Cattle alliance has solid foundation

The West Australian
Dongara farmer Craig Forsyth.
Camera IconDongara farmer Craig Forsyth. Credit: The West Australian

Dongara farmer Craig Forsyth is part of a supply network that breeds, backgrounds and fattens pastoral cattle.

He transformed his farm into a perennial pasture-based, rotational-grazing enterprise and entered into a share profit alliance with northern pastoralists.

Mr Forsyth and two fellow supply network members - Sean D'Arcy and Ivan Rogers - will be sharing their stories at Meat and Livestock Australia's WA Meat Profit Day, held Thursday, April 3 in Port Denison.

About 3000ha of Mr Forsyth's 3600ha property, Avoca, is arable.

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"In the 1990s we were mainly cropping but we ran into a brick wall with herbicide resistance, waterlogging and diseases," he said.

"I had started planting tagasaste in the 1980s and then became interested in subtropical perennial grasses.

"I sowed my first subtropical grass pasture in 2001, and we now have about half the arable land sown to perennial grasses, plus about 400ha of tagasaste."

Once the perennial grasses were established, Mr Forsyth said the challenge was to "try and get enough stock to utilise it". He was put in contact with producers who needed their cattle fattened - and it grew from there.

"The first mob came down in 2003 and that family still sends cattle to us. We now have five core pastoralists who send cattle from as far north as the Kimberley," he said.

Mr Forsyth said under the share profit alliance, he does not buy the cattle and the pastoralists do not pay for agistment.

Instead, he is paid for two-thirds of the weight the cattle gain on Avoca.

"The pastoralists are paid for one-third, plus the initial weight gain," he said.

Breeds agisted on Mr Forsyth's property include Santa Gertrudis, Droughtmaster, Brahman and Red Brahman cross.

Sean D'Arcy from Lyndon Station, north of Carnarvon, sends Droughtmasters that range from just under 200kg to over 300kg.

"I get them up to nearly 400kg then some go to live export, but a big percentage go to Ivan Rogers' Kylagh Feedlot at Tammin," Mr Forsyth said.

"Other breeders send us young bulls from as low as 120kg. We get them to just over 200kg for the export bull trade.

"Heifers come in from 150kg to 250kg. We get them up to 300kg for live export."

Mr Forsyth's presentation at the WA Meat Profit Day will focus on improving relationships and partnerships within the industry.

"My message will be pretty basic - match your feed demand to your feed supply, because that's what we do," he said.

"If you had told me 12 years ago I would end up running 3000 cattle a year on Avoca, I would have thought you were crazy."

"But if I was still cropping and mixed farming, I don't think I'd be farming at all.

"There is some confidence in the industry and the past couple of seasons have been pretty kind. It's important we work together as an industry to capitalise on these good times and make good decisions."

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