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  • Writer's pictureKate Stark

Margie Lee-Madigan

Fifth generation farmer Margie Lee-Madigan, Broadmere, runs a grass-fed Santa Gertrudis herd for trade to Teys Australia. Picture by Clare Adcock


For more than a century, the Lee family of North Nanango in the South Burnett Region have been celebrated as pillars of the agricultural industry. Today, Broadmere spans 2700 hectare of undulating black and red soil country and is owned and managed by Margie Lee-Madigan, the great-great granddaughter of original owners, alongside her husband Scott Madigan. The pair run a commercial Santa Gertrudis operation which prides itself on producing high quality, Grasslands accredited beef, underpinned by the Grasslands Pasturefed Standard for direct sale to Teys Australia. Margie said the first Santa Gertrudis bull was purchased in 1967 from Rosevale Santa Gertrudis and the first poll bulls were introduced in 1995. "The whole aim of my late father was to have a pure Santa Gertrudis commercial herd with no bull cross-breeding taking place and we've successfully managed to do that and continue on from his great legacy."

Tough season With low rainfall leading in to winter, Margie said the property is headed for a "tough time". "We've had low rainfall since October last year and things are getting a bit tough - as they always are here in winter. We're in a very frost prone area so the brown grass is natural this time of year, but we have just had no rain. "We've got bullocks on the oats at the moment that are going to Teys the first week in September. They're not on lush oats, they're on oats that are just surviving." Margie said the couple plan to move their breeders on to "what's left" of the oats with hopes of a prevailing season bringing with it an opportunity to plant sorghum. "We're very ritualistic and planting oats from the end of April through early May and that's done every year. If we can get a bonus forage sorghum crop in for summer if the weather prevails, that's great."

In stock Fattening their herd on cultivated oats and pasture Margie said, in a good year, upwards of 150 of their milk-tooth and two-tooth bullocks are sold directly to Teys, the majority of which weigh between 500-600kg. "Our whole main business has always been based around fattening off the grass and we're Teys Grasslands accredited which means no hormones and no antibiotics. Everything we fatten is off the grass or off an oats crop," Margie said. "Those numbers are extremely seasonal and this year we've only got about half of that number [going to Teys] because we've also sold cattle through the yards." When it comes to stocking capacity, Margie said she has a strict rule of one beast to every 4 hectares with the property currently running 750 head all up. "We run that [density] in good and bad seasons and that's the way that we can survive. We don't get greedy." With 300 pure Santa Gertrudis breeders currently on-farm, Margie said the family choose to retain all of their replacement heifers. "We have strict breeding times so the bulls go in mid-October and they come out February, regardless of what the season. We stick to that routine and that's the way that we can keep our herd nice and tight. "We've built our breeding herd up and we've got plenty to choose from for our replacements," she said. "Our family brand 'LE6' has been known for generations and our females very rarely hit the open market, so there's always hot competition because we run a 100 per cent purebred commercial herd." Surplus weaners will also be sold in the yards with females that aren't used as replacements spayed and grown out. Margie said the desirability of Broadmere Santa Gertrudis at local sales stemmed from the family's consistent investment in their herd genetics. "We've never been caught up with what the fads are or what the trends are and I think that's why we've kept being very stable and what we consider to be quite successful for our family." Margie said culling was also a "major part" of the business with the couple set on retaining the unique features synonymous with the Santa Gertrudis breed. "We get the Santa Gertrudis classifier to come out every few years and go through our commercial herd to help us stay on track. "When we're buying bulls, we're very particular in what we buy for our commercial cattle. We always buy S bulls and we believe we've got a very well structured herd that does everything we need them to do," she said. "Ultimately, no matter what you are doing in the cattle industry, it should be about cents per kilo and that's the beauty of Santa Gertrudis, they've got a phenomenal growth rate. "Their weight for age and ability to recover quickly after a tough season is extremely impressive to us, hence why we have had them since 1967." Riding the highs and lows of the livestock industry is all part of life at Broadmere and Margie said she is proud to be continuing in her father's footsteps. "It's tough, it's not easy, it's relentless but it's oh so rewarding."


*First published August 2023 for Queensland Country Life - owned by Australian Community Media.

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