Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

Why this former jockey swapped life in the saddle to manage a 6,000 acre Aussie farm

Ben Brabazon winning on Johnies Star at Punchestown Festival 2013
Ben Brabazon winning on Johnies Star at Punchestown Festival 2013
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

Switching from a life riding out racehorses in Westmeath to working with sheep in the wilds of Australia might not be on everyone's bucket list, but it seems Ben Brabazon has landed on his feet.

After a stint on the point-to-point circuit, former jockey Ben left Ireland in 2013 to do a spot of travelling with his brother Alan.

It was an adventure that would eventually lead him to a manager's job with the Minto Pastoral Company, the largest supplier of grass-fed lamb to the Coles supermarket chain in Victoria.

"It all kind of fell into place," 28-year-old Ben says of him being offered the post at Mansfield, one of three farms owned by the company, last September.

"When I arrived here a few years ago I did various farm jobs. Early last year I ended up doing a three-month stint with Chris Stoney at the Minto Pastoral Company.

"I was back working in an old job when he contacted me to say the post was available as one of the managers had to go on sick leave."

Mansfield Australia. Image: Google Maps
Mansfield Australia. Image: Google Maps

It was too good an offer to turn down.

When we think of large sheep farms in Ireland, 2,000 or 3,000 ewes might be extreme. In Australia a smaller farm might have in excess of 10,000 head.

Also Read

The Minto Pastoral Company boasts a massive herd of 25,000 ewes, spread out across three farms totalling some 180,000 acres.

"The farm in New South Wales holds 18,000 and the farm I run has 5,000 ewes across 6,000 acres," says Ben.

Lambing finished four weeks ago and Ben spent several weeks marking some 20,000 lambs on one farm alone.

"All our ewes lamb out and we never need too much help until it comes to shearing when it's all hands on deck as we do our drenching at the same time," he explains.

Although Ben might miss home from time to time, and craves the odd pack of Tayto, he has adapted well to the Australian lifestyle.

He lives close to the tourist hot-spot of Mansfield so there is always plenty to do on his time off.

"Here we are not too far from town but the closest store from the farm in Balranald is an hour's drive so when we are based there, we only get to shop every few weeks," he says.

"Facebook is great as I can keep an eye out for everyone, but there are times when I miss the craic back home. For the moment, though, I am staying put as Chris has sponsored me until 2020. After that I will see what happens."

Indo Farming

More in Sheep