NAB senior leaders take a closer look at Australia’s trade and export sector – providing all-important insights into how regional and agribusinesses can best respond to today’s challenges and opportunities.
Multi-generational farming family take an integrated approach as they grow their business with one eye firmly on the future.
Purchased by Robert Gill and his father and brother in 1973, Alexander Downs is today home to Robert and wife Kerry, sons Stephen and Michael and their partners Anna and Sandy, plus six grandchildren aged four to 16.
What, in business terms, is a ‘vertical integration strategy’ underpins operations at Alexander Downs in NSW’s Upper Hunter. This philosophy of ownership has seen fifth-generation farmer Robert and family transform a 1200-hectare cattle run at Merriwa into a thriving 3200-hectare rural enterprise big enough to support the extended family and employ a workforce of more than 50. Each week it sells 450 cattle and 100 pigs, and produces 500 tonnes of feed.
Over the decades, along with 550 breeding cows, the family has added a 3000-head feedlot, backgrounding for up to 4000 head of cattle, a 250-sow piggery, a commercial feed mill and grain storage facility, a wholesale meat depot and processing plant, and a retail outlet.
Ownership of the entire production process allows the Gills to maximise their yield and maintain quality control from paddock to plate. They’ve implemented handling practices that minimise stress on stock throughout their lifecycle. Effluent from the piggery is stringently managed and the family invests in land and water management technology to maintain soil health and minimise erosion.
In so doing, they’re ensuring the next generation will have the opportunity to enjoy a bright tomorrow, according to Robert.
“We work together as a family to deliver a premium product and make the property sustainable in the long term so our kids can have a healthy, successful farm,” he says.
“We’re not sure what they’ll do, because it’s a fair way off, but we want to give them the opportunity to come home to work. We also have our staff to think about – looking after them and ensuring they have good jobs into the future.”
Throughout their expansion, the Gills have been long-time NAB customers. Senior Agribusiness Manager Glenn Smith believes their steady gathering of business scale has been the key to their success and is proud to have helped fund Alexander Downs’ development.
“The Gills are very good businesspeople, and it’s been rewarding to see them grow their operations over time by adding more capacity and expanding their relationships with existing and new clientele,” he says.
“We look on NAB as a long-term partner – we’ve been with them 20 years now and could not be happier,” Robert says. “Glenn has been a cornerstone of our business.”
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