The growing trend of consumers grocery shopping at local food markets has provided a great opportunity of one Tansey livestock producer.
With people more aware of their food’s origin and an increasing farmers market shopping trend, Cris and Lee-Anne Geri, Rawganix Farm, north west of Gympie, now supply a steady stream of naturally farmed beef at Kawana Waters markets on the Sunshine Coast each week.
The Geri family have been selling their naturally farmed produce at the Kawana Waters markets for the past seven years, but the demand rapidly changed from consumers wanting beef carcase quarters to boutique packaged select cuts of meat.
This increased customer demand and the changing type of customer brought both challenges and great financial opportunities for their livestock business. Also, the Geri family sell their Rawganix Farm eggs, pork and lamb at the markets as well.
Ms Geri travels every Friday to collect their packaged beef from a butcher who processors all their meat, then travels two hours on Saturday to the Kawana Waters markets.
A major reason for their success at the farmers market has been the consumers embrace of their “natural livestock farming practices” at Rawganix Farm.
“The story behind our produce is what appeals to so many shoppers,” Ms Geri said.
On their property, their focus on natural livestock farming includes not exporting or selling more than 8 per cent of the biomass they produce.
“We find processing our feed through animals a good way to achieve an environmental balanced outcome,” Mr Geri said.
“I have a strong focus on livestock rotational grazing and biodynamic preparations on our farm.”
Mr Geri said spreading sulfur on their property is one important tool as it controls parasites and encourages the legumes to build proteins for their livestock to feed on.
“An important part of retaining the minerals we spread on our pasture is good grass ground cover,” he said.
The Geri family run a herd of 100 breeder Angus-cross beef cows with a focus on growing out and fattening prodigy to 360 kilograms live weight to produce a carcase of 200kg dressed weight for both steers and heifers.
“We have done a number of naturopathy courses and a key to successful livestock farming is getting the mineral balance correct to promote good food digestion in animals,” Mr Geri said.
“The soil biology isn’t that different to the stomach biology, so it makes sense to keep the soil right and it will promote healthy feed conversion in the livestock.”
The focus for the Geri’s natural livestock farming practices are to manage the entire farm to produce an overall health biosystem.
A major hurdle to overcome was their reliance on rain, so the Geri family invested in irrigation to increase consistency of fodder crop production during dry times.
“We need to be reasonably self-sufficient because it can be difficult and expensive to source organic hay, especially during drought when you need it,” Ms Geri said.
The family’s focus is not only paying-off with increased customer interest in their produce, but also they’ve managed to grow farm production by 50 per cent since purchasing their property without increasing land size.
They also don’t have to worm or treat cattle for tick, plus don’t vaccinate cattle, which the family attributes to maintaining a health biological system on the farm.
This is due to a range of practices including adding a complete sea salt to their livestock’s drinking water.
“It contains all the stuff that’s washed off the land, the minerals, over several thousands of years into the sea,” Mr Geri said.
The complete sea mineral for the livestock costs around $1700/tonne.
Another technique the Geri family uses in feeding minerals is the separation of each individual trace element.
“I’ve found most cattle don’t like eating minerals all mixed together, instead they like to pick and choose the trace element they need and eat that individual one,” Mr Geri said.
They achieve this by a covered lick feeder with single trace element tubs for each mineral that the cattle can freely graze on.
“If you watch cattle they will go out and eat a particular type of weed one day and sometimes never eat it again, it’s because there was something in it they needed,” Mr Geri said.
“Our goal is to build a healthy biology system that produces a financially sustainable livestock business.”