Farming may have been in his blood, but Chris MacQueen thought surfing was more his style.
Luckily he has been able to combine both as a beef farmer at Skyhaven Farm on Flinders Island.
Mr MacQueen shared his story from working with his father on his merino property to running his own 930-hectare beef operation on the central and west coasts of Flinders Island at Red Meat Updates in Launceston.
“I dodged it for a few years and went travelling. When I was 25 I went back to Flinders and took a job on the farm,” Mr MacQueen said.
“I knew I couldn’t handle 9-5 work and couldn’t handle a boss so this was a job where I could be my own boss and choose my own hours. It was the lifestyle,” he told an amused audience.
“I had a bit of a point to prove because I was a bit of a joke but once I got the bug I really wanted to go for it,” he said.
When he first started out Mr MacQueen said he visited many farms and watched what others were doing and what was making money.
Skyhaven Farm usually stocks around 950 cows, but now has 1800 head in four mobs.
“I have mobs of about 250 and continually rotate every second or third day,” Mr MacQueen said.
Session facilitator, Ed Archer from Landfall, asked Mr MacQueen how he dealt with the pressures of high stocking rates, no fodder and not being able to get cattle off Flinders Island.
“I do stress a bit, but I’m always planning ahead and feed budgeting. I’m always monitoring,” Mr MacQueen said.
“I very rarely feed hay and I don’t cut any hay,” he said.
Mr MacQueen identified the need to get bigger and boost productivity at Skyhaven Farm.
“We put ourselves out there to do what we’re doing but I feel really comfortable in the model we’ve got,” Mr MacQueen said.
Despite resisting farming initially, he could not think of any other life for his family.
“On a Friday I’ll grab a beer and one of the kids and go and look at the grass. I couldn’t think of anything else,” he said.
Chris MacQueen’s beef farming tips:
- Use fertiliser
- Make decisions at the right time, like destocking when you have to
- Stop worrying about getting steers to a certain weight
- Rotation grazing allows planning months in advance: “I know exactly what’s going to come on and when it’s going to come on”
- Trade weight: “spring is for getting weight on, autumn is for taking it off and winter is for getting a bit nervous”.