Farming for generations to come at Boonaroo
On a unique piece of Australian farmland in the south west corner of Victoria, Shane and Jodie Foster are a shining example of some of agriculture’s finest producers.
A strong connection to community, a commitment to excellence in their business, and a keen eye on conserving the land they work on for decades to come make them an inspiring illustration of farming’s best.
The Fosters own and manage ‘Boonaroo’, an Angus stud and prime lamb operation on 1,600 hectares at Corndale west of Casterton. The country is ideal for grazing, with reliable 600mm annual average rainfall and some underground water reserves for getting stock through drought.
“It’s beautiful red gum grazing country,” said Jodie. “We have lots of great big old trees dotted through the paddocks.”
Breeding focused on local needs
The Boonaroo Angus stud comprises 450 stud cows, which produce up to 150 Angus bulls for sale each year. They hold an on-farm auction in February, attracting buyers from across the southern grazing regions of South Australia and western Victoria.
Their breeding focus has been centred on producing Angus lines that will thrive in the local region, in grass fed systems and on sandy soils.
Grass finishing suits the area and Jodie believes grass fed beef will be increasingly sought-after by consumers.
“The swing in the industry to grass finishing has guided our breeding program for many years,”
“A lot of our clients are now targeting specific grass-fed beef markets so we’re breeding bulls that will produce females that are fertile in any grass-fed system and self-replace well in that environment, calving easily and producing calves with high growth rates and carcase traits to suit today’s meat industry requirements.”
After the main sale, the Fosters like to personally deliver their bulls to make sure each one arrives fit and healthy. It also gives them a chance to catch up with their clients to learn more about their livestock operations, which vary considerably from Horsham in the north to Portland in the south.
They complement their Angus stud with 3,000 composite ewes producing prime lambs.
Shane said they shifted from a straight Corriedale flock more than a decade ago and now have a flock which is a composite of set percentage Corriedale, East Friesian, Border Leicester and White Suffolk.
“We changed to improve our milk, growth rates, fertility as ewe lambs and carcase quality, with the composites proving to be a lot more profitable in these areas,” he said.
“We’re still maintaining a reasonable quality wool clip of around 29 to 30 micron and 4.5 to 5 kilograms of wool as well,” he said.
Shearing is in early autumn with wool sold locally through Elders.
“Elders has been part of our business for generations, and they still support us with our merchandise needs on the farm,” said Shane.
“Elders also co-conduct our annual bull sale with Ross Milne as auctioneer. Ross has been really helpful to us on our journey with the Angus stud.”
Supporting local communities
Both Shane and Jodie love the area and have strong connections with the local community.
Shane’s grandparents started dairying at Nangeela and his parents bought the original 120 hectares of ‘Boonaroo’ in 1967. Jodie grew up 40 kilometres down the road at Lindsay on a Murray Grey stud and fondly remembers working for Elders in her early 20s at the Mount Gambier saleyards.
Along with being well known in the farming community, the Fosters are an integral part of the Casterton Cats football and netball clubs, support the Kelpie festival and host the off-road motorbike championships among other commitments.
Caring for the land
Shane and Jodie’s children are growing up, with Tom (20) working in Mount Gambier as an apprentice diesel mechanic and Claire (18) living and working on the farm while she studies for a Certificate IV in Agriculture at RIST in Hamilton. Their transition to adulthood has made the family keenly aware of their role in protecting the environment for future generations.
In practice, this means fencing off creeks and planting thousands of natives in those areas, adding a few red gums each year to maintain the natural ecosystem, keeping up the liming program to protect their soil health, and establishing and maintaining deep rooted perennial pastures.
“We want to give generations to come the opportunity we’ve had to enjoy agriculture and live on the land,”
As a grass-fed business, they believe there is a lot to be said for the environmental benefits of grazing systems.
“We’re managing the grasslands and not just for our stock, but to provide a habitat for other wildlife on the farm from red-tailed black cockatoos to brolgas and kangaroos and emus,” he said.
“We’re farming for generations to come. The land is our biggest asset, it’s important we look after it.”
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