Publishing ByChelle
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Beef Cattle

Land of Plenty

On the vast unspoilt wilderness of Hinchinbrook Island awaits the discovery of one of Australia’s great hikes.

AusBiz Magazine - December 2018/January 2019

Words by: Jac Taylor | Photos by: Ant Ong


Bec Lynd, born and bred in Tasmania, was living in Darwin in 2010, but dreamed of returning to her home state, finding both enough room to keep her horse and a way to live off-the-grid. 

“Initially I wanted at least 100 acres,” she says, “but I saw this place and just fell in love.” The property she fell for and ultimately purchased had more than enough room at 220 acres, with a north-facing slope and a pleasing ratio of 60 per cent bush, 40 per cent cleared land. “I was trying to design the lifestyle I wanted,” Lynd says. “The actual progression was pretty pragmatic.” The property had no infrastructure when she bought it, missing both fencing and driveway, so there was a significant time investment needed. The area and its slope, while stunningly beautiful, experiences some of the highest highs and lowest lows of Tasmanian weather patterns. It’s a bushfire-prone zone, with rocky slopes, so this made the choice of livestock quite specific.  

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“Sustainability means environmental, but it also means emotional, economic and financial sustainability.”

“She investigated different options,” says her partner, Bec Tudor, “and ended up with Highland cattle. They keep the grass down, and they’re very hardy. They’re not daunted by slopes, hills or dales, and they can handle weather extremes because their coats act as insulation, so they’re very robust.”  

An added and very important bonus is how little extra farming interference is required by Highland cattle; they tend to breed and feed quite independently, which was essential given that Lynd started her farming concern entirely solo. However in 2013 she met Tudor, who was living in a small apartment in Hobart at the time. Cue treechange no.2. 

“When I moved out to the farm in 2014 it was a huge lifestyle change,” says Tudor. “I’d lived on hobby properties in rural areas and I loved visiting farms when I was a kid, but going 100 per cent off-grid was all a bit different.” 

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By this time Lynd was running a significant fold of Highland cattle – as their herds are named – including calves born in 2011. Her pragmatism governed what happened next. 

“I only want animals with purpose, not just as fluffy pets,” she says. “When I did more research and found out how good the meat is, I grew it.” 

So Big River Highland Beef was launched in 2015, just as those 2011 calves came of slaughter age. The fact that Lynd and Tudor let the animals mature for four years before slaughter is markedly different from bigger, supermarket-grade beef concerns that may send to the abattoir at one or two years of age – and that’s the first of many differences that identify them as an ethical, sustainable and very much boutique business.  

“That was part of our ethic from the beginning: market demand wouldn’t change our philosophy about how we manage the cattle,” says Tudor. “We have a strong sense of sustainability, and we care about the best welfare for the cattle and what works for us.  

“We only supply to southern Tasmania – that’s how boutique we are. The gourmet food market around this region is so strong that that’s enough for us, and the chefs seem to appreciate it. We deliver our own beef to our customers, who are not paying for marketing or branding, just for the quality of meat itself. As for the animals, they’ve had the benefit of free ranging for those years, eating a variety of foods. It’s not practical with our landscape to be sowing different grasses – the cows eat weeds and native and introduced grasses of their own accord, and are 100 per cent grass fed, all of which flows through into the flavour of the meat.” 

Highland cows are famously visually striking, and come in a huge variety of colours, from red through to brindle, fawn, black and mahogany. Lynd and Tudor are passionate about minimal waste, and get the hide of each slaughtered animal tanned by a northern Tasmanian grandfather-granddaughter team. Even the horns and skull sets are sun bleached and marketed as art. “The horns can be really quite spectacular objects in their own right,” says Tudor. 

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Highland cows are famously visually striking, and come in a huge variety of colours, from red through to brindle, fawn, black and mahogany. Lynd and Tudor are passionate about minimal waste, and get the hide of each slaughtered animal tanned by a northern Tasmanian grandfather-granddaughter team. Even the horns and skull sets are sun bleached and marketed as art. “The horns can be really quite spectacular objects in their own right,” says Tudor. 

Their “hands off” way of raising the cattle is born of the surprising fact that both women still work full-time jobs – Lynd in the state ambulance service and Tudor at a museum. But they purposely keep the fold limited in number to suit the amount of feed available on the land. Although they can go up to 100 head of cattle, they are currently running just 60 head, which suits the current state of the property with the prospect of a long, dry summer ahead. Having a higher slaughter age additionally means it’s essential to look years ahead. However, the intentionally limited scope of the business also brings something vitally important to the mix.  

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“Sustainability means environmental,” says Tudor, “but it also means emotional, economic and financial sustainability. We don’t want the strain of debt on our relationship, and we want to be on this land for many decades to come, so we won’t design systems that aren’t sustainable on a personal level. We want to have work-life balance, to enjoy our farm as well. People talk about farmers burning out so often, and we think holistically as it’s much more productive for yourself.”

With the business running at capacity and a new baby now, Lynd and Tudor are very comfortable, though juggling as much as any new family. So has Lynd found the fairytale of Plenty she was looking for? She barely pauses. “Yeah, absolutely yes,” she says. And pauses, and says a happy “yes” one more time. 

 

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