Queensland is Will’s paddock

Agistment paves the road to the future


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Feeding out: Some of Will Comiskey's PTIC heifers on agistment at St George that he sold on AuctionsPlus in March. Photo: contributed.

Feeding out: Some of Will Comiskey's PTIC heifers on agistment at St George that he sold on AuctionsPlus in March. Photo: contributed.

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Will Comiskey can boast a fair-sized cattle inventory - some 2500 head - but he doesn't own one hectare of land.

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His paddock is Queensland and his herd is dotted all over it.

Will Comiskey can boast a fair-sized cattle inventory - some 2500 head - but he doesn't own one hectare of land.

Agistment is an age-old way of participating in livestock production that's back in fashion, especially for young people without the finance to own their own country, and according to 28-year-old Will, he has made it work despite drought and competition for grass.

When the decision was made to sell the Comiskey family property, Inga Downs at Middlemount in May 2014, and for Will and his siblings to go their separate ways, drought was in full swing.

“It took me a while to get going,” Will said. “I looked at heaps of stock deals.”

He uses KLR marketing principles to determine which animals are under- or over-priced and its guide as to when the best time to buy and sell is, and said it had given him great surety.

“It gives me a framework to base my decisions on, backed up by figures,” is how he explained it.

Will put mobs at Collinsville, St George and St Lawrence, as well as at Dysart last year, and at Cloncurry this year.

“The biggest battle I had last year was that production was less than expected due to the ongoing drought, but using the KLR Marketing principles I could still sell cattle and repurchase, and leave a bit of fat in in the trade for me.”

Every type of beast has a rate that he can buy and sell it for, relative to the market, and isn’t biased to any breed, although Will said he took things like ticky country into consideration.

“I’ve got everything,” he said. “It means I always have something to buy or sell.”

Far and wide: Some of Will Comiskey's bought cattle feeding out at Cloncurry in March this year. Photo: contributed.

Far and wide: Some of Will Comiskey's bought cattle feeding out at Cloncurry in March this year. Photo: contributed.

The size of Will’s herd gives his enterprise scale, but there are still overheads to pay, which work out at 64 cents a head per week.

“Estimating what my production will be at each place is critical to getting the most accurate trades and I have to be very strict on inputs.

“It’s easy, with rising cattle prices, to feel that it’s OK to spend more on direct costs.”

It’s a nomadic lifestyle - Will admits he hasn’t lived anywhere properly since leaving Longreach in October last year - but he’s getting pretty good at it, packing his trayback with a couple of motorbikes and dogs, and spending a lot of nights in a swag.

“Having no base and always travelling does make the logistics harder,” he said. “And it’s been bloody hard to find agistment at times, so it’s not without its challenges.”

Agistment contracts are usually for 12 months, which Will says gives both parties certainty and clarity for who is responsible for what activities.

The constant travel has given him the opportunity to experience lots of different country types and to assess  the pros and cons of each one.

Little ringers: Two of the Macarthur children giving Will a hand to muster his cattle at Mystery Park, St Lawrence. Photo: contributed.

Little ringers: Two of the Macarthur children giving Will a hand to muster his cattle at Mystery Park, St Lawrence. Photo: contributed.

“I’d love to see it rain well in the west, so I can put more cattle out there - that’s a good place,” he said.

This year he’s joined a lot of breeders and has grouped his mobs up a bit better management-wise.

Will uses a couple of stock agents who keep him well-informed, and he watches markets closely.

It’s normally the people that buy his cattle for him that he uses to sell back through, and sale outlets include AuctionsPlus and direct to feedlots

“I’m very fortunate that everyone I’ve dealt with have been very good people,” he said.

Will says he could have gone into a place of his own in 2014 but he felt the agistment model and trading cattle was the best for him at the time.

“I spend a lot of time thinking about my end focus - my own place - and this is working towards getting me there.”

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