A SMALL family-run business at Sidmouth is experiencing a resurgence in its ethically grown beef and lamb on the back of the Covid pandemic.
Luke and Emily Bonar run Lazy B, a Galloway and Angus stud with a side of Corriedale sheep and until recently, pigs.
Their meat is slaughtered and butchered in Ringarooma and sold direct to the public, delivered to the door neatly bagged and packed ready to go straight into the freezer if necessary.
Any excess stock goes to Greenhams.
“During the pandemic people must have really thought hard about where their meat comes from, realising that they couldn’t always rely on supermarkets,” Emily said.
“People were buying freezers and stockpiling, and as prices skyrocketed and supply became unreliable, they looked for cheaper and local alternatives and that has not only created a good business for us but led to an education process for the consumer around quality.
“Consumers want to know where their food comes from, that the meat has been produced ethically and that it’s not dyed or preserved or had anything else added.”
Intensively farming on just 26ha and a few extra hectares leased nearby, if they could find more land and run more stock the Bonars would happily expand.
Instead, they make the most of what they’ve got, insisting that every animal counts and their business model is solid. It is this business acumen that resulted in Luke making the tough decision to go out of pigs after more than 10 years of breeding.
“It just wasn’t cost effective with the cost of feed and the amount of time they required – we decided to concentrate on the beef and lamb,” he said.
“We stock pretty heavily and have to be stringent with the fertiliser and pasture rotation to maximise growth in the cattle.”
The Angus were introduced in recent years, mainly because that’s what Emily’s family bred in her home town of Scottsdale at Quarterway Stud, while Luke is all about the Galloways – mainly standards but some are belted.
In winter the Galloways, with their double coat, sit scattered around in the frost with their backs thick with white frost while the Angus huddle up together for warmth.
At the moment calves of various colours are thriving on lush grass and spring sunshine – one by one being named by a myriad of Lazy B Meats Facebook friends with “T” names – like Tuxedo.
The couple met when they were both junior cattle handlers at the Launceston Show and both are involved in the running of the beef cattle section, with Emily also the current vice president of the Launceston Show Committee and Luke is active on the Australian Galloway Association.
In the past Lazy B stock has been shown at Scottsdale, Westbury, Deloraine, Launceston, Stanley and Devonport Shows, accumulating many ribbons and Luke has represented the state on several occasions as a handler.
It’s a brand that has been around for a while, ever since a young, entrepreneurial Luke decided to sell bagged horse manure, chooks and small pine trees from a windbreak as Christmas trees, to raise the money to buy 20 Corriedale breeding ewes in lamb.
He was nine years old at the time and he sold the lambs and more than covered the cost of the ewes.
His parents, who were apple orchardists at Sidmouth, supported him as he built his hobby farm – a passion that has never waned.
About five years ago Luke and Emily bought some land adjoining the orchard land that they had been leasing from his parents and have plans to further grow the business while working their “main jobs” – Luke as a builder and Emily as a teacher’s aide.
“In a perfect world we’d be farming full time,” Luke admitted.
“But it’s not easy being first generation farmers, we rely on our ‘regular’ jobs and while most people are working 9 to 5, we’re also working 5 to 9.
Luke is also in demand as a viticulture consultant and a stockyard builder, but there’s three little girls that have to be given priority by their hard-working parents – Ellie, 8, Lucy, 6, and Grace, 1.
In fact their very existence has a bearing on priorities in the breeding regime. “For us temperament is all-important.
We have to be confident that we won’t have any trouble when the kids are with us in the paddock,” Emily said.
“Anything with a calm temperament goes to the stud paddock and the rest go for meat.
“We are also looking for big frames, growing the cows out to at least 400kg knowing it will dress out at about 50 per cent, and that produces the nice-sized steaks that everyone seems to want.
“Some stock is fattened to around 550kg for Greenhams.”
The farm currently has 40 breeding ewes and a self-replacing herd of 30 cows that are artificially inseminated and then go out with the bull in the quest for high fertility rates.
Future diversification plans include growing blueberries and work is underway to get the soil just right for planting.
“We might not always get the work/life balance right – there was a time when one of my daughters only saw me during the week when she heard the microwave ding as I heated up my dinner late at night,” Luke said.
“She’d get out of bed just to give me a hug and then go back to sleep.
“But a small business is always going to be challenging and if we can make this work then we’ll reap the rewards of doing what we love.
“Even looking at all the challenges I’ll still want to get up and do this all again tomorrow.”