This Is Our Story

... and the rest is history!

 

It was Jan 2020, and Steven and Ursula Keating had bought too many semi loads of hay to count, drought feeding their Angus, Wagyu and Stock Horse breeding stock.  Decades of breeding was at risk of starvation.

The Stock Horses on 'Brady's' (one of the four Chinchilla properties owned by the Keating family) had been crossing the dry bed of Charley's Creek and this was another of those days, with Ursula walking the creek bank between 'Brady's' and the neighbouring property, 'Clover Hill', looking for the horses.

Later that night, as Steve and Ursula discussed ordering their next load of hay, 'Clover Hill' was on their mind.  The idea of diversifying into tourism had been floating around for a while... 

Reality was hitting hard, and things were very dry once again.  So the took the plunge, and as Steve says, 'the rest is history!'.   

The History of Clover Hill

The History of Clover Hill

 

Previously owned by Val and Iven Hewett, Clover Hill has hosted a variety of events over the years.  

Colour runs, 'Rumble in the Jungle' (a team bonding event through the local high school), and the annual Christmas Story which included live animals, shepherds, angels and of course, Mary and Joseph.  Many locals have fond memories of Clover Hill events and camps.  

Clover Hill was placed onto the market (and subsequently purchased by the Keating family) after Iven retired from 12 years as the Uniting Church community pastor.   

The Keating Family

 
steve and ursula with andrew.jpg

4 children.  4250 acres.  4 properties.  Wagyu cattle.  Angus cattle.   Stock Horses. 

Soon after meeting at University at Gatton, Qld, Steve and Ursula began their journey together in Far North Queensland.  While working in Government day-jobs, they began to source bloodstock for their blossoming Stock Horse stud, with horses being a passion of Ursula's since she could walk. 

 

With the family growing, Steve and Ursula knew they wanted to raise their children on the land, surrounded by their horses and farm life.  They purchased a mango and hay property near Mareeba, Ursula eventually managing the farm full time with kids in toe, and Steve continuing his job with DPI (Department of Primary Industries), juggling being 'the hay man' while driving the development of pest animal and weed management plans across Cape York and the Torres Strait in conjunction with the local Indigenous land managers. 

In 2009, Steve was seconded by Biosecurity Qld to work in Dalby.  They had been wanting to move to a more central location to develop the Stock Horse business - closer to competitions, closer to buyers.  Steve utilised this time in Dalby to explore options to move the family to the Darling Downs or Western Downs.  It took nearly 12 months to find the perfect property which had been an established thoroughbred enterprise, and with the bare bones of a horse complex (albeit quite run down), it was better than starting from nothing.  11 road trains later, the horses, farming equipment and the family (then comprising of a 7yo, 3yo and baby), made the move to Chinchilla.    

 

Their new home, the 520 acre property on the banks of Condamine River, named 'Coleridge', had plenty of ridge land (as the name suggests) and black soil flats for cropping, and was ideal for their horse operation.  Steve and Ursula set to work, making significant improvements to the homestead and horse facilities, while growing the Stock Horse breeding stock and dryland farming operations (predominantly barley and wheat).    

Warregold Stock Horses was their new focus, breeding, attending yearling sales and campdrafts.  Ursula worked in a local feedlot, utilising the role to train up and coming stock horses.  

By 2011, the coal seam gas industry was strengthening in the district, and the Keating's business Australian Agricultural and Environmental Solutions (AA&ES) started to come into its own with this increased attention on weed management.  Third Party Washdowns ('weed & seeds') were required for all vehicles traversing properties, and AA&ES was engaged to conduct weed management services, something that AA&ES continues to do today.

 

During this time, Ursula was involved in Chinchilla Campdraft Committee, which hosts the Chinchilla Grandfather Clock Campdraft annually, one of the most prestigious campdraft events in Australia.  Through this, the Keating's developed a relationship with a prominent Queensland Wagyu breeder, one of the first in Australia.  They started with 72 head of breeder cows in calf.  In 2017, Steve travelled to the Elite Wagyu Sale in Mackay, coming home with the Wagyu Bull MO260, now known as 'Golden Nuts'.  Focussing on high marbling and marble fineness characteristics, Steve and Ursula have utilised Artificial Insemination and embryo transfer to grow their Wagyu herd.  

But with the additional 72 head, more land was needed.  'The Shanti', 1700 acres with its name firmly written into Prickly Pear history books, came up for sale.  With good water and good pastures suitable for both the horses and cattle, Steve and Ursula couldn't resist the opportunity to own an integral part of the Cactoblastis story.  

Today the family run a significant Wagyu herd of both fullblood and purebred cattle. Have come a long way since the purchase of the initial 72 Wagyu cows in calf as an addition to their angus herd.

 

Off the back of a a 2016 visit to Shanghai, China, 18 months of negotiation culminated in the Chinese market wanting to purchase Australia Wagyu semen.  Due to the requirement to place the bull into quarantine for a number of months prior to semen collection for export which would delay their breeding plans, Steve and Ursula decided to purchase MO222 for this job, a full brother to 'Golden Nuts'.  3000 straws of frozen semen was due to leave for Chinchilla in early 2020, when Covid-19 hit.  At this stage, MO222 is living the life of luxury in quarantine in Melbourne, awaiting reopening of normal trade and transport routes between Australia and China.    

In 2018, their fourth child Andrew (pictured above, now 3) joined Will (now 12), Faith (now 14) and Johno (now 18).  Around the same time, ('Riverleigh', a high quality grazing and cropping property on the banks of the Condamine River, and right next door to the original property 'Coleridge' came up for sale.  With an ever expanding breeding stock herd of cattle and horses, plus the growth of AA&ES which had previously been operated out of the family home and property, the Keating's purchased this property.  Soon after, in 2019, 'Brady's' was adding to the list, being purchased mainly for its 100 megalitre water licence. 

 

The final piece of the puzzle, 'Clover Hill', was added in 2020.  Years of drought forced Steve and Ursula to consider the potential of diversifying their business into the tourism space.  With Charley's Creek frontage, very close to the town centre yet so peaceful and quiet, they saw opportunities in 'Clover Hill' they just couldn't resist. 

 

We welcome you to 'Clover Hill', and hope you enjoy it just as much as we do.   We would love to share our journey with you.