Building a business from the ground up
WITH beef in the blood and the determination to succeed, Central Queensland graziers Garrett and Kate Kirk have put in the hard work to achieve their dream of owning and managing their own successful beef enterprise, Watermark Pastoral Co.
Based in Dingo, with country also in Gogango and Bluff, the Kirks run about 1500 breeders across their properties where they focus on getting the genetics right to ensure their cattle are fertile, tropically adapted and high yielding, producing high quality beef.
Growing up on a property at Gogango on the Fitzroy River, Garrett always knew he wanted to run his own beef operation in the Central Queensland region.
After finishing school he studied at the Emerald Agricultural College before working for local cropping families and then returning to manage some of his parents’ properties.
After meeting Kate, who enjoyed a rural upbringing in Northern New South Wales where she developed a love of horses, Garrett put plans in place to start their cattle trading and breeding enterprise.
"When starting out, our main motivators were that we wanted to be self-sustainable and able to work for ourselves," Garrett said.
Being able to bring up their young family on the land and involve their children in their beef operation was also a high priority for the Kirks.
"Part of the reason we do what we do is to be able to offer our kids the lifestyle that it does provide,” Kate said.
“Our children are only young but they are very much part of the business and that’s one of the best things about the business we’re in, that we can work together as a family.”
With dreams of owning their own land and cattle, the Kirks started off agisting cattle and leasing land at Bluff while building up their cattle numbers to have enough equity to purchase their own property.
In 2013, when land at Gogango across the river from Garrett’s parents’ place became available, Garrett and Kate knew it was the right time to purchase.
"It was quite daunting when we were considering starting our own business,” Kate said.
“The biggest hurdle was getting the deposit and asset base together which we could borrow against.”
Luckily, the Kirks knew that the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority had low interest loans available for young producers like themselves to purchase their first property.
"Thankfully, QRIDA’s First Start Loan was accessible to us and that really gave us the starting platform to launch into our own breeding enterprise where Garrett could stop working for wages and just focus on our own business and exactly where we wanted to go," Kate said.
Soon after purchasing their fattening block at Gogango the value of their land increased, allowing them to borrow additional funds under their First Start Loan to purchase cattle.
"Our goal is to have a few thousand breeders so fertile cattle are integral in doing that," Garrett said.
"Those extra cattle allowed us to bring our business up to a sustainable level where we were self-supporting, could service all our debts and could really start looking towards the next step and where we were going to go next," Kate said.
"Garrett and I have always been fairly driven and had a clear picture of where we want to get to.
“We just needed to get over those first couple of hurdles back at the start of our career which is where QRIDA was instrumental in helping us – then we were really able to flourish and go ahead in leaps and bounds."
After many years of hard work and two young children in tow, Garrett and Kate are now in the position to think more about expanding their business, increasing their land holdings and focusing on infrastructure developments to improve the productivity and profitability of their operations.
"There’s a lot of infrastructure work that needs to happen, like getting clean water to more parts of the property, fencing off soil types and creeks and getting the genetic base of our herd up to the top end of the type of cattle that suit Central Queensland," Garrett said.
The Kirks are grateful for the opportunities they have received as a result of their QRIDA loan and encourage other young producers in their position to take the initiative to look into what a First Start Loan could offer them.
First Start Loans provide up to $2 million to cover capital costs to assist producers make a start in primary production.
With low interest rates, up to 20 year repayment terms and no fees or charges, the loans are an attractive option for young producers to start realising their farming future.
Find out more at www.qrida.qld.gov.au or 1800 623 946.
HELPING HAND: Thanks to a Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority First Start Loan, Garrett and Kate Kirk were able to develop their cattle trading and breeding operation.