WHEN Stafford Ives- Heres returned home to the family farm almost six years ago, he had big plans to expand their beef operation.
Now those plans for the family’s Shanford Park Estate at Marrawah in the state’s far North-West are becoming a reality.
Last week Mr Ives-Heres shared his ideas on how to be successful as a young farmer with participants at the Red Meat Updates event.
A fourth-generation farmer, Mr Ives-Heres took over the reins at the family’s Shanford Park when he was just 21 years old after three years working on a cray-fishing boat.
“It was just an opportunity that came up through Dad.
He’s always run two businesses and probably struggled to do both to the capacity it required, so it gave me ability to come out and help out on the farm,” he said.
“That helped to free up Dad a bit, so he could look at his next five- or 10-year period.”
The 240ha property was running a herd of about 150 Angus cows at the time and operating as a breederfinisher business.
Mr Ives-Heres said while initially expansion was always on the cards, the operation had grown more than he expected.
“It was probably not to the growth of what we’ve seen in the last two or three years in the business,” he said.
“I like testing the system and once we got back up to where Dad was in the mid-2000s with 230 or 240 cows I thought well, we’ll keep growing and growing.”
Now the operation includes an extra 160ha of leased land and Mr Ives-Heres said they were currently running 350 breeders and aimed to calve down 430 breeders next year.
After that, the plan is to continue expanding the operation to 600 breeding cows.
He said the economies of scale could be a buffer in the red meat sector if things got tough.
“Whether it’s price or something else, I see 600 breeders as the number to withstand debt or other outside pressures,” he said.
“Our numbers will allow us to get there in three years, but for us here land is the biggest factor for growth.”
Mr Ives-Heres said he would consider looking at opportunities in different regions to expand. He said if seasonal conditions were tight they generally sold their steers first.
However, the exceptional conditions over the past three years have allowed them to finish more stock.
Generally the steers are sold privately at 330kg to 500kg liveweight to regular repeat buyers and many end up in the Tasmania Feedlot.
Heifers on the property go through a fixed-time artificial-insemination program which is then followed up with bulls for four weeks.
“We’ve done that process every year for the last five and we’ll continue to do it,” Mr Ives-Heres said.’
“We see some really strong advantages, particularly for the next year, because if they calve earlier in their first year, they’ve just got that extra period to get back in calf.”
Any heifers that are not in calf are fattened and sold. Mr Ives-Heres said in recent years they had taken the opportunity to buy heifers from interstate to boost numbers.
The cows calve in summer, which Mr Ives-Heres said suited the seasonal conditions on their property.
At peak production in spring, their stocking rate is about 35 dry sheep equivalent per hectare.
In an effort to diversify, he planted a small vineyard on a section of the property in 2016 and has produced grapes for two vintages so far.
While getting into farming can be more challenging for young people these days because of higher land values, Mr Ives-Heres said succession planning in family businesses was vital.
“I think it’s really important to have a definite plan in place and have it on paper too, so everyone knows the direction you are heading,” he said.
Sharefarming is also another option Mr Ives-Heres said would be crucial to help young people into the red-meat sector.
“There’s a massive opportunity with sharefarming because usually the wisdom comes from the older generation who have got it there, but the production increases come from the enthusiasm in the youth,” he said.
“Share farming is a major pathway we’ve got to look at as a sector and play our bit. “Obviously the 50/50 system works well in dairying because of the turnover, but I think the whole industry needs to look at some way where the owner of the land asset still gets a return but there’s also an opportunity for growth for the younger person too.”
While beef production is his main focus at the moment, Mr Ives-Heres said long term there might be other diversification options.