Corkhill Family
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Corkhill Family

Corkhill Family

As the fifth generation to farm their home property ‘Normanhurst’, near Boorowa on New South Wales’ South West slopes, Tom and Ashley Corkhill have a long tradition to live up to. However, while livestock and in particular wool remains the primary business of the Corkhill family the latest generation is by no means resting on these foundations.

Tom and Ashley, together with their respective wives Ally and Bernadette, run a wool, livestock and cropping operation across 1500 hectares of owned and leased country.

If this weren’t complex enough, they also run a contract farming business and Tom and Ally own and operate an agricultural supplies store in Boorowa with Tom continuing to work as the local agronomist. Ally and Bernadette have also continued to pursue their careers in nursing and the law, respectively.

With six children between them and no additional permanent employees on farm it’s enough to make anyone exhausted but Tom said while it has required some long hours and juggling it still seems to work.

“There are definitely times when we wish there were more hours in the day or even days in the week but so far we are keeping on top of things,” he said.

“I’m currently spending a lot more time in the shop than I’d like as we’re a bit light on staff here at the moment, so it’s meant I’ve had to be more on the bookwork side of things while Ash wears the brunt of the farm work.”

The Corkhills describe their business as being built around a wool growing enterprise with 6000 merinos producing 146 bales of 18-19-micron wool over the past year.

Corkhill Family

Stud production of both cattle and sheep also continues to provide supplementary income to the family with approximately 100 Border Leicester rams being sold each year and 120 of their Hereford stud cows currently in calf. 

“Border Leicester rams continue to be popular for the breeding of first-cross ewes with their ability to produce versatile lambs popular for both their wool and meat,” Tom said.

“We started the Hereford stud back in 1973 and it has gradually grown, this is the largest number of cows we have ever joined.”

Corkhill Family

NSW has been having a tough season with very little rainfall across much of the state, the Corkhills have got some crop in but Tom said the season has been challenging.

“We were fortunate to receive three inches around the end of February but there hasn’t been a great deal of follow up rain since then,” he said.

“We’ve got some crop in, around 65 hectares of grazing wheat as well as some oats and will plant canola in the next few weeks.”

While their country is dry, Tom said they were fortunate not to be having to buy in a great deal of feed so far.

“Right now, we are just feeding our young stock as well as our maiden ewes, and we’re hoping most will be able to carry through,” he said.

“Over the years we’ve worked toward ensuring reliable feed for our livestock, we’ve sown down cropping country to permanent perennial pastures and kept the nutrients up to it."

“We also try to lock up our pasture country, and with the bit of cropping we do, we use the stubble to rest the pasture during the late summer and autumn.”

With such dry conditions heading into winter Tom said it has been the continuing strength of commodity prices that has buoyed their confidence. “It’s dry and it could definitely get worse,” he said.

“Potentially we’ll have to be buying in more feed and we could lose the opportunity for a cash crop but at least we’ll be able to put stock on it.

“Wool, lamb and beef prices continue to be pretty solid and while there is a cost to keeping our animals going throughout a dry winter, at least there will be a return.”

It’s been a big 12 months for Tom and Ashley, along with completing their planned succession from parents Michael and Alma Corkhill, they have also changed their financier, electing to join the Rabobank family. 

“We like the relationship we were able to build quickly with our local Rabobank Rural Managers and we liked that they very quickly were able to come up with package that suited us and was straight forward and clear,” Tom said.

“We live in a time and industry where there are huge financial pressures and when you have concerns about cash flow you want to be able to ring your bank and have those finances freed up when you need them.

“Rabobank really seem to understand the industry and the bottom line is their finance package was better than where we were.”

With a sixth generation champing at the bit to continue the Corkhill family farming tradition Tom and Ashley are looking to continue to expand their business to accommodate their growing families.

 “Things are a bit tight at the moment, particularly with the dry season but ultimately we would like to expand when the opportunity arises because we have two families who love the land and kids who will hopefully be here farming long after we’re gone.”

Corkhill Family