Distance no barrier to innovation at Brigodoon Cattle Company - Elders Rural Services
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Distance no barrier to innovation at Brigodoon Cattle Company

On Australia’s remote outback cattle stations, water is life.

So when Bob and Andrea Speed from Brigodoon Cattle Company found a new way to address the age-old problem of water reliability, they grabbed it with both hands.

Over the past two years, they’ve been upgrading the water bores essential to Brigodoon’s western properties.

These bores support 9,000 Santa Gertrudis breeders and their calves across vast distances on the red dirt and ridges of Tarlton Downs in the Northern Territory and across the border at Linda Downs near Boulia in Queensland.

The breeding enterprise at these two properties feeds into backgrounding operations at Jundah and Yaraka. Ultimately, the cattle are moved east to properties around Taroom to be finished on crops or in Brigodoon’s feedlot.

Aerial-viw-of-the-Brigodoon-feedlot
The Brigodoon’s feedlot is supplied with cattle bred at Tarlton Downs and Linda Downs and backgrounded at Jundah and Yaraka.

Developing a more sustainable and reliable water supply has been one of Bob and Andrea’s major achievements since taking up the role of managing the western properties for the Speed family business full time nearly five years ago.

“We feel incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to manage these properties for the family at our age,” Andrea said.

“We love doing what we do and making the business stronger for the future.”

They started the water upgrade works by switching from diesel powered pumps at their bores to solar pumps, cutting out fuel costs and automating the water flow.

“Instead of having to go out to each pump and start it with diesel a couple of times a week, they just pump when the sun is shining and keep the water levels up,” she explained. “Solar saves us so much time and money – it’s definitely the way to go.”

Next, they began installing Farmbot’s remote water monitoring systems. They now have 60 units installed across six properties.

“These two improvements combined give us a very simple, efficient and safe watering system for our cattle,” Andrea said.

The remote water monitoring system allows them to see their tank levels anywhere, anytime, using a phone or computer.

“The Farmbots are fantastic – they are probably the best thing we’ve done in our business,” she said.

“We still do a routine check to make sure everything is in order and clean the troughs, but instead of going out every week or every second day to start each of the pumps and refill the water points, we just log on and it shows us the tank levels,” she said.

And it’s not just the labour savings. They are also better able to respond quickly when problems occur.

“In the past, we might have done a bore run on Monday, for example, and if something broke as we were driving away, that trough could be dry until next week. Now, the remote monitoring system shows up that problem straightaway, so we can get back there and fix it.”

Andrea said the improvements across their western properties were possible thanks to continuing strong market prices.

“I don’t think any of us expected to see such as strong market for so long,” she said.

“Everything is humming along in our business, so we’re making some good debt repayments and we’re improving some of the facilities and infrastructure across our properties.”

Bob and Andrea live near Jundah, west of Longreach in Queensland. It’s more than 1000 kilometres from there to Tarlton Downs in the Northern Territory.

They generally travel up to their northern stations for the annual muster between May and August, with calving from September onwards.

Andrea said Tarlton Downs is a picturesque and highly productive property.

“It’s tough and resilient and it doesn’t take much rain to kick start the grasses,” she said.

“I love the breeding herd we have there, it’s a very strong Santa Gertrudis herd with a bit of Shorthorn blood and they’re super productive cattle.”

tarlton-downs-santa-gertrudis in-situ
Tarlton Downs is home to a very strong Santa Gertrudis herd with a bit of Shorthorn blood.

The distances involved makes it particularly important to be supported by good farm managers and staff.

“It can be a challenge sometimes to find good people, but we have a great crew and we couldn’t do it without them,” Andrea said.

“Our business also wouldn’t work without other good businesses supporting us. We have very close relationships with Elders at a corporate level and also in our dealings with multiple branches across Queensland and in Alice Springs.”

She said people like Justin Hauff, Rural Products Manager for Elders in Alice Springs, were always ready to cover their business requirements and find any supplies they needed.Justin worked closely with Andrea and Bob as they implemented their water upgrades with Farmbot.

“Life’s busy and water is precious, so these remote water monitoring systems have been a very handy upgrade for their business and I know it will serve them well into the future,” he said.

Talk to your local Elders branch to see how technology can help your business.

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