Surrounded by rural holdings and nestled in the green foothills of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney is the picturesque village of Kurmond. The Bennett family have been involved in agriculture and transport for five generations and continue to provide a vital link between farmers and hungry livestock.
After following his father Ron, and his grandfather Jack, into farming and transport Steve Bennett became instrumental in the design and development of some specialised trailers for carrying large quantities of empty pallets. He did this for around seven years before selling off his trucks and going back to the family’s roots of farming fodder crops such as lucerne in the Forbes area of western NSW. As Steve began supplying hay and chaff to livestock owners he realised the need for trucks to transport his produce to his clients. Eventually he accepted a good offer and the farm was sold and Steve went on to develop the current feed merchant business, mostly specialising in fodder suitable for horses, and with it the in-house transport operation.
The feed industry has changed significantly with the advent of social media and much of the trading is now done via platforms such as Facebook rather than the traditional method of advertising in rural newspapers.
“I’m computer literate but I’m not social savvy,” says Steve. “I stood back and realised this is my son Jack’s world. Jack was just starting into the buying and selling of feed products, so I said it was time to hand over the day to day running to him, and I slipped back into the driving role. I’ve found that at many of the farms we deal with, the sons are taking over as well.”
Most of the feed runs are overnight which suits Steve. The priority is their own freight and it is not unusual to factor in running back empty from delivering feed. However, if it can be managed to suit their own feed transport logistics the Bennett trucks also carry some overnight freight for Direct Freight Express through the central west of the state including areas around Orange, Bathurst, Dubbo and Goulburn.
“If we’ve got a truck that’s not in a hurry to come back and if we have a night free or a leg free, we give that first option to DFE,” says Jack. “That’s why we are Kurmond Feed and Freight, because we freight feed and we also run some general freight.”
In an industry dependent upon predictable climate conditions, Mother Nature can present the biggest challenges. Good rainfall, at the right time of year, leads to good summer growth, but a dry season can result in an increase in demand at the same time that suitable produce becomes a little harder to source.
“In full drought the volume of demand is ridiculous and supply becomes an issue,” Steve says. “The cost of fodder goes up and sometimes we don’t know the price until we’re loading the truck.”