Location: North of Rolleston, 320km West of Rockhampton, Central QLD
Property size: 6,781 hectares
Currently runs: Between 2000 to 3500 LSU
Average annual rainfall: 650mm
Enterprise: Beef cattle trading
Drivers of Success:
Ideas for future innovation:
When Murray and Wendy Gibson took the reins of Coonabar, their beef cattle farm in Central Queensland in 1988, it was covered entirely in thick virgin-standing scrub. Thanks to the Gibson’s forward-thinking mindset and dedication to learning, their 6,781 hectares of land currently thrives, boasting an ever-improving land condition.
Their original set-up of two large paddocks plus a few holding paddocks has evolved to 104 paddocks in total, and their original capacity for 600 LSU (Large Stock Units) has stretched up to 3000 LSU.
In the early days the business was high-risk and it wasn’t always easy to make ends meet. Even so, Murray admits it was challenging to commit to changes, as so many conflicting opinions existed. Since then, gradual improvements and highly flexible management strategies have maximised their agroecosystem and business profitability.
Murray and Wendy first shifted into a sustainable business after completing GrazingforProfit® in 1992, a course now completed by their son Cameron and his wife Kristy, who share management of the farm. Both couples have gone on to complete the three-year ExecutiveLink® program with RCS.
Through their interaction with RCS, Murray and Wendy committed to time-controlled grazing. “Our paddocks weren’t being utilised. Cattle would concentrate their grazing within a two-kilometre radius of water. There were areas that were heavily overgrazed whilst large areas at the backs of paddocks would remain virtually untouched,” says Murray.
It gives the family a great deal of satisfaction when they look at what Coonabar is today and know they have significantly improved the quality of their land.
Since completing their courses with RCS, the Gibson family has seen an increase in ground cover and carrying capacity, improved response to rainfall, enhanced biodiversity—including an increased presence of native pasture species—and overall environmental resilience.
They now use data to make decisions, apply Low-Stress Stock handling techniques to their cattle and have effective support and communication between staff. Early adoption of innovative ideas has seen the Gibbson family apply holistic business management strategies, walk-over weighing, automatic drafting and virtual fencing.
Many changes they made required a huge shift in thinking—a reflection of their determination to do what it takes to create a sustainable, profitable business.
With three generations of the Gibson family living on the land, Murray and Wendy are eager to demonstrate that the beef industry can be environmentally sustainable and create a future on the land for the next generation. They believe for the industry to be sustainable, businesses must continue to improve ecological health and be able to measure profitability.
Today the Gibsons maintain a continuum of networks that provide the necessary constructive criticisms required to stay informed within the beef industry.
“We maintain ongoing relationships with various international agricultural groups…but for us, the most influential advice came from RCS and other graziers in the industry. Keep In Touch Days were valuable. They demonstrate first-hand sustainable business management. They are genuinely supportive and help peers share key learnings.”
The Gibsons aspire to have an environmentally sustainable and financially secure business, growing their operation both on and off the farm. They now see Coonabar as having the potential for carbon farming with offsets from remaining vegetation and soil sequestration made available to them through time-controlled grazing.
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