View from my verandah: Doug and Barbara Tozer

07 May 2016

Doug and Barbara Tozer, together with their son David and his wife Ann, run an Angus and prime lamb enterprise across two properties totalling 1,260 ha at Wallendbeen in southern NSW. Instead of chasing the latest trends, the Tozers focus on flexibility and gradual and measured change in the face of seasonal challenges and market demands. They recently opened their gate to an MLA delegation of chefs, food writers and restauranteurs from the US to show how red meat is produced.

Why do you think it was important to host the US visitors? The MLA tour included heads of big restaurant chains and small family restaurants, a chef from Harvard University and celebrity chefs so it was a way to show these people how pasture fed beef is produced in Australia.

What were the US visitors interested in? They were particularly interested in how we use the National Livestock Identification System for full traceability. It was a completely new concept to them, and was the centre for conversation throughout the on-farm tour and into the evening. We showed them how we scan tags, how the vendor declaration forms works, and how the supply chain from producer to processor is involved in livestock traceability.

Take us through your business: The Angus herd is our main focus. We run 700 Angus breeders and aim to sell 120 bulls a year privately and through an on-farm sale. We also export stud and commercial heifers to Russia, Kazakhstan and China. We send commercial progeny direct to Montrose feedlot in northern NSW for domestic and export markets. We have diversified our cattle enterprise with 1,000 cross-bred ewes and silage and hay production.

Why is this feedlot market important to your business? This relationship gives us an avenue to sell cattle up to 600kg which allows flexibility and year-round turn-off.

What information do you use to achieve market compliance? Fertility and performance on-farm are our main criteria, supported by feedback from the feedlot and processors, and technical data from the industry.

What is happening on-property this time of year? Last year we made 700 bales of silage into continuous plastic silage (sausage).  This has nearly all gone but has been of the highest quality and convenient to feed out. We have just opened up a silage pit of rye grass silage to feed to autumn calving cows. Dry autumns are a challenge of livestock production, so our silage and hay production is critical to maintain growth through this feed gap. Our pastures perform with winter rain and we have a big spring production which we can’t graze so we harvest clover lucerne pastures for quality silage and rye grass and oats for hay. We store 1,200 tonnes of silage in pits and underground, plus a couple hundred tonne of hay, to feed stock through to the break.

What’s on the horizon for your business? If we are to survive in the cattle game, we have to stay flexible and look outside the box – that’s been my approach for the past 50 years. We have to be aware of what the industry wants and talk to processors, agents, retailers and other producers. For example, we see a future opportunity to market grassfed beef through the Manildra Meat Company, a processor at Cootamundra. However, I believe change should be gradual and measured, not on a whim. We don’t introduce new genetics just for the sake of it and we stick with what works for us: focusing on the end goal and getting the basics right first.

And in your business, what are the ‘basics’? Producing the right animal for our environment. We operate in an area which allows us to breed bigger cattle – we have good rainfall, pastures and minerals. However, while our environment supports bigger genetics these cattle are not applicable to everyone so we have to market a diverse product, particularly for our bull clients in other areas.

Contact: Doug and Barbara Tozer E: onslow1@bigpond.com

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