Cattle farmer Eric Simon pictured at Jimarndy Station. Photo: Contributed
Cattle farmer Eric Simon pictured at Jimarndy Station. Photo: Contributed

Grazier plans to make the most of good prices

ERIC Simon is matter of fact. No mincing words, no sugar-coating reality.

Hope is not a strategy.

A successful farmer in Central Queensland, Mr Simon is cut from the same cloth as the rest of the battle-hardened men and women who make their living off the land, there is no place for sentiment here.

His property, Jimarndy Station, on the May Downs Road hugging the edge of Clarke Creek, is, like so many farms in Australia, a breathtaking piece of countryside. Yet there is no time to sit back and appreciate the view.

Jimarndy may be enjoying one of its best years but Mr Simon is already looking ahead to next February and what will have to be done if the weather gods, so kind in the past year, decide to turn nasty.

"We are going well at the moment," said Mr Simon. "Make the most of it while you can and just don't believe it will last forever.

"Cattle prices are high because so many farmers got rid of their stock in the drought and now we have a situation of great demand and low supply. There is still drought in many areas but we have had rain and people want to restock but buying back is so dear."

Farmers wait a lifetime for a boom of this kind, hoping to make hay while the sun shines, but the rising prices can have disadvantages too.

"My concerns are, I think we are already too good, our markets are looking for other opportunities and options to get beef," Mr Simon said.

"Most of our beef is exported, we are getting good money for exports but you can only get top dollar if someone is prepared to pay for it. Because it has become so dear I believe the countries we export to will start looking around."

Mr Simon, 47, took over the family's holdings some 16 years ago and has used a combination of forward thinking, on-trend farming practices and common sense to turn the property into a thriving enterprise.

Acting quickly, making the right decisions when it is dry and managing grazing systems, he says, has been the difference between success and failure.

"You have to work to utilise the best of the good times and the best of the bad times," he said.

"If you know it's going to be so dry, take the money, save the grass, put it in the bank and worry about it later. At least you have the money in the bank and not the bones in the paddock.

"I am always looking at least three months ahead, six months at the end of the growing season. So I look at the paddocks and say, 'have we got enough grass to see us through to second week of February?' It used to be Christmas but for four years running we have had no rain until February.

"The biggest thing I do is have cattle segregated by September so I can just ride out into the paddock and say, 'ok I will sell them tomorrow'. If it doesn't rain by October I am selling that mob and by November the next mob. People say, what if it rains the next day and it often looks like rain the day you truck them but you draw a line in the sand, there are no ifs. Make a decision and live with it

"There is no room for emotion. They are not your pets, I have my four kids and my sister's two boys depending on me to make the right decision. I have to perform. We run all our businesses as a business."

At the moment prices don't look to be easing and those farmers who had either managed to hold on to cattle or have money in the bank are looking at good times. But so much is uncertain in this business. How long can it last?

"I have a feeling we have two to four years in this run," said Mr Simon. "That will influence people to borrow and pay too much for property and then do it tough when there is a correction. Hopefully that correction won't be back to $2.5-$3. I would honestly like to see cows sitting around $4 and bullocks around $4.50. That's well under what we are getting now but if we all can't be making money at that then you are better off having your money elsewhere.

"Fortunately I have other things I can do but for most farmers it is what they know, what they love, it's their life and lifestyle. Having our kids growing up here is worth a helluva lot. They are much better rounded children in my belief and more worldly than someone living in town. How do you put a price on that?"

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