The Sables is 480 hectares (1186 acres) situated in the foothills of Dangore Mountain about 25 minutes due west by car from Kingaroy, QLD. The property can be reached by driving north-west of Brisbane for about 2.5-3 hours.
The Sables comprises about 800 acres of open grazing with the remainder in dedicated forested areas. The soil is sandy loam with patches of better creek flats and contoured ex-cultivation. The entire property is a haven for wildlife and has been and is holistically managed using regenerative principles which aim to continually improve the land in a sustainable way whilst promoting greater production.
The grazing country is leased and presently about 100-150 Brangus / Charbray / Bazadaise breeders graze the paddocks in a cell grazing system whilst tall, straight narrow-leaf red ironbark and Queensland blue gum dominate the forested areas. Springs abound all over the property with never-go-dry dams and long winding seasonal streams flowing into Hearst Creek after periods of rain. At 440m above sea level, it is a cool, sub-tropical climate with cold winters and hot, humid summers. The property and surrounding South Burnett area is truly beautiful country.
The Sables was purchased in October 2012 from a hardworking country family who were constantly looking to improve the soils, pastures and their bottom line through educated and innovative management practices. It is a wonderful thing to be passed a property in such good condition with excellent firebreaks, fencing infrastructure, water points, soil health and forest inventory. Stewardship of any chunk of Australia is no small privilege and The Sables will be managed as a custodian of its unique environment whilst keeping in mind commercial realities.
It is often said by those in the know that successful grazing and farming is a question of scale in Australia. It seems that particularly in non-arable grazing country, viability is determined by arbitrary measures such as the “set” carrying capacity for that acreage in sheep or cattle and this is often the dominant measure used to put a price to the acre. At the time of purchase and investigating lending options, I was told by a government loan officer that business potential was reached at about 300 breeding cattle and less than this amount was not “viable”. Where’s the imagination? Why not look at 1200 acres of relatively high rainfall country and see boundless opportunities instead of limitation based on only one parameter? Agriculture across the globe has expanded into a multitude of production enterprises to meet a growing consumer awareness of where food is produced, how it is produced and to what standard. Australia has such a consumer base and is, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania, expanding into a huge range of pastoral enterprises to meet growing niche markets. My hope is that SE Qld expands into similar market potential for those willing to take the necessary risks. I simply can’t see why it wouldn’t and I’m sure there are many out there already taking these risks
Part of what I think is so exciting in the Sables is the challenge of creating a profitable venture in spite of the fact most people would look at the baseline property and immediately say – “lifestyle farmer” or perhaps even more damning to profit expectations – “hobby farmer”! Can a 1200 acre Australian smallholding 3 hours from the State’s capital make enough money to genuinely live on? I am going to find out and I am going to report the results on this blog.
The purpose of this website in my mind is to document as many parts of the process as possible in prose, image and video. It was just about impossible finding information online when I went into this that I want to make it easier for others who have a rural interest or who might be considering a similar deep, dark plunge. I am interested in every part of the Sables from the geology in its rocks, to the microbes in the soil to the atmosphere above the canopy and intend to investigate it all and lay it out for anyone interested.
If you are reading this, then please join me on the journey and feel free to comment, criticise, advise, suggest and abuse. All interest is welcome and hopefully at some point, somewhere a long way down the road… possibly literally in future generations… someone might read something on the site and be helped out in the pickle they are trying to solve. This is a dream come true so at the very least, it should be a shed load of fun..
Matt and Alice