Diversification is the key to longevity for the Ellis family’s Coola Station livestock farm near the Mount Gambier region in South Australia.
The farm is home to more than 15,000 sheep and 6,000 cattle across 5,100 hectares. In addition to livestock, the family started a vineyard in the 1990s, managed by Tom Ellis Jr.’s sister, Louise.
“It’s to minimise risk but also for succession and to keep the property up and running. If you keep splitting a property between family it makes things hard, so we looked at different enterprises,” Tom Ellis Jr. says.
The vineyard expanded to more than 105 hectares in the first five years and in 2013 Louise started her own wine label, Coola Road.
This doesn’t mean Coola Station is downsizing its livestock operation. On the contrary, it is focusing on increasing capacity, with fertile and resilient pasture being an important part of this.
“We harvest summer crops and ryegrass, but it’s all for the livestock part of the business,” Tom says.
Coola Station sells about 15,000 lambs and 4,000 cattle a year and puts the money back into the business and its "run-of-the-mill operations".
Solid returns on their cattle and sheep have allowed the Ellis’s to make off-farm investments. Farming can be a cash-poor business and by investing off-farm Tom says he is able to get money quickly if disaster strikes.