Bruce and Del Harington-Hawes pride themselves on producing quality beef.
“The trouble is,” Bruce says, “most farmers don't get a reward for it. They farm a premium product but don't get a premium price."
Bruce and his wife, Del, run 100 self-replacing Angus breeding cows on 70 hectares at Nayook, in Gippsland, and on a further 76 hectares of leased country.
When the couple moved to Nayook about a decade ago Bruce says he was determined to farm top-notch cattle.
He lucked in, buying first-grade genetics from Te Mania Angus, renowned for producing sound, quiet, highly fertile cattle, with calving ease, high growth rates and a quality carcase.
After buying 65 breeders, the Harington-Hawes began selling weaner steers at the Pakenham saleyards and direct to feedlots in NSW.
“We were getting reasonable money but we thought they were worth a premium,” recalls Bruce, who has spent a lifetime working in the livestock industry, mainly in Western Australia.
So Bruce began chatting to neighbours and respected farmers and he came across the premium label Gippsland Natural Beef. Bruce was sold on the brand, signing up in 2012.
“These days farmers have to be smarter because it's so competitive and we've become price takers,” he says, adding that their beef has won a bronze medal at the Melbourne Fine Food Awards.
“That's why Gippsland Natural is great. They set a price and we work to that. I like that."
“If you produce good stuff you get paid for it.”
The cattle are joined in early May for autumn calving. Calves are paddock-weaned, rather than yard weaned, putting mothers in neighbouring paddocks to calves, which they find settles the animals.
While the cold winters mean they use supplementary feed for about five months of the year, the farm's average rainfall of 1140mm means they have plenty of spring silage and hay.
In April-May each year and at about 14 -16 months of age, the weaners, both heifers and steers, are sent to Gippsland Natural at 480kg liveweight, which equates to approximately 250kg carcase weight.