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Burenda Angus "Dalby Downs" Queensland Country Life

Updated about 8 years ago
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A SIX-year expansion involving new land acquisitions and extensive property development has allowed the Dalby Downs cattle and farming business north of Dalby to capitalise on the benefits of economies of scale and internal value-adding. Dalby Downs is an 8500 acre aggregation of farming and grazing country stretching from the Bunya Highway near Aronui Feedlot across to the Kaimkillenbun township north east of Dalby. 
The operation has been carefully expanded over the past six years under the guidance of manager Jonathan Schmidt and owners Alec and Mary Peden and Bert and Vera Thiess. 
Mr Schmidt worked for the Peart family in the Arcadia Valley prior to taking over the management of the Peden and Thiess partnership's previous major rural holding, Burenda Station at Augathella, 12 years ago. 
When the partnership consolidated by selling Burenda six years ago and buying the 1000 acre Dalby Downs at Dalby, Mr Schmidt was given the task of managing the new operation. 
While the owners' initial intention had been to run a small herd of 100 Angus breeders on the 1000ac holding, the operation soon grew as neighbouring blocks of land became available and with them came the opportunity to develop a significant cattle breeding program.
Six years on, the multi-faceted expansion has included:

  • The establishment of a large Angus and Brangus stud (to satisfy both the Peden's passion for Angus cattle and the desire to achieve a better return on investment on the high value Dalby country than otherwise likely with a commercial herd);
  • A major redevelopment of the property's cattle yards, based on the design strategies of US cattle handling expert Temple Grandin;
  • The acquisition of sufficient broadacre farming country to make the operation self-sufficient in terms of supplying all internal grain and hay requirements, in addition to generating grain and hay sales revenue for the operation; and * A large leucaena and improved pasture development that has effectively doubled the operation's cattle carrying capacity.
The 8500ac holding today comprises 4000ac of zero-till farming country geared to producing sorghum, chickpeas, mungbeans, wheat and barley; 1500ac of established leucaena interspersed with improved pastures such as Katambora Rhodes, Purple Pigeon, Buffel, Bambatsi, Green Panic and Gatton Panic; and 3000ac of largely unimproved grazing country some of which is earmarked for future development. The centrepiece of the operation is a 500 head breeding herd, comprising 300 registered Angus females, 140 Brangus females and 60 registered Grey Brahman females (which are joined to Angus bulls to produce first cross Brangus progeny). Co-owner Alec Peden is a former president and secretary of the Queensland Angus Society and a passionate advocate of Angus cattle.
Mr Schmidt concedes he took some convincing when Mr Peden introduced Angus cattle to the commercial herd at Burenda, but his doubts were quickly dispelled. "I was a true blue composite person at the time, but (after Angus was introduced) I began to see the calves and what was coming through and I obviously changed my attitude," he said.
While it was commercial, the Burenda herd was developed using registered Angus females and sires, which laid the genetic platform for the owners to upgrade to a full stud program soon after relocating to Dalby. 
AI and embryo transfer work has since been used to accelerate the genetic advancement of the herd, with eggs from the top females used in recipient cows to ensure all females produce top-end progeny.
Mr Schmidt said the decision to move to a stud program satisfied both a personal desire from himself and the owners to breed top animals, and also because it created the potential to earn a higher return on investment than a commercial herd was likely to on their high value Dalby country. 
"If we spend say one million dollars on a property, we know that if we were to put that one million dollars in the bank, we would get a return of 5pc. "I guess it boils down to the fact that we think we can make 5pc out of the land with a stud operation, whereas we know that if we run commercial cattle are, we are less likely to get a 5pc return."