General News

18 December, 2022

Tableland tradie hidden cattle champion

The fifth generation Tableland boy who dreamed only of being a plumber like his uncle Syd while growing up, caused quite a stir recently when he walked onstage in his thongs to claim the north’s Best Beef Award amidst a field of the Tablelands’ finest beef producers.

By Sally Turley

Peter Reeves reckons breeding cattle is a way better hobby than golf, the cattle pay their way, plus you get to eat good meat out of the deal.
Peter Reeves reckons breeding cattle is a way better hobby than golf, the cattle pay their way, plus you get to eat good meat out of the deal.

Peter Reeves, the unassuming tradie who describes himself as “just a plumber and a hobby farmer,” said the night was one of the high points of his life and he was thrilled with the spotlight the award shone on his beloved British White cattle.

“The family are all so proud of Peter and really happy for him. This is the most exciting thing that has happened in ages. He has just been so determined and kept going with improving his herd over the years,” Jackie Reeves said.

“The winning pen of two tooth steers, that averaged 601kg, an Eye Muscle Area of 82 and a lean meat yield of 56.42 per cent, were by a bull I bought from Heather Britten’s “Emu Creek” British White stud at Gungaloon south of Hervey Bay.

“But I started with a mob of 12 purebred cows I bought off Keith Byrnes. I put Lanskey Brahman bulls over them initially, tried a Murray Grey for a while, but I couldn’t keep him home and bought my first Charolais/British White cross bull off Steve and Odette Plozza at Malanda,” Peter said.

Meanwhile, on-farm last Monday morning, Peter was putting his new little purebred British White bull across the scales to check on his progress. The 180-day old junior sire weighed in at 234kg, attaining a 1.3kg/day weight gain since birth.

Watching Peter with his cattle, it’s easy to see he is in the cattle game for the sheer joy of it. He lights up when the Best Beef competition is mentioned, relating the story of how it all went down.

“A week and a half out from the competition I rang Plathy (Yungaburra Butchery,) and said are we going to do this?” he said.

“I had a look over my cattle at our Gillies Highway agistment block, took a photo of five head and sent to him for approval. Then I rang the ‘Mini Moo Mover,’ livestock transporter Greg Halbert.

“Greg picked them up and brought them over here to be weighed, we picked the three closest in weight, put them back on the truck and he took them to Byrnes to be part of the contest. That was all of the preparation I did. Basically, I think it comes down to genetics.

“We run our pure-bred Brahman breeders on a block down the Palmerston, wean them to here at “Purcell’s Crossing” and sort out whether they are going to be kept as bulls or growers and send the steers to the 48ha Gillies block.”

Peter said growing up the second of five boys being raised by his mother, becoming a cattle producer was something he hadn’t even dared dream about. But Peter did achieve his plumbing dream, finishing his trade in 1974 and going on to become more than just your average tradie.

Eventually setting up his own business, ‘Carrington Tanks and Plumbing’ in his Herberton Road factory, Peter’s enterprise grew to a point where he had “nine blokes working making tanks,” but said it got increasingly difficult to monitor quality control.

“I only ever wanted a one-man show, but demand drove expansion and the business was going gangbusters until the explosion of the polythene tanks into the market, after which I closed down production of my steel tanks and basically semi-retired,” Peter said.

That slow-down prompted Peter and his wife Jackie to begin looking for a block of land near Atherton. They found a 12ha (30 acre) block fronting the Barron River that was covered in 3-metre-tall grass, just 5km out of Atherton and it was love at first sight.

Peter flew around to the owner’s place, flung a $5,000 deposit at him and boldly told him he would have the balance to him in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately his bank manager failed to see “the dream” quite as clearly and Peter was forced to change banks to get the deal across the line.

Peter and Jackie fondly remember those early days when they first bought their property.

“There was no road into the place and Jackie was working as a nurse at the time, but if there was no-one home to tow her car up the muddy drive with the tractor, she would have to catch a taxi to work,” Peter said.

“There was a bit of a rough shed and no power or water here, but it was paradise to us. The place was always full of the kids’ friends who all spent their time swimming in the river.

“At first I thought it would make a good place to indulge my passion for horse racing, but I soon discovered I was a far better plumber than I was, race-horse trainer. I had owned cattle since my late 20’s but had them agisted up at Tommy and Evelyn Martin’s station, “Broadwater,” south of Normanton.

“It was good having them there, I would be working on houses at Doomadgee and call in and spend a few days with the cattle. I had a lot of respect for Tommy and learned a lot off him about cattle, but for some mysterious reason, my cattle just didn’t seem to be multiplying up there.

“I am keen to give them a run again in next year’s competition, but I reckon if they want to make it a serious contest, they should get everyone’s cattle 90 - 100 days out and put them in a paddock with one person looking after them, ensuring equal inputs and treatment across the mob.”


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