Sheppard Farming – Coonamble (NSW)

Sheppard Farming – Coonamble (NSW)

Last month we spoke with Matt Sheppard, who manages Paragon Pastoral near Coonamble in Central West NSW. It was great to learn about the history of the family farming operation and how important on-farm storage is to their business strategy.

In 1979, Matt’s parents bravely relocated from Wollongong on the NSW south coast and purchased a grazing property, “Rosee”, which has become the family farm. Over the next ten years, developments (including purchasing two neighbouring properties) were made to incorporate cropping into the system. During this time, the Sheppards doubled their holdings and farming operations.

After attending university and working in agribusiness banking, Matt was eager to return to the farm. This opportunity came in 2010, and Matt was keen to increase the scale of the family operation. Between 2017 and 2021, the Sheppards entered into successful negotiations with the owners of some neighbouring properties, producing the economies of scale they were aiming to achieve.

Although they have been storing small volumes of grain on-farm for many years, it wasn’t until 2020 that the first stage of their grain storage vision became a reality, with the installation of four Kotzur silos with a capacity of 1800 tonnes each. Matt said on-farm storage was a long-term investment for the Sheppards and has created better marketing opportunities for the business.

“We have seen some big fluctuations in legume prices over the last decade, from $300 to $1200 per tonne. Having the capacity to store our grain on-farm has allowed us to capitalise on market premiums.

“Cash flow is the most important part of any farming business, so controlling when you sell, who and where you sell to is the pinnacle.

“With more grain trading companies looking to do business directly with the farmer, on-farm storage opens the door to different grain trading options,” he said.

At harvest time, Matt said the efficiencies that on-farm storage creates with harvest logistics provide a huge benefit. Besides freight costs being considerably cheaper post-harvest, the ability to harvest with high moisture has been a game changer for the family.

“With our drying silos, we now have the ability to start harvest early, we have been able to harvest at 14% moisture, eliminating external risks, and this has paid exponential dividends over the last few years,” said Matt.

Running a mixed farming enterprise means they now have access to stock feed year-round, providing another layer of benefit produced by the storage facility.

Before bringing their grain storage vision to reality, the Sheppards embarked on an extensive research journey to ensure they were choosing the right people for the job. Despite using other silo providers for some smaller jobs, they were confident with Kotzur’s reputation and the service they received from Kotzur during the planning stage.

When it came to making a decision, Kotzur’s experience with large projects, the service and advice during the planning stages, together with Kotzur’s reputation and guarantee of a well-sealed silo, contributed to the decision to go ahead.

“With a project of this size, you need a quality product. For us, the design of the flat wall silos provides for structural soundness and cleanliness, together with their continual service and support; Kotzur has been great to deal with,” Matt said.

The Sheppards can now store 20,000 tonnes of grain on their farm, including wheat, barley, lupins, chickpeas, and canola. They recently completed an upgrade to their storage facility.

Efficiency at harvest time was a driving factor that led to the decision to upgrade their facility with a road pit, bucket elevator, infeed drags, and diverters. They now have more headers operating at any one time, the ability to move grain from one silo to another and the capacity to segregate different grades of grain.

Matt’s wife Mel, plays an integral role at harvest time, testing all the grain and controlling the segregation of the different grain qualities. The automation and user-friendly control features that were installed to integrate with their grain handling facility have made the process much more efficient, providing Mel with greater control.

The latest upgrade included the addition of an 81 tonne garner bin, which has created accurate and precise weights when loading out trucks. This has again improved efficiency and removed the guesswork in weighing loads.

“Kotzur produces a high-quality product with the design to match, combined with fabulous support after completion. It’s not a surprise they are successful. I really can’t fault their level of service,” Matt said.

Photo credit – Matt Sheppard