Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Graziers on the Gravy Train Thanks to $9M Wagyu Deal

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

Graziers on the Gravy Train Thanks to $9M Wagyu Deal

Article excerpt

Byline: Emily Smith emily.smith@dailymercury.com.au

THE potential of Mackay's agriculture sector is summed up in the story of Mal and Sue Burston, who in less than 20 years have risen from "nearly going broke" to securing a multi-million dollar cattle deal with Australia's richest business woman.

After years of hard work, lots of research and many nights eating bread and jam for dinner "some nights without the jam", the Brookston Premium Wagyu Beef owners have seen the transaction completed on 500 of their cows to Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting.

A number of full-blood wagyu bulls and semen was also included. Victorian-based wagyu breeder David Blackmore, known as the godfather of the breed in Australia, provided another 1000 cows to the combined deal, tipped to be worth between $9m-$10m in total.

While the deal was set in motion a year ago, the graziers first had to ensure all cows they supplied to Ms Rinehart were pregnant.

As the couple sat at their Kuttabul home yesterday, Mrs Burston said when she looked back, the success was still a little mind blowing.

In 1998, after building a breeding herd of brahman cows up to 1000, the couple sold the lot to buy the family cane farm, which had been in Mr Burston's family for three generations.

That's when the sugar industry fell through the floor.

"We were only three years in the sugar industry and going broke. Cane was that bad. We had to do something other than cane and the only other thing we knew was cattle," Mr Burston said.

But coming up with a way to secure maximum dollars per hectare to make the small-scale operation profitable was difficult.

"We nearly went into dorper sheep because they were worth a fortune at the time. But we hated sheep," Mr Burston said. "Then we found wagyu cattle."

A friend, who knew Mr Burtson subscribed to the idea "if you going to do something at all, you may as well do it properly", advised him that if he wanted to get into wagyu the only man he needed to speak to was David Blackmore. …

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