How the Brownlie family transformed their grazing business

Andalia Pastoral transforms into thriving grazing business

Beef
Tali and Andrew Brownlie with their four kids Nixon, 12, Maclay, 10, Sierra, 7 and Ella, 13. Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

Tali and Andrew Brownlie with their four kids Nixon, 12, Maclay, 10, Sierra, 7 and Ella, 13. Photo by Fitzroy Basin Association.

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How an open-minded approach transformed Andalia Pastoral into a thriving business.

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Gindie cattle producers Andrew and Tali Brownlie have proven that if you're prepared to 'think outside the square' and open your mind to opportunity, anything is possible.

In a matter of years they traded in their off-farm jobs and transformed a small-scale breeding operation into a fast-growing cattle backgrounding enterprise.

The turning point in their business venture came soon after Tali read an article in the Queensland Country Life newspaper years ago.

At the time, the pair had been balancing off-farm work, with raising four kids, and managing a small cow herd at Lochmead - Tali's 2226 hectare family owned cattle property- south of Emerald

"Andrew was going through a bit of a crisis," she said.

"He was working in the mines, but it went against all his core values, what he wanted out of life and the upbringing he wanted for his children - because it wasn't the upbringing he or I had. He wanted to be on the land.

"So we momentarily moved away and when we came back we realised that we needed to do something different because what we were doing before just didn't seem to be working."

Tali's interest was piqued by a newspaper article advertising a marketing school teaching producers strategies to maximise cash flow and minimise market risk.

"At the course I actually got partnered with Terry McCosker, founder of RCS," she said.

"I didn't know who he was at the time and one morning tea I remember Andrew and I asking him, 'Now that we've done KLR Marketing, where to from here?'- because we both thought it was great and wanted to learn more."

Andrew Brownlie standing by the 'Bovine Buffet.'

Andrew Brownlie standing by the 'Bovine Buffet.'

With Terry's guidance, Andrew and Tali then went on to complete countless other courses in a bid to improve their business.

"Andrew came home from a Grazing For Profit workshop with his mind blown and started wanting to implement changes straight away," she said.

The Brownlies quickly went from 243ha paddock sizes, down to 26-40ha paddocks, and transitioned into a time-controlled grazing system to regenerate their landscape.

"Historically the property was loosely rotationally grazed, but with no real principles or structure behind it, just them in a paddock and eat it down," she said.

"A lot of the the country we managed had been retired cultivation which had been planted out with a mix of pasture and legumes, but it never seemed to grow.

"In a matter of a couple of seasons of us changing our management it had come up everywhere."

Photo by: Fitzroy Basin Association.

Photo by: Fitzroy Basin Association.

Tali said a lot of the property developments had to be done while Andrew was still working full time off-farm, and can still remember late nights fitting trough floats at 10pm.

"When Dad realised that we were going to make a go of it, he started selling down his mob to allow us to build up our own," she said.

"Our property is currently half stocked due to pasture availability, but we now have 226 heifers and own 100 per cent of the mob."

Over the years the Brownlies have incorporated many new tools and strategies into their business which have helped improve their grazing land management and overall animal production.

"We use MaiaGrazing planning and forecasting tools to budget out pasture so that we are keeping our stocking rate matched to our carrying capacity which is hugely important for two reasons; being able to finish our animals; looking after our ground cover," Tali said.

"We can forecast six to 12 months in advance with their forecasting tool ,which removes risk and prepares us better going forward."

They have also transitioned from feeding a standard loose lick to offering a 'bovine buffet' with MDCP, salt, sulphur, diatomaceous earth, copper sulfate, dolomite and humate all in separate buckets, which Tali said has cut costs dramatically.

"Cattle are very intelligent animals and only take what they need when they need it," she said.

"What they consume is generally dependent on soil type. Cattle can be in a red sandy ridge and eating high amounts of phosphorus and salt and then we'll move them into a black soil paddock and they'll immediately stop eating that and start consuming sulfur."

Their passion for producing sustainably grown, chemical free, grass-fed beef led them to begin their own branded beef business - Andalia Pastoral - where they now market meat direct to customers throughout Central Queensland.

"It started with one customer and now we're selling to about 18 to 24 customers a month, with some of those repeat buyers," Tali said.

"Heifers are fattened on farm and then trucked to the Clermont slaughterhouse where they're hung and butchered and packed into 1/8th boxes, before Andrew collects them and delivers them to the customer."

For Andrew and Tali, their business has taken them on quite a journey over the years, and having an open mind was critical for enabling it to grow and develop.

"If you're not looking to change, you're not going to find those opportunities to be able to. We had to try to think outside the square with what we could be doing differently to capitalise on what we had," she said.

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