FROM their property at the gates of the Huon region, the Wilson family at Southorpe are epitomising the Tasmanian way of rural living, among the emerald-green scenery.
Southorpe came to the attention of Tasmanian Country after Craig and Sallie sent us some fantastic pictures of their kelpie Ivy for our 2022 Dog Calendar, and Tas Country reporter Josh Harris headed to their property to catch up with the owners.
Nestled between Huonville, Kingston and Margate, Southorpe is a 21ha grazing property belonging to the Wilsons, alongside their children Courtney and Hayden.
Craig was a local, growing up in the region before making his way north in the 1980s, while Sallie spent her formative years in the North-West, where the two met.
When they returned to the region in 1997, the decision to move into the property, an existing dairy, was a coming home of sorts for Craig.
Craig had grown up in the area around farming and cattle.
His grandfather, Tom, owned a dairy until the 1980s, while his father also ran a farm on Vincent’s Saddle, running a mixture of Hereford-Friesian cattle.
Craig started filling his stock out with Angus and Hereford cattle but found himself drawn to the good temperament of the Hereford breed, just as his father had. through the property over the years.
They’ve also had their share of cropping come been in place since they first took it on.
Southorpe has been used as a brassica seed cropping farm for Bejo Seeds, growing cabbages, cauliflowers and borecole, though it was unwanted animals on the property that led them back to focusing on their cattle.
“We had to stop because we got so far behind on other parts of the farm, especially with fencing out the wallaby population.
“It got so out of control there was nothing for the cattle to eat.”
Regular pasture rotation has become an important part of managing the property and has “Someone said to me 20 years ago to follow what you like, and there’s no doubt that I like the Hereford cattle.”
Initially, Craig grew his stud through the purchase of heifers, and then using the bull of Ben Olbrich of Mont-Bello Stud Farm, in Cygnet.
Today, Southorpe incorporates around 25 head of breeding cattle and with a bull purchased from the Guildford Poll Stud in Ouse, selling off their calves in the spring at around 10 months of age, as well as extending their property to a further 25ha leased up the road.
“We’re trying to breed the calves with plenty of milk, we have a lot of grass growing in this region, we may as well put a lot in to the calves.
“We run them through the winter. Once the grass market hits, we have these big, sappy calves for sale.”
The family has a second stream of cattle income too, with Sallie taking charge of their 14 bucket-bred Hereford-Fresian calves.
“We like to raise the calves by hand, because with the mix of cattle that they are, it takes a from a cow to feed them off the grass,” Sallie said.
“And because they’re enormous cows and calves, it’s harder on the ground and it’s a bit harder to maintain the rotation.
“With the prices of calves at the moment, we’re selling them off, rather than adding to the mob.”
“We were part of the Huon Beef Group, which ran a steer and pasture trial, not long after we brought the property,” Craig said.
“When we started, we were keen to run the property as professionally as possible. We set the farm up on controlled grazing, letting the grass grow up, then eating it out, and we’re still running on those principles now, with central water troughs and rotating paddocks around a central lane.”
“That management is important to us. We want to keep the grass lush, we fertilise it yearly, and on top of what’s eaten, we pull about 300 bales of silage from it each year.”
Outside the farm, Craig works as a forester for Sustainable Timbers Tasmania, where he’s been for three decades, and he’s grateful his job has allowed him to stick to what he knows.
“I’m pretty lucky, with what we have, and what I do as a full-time job, it’s not too dissimilar to what I have at home, being a forester is like being a farmer of trees.” “Being back in this region is great too, we’re pretty lucky, it’s a great spot to live, and great for a family, farming in this area is in the blood.”