Hard work and knowledge builds beef business

Hard work and knowledge builds beef business

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Owen McLarty with partner Michelle and children Jordan, 11, Chace, 9, and Eden, 9 months, at their Pinjarra property.

Owen McLarty with partner Michelle and children Jordan, 11, Chace, 9, and Eden, 9 months, at their Pinjarra property.

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Pinjarra producer Owen McLarty discusses his family's association with EG Green & Sons, now Harvey Beef.

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WHEN Pinjarra producer Owen McLarty discusses his family's association with EG Green & Sons, now Harvey Beef, and the WA beef industry in general, he is quick to point out it should be his father Dugald doing the talking.

He will tell you, it was largely his dad's raw hard work and intuitive cattle knowledge, supported by his wife Virginia and their children Jocelyn, Owen and Meredith, which has made their Caris Park Grazing the productive enterprise and showcase property it is today.

Still reeling from his dad's sudden death from a heart attack at age 63 in March, the seventh generation McLarty has subsequently taken full control of the family farm, earlier than planned but proud to be continuing Dugald's and the McLarty family's legacy.

Consequently he has transitioned from working full time as an electrician and running cattle with his dad to loving being a full-time farmer with barely time to change a light bulb.

Dugald was the one who encouraged Owen to go off and get a trade first, which also allowed him to pursue his football interests playing for Peel Thunder and later Pinjarra Tigers.

Now with his partner Michelle and children Jordan, Chace and Eden their working world covers 810 hectares at Pinjarra and 325ha at Boyup Brook, the latter part of his long-term vision for Caris Park, supported by his dad and settled in April.

Theirs is strictly a buy-in and finishing enterprise and this year they have sourced 824 steer weaners from sales at Mt Barker, Boyanup and Muchea.

Owen does much of his own buying through a contract buyer but also works in conjunction with Harvey Beef's Campbell Nettleton.

They are predominantly targeting Angus and Murray Grey, with some European infusion and Owen says he still has a bit of a soft spot for Simmental-Hereford cross, a legacy to their cow herd days.

Calves are bought in at about 275kg liveweight average and turned off at 500 to 550kg or about 265 to 275kg carcase weight either off grass or in their own feedlot on Milne pellets.

More than 80 per cent of what they produce goes through Harvey Beef, leaving room for a few speculative contracts which has included live export to China.

Dugald was the one who first forged the EG Green & Sons relationship.

That was in 1975 when he returned from up north working on the McLarty family cattle stations, Nerrima, Liveringa, Jubilee and Luluigui (now Myroodah).

His own father had died at age 28 when he was just 18 months old and it was his mother Elizabeth, with help from farm managers, who ran the property including during his time spent working on a property for Walter Browne at Williams before he went north.

Dugald dealt with Colin Green in the days when there were no contracts and a handshake was binding.

He sold steers and cull heifers from the breeding herd and was one of the first to use virginiamycin, a formulated antibiotic which aided in combating acidosis in grainfed animals.

"He started feeding cull heifers straight oats to get some extra weight and finish on them and the virginiamycin was pretty revolutionary at the time," Owen said.

That was the start of their foray into feedlotting and they began buying in grain to do their own mix combining 1650kg barley, 300kg lupins and 50kg virginiamycin in a two tonne mix.

Dugald would later deal with Graeme Green and along with a couple of other Pinjarra locals became a specialist supplier for EG Green & Sons of baby beef bodies destined for the restaurant trade and butcher shops.

"Graeme encouraged dad when to buy and if he ever expressed nervousness about the number or price of the cattle he was committing to, Graeme's response was always don't worry we will look after you at the other end," Owen said.

"When the company went belly up (in 2005) we were owed tens of thousands of dollars but were paid in full with interest."

Nowadays Owen is predominantly dealing with Campbell Nettleton and Jonathon Green and says they have been excellent and particularly supportive following Dugald's passing.

"We have trust in the relationship and there are savings for me in dealing direct," he said.

"We know what they want and they trust us to supply.

"They (Harvey Beef) can pretty much handle anything weight and grid wise so there is flexibility and once we have filled our place up with numbers we talk to Campbell in July.

"Conversation centres around when we will have the first load ready, usually from mid to late October with about 50 head each week thereafter.

"We aim to supply for the supermarket domestic trade which for us is our bread and butter market."

Looking forward, Owen said while there would always be some industry challenges right now was the most positive vibe in the beef industry for a long time.

"It's a good time to have a crack at expanding," he said.

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