New Cattle Council president Andrew Ogilvie is negotiating a complex path from the family farm to corporate markets.

Story By Gretel Sneath

There is a word that's buzzing in Andrew Ogilvie’s ears. Sustainability. And the sound is even louder after travelling to the United States for the 2012 McDonald’s Worldwide Convention.
“I reckon I heard the word ‘sustainable’ used in every single speech of anyone who was associated with the supply chain,” the new national president of Australia’s Cattle Council says. “It’s the big issue that we are going to have to come to grips with, a complete mind-shift, and a major shift in corporate priorities.”
To call sustainability a buzzword is almost too flippant; it’s more of an industry benchmark that’s being fired with gusto from all directions. “McDonald’s, Coles, Woolworths, the RSPCA and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – they’re all focusing on the sustainability of supply, and also the animal-welfare and environmental implications,” he says.
Most cattle producers would argue that they have been striving to achieve sustainability all along, and perhaps already have. “From a farmer’s point of view, if you can hand your farm to the next generation in as good or better condition than when you started farming, then you would think that your practices would be classed as sustainable,” Andrew says. “If every generation achieves that, you have a sustainable farming business. That’s how simple it is.”
Demonstrating this to corporate audiences could easily be a full-time job. But it isn’t. Andrew is also part of the family team that runs the large grazing enterprise “Spotshill” on more than 10,000 hectares in the South East of South Australia and Victoria’s Western District. He and wife Deborah live on “Churinga”, the original patch of dirt purchased by Andrew’s father, Doug, in 1949. Lured by reports of more than 600 millimetres of rainfall annually, cheap land and the prospect of good drainage, Doug shifted from Booborowie in South Australia’s Mid North and settled at Biscuit Flat, an area named after the biscuit-like rounds of limestone that dotted the landscape.
“Dad bought 1200 acres [485ha] and it was only a couple of pounds an acre, and then a piece of scrub next door for two shillings and sixpence an acre,” Andrew says. “The locals said, ‘You’ll never get your money back’, but he said he would be happy if he was able to cut 100 quid’s worth of posts out of it.”
Once it was cleared and the fences were built, it turned out to be good grazing land – “Good limestone country is always good for raising stock” - and today, the family business also supports Andrew’s son, James, along with two of Andrew’s brothers, Noel and Richard, and three nephews.

This story excerpt is from Issue #83

Outback Magazine: June/July 2012