John Bourke senior agribusiness manager: Banking
and financial institutions have become more aware of the problems
that the grazing industry faces.
Photo: Kate O'Donnell
Sustainable management for graziers depends on
healthy finances as much as anything else. Earlier this year the
North Queensland Beef Research Council organised a forum for
graziers, researchers and agribusiness managers. Savanna
Links talks to John Bourke, Senior Agribusiness Manager for
Westpac in Townsville, who has worked in banking since the early
1980s and in agribusiness since 1997.
Have you seen changes in the way rural people do
There’s been a change in the way businesses have viewed
their on-farm financial management tools. Over the past 10 years
grazing families in general have become a lot more aware of
their financial position.
Why is that?
Businesses have had to take on a lot more of that responsibility
themselves and what those figures mean since the onset of GST. So
they’re not just producing annual figures, or going to see
their accountant once a year; mostly they print off monthly
So the GST has had an unforeseen benefit in that it has made
people better financial managers?
Indirectly because they’ve had to have an understanding of
what it means. From a planning point of view, people are making
more timely decisions.
So from a bank’s point of view, graziers are more
efficient in managing their finances, but from a grazier’s
point of view has there been more understanding from banking
institutions about their challenges?
Yes, it probably works both ways. Banking and financial
institutions have become more aware of the problems the grazing
industry faces. And I think as a result of that it’s trying
to get a lot more closely associated with what are the issues
Was the forum the first of its kind you’ve been
Yes. What was beneficial was that it brought together grazing
families, DPI (Qld Dept. Primary Industries & Fisheries)
scientists, and banks. Generally when we’ve attended a
seminar it may have just been the banking fraternity, so this
brought together different groups of people.
Was DPIF’s contribution talking about some of the
research they’ve been doing?
Yes, but also linking that research with how that affects
sustainability. We visited the trial at Wambiana (a station
south-west of Charters Towers in Queensland). But the good thing
was that we did some of the theory in the room first, talked about
the different practices, so in the afternoon we were able to go out
and put some of that theory into practice.
Wambiana has several sites under different grazing and fire
regimes. Could you see which was better than another?
Yes, you could come to an understanding of the impacts of the
different grazing methods they have in the trial. While we
didn’t go through all the paddocks, we did gain an
understanding of the different states of regeneration that was
happening with the grass etc.
What about trade-offs between production and
conservation? If a grazier wants to have a healthy land asset
that in the short term might reduce his profits, how does the bank
cope with that sort of thing?
When you look at an enterprise you look at the number of cattle
and their turnoff, and it is getting an understanding that reducing
carrying capacity or turnoff numbers in the short term produce
benefits that will flow through to long-term sustainability of the
resource. So it’s not just about the numbers of cattle, but
how they manage their property.
Will you view properties differently now?
I guess it’s just being a little more aware when you do a
property visit. When you drive past a paddock and from the car
everything is fine, but it’s when you have a bit of a walk
around you can get a bit better understanding.
Would you go to another seminar like this one?
Definitely. I think that this type of seminar that is run by the
industry is far more beneficial than those that are internally
based. The big advantage is getting a range of different
perspectives. There’s a lot of knowledge in that room with
the level of experience people have within that industry.