The Dewar family has been farming cattle in the Gingin District since the early 1850s. Arthur Dewar, principal of Barleyfield Beef, represents the fourth generation of Dewar cattle producers in the area.
Together Arthur and his partner Diane Haggerty, manage Barleyfield Beef. Arthur is no doubt the cattle expert having an exceptional high level of understanding and passion for cattle but Diane is a formidable part of the team. Together they work hard and share the journey, jointly making all decisions and plans.
The cattle they raise are Limousin and Limousin cross, selected as their breed of choice for their low fat content and enormous yield, which is essential to meet the economic needs of their retail business, Barleyfields Meats in Midland. Having made this breed selection, they show a great sense of humour as they comment how everyone around them has Black Angus.
Arthur shares “One of my friends rudely asked me where the pink and purple cattle were because I have every other colour.”
“Learned cattle people will tell you the breed is too muscular and will have problems with calving,” says Arthur. “I say, you can have everything – there are a couple of failures on the way granted but it is worth it”.
Arthur’s commitment to achieving his best is something Diane has learnt to appreciate. Sometimes he’ll refuse to put an animal on the truck at the last minute if he believes they are not quite “finished” enough.
This perfectionism is important to their retail customers. The retail business came about over 10 years ago when Arthur struggled with what to do with a mob of heifer calves that were due for an export sale that went wrong.
Arthur recalls, “I delivered a mob of heifer and bull calves for live export. About four days later I was called to say they would take bull calves but not the heifer calves. Despite meeting the contract I was left with no option but to recollect the heifer calves. I brought them home and kept them on feed until they were destined for Mexico but unfortunately the boat was filled in Victoria. I was left with no option but to get on the telephone and ring everyone I could think of, selling them as a 1/4 of beef.”
The business started off pretty basic, Arthur would contract cut and pack meat for individual customers. The years of experience managing the process from paddock to plate has left Arthur with a strong appreciation for beef – much like a wine connoisseur, he can see the differences in the meat; describing the age, type of cattle and feed type. Arthur humbly says, “It is no great science really, I know the age of cattle, mum, dad and grandparents”.
Diane also stresses the importance of managing the process from farm to retail. “We like to transport our own cattle and we closely monitor reports from the abattoir to ensure minimum waiting time to be processed”.
At Barleyfield Beef there is a strong empathy with Organic, Permacultural and Biodynamic principles, they aim to achieve the balance between agricultural sustainability and ethical meat production.
As retailers their biggest challenge is competing with an influx of low quality cheaper cuts, which are often incorrectly marketed. However for their loyal customers who have a discerning taste, they continue to be first choice for their meat.