Fancy an Angus steak or burger? It’ll be ready in five years!

While Stuart and Erica Halliday have differing opinions on their favourite cut of steak, the Angus stud cattle breeders agree on one thing – they love farming, their cattle and the environment.

The fifth-generation farmers are one of Australia’s top Angus seedstock breeders, producing high-quality bulls at their 1,300-hectare property, Ben Nevis, located near Walcha in New South Wales.

But success in farming doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes effort over an extended period of time to reach that final pay-off, and that can leave farmers exposed to so many factors that influence the end result, many of which are out of their control.

“As a stud breeder, the bulls we produce take two years before they go to commercial operations, then the bull conceives with the cows, and with pregnancy and finishing, that takes another three years. So, the quality steak someone’s eating is actually a five-year plan,” Stuart said.

As part of the annual Mates Day Campaign, Rural Aid CEO, John Warlters, wants to help consumers understand that every plate of food tells a story. And like all good stories, there are often highs and lows.

In 2019, like many farmers across Australia, the Hallidays faced what they describe as their most brutal year. A mini-tornado, bushfires and the worst drought in living history culminated, and even with the best laid plans and preparations, Stuart said the severity blew them away.

“We sent 600 cows down to Victoria on agistment and we hand-fed 600 daily here in containment. We had enough budget to survive for at least 12 months, however ended up feeding them for 18 months because of the severity of the drought,” he said.

Bushfires at Erica & Stuart’s Walcha property in 2019

“One of the biggest challenges we had was water. Greatest plans ever, but even without some of the stock, half the place didn’t have any water at all. And it’s never happened since 1860.”

The financial strain and physical impacts on their land was hard enough to deal with, but as Stuart explains, the biggest struggle was the impact this had on their mental health.

“I think mentally was the biggest hurdle for us—it was seeing stock that we love, that we put so much work into, getting skinnier. And, you know, we had a fair budget, we knew how much debt we could go into. But it blew us away the severity of it all.”

This sentiment is shared by many Aussie farmers who are working hard to feed the nation. A recent study by Rural Aid revealed that 70% of farmers surveyed have said mental health decline has even caused them to consider selling their farm. Erica has seen the impacts of this firsthand within her own community, “The rates of suicide in rural Australia have escalated. And I think a lot of that is from that feeling of isolation that comes from being a farmer.”

Rural Aid’s water and hay deliveries couldn’t have come at a better time!

With no drinking water left on their property, a water delivery and truckload of hay from Rural Aid gave Stuart and Erica a morale boost and was the catalyst for Erica to join the Rural Aid board to represent farmers.

“We were so blown away with gratitude that someone cared about us that much to help us, that we really wanted to give back.”

“An opportunity came up to be a director on the board of Rural Aid and they wanted representation from farmers, so I put my hand up to try and help other people to feel the same way.”

With Rural Aid’s Mates Day approaching on 20 March, Erica said it is a great opportunity to donate to the work Rural Aid is doing to support farmers through challenging times.

A little support can go a long way in assisting in disaster recovery, keeping farms operational, and supporting those suffering mental health challenges.

Rural Aid is committed to standing with farmers like Erica and Stuart, who not only put food on our tables but who embody the resilience and perseverance that define the Australian agricultural landscape. Because when our farmers thrive, we all thrive too.