By HARRY CLARKE
IN THE same month that a single Droughtmaster bull set a staggering sale record of $320,000, the organisation tasked with managing and promoting the iconic breed has become the first ever cattle society to be recognised for excellence in the highly prestigious Australian Business Awards.
Droughtmaster, a breed first produced in North Queensland in the 1930s as a cross between Shorthorn, Devon and red Zebu cattle, has in recent years enjoyed rapid growth and geographical expansion through the implementation of a new strategic plan and complete breed rebranding.
Over the past three years the Droughtmaster society, managed from Brisbane, has convinced more than 100 producers across Australia to convert their herds to the hardy and versatile breed.
In a significant increase in market share, the registered female “inventory” has increased from roughly 28,000 animals to more than 35,000.
“That’s significant because it’s not easy to convert, for example, a Brahman breeder to a Droughtmaster breeder,” said Droughtmaster Australia CEO Simon Gleeson, who took up the society’s helm in 2019 following careers in the resources and finance industries.
“Once a breeder is fixed on a particular type of cattle they don’t just change them overnight, because they’ve already got established herds.
“Droughtmaster has always been a dominant breed in Australia but we did have a period from about 2012 when it started to contract, and that’s why we put a new strategic plan into place.”
Last week, leading Droughmaster stud Glenlands achieved two record sales for the breed by fetching $320,000 bull and $70,000 for a heifer.
It’s believed the bull, purchased by an international syndicate with operations in Hughenden, was the second highest sale for a beast in Australia after an Angus bull last year went for $360,000 at auction.
Gleeson, originally from Chinchilla, said while average cattle prices across the industry were coming back from their peaks in recent years, the latest achievements for Droughtmaster were the result of a years-long “reinvention” of the breed led by a reinvigorated organisation.
“Off the back of that we saw significant growth in our membership and saw significant growth in our inventory (registered females) which is where we derive most of our income,” Gleeson said.
“In promoting, marketing, rebranding, and reinventing the breed and the society, we’ve seen growth in demand for breed.
“It’s been about telling the story that the breed is suitable in multiple markets.
“If you’re in the north you can breed cattle and send them for live export. If you’re in the south, you can still breed Droughtmasters and put them into a feedlot for them to end up into that MSA (Meat Standards Australia) market.”
Droughtmaster Australia this month swept a field of nominees from a variety of industries to claim the Australian Business Awards’ Business Transformation award for 2023.
Judges recognised that, amid significant growth in memberships and market share, the society’s cash balance and future sustainability was also strong.
“We’ve had a great board, volunteers, members and staff who’ve all been involved in driving this plan forward and achieving these results,” Gleeson said.
“The members really got behind it. There’s been a lot of change required in a short period of time and it would have been quite daunting, but the members were prepared to back it, get behind it and buy into it.
“That’s probably what’s made it so successful – everyone’s worked together for a common goal, and we kept reporting our success so that members could actually see that the plan was working.”
Gleeson said the society was now aiming to reach 750 members and 40,000 females by 2025.
“New South Wales is a big market for us – western New South Wales and northern New South Wales – and Western Australia is a big market,” he said.
“There is significant growth happening in those areas, particularly in dry times. We’re seeing a lot of Droughties, particularly females, starting to head down that way as far as Richmond and Cobar.
“They’re putting Angus bulls over Droughtie cows so they get that hybrid vigour, but they also get the adaptability and survivability of the animal in that tough time, and they can put them into the MSA domestic market.”