By Philip Hopkins
IAN and Rosli Reid have a sense of deja vu watching the tough, dry period unfold. In the 1982-83 drought they set up their business, Reid Stockfeeds, at Colbinabbin in north-central Victoria. They were farmers doing it tough, earning off-farm money to see them through. The Federal Government issued a feed subsidy, so the Reids took the plunge and set up a specialist feed manufacturing business, processing 40 tonnes of grain in their first year.
They have not looked back, and Reid Stockfeeds this week won the latest of its prizes, The Age/D&B Business Award for rural services. The awards, which began in 1993, seek to promote, acknowledge and reward outstanding business achievement. They are based on financial profiles in the D&B database and other criteria, including research and development and employment growth. The awards are given in six categories: manufacturing, country/rural, building and allied services, retailing, information technology, and exporter/wholesale.
Reid Stockfeeds, with 44 employees, is the largest family-owned and operated stockfeed manufacturer in the state.
The company produces more than 100,000 tonnes of feed every year for more than 500 customers, and has sales of more than $35 million. Customers are mainly in the dairy, pig and poultry industries, the last in egg, not meat, production.
"The dairy industry in the early '80s, because they did not use feed, started to use manufactured feed," Mr Reid said. "If you look at the growth of the dairy industry between 1983 and now, it's astronomical, and it largely stemmed from that grain subsidy.
"Our growth represents in real terms the education of the dairy industry to what production they can get from feeding concentrated supplements." Mr Reid said the company manufactured feed from a variety of raw ingredients.
These included wheat, barley, corn, peas, lupins, soya beans, canola, even a couple of byproducts from the ethanol industry, and a range of vitamins and minerals. "A nutritionist develops the recipe, or diet, and that is processed, blended and delivered to individual customers," he said. About 60 per cent of Reid Stockfeeds' products are custom-mixed for individual clients. "We've learnt as we've gone along - we come from wheat and meat farm backgrounds - but employed a nutritional consultant in 1988, who now works full-time," Mrs Reid said.
The company now employs seven nutritionists.
Reid Stockfeeds has made three small acquisitions over the years, including a competitor at Trafalgar in west Gippsland. This mill has been renovated, and together with the home mill at Colbinabbin, produces the company's stockfeed. Mr Reid said the company had expansion plans, but he was reluctant to give details.