Susie Chisholm was raised on Bow Park Station, North Queensland and spent time with her Grandmother in Sydney after her mother died, when she was only a small child. She eventually returned to her beloved Bow Park Station where she spent the remainder of her childhood.
Susie later married lawyer Jonathan Bell and raised three children before she met and fell passionately in love with Tony Chisholm, a Northern Territory cattleman. She and Tony moved to their property ‘Gwalia’, near Adelong in southern NSW to set up their cattle enterprise. Tragically, Tony died a few years later of cancer.
Inheriting their herd of 150 cows, Susie threw herself into the farm and is today recognised as one of Australia’s top cattle producers, producing elite Angus cattle. Her personal goal to mould the herd into an elite, performance-driven enterprise gathered momentum when she joined Team Te Mania in 1995.
Te Mania incorporates breeding stock throughout Victoria , New South Wales and South Australia. It is a partnership of Australian beef cattle producers who work together to produce high quality beef cattle and collectively market through a nationally recognised brand. Members have access to the latest genetics of Te Mania Angus through a bull leasing program and discounted artificial insemination. Focussing on efficient management practices and cutting edge genetics members target the lucrative B3 market. They work together to further advance the fertility and performance of their herds, achieving more cattle reaching commercial targets, in a shorter period of time from conception to turn off. In turn, Te Mania Angus – the nucleus herd – benefits from vital production feedback used to further fine-tune the genetic program.
In 2011 Susie sold 200 pregnant heifers for a near Australian record-breaking price of $2330, topping a commercial female online sale organised by the Victorian-based stud Te Mania Angus.
Susie runs a tight ship and is a stickler for figures. She is passionate about recording the performance of her cattle and understanding the genetics and management principles involved in producing quality meat. She can often be seen striding down the path with her laptop, bluetooth wand and Gallagher scale to record the herd date.
Susie’s story is featured the new bestseller Women of the Land written by Liz Harfull. The book brings together inspiring stories of women from across the country who have run their own farms, capturing their ways of life, their personal struggles and their remarkable achievements.
Liz said, ‘Susie’s story is inspiring and illustrates that while making a living from the land is full of challenges, it also has its rewards. Susie is a farmer in her own right, in what many people perceive is still a man’s world.’
Susie says the biggest lesson she has learnt is the importance of having accurate weather forecasts.
So how does Susie spend a typical day.
‘A typical day is waking up early and having a cup of tea in bed, and planning the day ahead on the laptop. Using the Te Mania program I draft the cows into two mobs to join the best cows with the best bulls. Depending on which point of the calving cycle we are at, I could be moving stock, artificially inseminating, overseeing calving, tagging, vaccinating, or at seminars.’
When asked what she loves most about her job Susie says she loves it all.
‘No two days are the same. I love my cattle. I love being able to see the results I get from the Te Mania program – it’s really exciting stuff. I have been very fortunate to have been able to carry on since Tony died with the help of a part-time employee Carol and when necessary local contractors. Carol and I are a terrific team – we work really well together.’
We all know farming can have its fair share of challenges. One particular challenge for Susie (and most other farmers) is natural disasters.
‘The droughts were the worst, followed by floods. It’s an incredibly frightening situation to be responsible for over 600 cattle and not knowing how you’re going to feed and water them. I had to take it day-by-day.’
So what advice would she give to other women working in the cattle industry?
‘Do it. It doesn’t take much physical strength – not as much as you would think anyway. For anything else you can’t manage alone call in contractors.
‘I know a lot of women in my networks who are doing amazing things and making valuable contributions –many own their own properties and herds. Over the last few decades attitudes have come a long way. Women are generally equally accepted and are as capable as men.’