They've become a well known brand in seedstock production but the story to success for Upper Barron's Pearce family of Telpara Hills isn't what you'd expect of most cattle breeders.
Sitting around their kitchen table at their property on the Atherton Tablelands, 1100m above sea level and 150km west of Cairns, the Pearce family reflect on the journey which saw them start with sheep, move to beef then relocate from South Australia to Queensland.
Trevor Pearce, 86, and wife Maureen 78, daughter Fiona, 40, son Stephen, 43, and daughter-in-law Brittany,41, talked over morning tea about the paradigm shift from sheep to cattle.
However, before four-legged stock, Trevor, his brother and dad bred black Australorp chickens, which is where the Telpara name originated.
"The first initial of all our names Trevor, Edwin Lovell (second name) Philip were used and blended into the Para shire where we lived," he said.
"Telpara Australorps won three South Australian Department of Agriculture egg laying competitions consecutively from 1956-58 and I guess this was our first taste of successful stud breeding".
He said creating the award-winning beef seedstock operation began nearly 60 years ago almost 3000 km south west, in the Adelaide Hills, when two former school teachers decided to follow their hearts out of the classroom and on the land.
Trevor described how initially stud prime lamb sire breeds were the Pearce family focus.
"We were successful stud sheep breeders with my brother and father from 1964," Trevor said.
Their efforts culminated one of their Hampshire Down rams being named Champion of Champions under a 17 judge panel scheme in the 1980s.
However, gradually stud Angus cattle became more important on their farm by the 1980s and early 1990s.
"Then we dispersed the stud in 1995 and came to the Tablelands, because one son worked nearby and my brother in Townsville said it was 'amazing country' and we were sick of low rainfall and droughts in South Australia."
Now after nearly two decades, Telpara Hills comprises 1550 head of cattle, of Brangus and Ultra black Angus across nine properties with a total holding of slightly over 1214 Ha (3000 acres).
As she handed around the scones, Maureen said they leased approximately half the land in use.
"We are gradually moving from leasing to owning," she said.
"We work to provide the best possible beef genetics to both seedstock and commercial buyers."
The kitchen walls feature photographs of prize-winning bulls and heifers, and from the windows, cattle can be seen across the paddocks in which a creek trickles to become the Barron River which flows down to Cairns and into the Coral Sea.
"We sell around 220 bulls a year," Stephen said.
"And we have a big commercial herd, 400 of them are recipients and the rest are made up of 350 cows and and calves."
Maureen said the pair also spent five years running dairy cattle, which was a real eye-opener.
"It really makes you appreciate milk," she said.
Trevor added they learned a great deal as the subject of pasture is never far from a dairy farmers' thoughts.
The acknowledged matriarch and patriarch remain a key part of the management team, with son Stephen the general manager who oversees genetics and sales, Fiona runs the business accounts, IVF and AI data and back-office operations, and Brittany who manages the marketing operations.
Trevor said although his sons Greg and Anthony had their main agricultural careers outside Telpara Hills, they were still very much a part of the crew.
"Greg is the general manager at Quality Livestock and Anthony is a managing partner at Hills Farm Supplies," he said.
"Anthony is also a feed nutritionist and we consult with him on nutrition and pastures and he flies up every two months," Fiona said.
"They visit regularly and give us great advice."
"We all bring different skills to the table," Stephen said.
"What sets us apart is how we all work together.
"People seem to like dealing with us because while we are very much a business, we are a family operation with a personal touch and they trust us."
Trevor said their intense interest in Brangus occurred nearly 20 years ago after Stephen won a scholarship to Texas A&M University, where he met his future wife Brittany.
Last year Telpara Hills Mach Five 920R4 sold for $150,000, beating last year's sale top of $50,000.
Meanwhile, the family business is backed up with the assistance of four staff, Stephen said.
"They look after the cattle, do property development including fencing, water and yard infrastructure," he said.
"Good quality, consistent workers are important and we are very lucky," Brittany said.
"They also maintain the crops which include winter forages and multispecies which are sustainable."
Trevor said the business had moved on from "a ryegrass and oats monoculture to multi-species such as brassicas, chicory, clovers and grasses as they mature at different rates".
Now the family said they are looking towards a successful 2024.
"Fiona and I are the only brother-sister team in this business I know of," Stephen said.
"But we all work together to ensure Telpara Hills, our partners and customers succeed and reach their goals."
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