What to Do?

7 posts

Member for

7 years 9 months
Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 10/25/2011 - 21:35

What to Do?

Hi all, Just found this forum and thought it might be a ood resource - especially when it has a few more members...! ;-) My wife and I own 160 acres at Rosevale, Qld and currently running Santa X & Droughtmaster cattle (carrying capacity is 40 head in a good season, we're told). Mostly cracking black soil flats with deco ridges. A mixture of wooded hils and open gully/flats with high ridge line at back of property giving some good run-off during rains! Median rainfall (from BOM) is approx. 927.5mm per year. It used to be a dairy farm but any other previous history of property is unknown. We have a number of un-equiped bores but flow isn't suitable for irrigation. We do have a couple of dams which may be useful for supplementary watering. Not sure of soil pH. I'm interested in trying to earn a bit of money from the property but am unsure what we can grow or run suitably. Cattle are good for a "reasonably" hands-off approach but sales turnover isn't that good - we don't have the volumes to make it work well. Anyone have any ideas on what we can consider at or who we can ask? Many thanks, Stuart
Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 10/01/2011 - 10:46

Have you thought about growing Bamboo? Some time ago I did some research into growing Bamboo on my small farm and found that it is, self regenerating (can be harvested and then grows back) and is ready to harvest in around 3-5 years depending on its growth rate. It grows almost anywhere and is most productive in warm, wet environments. I know some people don't like Bamboo and that it grows like a weed (in some areas not managed it may). Just an idea that may be worth looking into.

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 09/23/2011 - 16:27

If you have fertile black soil then planting a crop of some sort seems the answer. Try planting an acre of garlic or heirloom carrots etc. and sell the produce at the local farmers market.

Alternately there is a big market for Australian cut flowers in Japan.

If the land is ex dairy then the ph is probably slightly acid, do you have clover growing?

Last seen: 12/26/2018 - 09:21
Joined: 05/31/2011 - 09:44

If you wish to make a living from a small area you are going to need something that is high value and therefore labour intensive. You will need to commit to the business full time as there is no farming eneterprise that I know of that you can run part time and still make and acceptable living from.

Most intensive enterprises (fruit, flowers, herbs, aquaculture) will require a reasonable amount of upfront capital (money). Consider how long it will take to start and generate a return on the money you have invested. As an example, olives do not start to produce fruit for 5-7 years with yields dependent on management and the environment. So, from the time you invest your money you will have to wait at least 5 years before you start and get any income (that's before you make a profit). Discuss with your accountant if you would be eligible to depreciate your investment or offset losses against other income. In general you need to be able to show that you have the intention and ability to make a profit from the business otherwise you will not be able to claim anything as it is being run as a hobby.

I hope this provides some food for thought.   

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 10/20/2011 - 16:16

Charlie’s comments are right on the button. There’s no (legal) agricultural / horticultural enterprise that I know of that will deliver guaranteed quick profits that do not require a lot of labour input and usually considerable capital.

As a general statement, the easier an enterprise is to get into, the more likelihood that it’ll be subject to wild fluctuations in net returns over the years. Take for example the potato industry. With sufficient capital up front, you can conceivably plant a crop and get a monetary return within 12 months. For a start up scenario, the likelihood of this producing a profit is marginal at best. Yet, you may strike it lucky.  If in the year you plant the market supply is down, through either adverse weather effects, or, simply due to a lack of supply as a result of poor profitability in previous years, you may strike it  lucky and enjoy an incredibly profitable year, even if you pay contractors to do everything for you! This has and does happen occasionally, but invariably the return of potato growers planting again the following year soon spoils the fun.  

Professional potato growers hedge their bets by seeking annual contracts with food processors and supermarket chain buyers and crop diversification. Contracts would be hard to obtain, and would be based on performance and reputation over time.  It is worth appreciating that professional potato growers are also likely to be willing to take the good with the bad, and if necessary cut their losses and plough a crop back into the ground in a year of poor return whilst still being prepared to plant again for the next season in the hope of making a profit.

It is fair to say that enterprises that have higher barriers of entry, in terms of substantial capital required to establish an enterprise and cash flow over time, well before production even starts, tend to have less volatile returns over time, with less overall risk. In this current world of globalization however, nothing appears guaranteed. Seemingly limitless cheap money sources coupled with cheap land and labour overseas (look at South America), have turned what looked like seemingly profitable agricultural propositions ultimately unprofitable , once production finally begins several years down the track. Orange juice, apples, kiwifruit, table grapes and wine are examples that spring quickly to mind. As our government continues to engage in new Free Trade Agreements, this situation is only likley to get worse for Australian producers.

There may however still be viable possibilities, especially if you have sufficient capital, and can wait out for a return.

Consider the Tree Crops arena, which includes crops such as macadamia nuts, hazel nuts, chestnuts, pecans, and almonds. While these all have their own individual climatic requirements and restrictions and all will require market outlets come production time, what’s going for them is that in general, their labour input requirement is low, pest and disease control requirements are minimal, most have good keeping qualities without strict harvesting regimes, and all are well known products within the market place. Crop production starts from about year 5 onwards, depending on the crop type.

Another longer term possibility is farm forestry with plantations of high value timber trees. Again, these will be climate and site specific in their requirements, so you’ll need to do your research but in general again labour input requirements are moderate, and contractors can probably be found to do much of the work. While returns are not likely to begin until at least 15 to 20 years after establishment, they can be high, as much as $200,000 to $400,000 or more per hectare in today’s values!  While returns may take a long time, the capital improvement in the land value due to future crop potential and their amenity value will not be insignificant. There may even be carbon sequestration income possibilities down the track!  Possible high value timber tree species include several of Australian eucalypt’s such as the Brown Barrel and Tallowood, the Tasmanian Blackwood Acia and exotics such as Paulownia and Black Walnut.

You will need to research each proposition carefully and be prepared to ferret out those with knowledge in order to assist you. It would be a very costly exercise not to get it right! Be prepared to reward those well who have the knowledge, as is usually very hard won in such specialist crops.

Roger Martyn

Last seen: 03/08/2018 - 21:05
Joined: 09/22/2011 - 21:04

Thanks Roger for the great information. About 15km up the road from where I live in Central New South Wales a farmer with a small farm planted pistachio's in 1979. They had to wait 10-12 years before they started producing a reasonable return, however I believe they are now doing well. In the early stages they had to prune the trees into a even, circular shape to ensure that all of the tree received even sunlight. They sell pistachio nuts, jams and other products on line and at local farmers markets. I am interested in doing some further research as nut farming sounds like a lot less risk than some other crops, just purchased The Nut Growers Guide check it out if you are looking for further information.

Last seen: 07/07/2019 - 08:55
Joined: 11/23/2011 - 09:38

Hi Stuart,

With a rainfall of less than 1000ml per year your country probably isn't breeding country. However, a number of people that I know actually buy in weaner cattle (breed not important) grow them on for 6-12 months and then resell them. The advantage of this is the hard work of castrating, dehorning, branding and tagging has already been done for you.  

Catlle are easier to raise than goats or sheep because they are not so labour intensive and a number of people that I know work either part or full-time in town and come home each evening to feed the  stock and do any small jobs that need doing around the property. A few of them have some of the local blokes come in to help them with branding and castrating and in turn help their mates when they are doing something similar. Just a thought.

Cheers and good luck (I wouldn't swap my lifestyle for all the tea in China),


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