Piggotts talk farm safety and succession on family station
Farming family keeps improving commercial and stud operation
AN EMOTIONAL attachment to the land is what drives the Piggott family to keep improving Christmas Creek Cattle Company.
Based 40km from Rolleston on the Carnarvon highway, Christmas Creek is run by Bradley and Kerryn Piggott.
“My husband has been farming his whole life and I joined when I married Bradley,” Mrs Piggott said.
“Bradley has lived in the Carnarvon Ranges since he was three months old.
“He’s lived in the district all his life, and we’ve lived at Christmas Creek since 1986.”
CHRISTMAS Creek Cattle Company started off as a commercial operation before including a stud droughtmaster operation in 1987.
They run 240 head of stud cattle and 1250 commercial cows on their 25,000ha property.
Mrs Piggott said she liked droughtmasters for their versatility.
“Their all-round capabilities with their fertility, their ability to mother a calf, their ability to withstand harsh conditions and still produce good quality beef.
“They do well in all seasons and we’re getting good feedback with our MSA.”
“We stopped HGP-ing a bit over two years ago.
“We stopped that because we’re in the process of being coming EU accredited and for accessing the Teys Grasslands market.”
Mrs Piggott said they’d had an average season.
“We’re not droughted,” she said. “We’re lucky because we’re very close to some areas that are.
“We’ve had an average season, just a bit below our average annual rainfall.
“We’ve had some early storms in October and we had a little bit of winter rain.”
THE team at Christmas Creek recently won two Queensland WorkSafe awards including the award for best solution to an identified work health and safety issue, and best demonstrated leadership in work health and safety award.
Christmas Creek was nominated for the award by the Central Highlands Regional Resources Use Planning Cooperative Limited (CHRRUP).
“We did their Safe Station program and implemented a Work Safe health and safety program with our business,” Mrs Piggott said.
“While we were doing that we identified one of the biggest risks to our business was crossing the Carnarvon highway.
“It dissects our property in half. The majority of our breeders are run on the western side of the highway.
“When they’re weaned they have to cross the highway; we also need to cross it to access our yards.”
The Piggotts came up with the idea to move their cattle through the culverts under the highway.
“Many years ago, when we were on holidays in New Zealand, we saw dairy cows going underneath the road through the culverts,” Mrs Piggott said.
“The highway was upgraded in 1997 so the volumes of traffic have increased.
“It wasn’t an issue until they changed the speed limited to 110km and the traffic increased.
“And we’re in a high crash zone.”
Mrs Piggott said they had to apply to the Department of Transport for a road corridor permit and also apply with the Central Highlands Regional Council.
“That (the road corridor permit) had a few guidelines we had to adhere to with the way the fences were fixed to the culvert. One of those was also making sure our public liability insurance had to be $20 million.
“It’s also a stock route so it has to meet those guidelines for the safe traffic of travelling stock. There had to be specific gates in place.
“That was the hard bit, building the fence was easy!”
Mrs Piggott said using the culverts to move their stock had increased efficiency.
“What might have taken three or four people can now be done by one person and two dogs, and the risk is minimal,” she said.
“It was something really simple that has made a big difference. We didn’t process it as a risk to our business until we had a formal meeting and a think about it with Work Safe.”
The Work Safe awards included all industries and Mrs Piggott said she was proud to take out the awards.
“We were a little bit surprised due to the huge competition but also really proud. Not just for us but proud for ag as a whole,” she said.
“Agriculture gets a really bad rap on safety. We have the most deaths in agriculture over every other industry.
“It was across all industry. I think we were the only farmers in the room.”
MR AND Mrs Piggott have three children Jack Piggott 28, Chloe Hines 25, and Sophie Piggott 21.
Chloe and her husband Clay Hines live on the property next door, Fairhaven, which is part of the Christmas Creek aggregation.
Mrs Piggot said her family was in the process of creating a succession plan, and were in the third year of a 10 year plan.
“We have had four formal meetings now and each time we have homework to go away and come back with,” she said.
“I love my children and I know my children love me, but it’s hard saying what you have to say to someone without feeling like you’re stepping on their toes or hurting anyone’s feelings.
“Then your children marry somebody and that adds another layer to it. There are so many layers to being a family business in agriculture.”
Mrs Piggott said succession planning was harder for people who were born on the land.
“I wasn’t born to the land and, unless you’re born with the dirt in your hands, I don’t think you understand the emotional attachment to it,” she said.
“For my husband to give up his life – his identity is his Akubra on his head and his cattle.”
Mrs Piggott said their family was still working on their plan, but they had steps in place.
“Chloe and I went away and did a business education course. We wanted to see if we could support our retirement,” she said.
“We looked pretty deeply into our business and how we could improve. There was definitely enough in our business for succession to be possible.
“I would like to be comfortable, but I would go without to see our business continue forward.”
CHRISTMAS Creek combines old and new traditions when mustering cattle.
They use working dogs as well as a drone.
“We personally have six working dogs and Bradley works them in teams of two,” Mrs Piggott said.
“We work a mix of border collie and kelpies.
“Our place is rough and it’s big, so we have a drone.
“We put a drone up and have a look where the cattle are. Then we make a plan and each person rides off with their two dogs.
“Our country is mostly too rough to muster with quads.
“We do use quads with our brigalow country.”
Mrs Piggott said she still struggled with using the drone, but her kids had the hang of it.
SAFETY LEADERS: Bradley and Kerryn Piggott with Shane Webcke receiving their WorkSafe award.
Cattle being mustered towards the culverts under the Carnarvon Highway at Christmas Creek.
FARM SAFE: It is part of Christmas Creek’s safety policy to walk the horses through the culverts.
Droughtmasters at Christmas Creek.
Sophie and Bradley Piggott cool off with the horses.
Neil Robinson on the tail, mustering cattle at Christmas Creek.