Tonight, I’d like to chat with you about several important things, mainly our Kidman, and our investments.
Firstly, what an amazing three years it’s been since I joined forces with Shanghai CRED to make the acquisition of the iconic Kidman cattle company, reacquainting my grandfather’s history and long friendship with Sidney Kidman. As some of you would know, they went into both coaching and stations together.
It seems only yesterday that we had finished those negotiations for Kidman, and had my first memorable visit to the Kidman headquarters, and then I finally was permitted to visit what we purchased. I must say, having loved growing up on stations in the Pilbara, some 50 years earlier, I was quite shocked at how little investment had gone into the Kidman stations in the last half-century. It was like walking back 50 years ago to my own childhood. except that my dad was quite advanced in his thinking and even 50 years ago he had invested in solar hot water systems and aircraft. Plus maintenance, there were huge differences in that. Everywhere I went station managers were advising they needed huge amounts of new fences, and troughs and stockyards, and more. But I loved their enthusiasm to help improve their stations and getting their station knowledge and ideas. We chatted till the early hours, as Dan well knows, at station after station, and listed stations requirements. I’d brought with me several of our Hancock station managers, and we discussed changes we’d successfully made with improved technology, and some we were trialling, and how we wanted to roll the successful ones out across Kidman. But with all the need to do immense maintenance investment as well, I was becoming increasingly anxious to raise this with my new partner. Our first board meeting in early February, in a nutshell, went something like this. Well Mr Gui, we’ve visited the stations, all but one, and are very surprised at how little investment in even essential maintenance they’ve had, much investment is needed by us, I don’t see us getting any money back from our hundreds of millions of dollars of current investment, for quite a few years. And in addition to that, I’d like to invest more to help the stations update with new technology. I wasn’t expecting this to go down at all well. I was delighted when Mr GUI quickly accepted what I was saying, and here we are together after millions of dollars of investments into our Kidman stations, our animals, infrastructure, technology and safety.
We are still wanting to invest well to help the situation where we can with this terrible drought. As recently as 18th November, I was asked and approved further additional water infrastructure investment on Helen Springs to open up areas of underutilised pasture for cows and calves that we are unable to sell or transport. Under-utilised given without permanent water. This type of investment will assist us in keeping these cows and calves alive and position us for recovery out of the drought.
Investment of this type to help these terrible conditions is fully supported by myself and our Board and I encourage all Station Managers who have ideas as to what can be done to help their own stations to please make sure that they pass those ideas on to David so that they can be acted upon.
Combined with our significant investments, we are fortunate that we own properties not only across the north of the country but also through the Channel Country where there was flooding earlier in the year. While our northern stations have suffered through drought, we have been able to move a lot of our cattle to the Channel Country stations where we had available feed. This has allowed us to retain a larger number of females, which will allow us to recover our herd after the drought breaks.
Our culture, “happy healthy cattle, are better cattle”, has spread across Kidman, and I repeat, anyone who doesn’t like and fulfil the culture we have introduced, should not join Kidman. But all truly good managers and cattleman, share this culture, and we at Kidman only want the best managers and cattleman.
Having this as our base, together with investment and dedicated work, helps us to build not only the best cattle stations, and in that I include our Hancock ones, but also pride in ourselves and for being a member of iconic Kidman. Indeed, don’t we want it known outside, wow, if you work at Kidman, you must be special, you must be outstanding?
I accept we must keep striving every day to be the best, and we still have improvement to do. I asked David to start a registry of cattle deaths, and to best of knowledge, cause of death. We still must improve here, despite the terrible drought. For instance, for one station to have 9 deaths from branding, that is unacceptable.
Cattle too weak from drought, the branding must be delayed. When I started as chair, I asked that all Kidman stations have smaller branding irons, this took longer than I thought, red tape was apparently involved, but ultimately I’m told we achieved what I requested, smaller branding irons for all stations. Unfortunately, these are not as small as I’d have liked, as I’d wanted reduced to the letter k, with if necessary, the line underneath, but sadly we couldn’t get approval for that.
Animal activists, some not even from Australia, have been targeting hard-working Australian farmers, who are already going through terrible hardships with the drought.
I hope the activists also consider the families who derive their livelihoods from agriculture and its related industries and that their own lifestyle benefits because of such hard-working Australians. The primary industries in rural Australia pay the taxes to cover Australians including activists HECS, to build schools their children benefit from, hospitals they and their families need, roads they use, and help to pay their dole money, and provide their city conveniences. But these activists then try to dictate to those who usually live in the harshest conditions, where there are less than the services agriculture helps to provide for the activist’s city lifestyles.
I know the governments around Australia hear these concerns of rural families, but isn’t it time all governments followed through on their commitments to targeting those terrorising Australian farming families. I don’t see why at least legislation in regard to foreign activists can’t be speedily implemented.
Having said that I want to make it clear that as a company and an industry we must ensure that animal welfare is our concern and responsibility every day. This attitude is not driven to meet the desires of our end consumer who has changing social demands, but because it is what is right and humane.
Yes, we eat our animals, as do we eat chickens and eggs, fish and veges but while our cattle are alive we want their lives to be the best they can reasonably be on our properties.
That is why our multi-million-dollar investment across our whole agricultural portfolio, Kidman and Hancock, includes, investments in shading over cattle yards, shading troughs and the pipes leading towards, providing shading in birthing and recuperation paddocks, trialling filtering water for cattle to drink, and de-misters, massage brushes, putting soft padding on weaner cradles and head supports. And insisting on the use of pain killers for procedures, including providing a paper for best practices. Did any manager present tonight, miss out on this painkiller best practices guide and animal health protocol, which included procedures, germ killers and infection treatment? Please ensure you let David know tonight so he can ensure they are sent to you tomorrow.
Thank you, Kidman and Hancock, for leading the way in animal welfare and helping to drive this across our industry.
It upset me deeply to learn just after we purchased Kidman that a previous CEO, had prohibited the use of painkillers on cattle just to save some dollars. Indeed, the best Kidman cattle managers I spoke to, were independently deeply upset by such practice. I was outraged and immediately requested that the use of painkillers be compulsory.
I want to thank you for acting on my emphasis to improve animal welfare. As the signs we put up say all around our properties, happy cattle are healthy cattle. And, happy healthy cattle are better cattle, daily reminders.
As I’ve made plain, people who don’t treat animals with care should get out of the industry. We don’t want you in agriculture and neither do the cattle. The industry doesn’t need such people wrongly hurting animals and painting a negative light on the whole essential industry which contributes so much for our country.
Talking about the industry brings me to another point, I’d like to copy a phrase from Donald Trump when I refer to draining the swamp. We are fortunate we have a new Prime Minster who wants to make a start on draining the swamp. As well as cutting red tape, yes something I’ve been on about for years.
Some people in Canberra are 2nd, 3rd or even 4th generation public servants, who’ve never worked in agriculture or other industries, go to the same left-biased schools and uni, read the left media, holiday together in January on the coast, who simply become excluded from productive Australia.
You know the ones I mean, the ones who work in Canberra earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year all paid for by you and I and all the pastoralists and farmers and other primary producers in Australia. yet importantly don’t have our experience and knowledge of our stations and industry.
Stations pay a levy for every head of cattle they have to industry bodies in Canberra who then decide how to spend the money we earn.
When I say our, I include Kidman and Hancock Agriculture because combined we are one of the biggest levy payers in Australia.
Frankly, the less that goes to such levy’s the better, as usually we are much better at planning and spending this ourselves, than trusting bureaucrats with no real experience in our industry.
But lately, there are some changes in the wind, going against the PMs proposed swamp reduction path, with the Red Meat Advisory Committee who are planning to build bigger bureaucracies.
I do hope we in the industry, include a strong call for significantly reducing the levy, as frankly, why do we need bureaucrats to guide our industry when they simply don’t have the experience or the knowledge to do so.
We need those whom want to build empires to engage with levy payers and ensure our hard-earned levies are not misused to further political aspirations of certain individuals. One of the surest ways to enable this is to reduce the levies.
Our cattle company like others has suffered from the drought, I want to thank you for your unwavering efforts during such difficult years.
We pray the rain comes soon. I hope you want to continue through these difficulties to still build and be part of the best cattle company in Australia.
May you all have a merry Christmas, please be safe.
And please remember, healthy cattle are happy cattle.