May 23, 2018

Data-driven diversification breeds sustainable success

While many city dwellers see farming as old-fashioned, Kim and David Coulton and family of Morella Agriculture know it’s all about cementing market share by staying on top of the science and technology curve.

Family-owned Morella Agriculture, based near Goondiwindi, Queensland, recognises that its versatility and scale opens up advantages in export markets. The company collects data from its operations and uses it to genetically improve its beef for demanding domestic and Japanese palates. Feedback from data and benchmarking is also vital in the production of their broadacre and irrigated crops.

Today, every aspect of farming is specialised. As a business, the Coultons concentrate on what they do best – producing high quality products.

Using data wisely

Kim notes that genetics and traceability have radically improved in the past few years throughout the cattle industry. “Our high performing Angus cattle are a wonderful product because of a long history of genetic feedback using improved accuracy performance recording with EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values), objective measuring for structure and docility, and data testing on the meat quality for what the end Japanese and domestic consumer likes. A few years ago, lean meat was all the rage but we believe now they want a tastier, good eating product.”

Morella regularly receives feedback on how its animals are performing at the Japanese-serving meatworks and feedlots. Kim says that while Morella already applies feedback from its data collection, she thinks they could do it more intensively going forward, as the power of data collection and feedback is vital for increased performance.

“We have a great team of staff that we regard as our most important asset. Like most family enterprises, we run a tight ship with minimal staff, so we rely on feedback from our merchants, quality assurance programs, and also on NAB for general consumer trends.”

The Coultons view farming as a balancing act between what grows best on their land, the seasons and what the market is demanding. For Morella, this means staying flexible with its breeding and crop production.

Having said that, Morella is now joining its heifers to Wagyu. “We thought there was quite a viable market there,” Kim says. “2017 is our second year breeding Wagyu. It was actually our NAB banker who suggested it as a forward diversification, and so far it’s worked very well.”

The Coultons see the grass-fed beef market as a strong growth area and plan to continue building relationships for the production of premium beef for the export and domestic markets.

Keeping it in the family

Morella Agriculture is always thinking about forward diversification. Kim points out that all of the company’s Goondiwindi properties are multi-purpose.

More forward diversification comes in the form of Kim and David’s three sons joining Morella Ag. Their mum explains that the family went out on a limb with the support of NAB to buy land so that each could manage his own farm, while use all the benefits and synergies that a diversified family company can offer.

“For example, they integrate with each other by sharing information, machinery, labour and moving cattle around,” she says. “Each farm is diversified so if one wants to leave, the others’ livelihoods won’t be affected.”

One of her sons recently returned from China very excited about the Chinese love of beef in general and, especially, marbled beef. In fact, the family views both grass-fed and high marbled beef to China as a big opportunity.

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