Hiring out bulls is a handy side income for a Thornton producer

Hiring out bulls is a handy side income for a Thornton producer

DIVERSIFED BUSINESS: Bernie Taylor, Thornton, hires out bulls and manages what was once part of his own property for a Melbourne-based lawyer.

DIVERSIFED BUSINESS: Bernie Taylor, Thornton, hires out bulls and manages what was once part of his own property for a Melbourne-based lawyer.


A Thornton producer hires out bulls for an additional income stream.


AC/DC may have sung about 'Guns for Hire', but it's a different type of lease arrangement for one farmer in the Thornton area.

Bernie Taylor has bulls for hire.

Mr Taylor has a property at Acheron and manages another farm at Thornton, owned by a Melbourne lawyer, under the name of Hayfaz Investments.

At the monthly Yea store sale, he turned off steers for the investment property, making $1800 for one pen of 20, averaging 347kg, or 518 cents a kilogram.

A second pen of 10 lighter weight steers, 286kg, made $1640 or 573c/kg.

His bull hire business grew after he sold part of his own property to the lawyer.

"They are all Melbourne lawyers and doctors up this way," he said.

"What happened around here is that people like myself, who have been farming for a long time, found the land was too expensive, and we couldn't afford to expand.

"All the Melbourne lawyers and doctors had been coming up and buying up land, because it's close to the snow fields, you've got Lake Eildon, it's two hours out of Melbourne and it's got a good climate."

But because many smallholders were not actively involved in the day-to-day running of the properties, they appointed managers.

"What happened was people like myself have sold some of our land and then gone and managed it for the purchasers," he said.

"We've downsized but we get an off-farm income, from the farm we used to own.

"Everyone will tell you, you can't make a living out of farming around here with the amount of land we have, and you need very big holdings to make money out of it."

But operating a business by managing someone else's property meant he could "make money, support the family and have a lifestyle".

Second income

A second income stream came with the bull hire business, which Mr Taylor initially started with Shrublands stock.

"I have eight bulls I hire out to different people over the year," he said.

He said the bull hire business complimented managing properties for landlords who didn't live in the area.

"It's the same deal, these people from Melbourne don't want bulls hanging around their property, they only have 10-12 cows, they don't see the need for a bull, so they hire them," he said.

The business operated by word of mouth or through stock and station agents who were fielding inquiries about requirements for bulls.

"Over the years it's expanded, I had 13 bulls at one stage," he said.

Hire challenges

Mr Taylor said hiring bulls did bring some complications with it if not done correctly.

"They are a pain when they come back from being out working, they all want to fight each other and inevitably one will get seriously hurt," he said.

"And you have to be very careful where you take them; if there is a strange bull next door inevitably they are going to get through the fence and fight and one of them is going to get hurt."

Recently he said he had bought bulls from Riddlevue and Balginnie studs, including Bruns Thunderbolt 963 bloodlines.

"I bought one from Riddlevue last year and he never came home, he went straight out to hire," he said.

He said he could run more bulls if he was set up properly.

"I run about three bulls in each paddock, but with more land you could probably do a really good job," he said.

"It's still a good little earner."

Mr Taylor said those looking to hire bulls often asked for their estimated breeding values.

"There are two traits I look for, they have to look nice, they have to look right - that's the standard thing," he said.

"Most people like a nice looking bull.

"And they have to have low birth weight and calving ease direct.

"All that other stuff, that 200-day, 400-day weight means nothing to me.

"That all hinges on what you put down the calf's throat, by way of food."

He said he also looked for average-priced bulls, rather than buying top of the range animals.

"There's still quite a big demand," he said.

No drawbacks

Bull hire may be more common than some people think.

Nutrien Harcourts Yea branch manager Chris Pollard said he knew of two or three producers and studs between Yea and Mansfield that leased bulls.

"It's possibly more widespread than that, but because we have got a lot of little farmers, who have 10 or 20 cows and they don't want to fence off two hectares, it's easier to hire a bull annually," Mr Pollard said.

He said agents were often asked for recommendations.

Nutrien Ag Solutions south-east region livestock lead Adam Mountjoy said bull hire made sense for small producers.

But Mr Mountjoy said the hire system was probably based more on relationships between studs and clients.

"We don't do a lot of it ourselves, the studs deliver the bulls, insure them, guarantee them and pick them up," he said.

"It works well for selected producers."

Elders Yea manager Jamie Quinlan said he couldn't see any disadvantage to small producers.

"If they are only calving once a year, they don't have the cost of buying a bull they then have to feed for the balance of the year," Mr Quinlan said.

"It's a good way for smaller producers to play around with a little bit of breeding stock and not have to sacrifice a paddock for bulls."

He said it also gave people with bulls extra income, especially if they were only calving once a year.

"The bulls would normally be sitting there doing nothing," he said.


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