Apart from supplying premium GRAZE beef to Coles, farmer Trevor Caithness is busy transforming his East Gippsland property into a model of modern sustainable farming.
A beef farmer for all seasons
It takes a special person prepared to hand-feed calves during a long drought, but this simple act illustrates just how deeply Trevor Caithness cares about his Angus cattle.
“We say every day of an animal’s life has to be as good as we can make it,” says Mr Caithness who, alongside wife Carryn, runs a 1450-hectare farm in East Gippsland.
Hardly surprising then that Caithness Pastoral is one of a select group of Aussie producers hand-picked to supply premium, grass-fed GRAZE beef to Coles supermarkets.
“We’ve been part of GRAZE since the beginning,” says Mr Caithness proudly.
It’s fair to say that the ethos of GRAZE, which showcases beef which has been raised in natural conditions and under the highest standards of animal welfare, perfectly reflects the values and traditions of Caithness Pastoral – and its energetic founder.
“We feel a great ownership of the beef we supply to Coles,” he says.
In addition to the personal attention he pays to each of his 550-strong cattle herd, Mr Caithness has spent years planting trees on his property, as well as assiduously improving its soil with limestone and important trace elements such as copper and zinc.
“We’ve made a large investment in soil health over the last decade. Trees are planted for wind breaks and as animal shelter, while the lime does a lot for herd health,” he says.
“When we hand our property onto future generations we want it to be more productive, but also leave the soil in a much healthier state.”
Coming from a large, extended country family, Mr Caithness learned to celebrate food from an early age and today enjoys how the dinner table reflects the changing seasons.
“I have something like 28 cousins - so we never had small family gatherings,” he laughs. “And in our family everything revolved around food.”
Mr Caithness believes it is the combination of good breeding stock, well-tended soils, and healthy grass that produces the quality of beef worthy to be sold under the GRAZE banner – plus the personal attention that only a hands-on beef farmer can provide.
“I think you get more passionate about the quality of the produce as you get older,” he says. “It’s only when I started travelling the world that I appreciated how unique we are – I’m involved with the animals from their birth to the day they leave our farm.”
In recognition of its commitment to sustainable farming and to help Caithness Pastoral be prepared for potential drought in the future, the family business was last year awarded a $160,000 Coles Nurture Fund grant which has been used to build a new silage bunker and two steel-framed sheds which can store 800 tonnes of hay or cereal straw.
The new facilities will prove invaluable should East Gippsland have to endure another long period of drought, unexpected frost or poor seasonal rains. The region has just emerged from a three-year drought and was swept by bushfires in early 2020.
“Being involved with the Coles Nurture Fund has been terrific,” says Mr Caithness. “The hay sheds are full and the silage pit is half-full, so we’re already up and running.”