Big on beef | Rabobank Australia Client
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#ThankAFarmer: Big on family, big on beef

Running a farm business that delivers 4,000 to 4,500 head of beef cattle to the Australian market every year is a big family affair for Hartley Grazing in the Western Downs of Queensland.

Tom and Sandra Hartley, with their son, Andrew, are partners in Hartley Grazing, and there is no shortage of involvement by other family members.

The business encompasses four properties – each one under the control of various members of the family. Tom, Sandra and their youngest daughter Krystle, live and work on the home property of Coopermurra, Andrew runs the family’s adjoining property, Southlands, while their middle daughter and son-in-law, Amanda and Brett Slater, run Crystalbrook and their eldest daughter and son-in-law, Michelle and Dan McInnerney, run Morwhena.

The Hartleys are fifth-generation farmers, but according to Tom Hartley, working on the land is about more than just tradition.

“It’s a lifestyle, and even when I was going to school, I knew this was all I was ever going to do,” Tom added.

“My son and my daughters are pretty much the same. We love it and I just can’t picture us doing anything else.

“As a family, we are all in it together, it’s a team effort and that means not having to do everything all on your own.”

For the Hartleys, doing everything includes running approximately 12,000 head of cattle on 117,000 hectares across their four properties – breeding and fattening their stock as heavy feeders to 480kg which they sell to feedlots.

“We have about 3,500 breeding cows at Crystalbrook and a further 500 to 1,000 breeders between Southland and Coppermurra,” Tom said.

“We fatten most of the cattle at Southlands, but we also fatten some at Morwhena which we have mainly set up as a trading operation. We sell about 4,000 to 4,500 of our cattle every year.”

And this year has been no different for the Hartleys, with COVID-19 having little impact on their business.

“Apart from some interference in our usual lives, we came through COVID-19 quite well,” Tom said.

“At the start we were really cautious about it, as I suppose most people were, but we could still run everything and we could still get fuel supplies.

“We use just one company for transporting our stock and they were really good. When they came out to load, we just kept our distance from each other and we were able to maintain that safe distance fairly easily.

“We only have our family and two other people working with us, so we were basically isolated on the properties. We travelled between the properties but didn’t go into town, except when someone needed to go for essential supplies.”

One of the hardest consequences for Tom was that their family couldn’t carry out their normal commitments to local charities.

However, in one sense, Tom said, the isolation was better for their business.

“No-one was going anywhere on the weekends so we just kept on working. We probably got a lot more done this year than what we normally would,” he said.

Tom’s positive attitude also extends to the overall availability of food for Australian consumers.

“I think Australia is well positioned to supply all the food we will ever need, and plenty of extra too,” he said.

 

 

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