Cossar Family - Charlton | Rabobank Australia Client
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The Cossar Family, Charlton

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David and Jennifer Cossar run a hay and cropping operation around 15 minutes south of Charlton, a town that has overcome its fair share of adversity.

Over the past couple of years the region has been afflicted by drought, and it was only just over five years ago that the town was making national headlines after being hit by its biggest flood in recorded history. The town is resilient though, as are its residents. It is perhaps this resilience running through David Cossar’s veins that has kept him going over the years despite his own fair share of setbacks. 

In 1977, David’s father passed away and the farm was split among David and his siblings. David was only 24 at the time and says that it was challenging to turn a profit on the 400 hectare parcel of land. “It was challenging making a profit at the time particularly due to the soil loss we had suffered from the 1973 flood,” he said.

“I couldn’t seem to find a way to get my head above water while staying on the farm."

"We are located very close to the Charlton Feedlot and in 1990 I leased them the farm and took up a position as a sales rep with Ridley’s Agri Products.” David’s relationship with the Charlton Feedlot has been a long and mutually beneficial one.

“When the feedlot took over the lease they saw it as an opportunity to dispose of the cow manure from the feedlot and started spreading that on the paddocks,” David said. “It’s a practice that we’ve continued with to this day and the benefits that it’s brought to the soil cannot be overestimated.’

In 2001 David returned to the farm full time and also took up a position with Charlton Feedlot as farm manager. The improvement in soil quality and favourable seasonal conditions also enabled the Cossars to expand their operations.

Exporting hay

David and Jennifer now farm 1,400 hectares, which they plant predominately to oaten hay aimed at the export market.

“We are quite fortunate in our location, we have a strong domestic market for both hay and silage.."

"Especially with the feedlot up the road, but the export market for hay pays a significant premium and is continuing to grow,” David said. “Through hay exporting companies our product is currently being sent primarily to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan but there is also demand building in the UAE.”

David currently sits on the board of the Australian Fodder Industry Association and says that over the past five years demand for Australian fodder has increased dramatically.

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“For years we were hovering at around 600,000 tonnes of hay exported annually, this year we look like we could break a million tonnes,” David said. “There are extremely strict standards put on our export hay but I think this focus on quality is really starting to pay off.

“International customers really like the product we produce and we’ve even had circumstances where we’ve managed to obtain and keep customers who previously have only been importing from the US.”

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Succession and flexibility

Along with cutting, baling and carting their own hay, the Cossars also operate a contract business, which has enabled them to have son Vivian home to work.

“Vivian has previously worked in agronomy and financial planning but he wanted to come home to the farm, he’s now pretty much running most of the contracting side of the business.

“Now that Viv and his wife Rebecca have come home, we’ve had to start looking seriously at developing some sort of succession plan to ensure it’s fair on our other three kids.

“You need to be flexible in farming, between drought, flood, interest rates and market falls, keeping a farm profitable can be challenging."

“We recently attended a Rabobank succession planning session in Torquay, which was excellent, sharing ideas and challenges with a group of like-minded people meant we came away inspired to start engaging the family in the whole process.”

However, David says that while he’s happy that his son has returned to the farm, he will be encouraging him to ensure he has additional sources of income. “Jennifer is a nurse and there are times when her income was the only thing keeping food on the table, we were really fortunate at the time to have more than one income stream.”

From David’s perspective, flexibility is key, and was one of the features that first drew David to Rabobank and has kept him there ever since.

“I’ve been with Rabobank since the early 1990s and their interest only All in One account was what initially appealed to me."

“When you’re trying to keep your head above water in the rough years, or trying to expand, you need that flexibility. If you’re being forced to pay down principal, it’s hard to get ahead.” David says that while the flexibility of the account is a key factor in his loyalty to Rabobank it’s the people that really keep him anchored there.

“I’ve had three account managers since I’ve been with the bank, and they’ve all been fantastic. “There’s something about how they pick their personnel, it doesn’t seem to matter if the phones are diverted to the next branch or to head office, no matter who answers the phone that person really makes you feel good and like they care about you, it seems to be right across the board.”

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