Marketing options pay off for Bettinis

Marketing options pay off for Bettinis

Cattle
Bettini Beef co-principal Mark Bettini with one of his horses at De Grey station, Port Hedland.

Bettini Beef co-principal Mark Bettini with one of his horses at De Grey station, Port Hedland.

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With a land holding of more than one million hectares and a breeding herd of 16,000 head, WA pastoralists John and his son Mark Bettini require a range of marketing options for the cattle they produce.

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With a land holding of more than one million hectares and a breeding herd of 16,000 head, WA pastoralists John and his son Mark Bettini require a range of marketing options for the cattle they produce.

John and his brother Bob, with their respective wives Ethel and Mary, were originally beef, sheep and cropping farmers at Manypeaks and South Stirlings but headed north as Bettini Bros in 1976, under the guise of it being too cold down south but more likely according to Mark for the challenge, a bit of adventure and bigger land holdings.

They started on Boolathana station at Carnarvon and later bought Ashburton Downs and Rocklea stations, Paraburdoo.

When the chance emerged to buy De Grey station, 80 kilometres east of Port Hedland with its enticing De Grey River frontage, it was seen as an opportunity too good to miss.

The other stations were subsequently sold and Bob and Mary recently retired from the business, now re-branded as Bettini Beef.

Last year marked the families' 50th in agriculture and 43rd in the pastoral belt.

Four neighbouring stations Warambie, Mallina, Pyramid and Sherlock, 80km to the east of Port Hedland, were added to the portfolio giving a total land holding of just over one million hectares.

The breeding herd currently stands at 16,000 head, predominantly grey Brahmans.

"You have to have grey cattle with De Grey station don't you," Mark quipped.

Numbers are down a bit, ode to a couple of dry years and more so from the pummelling they received from Cyclone Veronica in March which dumped 575mm rainfall in three days, almost double their average annual which ranges from 290 to 340mm across the five holdings.

"We lost more than 2000 cattle but it has given us some grass on the back of a really dry season last year so it is not all bad," Mark said.

Notably it was a man-made 'disaster', rather than a natural one which intensified the Harvey Beef connection.

"We had been dealing with Greens, selling direct to them or through agents for many years but it really gathered steam when the live trade was shut down in 2011 and we had to find alternative markets for our cattle," Mark said.

"We took a punt on lotfeeding and Kim McDougall (Harvest Road general manager of agriculture and livestock) was instrumental in helping us with that.

"We learnt we could make a dollar from it and that our cattle did perform."

While live export remains the main outlet, accounting for about 6000 head a year shipped out of northern ports, about 2000 young cattle and 3000 cull cows are sold annually to the Harvey Beef processing works.

John Bettini at Warambie station, Port Hedland, with one of Bettini Beefs Brahman sires.

John Bettini at Warambie station, Port Hedland, with one of Bettini Beefs Brahman sires.

"It's a great outlet for our out of spec cattle like those that are too good on the weight gain and get too heavy for the live export market, or aren't suitable for the Indonesian market," Mark said.

"It has been a very important association for us.

"There is peace of mind in knowing we are not totally at the mercy of the market and don't have to quick sell cattle in dry times for instance.

"We can spread our income across the year and budget against the cattle we have going to Harvey Beef.

"At the start of each season we sit down with Kim McDougall and our agent Roger Leeds and discuss how many cattle we have for Harvey Beef and where they will go (post muster between April and October), either to backgrounding properties, feedlots or direct processing," Mark said.

"I think it is great what the company is doing at Koojan which may well suit our plans to consider crossbreeding in the future."

Mark says while they are in a relatively disease and parasite free zone, they do inoculate everything against botulism, for vibriosis in bulls and keeper heifers and pestivirus in heifers.

And they invest annually in low stress stockhandling courses and refreshers for all staff, which Mark says is an important part of their animal welfare policy.

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