IT HAS been almost 18 months since the Raff family, from Drillham in Queensland, began moving the family’s Angus operation to King Island, Tasmania, in Bass Straight.
David and wife Jill, with son and daughter-in-law Andrew and Anna, sold their Queensland property and moved south in search of greener pastures for their 700-head of Angus cattle.
It’s almost unheard of, moving such an established herd and operation so far south to a totally different climate. Their departure from Queensland was one of mixed emotions.
On one hand Drillham allowed them to become one of the country’s leading Angus breeders, but on the other hand, the location let the family down with prolonged years of drought.
The dry years started to take their toll, both with the workload and extra feeding costs. Andrew Raff said they simply wanted a safer, more reliable climate.
“Dad came down and looked at King Island and was absolutely blown away with the country and how reliable the pasture growth and rainfall was,” he said.
“He came back home and told me how good it was, it was almost unbelievable, but after now being here for about 10 months myself, I can truly say the island is one amazing place.
“We are now in winter and still have pasture growing, the temperature stays relatively mild and the clover and rye grass pastures just continue to grow in these cooler months.”
The Raff’s new property on King Island is 800 hectares and they can already see it running 1000 breeders plus finishing their calves with ease. The stud herd is being run on “Muir of Logie”, named after the Raff ancestor’s first farm in Scotland, founded after migrating from Germany in the 18th century.
The commercial operation will be run on “Forres”, named after the county in Scotland where “Muir of Logie” was located and the name of the stud when it was first established by David Raff in 1965.
“Our production system will change to totally grass-fed, to take advantage of King Island’s unique environment,” Mr Raff said.
Island climate beckons Raffs
The founders of the stud in 1965, David and Jill Raff, are still actively involved in all livestock breeding decisions, livestock and property management, providing full support to Andrew, Anna and their children Harry, Charlie, Georgina and Olivia.
The Raffs work and manage all aspects of the business from sire selection and breeding decisions to the general day-to-day cattle husbandry, farm management and record keeping. Anna, who is a vet, is responsible for the artificial insemination and animal health programs of the operation.
“Now we can see the full potential of our new property we are excited that our Angus herd will now reach its full potential in terms of growth and finishing ability,” Andrew Raff said.
“We will build cow numbers to 1000 head and finish our steers to a target carcase weight of 370kg to 400kg between 18 and 24 months of age. Our cattle have the genetics to perform at these levels, so now we are in an environment that allows them to do this.
“We can also already see that our cost of production will be less on King Island, it is 127 to 152 centimetre annual rainfall country, which is so pleasing for all of us as a family operation,” Mr Raff said.
“It was the continued failed seasons in Queensland, trying to grow forage crops and having cattle off paddocks for so long that just added so much cost to the operation.
“When Queensland rainfall was with us, our property would perform really well, but we were just getting so many failed seasons over the past 16 years or so.”
The Raffs are aiming to sell their cattle to the two established processors based in Tasmania.
These include JBS, which has the Great Southern brand and the iconic King Island Beef brand. The other processor they will target will be Greenham’s, which has developed the popular and highly successful Cape Grim product.
“This is the other advantage we now have, by changing our focus to a commercial operation and having two leading processors close by, we will have access to a lot of further information such as detailed carcase data on our herd, which will be just fantastic,” Mr Raff said.
The Raffs have also adjusted well personally with the move south.
“The King Island community has made us feel very welcome and everyone has been very helpful in assisting us settle in,” Mr Raff said.
“Our children have settled into school really well and we are just so happy now as a family that we are breeding and raising our cattle the way nature intended.
“King Island and Tasmania are very special places and we feel like we have secured a very unique property and climate for our future generations.”