Farming amongst the hills, west of Melbourne.
Braelands is located in the Pentland Hills an hour west of Melbourne. Set amongst the rolling hills, cattle graze in open pastures with views to deep valleys and the city skyline.
Louise Abey (Lou), together with her fiancé Will Foulkes and children Penny and Arthur raise cattle and sheep on the farm, which has been in Lou’s family for over 142 years.
Dedicated to producing healthy soils, cattle and food, Lou loves everything about farming and is passionate about nurturing the connection between consumer and food producer – that is too often lost in today’s society. In 2009 Lou began selling her beef and lamb direct to the public to fulfil that missing link and was met with an overwhelming positive response from customers.
Partnering with Provenir allows Lou to control the welfare of her cattle to the very end, and also provides another way to connect with the people that enjoy her grass-fed beef.
“It has been our passion to provide our customers with the often missing link to the farmer, so it was an easy decision to make, to work together with Provenir.” – Louise Abey
Farm fast facts
|Farm Size||840 acres Braelands + 400 acres leased country|
|How many cattle?||125 breeders plus 50 – 90 grown cattle|
|Who works on the farm?||Lou manages the farm operations, breeding, livestock and land management. Will looks after mechanical side, pasture improvements, cropping and the tricky calving’s.|
|Favourite beef meal?||Scotch fillet, cooked rare, or slow cooked Osso Bucco with stout and bacon.|
|Why Provenir?||For the past 12 years we have sold our beef in boxes to Victorian families. The values and ethics that Provenir holds are in line with what we believe in. It has been our passion to provide our customers with the often missing link to the farmer, so it was an easy decision to make, to work together with Provenir.|
Why we farm
A love of everything about farming.
Lou loves everything about farming, from the freedom to be her own boss, to spending her days out doors and experiencing the changes that come with every season. Farming is in Lou’s blood, she is a fourth generation farmer and finds the hard work extremely rewarding, she is passionate about breeding quality livestock and producing ethical and nutritious food for people.
Lou is inspired by the love of her life, Will her fiancé, and admits that farming would be incredibly hard without his support. Will is there to listen for countless hours as Lou discusses the ins and outs of cattle farming, livestock weight gains, calving, bull options, and all things beef related.
Together the couple have spent hours poring over the farming operations on spreadsheets and Will has been there for Lou to help her cope when the wheels seem to be falling off at certain times.
The couple, together with the children love the farming life and wouldn’t want it any other way.
Twists, turns and the return to Braelands.
Lou’s family has farmed at Braelands for 142 years, since her mother’s family, the Lidgett’s, settled on the land in 1878. Today Lou’s young children are fifth generation farmers on the land.
In the early days of the family’s 142 year history of farming at Braelands, Dairy Shorthorns were run on the land and there was a small dairy that provided milk to the local area. In the 70’s Lou’s grandfather Jack made the switch to Poll Hereford beef cattle and over the past five years Lou and Will have invested in some quality Angus joined heifers, and Angus bulls.
Lou always had a passion for agriculture and felt a strong sense of being draw to the land, however it was not always her plan to be farming at Braelands.
Lou studied at the University of Melbourne, completing her Batchelor in Applied Science (Agriculture) before working on cattle stations, feedlots and breeding operations around Australia. Following a few twists and turns along the way, and after some tough seasons, the family farm had no one to run it and the opportunity arose for Lou to come home to farm at Braelands. At the age of 26 the prospect of taking on the family farming operation was quite daunting, however soon enough Lou found her feet and began to forge her own journey into farming at Braelands.
“We're excited to partner with Provenir as our practices and ethics are very much in line.”
– Louise Abey
Hereford, Angus and Black Baldy cattle
A mix of Hereford, Angus and a cross of the two breeds, known at Black Baldy are raised at Braelands.
The Hereford bloodlines are Injimira cattle from the Wagga Wagga region of NSW and the Angus bulls are from Langi Kal Kal and Franc Angus in Victoria. They have also grown their herd with Carngham Station stud Angus cows purchased ‘pregnancy tested and in calf’.
Black Angus cattle are raised for the marketing appeal as well as genetic merit, growth, feed conversions efficiency, fertility and mothering traits. Hereford cows are also ran at Braelands as they have good temperaments and produce a great cross known as a Black Baldy when bred with an Angus Bull. Black Baldy cattle are black like Angus, except for white face markings like Hereford, they are a highly regarded cross which carries quality traits from both parent breeds.
Braelands typically carries a self replacing herd of 125 breeder cattle, together with 50 – 90 trade stock which are purchased to fatten when the season is good and there is plenty of feed available.
Cows are selected for genetic merit, type, and confirmation, temperament is also very important as Lou is often handling cattle on her own.
Lou runs her cows together as a herd, heifers are run separately and trade stock also as a separate herd. Unlike many operations which aim to breed and finish all stock together, Lou has designed her farming operation to have stock finishing though-out the year in order to supply her own farm direct beef business.
Low stress stock handling from a young age.
The paddocks and laneways at Braelands have been setup to allow the cattle to flow, move well and quietly. The cattle yards have been rebuilt with low stress features including a curved wall race and materials used to reduced noise, both of which encourage a quiet flow when moving stock. The cattle are handled using low stress techniques, and the use of a motorbike, and also horses assists Lou and the family to move cattle around the undulating farm land.
Rotational grazing is practised to provide the grass-fed cattle with fresh fodder. This is also effective in managing parasites, although egg counts are still monitored and if required a suitable drench is used to reduce any worm burden on the cattle.
All calves are yard weaned and handled well from a young age, they become accustomed to the people, yards and the handling and as such are calm and easy to manage as they grow.
Lou and the family regularly bring the young stock into the yards to weigh each animal. Observing general health and collecting weight gain figures allows Lou to monitor growth, but also receive valuable data on expected weight gain of her grass fed cattle over different months of the year.
Observation combined with science.
Lou believes that good land management comes from both attention to detail, as well as good science. Observation is key and is best obtained by spending time; time out in the paddocks and time with the livestock.
Over the years Lou has been presented with many challenges due to a changing climate, adapting to the conditions however she has made changes to sustain the health and productivity of her land. Over the seasons management decisions such as early weaning of calves, supplementary feeding and adjustments to stocking rates have all helped to overcome climate challenges.
Currently, Lou is leasing an additional 400 acres so that she can graze her cattle more extensively and thus ease pressure on the land. Lou has observed that her land responds well when grazing rotation is used and the paddocks can be rested. Preserving pasture health and ground cover is key to maintaining soil health as well as weed suppression. The region has a number of invasive weeds including serrated tussock, African box thorn and galenia, which are controlled with spot spray or manually removal as required
Cattle graze on a mix of both native and improved pastures, and oats are grown as a fodder crop, cut as oaten hay to feed both the cattle and horses. Lou conducts soil testing and organic fertiliser has been applied to improve paddock pasture growth and soil structure.
Over the past 14 years, since Lou has been managing the farm, the family have fenced off two large gullies with over 4km of fencing and planted over 1500 native trees. They have installed a solar pump to run from the bore, more water troughs have been added and dams fenced to provide better access to clean water for livestock and to protect the natural environment.