FOURTEEN properties, including 5000 sq km of station country and 40,500ha of farming land, make up Princess Royal.
When you drive around the operation based at Burra in South Australia, and Simon Rowe says he has trouble sitting still, it is easy to believe him.
It is a mix of breeding, grazing and cropping, with a feedlot, vineyard and live export holding facility thrown in for good measure.
They also trade a significant number of cattle and prime lambs, transport all their own stock, and run an artificial breeding facility.
Simon said this allowed them to “control their own destiny” every step of the way.
There are 1800 Angus breeding cows on the southern farming lots, plus a large fluctuating herd on the northern station properties, and 22,000 cattle are lot fed annually.
Simon said this means current price trends in the beef market were both positive and negative.
“It is a double-edged sword — one side of me is saying we are paying too much, the other side of me saying it is fantastic to get the price,” he said.
“We are using a lot more money than we ever have, because prices are so high, but providing there is still the demand on the other side you keep doing it.”
THE European Union accredited Angus breeding herds, one at Princess Royal Station, Burra, and one at Wertaloona Station, in the northern Flinders Ranges, were based on the now dispersed Willalooka herd.
Other cattle are also run at Wertaloona.
But it is black faces that line the rails at the feedlot.
“Why Angus? That is quite simple. Because they are easy to sell,” Simon said. “You go to what the market wants.”
Bulls are now sourced from a stud in Victoria. “You have got to put the breeding in to get the breeding out,” he said
“We take the pick out of the heifers we breed and the rest go through the feedlot.
“We grow them out to 420kg before putting them on grain, and then monitor their performance.
“If the culls are doing well you would assume the tops would be doing better.”
The current Princess Royal was born in 2000, from what was T&R Pastoral, but Simon said it wasn’t until 2003 things kicked off in earnest.
Princess Royal now has about 50 employees, including Simon’s son, Jack, a livestock buyer, and daughters Katherine, head of human resources, and Rebecca, who is finishing her university degree and joining the team.
Simon said technology had been the biggest changed within the operation since starting out, particularly when it came to the lotfeeding side of things.
WITH 85 per cent of costs on cropping and 85 per cent of profits on livestock, Princess Royal started out breeding cattle and moved into trading because the demand was there.
When it comes to cropping, they produce about 40 per cent of their stock feed needs on farm, with quality gauging if the grain is sold on.
“If our wheat goes hard it will more than likely get sold and we will buy feed grain back,” Simon said.
“It’s the same with barley, if it starts to go malting, we will probably trade that and buy feed grain back because it is cheaper.”
Princess Royal also produces about 14,000 tonnes each of silage and hay, all of which is used within the operation.
The feedlot has operated since 2011, and there is currently an application to triple the size by 2022.
Cattle enter the feedlot at 340-500kg, and most of them are European Union accredited.
On average, cattle are fed for the EU market for 115 days, to reach a turn off weight of about 700kg.
The feedlot’s biggest client is Teys at Naracoorte.
Princess Royal has a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, sharing information and photos on its day-to-day operation.
“The whole idea (of using social media) started because the livestock industry, specifically feedlots or any intensive farming, has a low profile,” Simon said. “There is more bad written about it than good. I thought why not tell some good bits of what is happening, and why we are doing it.”
Written by Jamie-Lee Oldfield, The Weekly Times
Image: Simon Rowe and daughter Katherine run Princess Royal Station at Burra in South Australia