Sinclair - Alexandra | Rabobank Australia Client
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Sinclair Family, Alexandra

Victorian graziers Dick and Cally Sinclair see scale and succession as two of the biggest challenges confronting farming families, prompting them to adhere to a business focus that led to the couple more than tripling the land size of their beef and sheep operation in just seven years.

In the early 1990s, after completing an Applied Science Ag degree and working in various rural areas, Dick Sinclair returned to his family’s property, Merrinehbek, in the Victorian region of Alexandra – first working for his parents and then in partnership with them.

When he and his wife, Cally, eventually took over the property, they started out with about 578 hectares. The couple quickly expanded their business to cover 1942 hectares through additional land purchases every two to three years in the Longwood area.

“We needed to get bigger and the timing was right to really concentrate on the capital side of the business to succeed,” Dick said.

Now, with 150 cattle and around 7000 sheep in total, the Sinclairs have started selling up some of their Longwood properties and buying up more land closer to their original home farm.

“Our aim is to get out of our Longwood country and be more Alexandra based. The rationale behind this was the difference in land prices in the two areas, as well as the traveling time to Longwood which is some 60 to 70 kilometres from the home farm,” Dick said.

Their business focus is on continuing with broader wealth creation, with the aim of helping to secure the future of their three teenage children.

“If our kids want to work  on the farm after they have some tertiary education, we need to do something about our critical mass. I’d like to be in a position to give them the same opportunities that my parents and parents-in-law gave to us,” he said.

When it comes to achieving those goals, Dick appreciates the support he receives from Rabobank.

“We have been with the bank for about eight years. During that time we have had two managers and we have had an interactive relationship with them both.”

“We have catch-ups, where I’ll give a bit of a nutshell of where we are, how we’re travelling and what I think is going to happen. We go to and fro about things.

“It’s about more than just asking for money. We tend to talk about things in a broader perspective, where we think something, like the property market, is going."
"Rabobank has some good analytical people, and there has never been an issue when I have asked my account manager to put me in touch with someone I can talk to.”

For the Sinclairs, leaving their children a legacy is not only about having enough land. It’s also about leaving that land in a better condition than when they started.

“Over time, we’ve done a fair bit of environmental work – planting trees, rocking gullies, fencing and land class subdivision,” Dick said.

“Our Alexandra place is totally land class subdivided, creek lines are fenced off and we’ve planted trees with varying degrees of success. We also used some grant money to put about 2500 tons of rock in the creek to try to stabilise the banks a bit.

“We do these environmental things with a conscience and, hopefully, to achieve a better outcome.

“We don’t always get it right. But when that happens, I think ‘ok, let’s try it again, or do it differently or do it better’.”

As an example, Dick said he had come to believe that he didn’t quite get it right when he first land class subdivided the Alexandra property.

“I have 15 more years’ experience and 15 more years of looking at the same bit of country. So I’ve actually re-land class subdivided it, which I hope will be positive,” he added.

“We’d like to see our business continue to sharpen ecologically because there is always room for improvement there.”

Dick’s care of the land is also a reflection of his love for the farming life.

“I love getting up and going to work. It’s rewarding and it’s a job that genuinely contributes to the country’s wealth. And there is always the challenge to do what you do even better,” he said.

 

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