While he already understood the importance of quality hay, a 2012 Nuffield scholarship really opened Bryce Riddell’s eyes up to what was possible with business expansion. Bryce used his scholarship to investigate alternative hay crops and value adding for the hay industry.
“I always believed that there was more to the export hay industry than what we had already seen, and it was an industry in which I had been brought up with domestic hay production, not so much the export side,” Bryce says.
Bryce is a co-manager of their family-run farming business, which comprises of a commercial Angus cattle herd as well as lucerne and oaten hay production. They also run a lucerne cubing plant based in Yarrawonga, where they produce both lucerne hay cubes as well as a range of other hay cubes for the domestic and export markets.
“By going overseas on my Nuffield, it opened my eyes up a lot to what was actually achievable in our business, and I was also privileged enough to meet with people that had achieved great things in the export hay industry in a short time,” he says.
After completing a six-week travel program with fellow scholars, Bryce embarked on his own studies by identifying key areas of export hay production around the world. With some help from the Australian Fodder Industry Association in Australia and the National Hay Association in America, Bryce worked out a travel schedule in the USA.
“I met with a lot of exporters, and also a lot of large hay growers – one key person was in the Imperial Valley, at El Centro in southern California. He’s been a great inspiration to my brother and I, as he’s only owned his own company for the last ten years and he’s already one of the major hay exporters in the world – he changed our view on what we were aiming at doing and what we could be aiming at doing. Our view was always to be one of the highest quality and highest regarded hay exporters, and he said why don’t you aim at being one of the largest as well,” Bryce says.
One thing that struck Bryce the most was the willingness of those he visited to share their industry knowledge with him.
“I think that having a common interest is one of the key things to having a free flow of information, and also giving information yourself breaks down the barriers to what people see and it just aids that flow,” Bryce observes.
Now he’s back home in Victoria Bryce is looking at trialling different grasses in his hay growing business, but that’s not all.
“We’re also looking at growing both our hay production and the export side of our business as well and also bringing on other family members to expand our business,” Bryce says.