Robert Gill at Alexander Downs Merriwa, has lived through multiple extremes in farming and warns producers to keep a keen weather eye for trouble - or opportunity - as the next climate phase develops.
Celebrating half a century of operation this week, Alexander Downs continues to support producers through their vertically integrated supply chain, including production of in-demand feed, feedlot production and their own processing facilities at Kurri Kurri.
Mr Gill says the family enterprise is "lucky" to be where it is, but feels strongly for most farmers battling to get a kill slot at the processor in under eight weeks' time and deciding whether they should feed-on at great cost or sell down in a low market.
The home farm has struggled through acute drought through autumn and winter bringing forward difficult decisions on stocking rates.
Cows on the property usually number 560 but 160 cull animals for fattening have been educated to handle self feeders, with the end result to sell.
"I expect to go through them again, and get the next cut."
Mr Gill points out that the decision to feed livestock cannot be taken lightly in the current climate.
"With cotton seed at $610/t if you are going to feed you need to understand that animal will consume $300 to $400. If you don't feed the right one it's not worth feeding.
"We've learned from the lessons in the past - high interest rates, low ones; flood and drought; the GFC; high and low markets.
"The 20mm we had last week was the first substantial fall in five or six months. It is too long between rain events and now we're starting to get the hit the warm weather.
"The Upper Hunter is already bad as 2019 in some areas. We're seeing cows making as low as 40c/kg or $172 a head."
"The first loss is the best loss in a lot of cases," he says, advocating for farmers to consider the hard decisions around destocking.
"But things aren't as simple as they sound."
"We are lucky to have the business we've got," said Mr Gill, 70, crediting a strong family alliance for maintaining the enterprise. Constant attention to detail is another.
"All we know is work. Work's our life but we enjoy it don't worry."
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