Young farmers leave beef industry

21 May, 2008 02:18 PM
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Brothers Don, 27, and Andrew McNab, 25
Brothers Don, 27, and Andrew McNab, 25

THEY are young and have a passion for farming, but two Scott River beef men are being forced out of the industry they love because of rising input costs and diminishing returns.

Brothers Don, 27, and Andrew McNab, 25, farm beef cattle on 1100ha and both say they do not want to leave their property but the returns being offered to lease their land to a tree company far outweighs what their 650-head herd is providing.

The McNab family has been farming at Donnybrook for 110 years and their Scott River property was purchased to provide Don and Andrew with a future in farming.

Their father runs the Donnybrook property and, ironically, the move to buy the Scott River block was taken because both brothers wanted to go farming but more land was required to support them.

"The last two years have been tough in terms of beef prices," Don said.

"It is not just the fact that prices have dropped, but the huge increase in input costs has really hurt us.

"I have recently been looking over some of our old kill sheets and in 2005 we were being paid reasonably well for grass-fed cattle and received $3.80/kg dressed weight for heifers sold on farm.

"This year that price will probably be closer to $3/kg.

"In the meantime our input costs have soared.

"In 2006-07 our fertiliser bill was $170,000. This year it was $340,000.

"That is just one input that we use but that increase has pretty well eaten up any profit we would make.

"We cannot afford to skimp on fertiliser because if you don’t use phosphorous on this country it is difficult to grow quality pasture.

"Cutting back on phosphorous would mean it takes

longer to get weight into the cattle and longer to turn them off. Lighter weights mean a lower return."

Crunch time came when both brothers wanted to build a house each on the property but realised they just weren’t making enough from the property to afford it.

"We do not ask for much, we just want to be able to live comfortably and take a small wage from the farm," Don said.

"You come to the point where you get sick of working seven days a week for no return.

"When the option came up to lease the farm it appealed to us because we are still getting a return from the land, whilst retaining ownership of it."

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READER COMMENTS

ybul
22/05/2008 4:01:52 AM

Don't cattle naturally fertilize the fields? We have seen prices stagnate, making us think about wheat a little. Seems to me, that one should re-examine what they are doing these days, and maybe there is a better way. For them it appears trees. For me it was to eliminate almost all external inputs.

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