Beef backgrounding with the Barron’s

Host: DAFWA Aboriginal Business Development Project
Written by Lexine Mourambine – Future Manager, Yallalie Farm.

This blog was written by Lexine Mourambine. Lexine is the future manager of one of the properties the ABD project works with “Yallalie Farm”.

My Grandfather, Kevin Barron, was the driving force behind acquiring our family a 1200Ha farm in Dandaragan, 263km north of Perth in an area regarded by some of the locals as ‘little Pilbara’ because of the many pastoralists who have purchased farms in the area to move their cattle down onto.

He was born and raised on the Moore River Native Settlement otherwise known as ‘Mogumber Mission’ where the movie ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ was based and grew up looking after mission owned cattle.

Kevin’s schooling consisted of attending Moora Primary School and New Norcia. The Monks at New Norcia explained to Kevin his academic skills were limited and he should focus on being a labourer as a career.  This may have been a poor assessment of Kevin’s academic ability, he has always worked hard and at many jobs, including builder’s labourer, construction of concrete tanks, mine pegging, mustering sheep and cattle, farm hand on properties around Mingenew, Shire worker, security airport, and FIFO plant operator. He has also subleased a pastoral property in the Gascoyne for a short time.

During his early years he worked on many stations including as a station hand mustering and handling cattle and developed a passion for the pastoral industry.

Pop checking out some yards.

I wasn’t raised on a farm and grew up in in Murchison Settlement, where I completed my schooling through school of the air before attending high school in Geraldton. After school I took jobs in the city working for the Government and Private Sector construction companies but decided it wasn’t for me. While I was in Perth I met up with family members who suggested I come with them to visit their farm (Yallalie) for the weekend. I stayed on for a while and although I tried other jobs like working in health care, I have decided farming life is for me and am looking forward to completing more studies in agriculture, starting with a Cert IV from TAFE.

I made the tough decision to leave my job behind in 2015 (yes, including a comfortable salary!) and go and help Pop on the farm. Working for love more than money at the moment but I’m loving every minute of it.

Me admiring another producers holding yards! Look at all that shade!

When Pop first took on Yallalie Downs, the fencing was in a poor state and he has worked hard to pull out old fences and maintain any that were serviceable and realign some. This has helped with the development of the property as some of the fences were able to be utilised with a laneway through the middle to provide access to the cattle yards.

Over the years, before my time on the farm, we tried a few different things like managing a small sheep flock and trying our hand at horticulture in an effort to earn an income. It was all trial and error and tough work. However Pop’s love for the pastoral industry won out and we decided we would set our focus on becoming cattle farmers.

Our farm was not set up to run cattle. We’ve spent the last two years putting up new fences, repairing old ones, developing our paddocks, improving our pastures, establishing new water points, installing new solar water pumps, new water tanks, troughs, running poly across the property and training ourselves up on Phoenix, cattlemen’s workshops, low stress stock handling, and a whole range of other things.

Despite being a lot of hard work involved in improving the facilities on Yallalie, I have enjoyed the work and learning new skills. I can now run out wire (plain and barb) straining and tying off on my own. The biggest task has been putting up our brand new cattle yards complete with cattle weighing systems to record weights.

After all the cuts, bruises, blood, sweat, tears, and bloody hydraulic tractor hoses we’re mostly done and proud of the transformation of our farm.

When we decided to be cattle farmers, we thought about having cows and calves, however after a few field trips and talking with one of Pop’s old footy mates, we decided to set up our business of backgrounding pastoral cattle. In our business, pastoralists send cattle down to us to prepare them for market. In most cases this requires their cattle to graze our pastures so they gain weight, so they can reach a required weight and condition the purchaser requires.

We do not own the cattle, we manage them on behalf of the owner to enable them to reach the required weight by the Yallalie pastures. In our business, we are paid by the owners for this service and in most cases, this is based on the weight gained by each animal.

It sounds simple enough but there is lots to consider like timing the arrival of cattle on the property from different clients, rotations, and ensuring the paddocks are getting suitable rest periods in between grazing, inspecting cattle for lost tags, horn length, injuries, sickness, pregnancy, knowing the market specifications required for each client and most importantly of all communication with the pastoralists. Making sure everybody is on the same page and expectations.

As backgrounders we take on other people’s cattle and do our best to get them relaxed and acclimatised as soon as possible when they arrive on the property. Happy and relaxed cattle fatten quicker than stressed ones do. Most cattle are easy to quieten down but some are just plain and simple difficult to manage. Kind of like a kindergarten where parents have different rules and ways to manage their kids, we take cattle that have all been managed different ways. And all have different habits.

We’ve had our fair share of being run up the fences, split jeans, and standing face to face with a big bull that just does not want to go through the race but thanks to all the low stress stock handling skills we’ve learnt we’ve managed pretty well.

Pop on a visit the ABD project organised to go see another backgrounder.

I’m passionate about my new life backgrounding beef. I’m taking over managing the farm from Pop soon and I’m loving the way our business is growing. The future holds exciting things for us!