April 12

Black Creek Pastoral Co: Cattle Production on the Liverpool Plains


Utilising regenerative agriculture for the longevity of cattle production on the Liverpool Plains. 

Maddy Pursehouse, Black Creek Pastoral with angus cattle herd

(Above) Maddy Pursehouse, Black Creek Pastoral Co.

Nestled within the rolling hills of the Liverpool Plains shire, near the small village of Blackville NSW, is Black Creek Pastoral Company. A collection of five properties, Rothesay, Fernleigh, St Helena, Springfield and Amaleah, covering approximately 10,000 acres of prime grazing land. Here Maddy Pursehouse, along with her husband Hugh and daughter Primrose, run their cattle production operation. Surrounded by tightly held properties which have seen generations of graziers come before them, Maddy has brought a fresh mindset to her grazing operation rooted in regenerative practices to propel her cattle forward. 


Maddy grew up in Sydney, a far cry from the rural expanses of the Liverpool Plains. However, her interest in creating a rural life for herself was evident from a young age. Alongside her father, she purchased Rothesay, near Blackville, in 2016. A 2,300 acre parcel of grazing land which had a rich pastoral history before Maddy took it on.  2016 proved to be a wet year and a strong season, so Rothesay was stocked appropriately with a breeding herd. But before long, the early signs of drought were starting to show; this was a drought that would go on for a further three years and prove to be a steep learning curve for Maddy. 


By February 2017 the conversation around destocking had begun. The taps had turned off and the discussion around implementing drought management strategies were circulating. It was around this time that Maddy happened to go on a course that would change her mindset and approach to cattle production completely. This course was Grazing for Profit, facilitated by Resource Consulting Services. 


The ensuing three years of drought conditions proved a steep learning curve in every aspect. For many producers at that time, it was about coping and getting through each week in whatever way worked best for their herd and their property. At Rothesay the trade herd was destocked and before long it was time to let the breeder herd go also. Not an easy decision for anyone to make. The goal for Maddy was to preserve ground cover wherever possible. The thought being that ultimately, when it did rain, she wanted to minimise topsoil losses and run off and mitigate the effects of wind erosion during the drier period. 

Angus cattle at black creek pastoral

The main benefit Maddy saw from this approach to drought management was the relatively quick recovery of the paddocks once a rain event eventually occurred. She highlighted that during a drought, small rain events still come along, but the challenge for paddock management is that once the ground cover is depleted to a point where the ground is bare, its recovery time is extended, and it requires consecutive rain events to germinate a plant and recover feed. By choosing to destock, ground cover, in some form, was maintained so when eventually a rain event did occur, paddocks responded quicker, allowing Black Creek Pastoral to respond quickly and re-enter the cattle market earlier. 

Maddy Pursehouse, Black Creek Pastoral, and kelpie
That is precisely what they did. They started by restocking with a trade herd, feed budgeting and working from a three-month trade plan with forward contracts placed with abattoirs. It was not a quick fix to the issues brought on by the drought, but it allowed Maddy to re-enter the cattle market quickly and begin to rebuild the losses incurred from destocking. For Maddy, numbers are front and centre when she thinks of her operation, whether that be in terms of livestock carrying capacity on her property or fully understanding her numbers. Ultimately any operation needs to be a profitable endeavour, so although Maddy has a keen interest in regenerative practices, she is acutely aware that they must be implemented in a way that maintains the profitable viability of the business. 


Maddy implemented feed budgeting as a key management strategy for her regenerative practices across the property and a strategy which provides the basis of day to day management in 2024. The stocking rate of the property is determined by considering how many livestock units are currently held on the property and assessing how much feed is available. This is calculated in the paddock, determining stock days per hectare. 

A key focus for Maddy is to maintain healthy soil across the property. It was the basis of her decision to destock throughout the drought and it is a goal which influences practices on farm today. By creating healthy soil, the aim is to increase the water capacity of the soil, something that can only be helpful in Australia’s dry climate. In the simplest of terms, the idea is that carbon is sequestered into the soil, holding more water and increasing the availability of feed, creating the ability to carry more cattle. 


On top of feed budgeting, simple operational tweaks have led Maddy and her team to a more regenerative approach to cattle production on the Blackville property. Cattle are run in larger mobs than a traditional approach may dictate, and they are moved from paddock to paddock more frequently, depending on the requirements of the season. A good season might lend to each mob moving every 30 days as the paddocks can recover quickly. In a drier spell, mobs are moved on a 60 day rotation, which may push out to over 90 days if the dry spell was to really take hold. In this model, capacity numbers can fluctuate quickly depending on the season and if there is a need to destock along the way. 


In more recent years, after a relatively strong season, Black Creek Pastoral have moved away from their trade cattle and are rebuilding their breeder herd. This is due to a couple of factors outlined by Maddy in her very clear vision for the property. Firstly, the trade herd were ultimately a weight gain operation which would chase the sweetest feed across the paddocks, leaving behind longer grasses and creating issues with lignant feed. 


A breeder herd will have a greater trampling effect on the paddocks by utilising an animal whose purpose is to maintain weight as opposed to increase weight rapidly. These mobs can stay in one paddock for a longer period of time, creating a trampling effect and allowing other paddocks more time to recover, as opposed to chasing the sweet feed and moving them on as a weight gain model would dictate. 

Angus cattle herd at Black Creek Pastoral Company

On weed management, Maddy also approaches this topic with an open mind and what she describes as a growing mindset. As she looks at her paddocks, she thinks what can we grow here as opposed to, what can we clean up and her grazing operation is one which allows for this mindset to flourish and show its advantages. In the paddocks Maddy looks to encourage a diverse environment of plant life offering her cattle a ‘salad bar’ of plants to work through, each with their own nutritional advantages. Maddy recalls numerous times spent watching the cattle move across the paddock and pick and choose each bite, and sometimes it’s not always the cleanest bite but sometimes a mouthful of plants that are generally classified as weeds. For Maddy, each plant is there to do a job in the paddock. 


It is with an open mind and a passion to improve and learn that Maddy has thrown herself into the management of her property and the development of her cattle operation. Throughout our discussion she continually referred back to the courses and people who have helped her along the way to develop and tailor her regenerative practices to her business model and the needs of her property. It all started with the 7-day intensive Grazing for Profit course, facilitated by Resource Consulting Services. This course fuelled a passion for regenerative agriculture in Maddy and she returned to the farm bursting with ideas. But where to start? It is always hard to pick what changes to put into place first, when faced with the mammoth task of overhauling your operation.  


So, what she did next was reach out once more to the team at Resource Consulting Services and enrolled in their Next Steps Coaching Program. From this a consultant was on hand to strategise and assist Maddy on how to implement the regenerative practices they had learned about on the Grazing for Profit course, in a way that was most beneficial to her property and business model. 

Kelpies used on farm at Black Creek Pastoral

As time went on both Maddy and Hugh joined the Executive Link program, also facilitated through RCS. This program links like-minded producers on a board that meets three times per year for three years. At the meetings, members work through their businesses, bouncing ideas off each other. At the end of the three years Maddy was blown away by how much they had achieved. 


Maddy is constantly pushing herself forward to understand her animals and her land better. She is clearly curious by nature and that translates directly to her management style. She has undertaken cattle psychology courses to understand the best low stress management practices, essential to her paddock management style which dictates much more frequent movement of mobs between paddocks. She has undertaken training to understand the water movement across her property and how best to trap run off, improve soil health and rehydrate her property. Her investment in learning is paramount. 


She continually encourages herself and her team to better their knowledge and understanding of agriculture. She also welcomes others from across the agricultural industry to her property through field days, so they may share in her exploration of regenerative practices and navigate around some of her own mistakes. For Maddy, the paddock gate is always open to enter into a discussion around regenerative agriculture. 

Regenerate is a word that holds connotations to forming something new, and for Maddy it is the foundation of her ‘growing’ mindset that influences her passion for regenerative agriculture. Her passion is infectious and has influenced many people around her as she encourages her family and her team to approach their operations with an open mind; open to learning new skills and techniques and learning from the land and from the cattle themselves. All decisions and changes on farm are rooted in bettering the herd, the soil health and the longevity of cattle production from Black Creek Pastoral Company.

Black Creek Pastoral Company are supported by Pursehouse Rural Quirindi, contact Pursehouse Rural Quirindi today at www.pursehouserural.com.au/locations/nsw/quirindi/


Agriculture, cattle, NSW, Publication, Pursehouse Rural, Regenerative, Seasonal

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