Generations of opportunity in agribusiness

Phoebe, Sophie and Lilly Ferguson (pictured with Warenda stud owner Sylvia Kirkby) are poised to be the latest in a line of proud, successful and promising stud farmers. Picture: Chris Todd

By Julian Lehnert

For decades, Bassingthwaighte family matriarch Louise has seen her children and grandchildren thrive and prosper in various Santa Gertrudis stud cattle businesses – and she could not be happier with her legacy.

The long-time cattle owner, who lives on a property at Wallumbilla east of Roma with her husband Alastair, married into what has now grown to be a multi-generational family business, immediately taking on responsibilities and helping the farm grow.

“I’ve been very fortunate – not many wives have the opportunity to work with their husbands this closely,“ Louise said.

Louise began her work on husband Alastair’s stud farm Yarrawonga by organising business records and looking after the cattle.

When asked about the available opportunities in the agribusiness sector for women like her and her many successful daughters and granddaughters, Louise explained that all it takes is a go-getter attitude.

“Women can get very involved in agribusiness, particularly when it comes to tasks like recordkeeping, but whatever has to be done can be done by women,“ she said.

“The only thing I haven’t done a lot of is fencing,“ she laughed.

Her efforts on and off the farm have borne fruit time and time again, with her sons and daughters taking over the farms of older family members or starting their own studs.

The Bassingthwaighte family’s involvement in Santa Gertrudis stud cattle began in the 1950s, with Brahman farmer Dave introducing one of the then very first bulls of its kind into his herd – a decision which would quickly grow into his main business, a stud farm named “Yarrawonga“.

Dave’s son Alastair continued his father’s legacy, helping out at Yarrawonga and receiving a few heifers of his own as a reward over the years, which led him to establish the Santa Gertrudis stud farm Waco at Taroom in the Banana Shire.

Both Yarrawonga and Waco are now run by Louise’s sons, with David and his wife Suzanne taking over the legacy of Waco, which has since moved west of Roma, while Andrew and wife Fiona operate Yarrawonga.

Wendy, one of Louise’s daughters who married into the Ferguson family – another prominent name in Santa Gertrudis studs – also took on responsibilities in stud farming, running Glenn Oaks Santa Gertrudis near Toowoomba with husband Scott.

The Bassingthwaighte family’s success does not end there, however, as Louise’s granddaughters Phoebe (22), Sophie (21) and Lilly (18) are determined to break sales records and carve out a name for themselves in the Queensland stud farming scene.

The three girls recently made headlines by paying the top price – an impressive $24,000 – at the Santa Central female sale at Headingly sale complex.

“As they were growing up, my granddaughters got involved with what their parents did – they loved the cattle and liked the people involved in the business,“ Louise explained.

“They’re very much involved because their parents have a good stud as well – now they’re the ones who are doing all the preparation.

“They were dragged along by their parents to all the country shows, and it just went from there,“ she said.

Proud parents, grandparents and stud farmers, Louise and Alastair Bassingthwaighte may no longer do all the herding, breeding and fencing themselves, but their connection to the business – and their family’s legacy – has not waned over the years.

“My husband and I still live on Yarrawonga,“ Louise explained.

“I have continued on with the cattle side of the business. My greatest love is going down to the yards and spending time with the cattle and the breeders,“ she added.

“I’m very happy with how lucky I’ve been, being involved in my husband’s work.“