Mark looks at man­ag­ing risk while cap­i­tal­is­ing on op­por­tu­nity

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

DELATITE Sta­tion owner, Mark Ritchie, likes to buck the trend when it comes to man­ag­ing risk and op­por­tu­nity.

In the 1990s – when gloom sur­rounded the price of wool - the fam­ily farm in­vested in sheep.

Years later when the cat­tle mar­ket was low they bought more cat­tle.

“We’re a bit counter-cycli­cal,” Mr Ritchie said.

“Where we see an op­por­tu­nity to buy or trade stock we do that - of­ten if we’ve seen a mar­ket down­turn we’ve used that op­por­tu­nity.

“In the early 1990s when the re­serve price scheme for wool was un­wind­ing, it was all doom and gloom but that was when we got into wool.

“Then we in­creased the size of our cat­tle herd when we thought the mar­ket was at a bit of a low point.”

Mr Ritchie man­ages a sel­f­re­plac­ing flock of 18,600 Merino sheep and 1100 An­gus cows on 2600 hectares out at Booroo­lite.

The fa­mous Delatite Sta­tion has been in the Ritchie fam­ily for 110 years, and Mark is the fourth gen­er­a­tion to take the reins.

“Ev­ery­one has their own tol­er­ance or ap­petite for risk,” he said. “No two farm­ers are the same. “For us, it’s about tak­ing a long term view and find­ing a bal­ance be­tween tak­ing cal­cu­lated risks when the odds are in your favour; back­ing your­self and look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties in any sit­u­a­tion; whether it’s a strong mar­ket or a weak mar­ket, a good sea­son or a bad sea­son.

“You don’t get it right every time,” he added.

The Ritchie fam­ily has tra­di­tion­ally dis­cussed op­tions, called on con­sul­tants for ex­pert ad­vice, but ul­ti­mately made the de­ci­sion them­selves.

Re­cently, the strong mar­ket for graz­ing en­ter­prises has led Mr Ritchie to cash in.

“In the last fi­nan­cial year we de­cided to sell a few ex­tra cat­tle to cap­i­talise on the prices, and we will again this year if the prices con­tinue,” he said.

The farm has rye­grass and clover pas­tures with a bit of phalaris and as with stock num­bers, Mr Ritchie is al­ways look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove.

“We’re con­stantly try­ing to im­prove our pas­tures by sow­ing more phalaris when­ever we can,” he said.

“At Mans­field, we have a num­ber of nat­u­ral ad­van­tages that we must ex­ploit; qual­ity soils and a rel­a­tively con­sis­tent rain­fall.

“We have gone down the path of run­ning a high stock­ing rate farm with a spring calv­ing self-re­plac­ing herd of An­gus fe­males plus a spring lamb­ing flock of self-re­plac­ing fine wool meri­nos.”

Mr Ritchie said stock­ing rate had con­tin­u­ally proven to be one of the main driv­ers of prof­itabil­ity for graz­ing en­ter­prises.

“Over the years we have spent con­sid­er­able time, money and ef­fort in max­imis­ing our stock­ing rate and the pro­duc­tiv­ity of our farm, par­tic­u­larly in cap­i­tal ap­pli­ca­tions of fer­tiliser and lime, pas­ture im­prove­ment pro­grams, im­proved ge­net­ics, re­tain­ing live­stock and tar­geted cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture,” he said.

“We find if the stock­ing rate is set ap­pro­pri­ately and you have one eye on costs and labour ef­fi­ciency, a low cost of pro­duc­tion will fol­low.”

The cur­rent sea­son has been good so far, but a lack of mois­ture in the soil and run-off was, Mr Ritchie said, be­gin­ning to play on the mind of farm­ers.

“Ev­ery­one’s a lit­tle bit ner­vous and hop­ing for good spring rains,” he said.

IN­DUS­TRY LEADER: Mark Ritchie spoke re­cently at the Grass­land So­ci­eties’ an­nual con­fer­ence in Nagambie, talk­ing about the graz­ing prac­tices be­hind one of North East Vic­to­ria’s most iconic prop­er­ties, Delatite Sta­tion.

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