Vale Burnett Joyce 1947~2021

on 15th July 2021

Burnett Joyce 1947~2021

Burnett Fitzpierce Joyce was born in Eidsvold Hospital 20th January 1947, second son to Raoul and Ida (nee Coates). Thankfully his mother put her foot down insisting he inherit a family name rather than both of his father’s favourite rivers …… imagine a Burnett Dawson Joyce!

He spent most of his childhood on “Gyranda”, Eidsvold Station and several other properties along the Dawson and Burnett Rivers purchased by his grandfather Fitzpierce Joyce and Fitzpierce’s nephew de Burgh (Burgho) Joyce in 1926 and subsequently handed on to brothers Roaul and Barney Joyce.  The Joyce families were one of the first to import purebred Santa Gertrudis cattle from America and held their first sale in Eidsvold in 1957.

Growing up and working with aboriginal stockmen and their families, Burnett, along with his brothers Donald, deBurgh, Shane, and his cousin Anthony Coates learnt a great deal about native plants, wildlife, tracking and observation skills.  Connection to, conservation of, and improvement of the land is an enduring passion that runs strong in the family to this day.

After home-schooling and misadventures with his brothers and cousins, Burnett boarded at The Southport School where he reveled in surfing, poetry, good mates and representing Queensland in gymnastics.  He considered university but was called up for National Service, and spent 1967 to 1969 doing service in Singleton, Townsville and then Vietnam. These were formative years for discipline, tolerance and people management which came in handy when returned to Gyranda from Vietnam.

The Joyce and Joyce partnership dissolved in 1967 with the first on-property sale held at “Gyranda” in 1968. (Burnett spent some time AWOL insisting on being back for the big event!)

In late 1970, following an 18 month trip travelling and working overseas, Louise Cargill accompanied her father on a trip to Queensland from Victoria, visiting family and friends. Gyranda was on their itinerary.  The fact that Louise was a competent horse rider impressed Burnett, plus “She had a uni degree and looked pretty good in the moleskins I lent her”. They were married 18 months later in 1972 after a long distant correspondence relationship.

These were tough years, with the Beef Depression of the ‘70s. Burnett devised methods to get the most out or Gyranda, by improving pasture production and maximizing soil quality, whilst retaining tree shade areas. Strategic land clearing was undertaken and grazing lands were turned to grain farming.  Burnett, his brothers and their wives worked alongside each other day and night …. It was tractors, dust, insects, cockatoos, pigs, emus, kangaroos and not much sleep. A lot of fencing was undertaken to sub-divide big paddocks to facilitate stock handling without extra men.

Towards the end of the cattle depression the opportunity was taken to for the brothers to split up the Dawson Valley properties and in 1977, Raoul and Ida moved to a farm at Maleny, giving Burnett scope to continue to innovate and run the stud at Gyranda.

Research was a love of Burnett’s. His enquiring mind was always on ‘how to do things better’, pushing the boundaries on known technologies to learn as much as possible about the genetic makeup of cattle and to enable better management, for Gyranda, the Santa Gertrudis breed, and ultimately the Australian Beef Industry.

This love of innovation saw Burnett involved in the introduction of dung beetles to the Dawson Valley, the invention and patenting of the curved de-horning knife with Michael Read (“The Knife), and pioneering the use of stock dams to breed Saratoga.  When the fish boom occurred in the late 70s, Gyranda was in a great position to instantly supply the market with fingerlings to Japan, Indonesia and Germany. In the first year over $23,000 of fingerlings were sold, at $30 each. At the time a bull was selling for $285!

Burnett insisted that any extra tool to aid decision making or better guarantee bull purchases was worth exploring. His belief in looking to science and factual analysis led him to implementing Breedplan – to objectively define genetic differences between animals in the herd – at its inception in 1985. He continued to lift the bar by being involved in developing different Estimated Breeding Values (EBV’s).

In 1992 Burnett involved Gyranda in breeding cattle under contract in the world’s largest beef progeny testing programs through the Cooperative Research Centre (Beef CRC). Outcomes of the program provided enough new information to develop a blueprint for the genetic and non-genetic improvement of beef cattle in Australian herds, specifically targeting carcass traits, eating quality and feed conversion traits. Later, he participated in CRC trials into the development of a vaccine for Pestivirus (Pestiguard) with the University of NSW.

Burnett’s motivation to provide clients with more fertile bulls led to his cooperation in a MLA Project – Bull Power 1 (1992-98) and Bull Power 2 (2000 – 2004). These projects were industry based and involved annual testing of 2-yr old bulls, multiple sire mating of tested bulls and recording individual calf-output as well as conducting a full Bull Soundness Evaluation on a group of 40 young bulls every 6 weeks up to 2 years old.

To showcase the commercial performance of the offspring of X3X sires, Burnett entered 3 steers in the 1992 Queensland Exhibition Led Steer Competition. While rewarded in winning 2 of the 3 championships, including the Grand Champion Carcass, Burnett’s mind was not on the win but on identifying the sire of this carcass… so he could breed more of them.  He had a fair idea, but needed irrefutable proof.

There was no known technology to determine the parentage of livestock (or rather “deadstock”) but at his insistence the University of Qld trialed testing the muscle from this carcass, taking blood samples from the likely bulls and other possible sires. They came up trumps in a world first. This demonstrated a new role for DNA technology in the beef industry.  Dr Michael McGowan recalls “undoubtedly one of Burnett’s greatest contributions was in initiating the application of DNA typing (parentage testing) to manage breeding herds. Burnett constantly encouraged us as scientists to think about the research that needed to be done to address critical industry problems. The work that was initiated at Gyranda in the early ‘90’s to identify the major factors affecting calf output from bulls is internationally recognised.  This work later helped lay the foundation for a major part of the Beef CRC research program.  Burnett had always felt that genetic selection for fertility was the key and the CRC research proved that components of fertility were in fact quite heritable. I will greatly miss our lively discussions”.

Burnett’s belief that the future of the cattle industry lay with the youth, was demonstrated throughout his life. He took on would-be station apprentices, “problem youths”, university placements, children of friends both overseas and within Australia…. in fact anyone who was keen or wanted to learn about working in the cattle industry. He supported setting up the first and subsequent Youth Camps and Judging Schools and lecturing at these and at field days. He was always willing to help to educate the young people interested in cattle breeding and property management.

In 2006, Burnett was awarded the RW Vincent award in recognition of “outstanding contribution to the beef industry of Australia”.

In 2017 Burnett and Louise were co-jointly recognised as Modern Pioneers of the Banana Shire as for their contribution to the Central Queensland beef industry and other outstanding community roles. Burnett was acknowledged as;

  • a sought after judge across Australia and internationally,
  • participating in Trade Missions over several decades and been rewarded with seeing Gyranda genetics used successfully in many countries of the world, including the USA, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, New Zealand and Cambodia.
  • started the first cutting event in Australia – the Neuestella Cutting and Quarter Mile Racing Club in the late 1960s, along with Chilla Seaney, Paul Robinson and Kerry Williams (a son of the legendary RM Williams).
  • supplying horses for the annual Camboon Race Meetings until regulations closed it down. When the Camboon Campdraft took its place, he provided sponsorship for the Gyranda Maiden Draft, still heavily challenged today.
  • the inaugural President of the Callide Dawson Carcass Competition, with Louise seconded to take individual photos of each entrant, so they could follow their entry from hoof to hook.
  • serving the Santa Gertrudis Breeders Association (Aust.) as a Councillor for 31 years, including 3 years as President.
  • a board member of Beef Australia for many years, chairman of the Entertainment Committee and President of the Theodore Show Society.
  • raising funds for, commissioning and negotiating for a Santa Gertrudis bull statue to be erected in the “Beef Capital of Australia” (Rockhampton) in 1984.

Burnett’s death marks the end of one of the most inspiring partnerships to be witnessed by our industry.  Together Louise and Burnett made a formidable team – and this is how most people saw them.  They loved life, the land, adventure, learning and people; constantly curious about new and better ways.  As John Warlters (QCL) expressed in his forward of Louise’s 2017 book, Sale-O and Smokos “They’re not cattle people, they’re great people who have made cattle their lives”.

Burnett held education in the highest regard.  He challenged his four children, Nikki, Hayley, Jo and Dan to step outside the industry and learn new skills.  He was happiest when his “team” was really humming and hoped one day agriculture would benefit from their varied experiences and the land would call them back.

Initially wary of family meetings and facilitators, Burnett ultimately embraced the “new way” of succession planning.  This allowed him to hand over the reins with confidence, and provided him an opportunity to embark on new adventures with his lifelong partner in crime, the person he challenged the most, was proudest of and loved the dearest – Louise.  Ultimately, it also gave us as a family the freedom to say goodbye without any caveats or hidden clauses when his time came.  With the next two generations now back on the land, working independently and in synergy, involved in conservation, research, education, messing with machinery and challenging the status quo, he would consider that a perfectly executed dismount.

For those of us who loved him, worked alongside him, knew him, or simply knew of him, songwriter Graeme Connors can best summarise his real legacy “If I’ve lived and loved too hard, I’ve made good use of my time.  I leave the world a better place in the love I leave behind

RIP BFJ.