Cattle farmer keeps his passion alive

By Jessica Whyte
January 18 2022 - 6:00am
Lui Tuia has been in Donnybrook all his life and continues to enjoy farming.

DONNYBROOK cattle farmer Lui Tuia has been farming all his life and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Luigi Angelo Tuia, known as Lui Tuia, has lived and farmed in Donnybrook all of his life.

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Mr Tuia's parents Luigi and Aurelia met in Collie after immigrating from Italy in the 1920s.

After a short time of farming with his brother Enrico at Balingup, Luigi Senior bought a property at Thomson Brook, 16 kilometres from Donnybrook.

Mr Tuia was only six weeks old when the family settled on Melrose Farm.

The local convent school saw Mr Tuia through his primary education before he spent a year at New Norcia.

At the end of his schooling his father was keen to expand the farm and offered him a partnership in the farm along with his brother Nino.

The three of them worked together for a period of five years, running a dairy herd.

In addition to the livestock they also produced potatoes and apples.

Not long after Nino married, he moved to another farm in Thomson Brook and Mr Tuia and his father remained on Melrose.

They continued to run dairy cows and planted an apple orchard.

At this time the potato enterprise proved to be very profitable and Mr Tuia combined his farm work with a keen interest in many sports, riding his push bike 16 kilometres on a gravel road to town to play football.

When Mr Tuia married Helen Graham, a local teacher, in 1961 he and his father decided it was time to give up dairy cattle to concentrate on raising beef cattle.

Mr Tuia and Helen raised their family of four, Margo, Joanne, Nigel and Lyndal on the farm.

Holiday jobs included picking up potatoes and shed handing for the shearing team.

In the 1990s, when the wool market collapsed, Mr Tuia made the decision to retain his wool storing 300 bales.

After three years he was able to sell the wool and it proved to be a good move.

Always eager to expand, Mr Tuia added some adjoining properties to the original land over the years until he was finally farming 648 hectares.

Potatoes were grown on the farm until 1980 and the farm supported 300 cattle breeders and 3000 ewes at its peak.

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As well as farming, Mr Tuia took a great interest in local affairs spending 14 years on the Donnybrook/Balingup Shire Council, six of them as president.

He also led the move to provide accommodation for elderly residents who wished to remain in the town after their retirement.

Over the 40 years he was involved in aged care, 21 units for independent living were built.

Many frail aged residents have been cared for in Tuia Lodge since it's opening in 1985 and it's been a great asset to the community.

In 1998, Mr Tuia was awarded an OAM for his services to the aged and health.

He was chairman of the building committee which built the combined Bunbury Regional and St John hospital campus which opened in 2001.

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He also served on the Bunbury Port Authority for 25 years.

In December 1975 a fierce fire swept through the area and although the farm sheds and house were saved all the pasture and many fences were destroyed.

Fortunately, after most of the cattle were sold, enough farming friends were able to agist the breeders until the break of the season.

In the late 1990s, Mr Tuia and a friend, John Wringe, purchased 16ha of land on the edge of the Donnybrook town site and created Meldene Estate, where both Mr Tuia and Helen now live.

When Mr Tuia's son Nigel decided to leave the farm and set up his own business, Mr Tuia decided to discontinue breeding cattle to concentrate on buying and selling steers.

He does this through Nutrien Livestock, Waroona agent Richard Pollock.

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About 400 head of cattle per year are grown out on the farm for eight to nine months depending on the cattle type.

Of that 250 are Friesian steers and the remainder are beef cattle generally Charolais or Herefords.

Mr Tuia said that he likes the breeds because they have a very quick growth rate and produce the most beef.

Being just 15km from the farm, he checks in on the cattle everyday.

Mr Tuia has remained active in all aspects of the industry and said he enjoys attending the saleyards including Boyanup as it is a great way to socialise.

Over all of his years of farming, Mr Tuia has kept a record of all his cattle prices and he has never seen the prices as high as they are currently.

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Mr Tuia also keeps detailed rainfall records dating back to 1900.

The area average rainfall is 900 millimetres and last year they have received more than 1000mm to be wetter than the previous year.

The above average rainfall last year has meant all of the dams are full and there is plenty of pasture available.

The pasture varieties are naturally regenerating and include Kikuyu, ryegrass, and wild oats.

Mr Tuia also purchases in hay predominantly sourced from the Wheatlbelt and when needed feeds it to the beef cattle.

Mr Tuia's passion for farming keeps him busy.

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He spends most days at the farm moving cattle, mending fences and hopes to be able to continue for some time yet.

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