easier because we have more yard space, we can draft more at once and have almost a full day’s shearing under cover,” she said.

“We often get heavy dews in winter and we used to lose and hour or two when we were shearing just waiting for the sheep to dry out. Now they are all under cover, we don’t have that waiting time.”

Ongoing improvements

Rob and Pauline were able to implement all of the improvements to the shed and associated sheep yards, despite being pressed for time.

“Our old shed burnt down in September 2017 and we were due to shear in July 2018, so we had to be finished by then,” Pauline said.

“By the time all the processes went through, it was the beginning of April before we could start building. We ended up finishing it on a Saturday and started shearing on the Monday.”

The Brunckhorsts have also invested heavily in other improvements, including laneways for their stock from each of their properties back to the shearing shed and the installation of 76 kilometres of exclusion fencing to keep out wild dogs.

In yet another investment 12 months ago, they replaced their existing plane with a new Foxbat Kelpie plane which their son uses on the properties.

In the last 15 years, as they have continued to grow and improve their business, Rob and Pauline have developed a strong relationship with Rabobank.

“We have had good business relationships with the managers we have had over the years,” Pauline said.

“They have been our friends as well as our client managers through the good times and the tough times.”

“They have always been there for a chat and to help us through the decision-making process.”

Pauline puts down their business success and ongoing commitment to grazing down to a number of factors.

“We always support each other and want to improve what we’ve got. Sometimes we operate our livestock unconventionally. We run our livestock to suit OUR conditions and that means often not operating ‘by the book’ but instead using tried and tested methods over many years” she said.


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