Queensland cattle grazier Tom Mann has received the Award of Excellence in Rangeland Management from the Australian Rangeland Society.
Mr Mann settled in the Charters Towers district in 1958, after drawing Lochwall, a 12,140 hectare block 60 kilometres north-west of Charters Towers in a land ballot.
Today, his family owns and operate hundreds of thousands of hectares of grazing country in North Queensland. They haven’t always followed fashionable approaches, but rather, have found success at a crossroads of smart economical decisions and land management ingenuity.
Tom Mann has been well ahead of his time.
“Dad always told us that the land is forever and we only have it as caretakers. It belongs to something bigger than us and we need to treat it with respect,” says his daughter Liz Pearce.
That legacy has been honoured by the Australian Rangeland Society with its inaugural Excellence in Rangeland Management award and while he was shocked at the gesture, it wasn’t a surprise to those that know him best.
“Many people dabble in trading cattle, but few do it well and even less do it well and maintain their country in good condition. Tom is one of the best in the industry at following the market, knowing how much feed is on hand and accounting for erratic wet seasons,” says Bob Shepherd, a principal rangeland extension officer with Queensland’s Department of Agriculture.
Mr Shepherd, as secretary of the ARS presented Mr Mann with his Award of Excellence recently in Charters Towers in front of a small gathering including Mr Mann’s children and family, Bill and Millie Mann, Hillgrove, Charters Towers, Liz and Rob Pearce, Mernoo, Ilfracombe and Jack and Yasmin Mann and son Gordon, Lochwall, Charters Towers. Other guests were Australian Rangeland Society members David Phelps, Immediate Past-President of the ARS, formerly Rangeland Scientist DAF Longreach, now Director – Tropical North Qld Drought Hub JCU, Peter O’Reagain and Simon Hunt, DAF Charters Towers.
The ARS developed the Award of Excellence in 2019 to focus solely on those people who actually excel in the management of the 70% of Australia’s land mass that constitutes our rangelands.
While there are many high achieving and outstanding members have been made Fellows of the Society, the Council thought there was little recognition of the land managers and owners themselves. Many organisations (NFF, state-based grower groups, Landcare Australia, R&D Corporations, etc) have numerous awards for primary producers. In fact, Mr Man was the deserving recipient of one of these awards, namely the NABRC Producer Award in 2008.
The criteria for the ARS award considers the length of time associated with the rangelands, the nature of the commitment to the use and management of the rangelands, unique contribution to the science and/or art of rangeland management and contribution to building capacity in the rangelands community.
Mr Mann, and his late wife Eve have been generous with their knowledge and experience and regularly threw open the gates on their proprites to visitors including researchers, scientists, extension professionals and politicians.
Besides Mr Mann being a great friend and a gregarious character, Bob Shepherd, Secretary of the Australian Rangeland Society Council, admires many things about Tom’s perspective on the beef business and the broader industry, namely his openness about all aspects of managing Hillgrove Pastoral Co including details on finances given even to complete strangers.
“He’s got so many pearls of wisdom we have heard regularly over the years ‘if you’re paying tax, you’re making a profit’, “Fall in love with your wife, not your cattle!” he said.
“But he was also a prolific supporter of industry events and extension and loves to learn which made him an incredible land manager.”
Some of his other frequent advice includes
- Sell early if the seasonal break is late
- Use fire as a management practice
- Avoid over-capitalizing the business
- Match stocking rates to current carrying capacity to manage land condition, animal production and profitability.
- Support R&D (in Tom’s case:- CSIRO, UNE, DAFQ, MLA and NABRC)
- Beware of snake-oil in the beef industry
- Embrace new technology
- Put a lot of energy into succession planning
- Keep subsidies out of agriculture – they distort markets (cattle & land) and can lead to land degradation
In addition to the plaque and medallion that was presented to Mr Mann, an invitation was extended to him r a family member to deliver a presentation at the 22nd Australian Rangeland Society Conference in Broome in late Sept this year. Marcus Pearce, a 16 year old grandson of Tom’s, has accepted the invitation to attend the Broome conference.
Mr Mann was most appreciative of being nominated and receiving the award. He credits much of his philosophy to his parents who came from humble backgrounds
“They both had an incredibly strong work ethic, which was instilled in me from an early age,” he said.
“That gave me the impetus to strive for a life in the pastoral industry, initially with the Scottish Australian Company at ‘Neve Downs’ (Augathella) then other properties including ‘Kynuna Station’ (Kynuna) and ‘Eastmere’ (Aramac) before I drew ‘Lochwall’ Charters Towers in a land ballot in 1958.”