A BOUTIQUE branded beef business is a big leap from court, but two Melbourne barristers have branched out to create Mount Moriac Beef.
We’ve found the Angus cattle finish really well, even over winter, they have an extraordinarily good temperament, and they're fantastic mothers.
Jim McKenna and Eliza Holt have undergone a huge change to run the business on Victoria’s Surf Coast hinterland.
The couple decided to make the change to suit family life – they have two young children – and for Ms Holt, a fourth-generation territory pastoralist, it’s a return to her roots.
She grew up on a 133,546-hectares property “Delmore Downs”, north-east of Alice Springs, and the family had more country, totalling just under 364,217ha.
“I come from a Shorthorn, Santa Gertrudis and Charolais cross herd,” Ms Holt said.
“We bred finished steers for the Japanese ox and domestic markets.”
The couple still work in law, commuting when needed and working from home, at Mount Moriac.
The Angus breed was the perfect fit for the business, and Winchelsea stud Murdeduke Angus has been integral to the good quality beef being produced.
“We chose Angus cattle because we saw how well they did in the area and their marbling,” Ms Holt said.
“In 2016 we bought some Angus weaners and we were really impressed with their temperament and their finishing ability. We then bought some pregnancy-tested-in-calf cows, also from Murdeduke.
“We’ve found the Angus cattle finish really well, even over winter, they have an extraordinarily good temperament, and they're fantastic mothers.”
The couple now has 25 cows with calves on the 60ha property, along with 25 steers being finished in the paddock.
Mount Moriac Beef is a grass-fed only product, with a strong focus on temperament.
“We handle them only on foot, with no motorbikes and no dogs,” Ms Holt said.
“We have a four-year-old and a six-year-old so I want to be able to have them with me in the yards and the paddock. We’ve always handled cattle very quietly – dad always taught us to handle cattle quietly and the end product shows through.”
The business is selling directly to the consumer, with beef available in 10 kilogram and 15kg packs, ordered online and delivered in Victoria, southern NSW and Canberra.
The beef is also available through other businesses, with good support from the local Moriac General Store. The couple also started to sell beef through another store in Torquay this month.
“It’s mainly online, direct to the consumer, but we've also got the retail model, and we're working out what works best,” Ms Holt said.
“We had our first beef available in October and demand is increasing, just by word of mouth.”
The focus is on producing a consistent, good quality product, so the beef is only available seasonally.
“We won’t have beef if the steers aren’t finished, and we’ve told our customers we don’t expect to have any beef over winter. We might shut down for June and July, but we’ll have a greater supply in spring and through summer.”
Steers are processed at 600kg, at 16 to 18 months of age.
“When we arrived in February 2016 the pastures hadn’t been improved but we’ve starting improving them with a ryegrass and subclover mix, and we’ve got local native grasses and phalaris which seems to be working extremely well,” Ms Holt said.
The next big goal is to increase land size and build the breeding herd to 100 cows by retaining the heifers.
Ms Holt said she was happy to be providing her children with a childhood similar to her own.
“It’s important for my kids to grow up here with space, around animals, with pride in what they do, because when you love what you do, it’s not work.”