Millhouse Pastoral is exporting beef directly into high end Singapore restaurants, with plans to expand into Indonesia and possibly Taiwan, later this year.
Millhouse owner and director Frank Pereira runs an Angus herd on the 65-hectare property with wife Suzie Wilson, after buying the Romsey farm from her parents, in 2011.
Part of the animal’s diet, now supplementing pasture, are two 350kg tubs of beer mash a week, from Woodend’s Holgate Brewhouse. In addition, the cattle are fed seaweed meal, “a vitamin tablet for cattle,” Mr Pereira said.
“The seaweed meal acts as a soil conditioner. It has 54 different trace elements and vitamins and the cattle naturally go to it, because pastures tend to produce different nutrients and their availability changes with the seasons,” Mr Pereira said.
“The cattle can source vitamins and minerals they are lacking from the pasture - this is important, because their condition stays fairly even.”
In addition, other trace elements come from pink river salt, copper sulphate, sulphur, apple cider vinegar and cod liver oil.
Ms Wilson’s parents had run an Angus stud on the property for 30 years but the Asian connection came about as “a matter of chance,” Mr Pereira said. “It was serendipity, a friend of mine, who married a Singapore national, her cousin came to visit us,” Mr Pereira said. “He is a marketing executive in Singapore, he had never eaten grass fed beef, in his life and fell in love with the product.”
At the moment a tonne of beef a week is exported, by air, to Singapore, but Mr Pereira said he expected that to grow significantly by the end of the year. He said he was in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding with Taiwanese buyers, while the Indonesian connection was also promising.
He said one of the biggest challenges was sourcing appropriate stock, to sell into the Asian markets. “Moving grass fed cattle, at this very minute, is a very big ask – the prices of cattle at the moment are ridiculously high, and that’s our biggest issue,” Mr Periera said. “It’s not so much finding stock, it’s about finding good quality stock, to meet the Millhouse brand. With the change in the dairy industry, you are finding dairy cows out there, but that’s not what we are after.
“We will source cattle from the Macdeon Ranges to meet demand – but we make sure cattle we buy are hormone and antibiotic free, through the vendor declarations.”
A small company, Millhouse Global, was set up in Singapore, in August 2015, with consultant Lionel Goh, who began his career in Singapore Press Holdings Ltd doing media sales.
“We are now getting some keen interest from international buyers, people want a clean, all natural, antibiotic and hormone free product,” Mr Pereira said.
Millhouse breeds its own stock, or buys in cattle from the surrounding region at 10 months of age, before growing them out to 400-450kg at 24 to 30 months. Any cattle which come onto the property are quarantined, as the pastures are run on organic principals. They are then rotationally grazed in small cells, with only light stocking rates over winter. Soil health was boosted through the seaweed meal and chicken manure.
“At the moment, we are running 60 head - we do that on purpose, we rest our pastures in winter - we don’t push anything - so we can get that great spring break and we can can carry cattle hopefully into February.
“I can then run 200-250, head on such a small area of land, by not pushing our pastures in winter.”
Mr Pereira said he was about to lease another 40 hectares, to increase production and the tonnage of beef he was exporting. Good rainfall, more than 100mm in June and 35mm in July, had set the property up for a great spring.
“We have used 500 cubic metres of chicken manure and are hoping to get some rewards from our grass growth,” he said. Pastures had been sown to red and white clovers, phalaris, rye grass and cocksfoot, but more recently, native grasses were flourishing.
Mr Pereira said his biggest problem was land prices. “The land is getting so expensive - Romsey has doubled in size in four years. The land is being chopped up into five acre hobby farms, so people can run their horses, they want the horse and they want to be able to get into Melbourne.”
Consultant Sundap Carulli was one of several visitors, who have been to the property in recent months. A friend of Mr Goh, he said there was a huge potential for the product in Indonesia, as well as Singapore.
“Lionel is looking for an Indonesian importer, to take Millhouse Beef,” Mr Carulli said. He said the growing middle class, in Indonesia, would be a perfect market for the meat.
There was also a large expatriate community in Jakarta. “Beef is a non issue for Muslims, they like to eat beef,” Mr Carulli said. “And we also have a lot of Japanese, Korean restaurants – so there is a huge demand for beef.”