The view from my verandah - Ross and Natalie Olive

16 October 2015

Ross and Natalie Olive operate a commercial and stud Brahman enterprise, Olive Brahmans, in central Queensland. They run 2,600 Brahman breeders on the 20,234 ha Clifton Station near Marlborough, and finish yearling heifers and steers on 1,011 ha at Gogango, west of Rockhampton, which is also home to their sale bulls and stud breeding program. Ross and Natalie recently joined four other beef producers on an MLA-LiveCorp funded tour to Indonesia.

Here, they share what’s happening on their property at the moment, the goals and challenges of their business and some of the big learnings from their trip to Indonesia.

What are your production goals? Our commercial emphasis is fertility and temperament. We have three main target markets – yearling feeder steers and heifers early in the calendar year; pure Brahman bulls bred specifically for northern pastoralists which are sold across the year and at the Katherine sale in May; and exporting breeding stock. Our stud operation is closely linked to the commercial business as it supplies most of the bulls we join to commercial heifers.RossNatOlive-450x299-Article.jpg

What is happening on-property this month? The main focus on both properties from now until Christmas is nutrition, as supplementary feeding is required in response to very dry seasonal conditions. We are currently trialling a new supplement made by Wilar Agservices which is a liquid supplement Suplaflo®. As we run a seasonal breeding program, calving is the other main focus from now until Christmas.

What challenges are you dealing with currently? In response to seasonal and economic indicators, we have refocused our business to produce younger cattle that suit a range of markets.

What strategies are you putting in place to deal with these and how do they fit with your broader business goals? Historically, we wean calves in May/June, but we have brought this forward to March/April to maintain cow body condition, and as a result increased pregnancy and weaning rates. In the past nine years we have been drought-declared twice, and then suddenly in flood – three times. By turning cattle off earlier we can better manage the costs that are associated with these environmental factors, such as lick and supplements.

What is your business approach to tackling these short and long term challenges? We always keep an open mind, ask plenty of questions, and incorporate advice from nutritional and health consultants to maximise productivity gains.

How important is the Asian export market to your business? We sell three-quarters of our sale bulls to the Northern Territory. Most of our NT clients are very dependent on the live export market, so we are impacted by their economic and environmental state. The oversupply of cattle into Queensland abattoirs and the subsequent price falls also demonstrated the importance of the export market to all cattle producers and their suppliers downstream, as well as emphasising the need for all cattle industry groups to work together. 

Were there any surprises for you from the Indonesian tour? Indonesian feedlots are efficient, animal welfare is high and working conditions for their staff and animals would make many Australian equivalents envious, particularly in the amount of shade and floor coverings provided for them. We were surprised with the level of vertical integration and use of by-products.

What were some of your biggest learnings from the Indonesian tour?  The biggest learning for us was realising the dependence Australia and Indonesia have on each other in relation to the export trade and pricing in the Indonesian wet markets. During the time we visited, the Indonesian government had temporarily set a cap on the price for which Indonesian lotfeeders could sell their finished live animals. This temporary measure was put in place as the wet market price for beef became unaffordable for many people. The temporary measure and subsequent price cap would be unsustainable for lotfeeders to continue long term.

More information: Ross and Natalie Olive E: olivebrahmans@bigpond.com

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