BCG Farmer in Focus – Dougal McAllister


This month BCG caught up with next-generation farmer Dougal McAllister on his family farm Bonnie Brae. Dougal and his parents Don and Prue are engaged in a Farm-scale Natural Capital Accounting Project being undertaken by LaTrobe University Research Centre for Future Landscapes and being led by Principal Research Fellow, Jim Radford.

2021 Upskill and Invest Young Farmers Scholarship Awards

Dougal is a recent recipient of the $10,000 scholarship through the 2021 Upskill and Invest Young Farmers Scholarship Awards through Agriculture Victoria and is planning to use the income to pursue further education in business management, leadership, and decision-making to improve profitability on his family farm.

Location and rainfall

Bonnie Brae is located at Banyena, just to the north of Marnoo in the Wimmera region of Victoria. The farm is a mixed cropping and livestock enterprise of around 1000ha split over four blocks within a 50km distance.

Dougal returned to the farm after completing Environmental Science at Melbourne University and working in waste reduction for ten years before making the decision to return to the Wimmera: “I decided to give farming a go about two and a half years ago,” explained Dougal. “It’s Mum and Dad’s business but they’re certainly looking to retire quickly. Dad was winding down his operations and had sold all his gear before I decided to come home, so we’re slowly re-building our capacity.”

“It’s about 350mm annual rainfall, predominantly winter rainfall—and on the occasion we get summer storms.”

Rotational grazing

“We currently share farm the cropping side of things to the neighbours Paul and Anthony Trotter and on the other half of the property we are running sheep using time rotational grazing. We’ve split up all our paddocks to about 10ha in size using either permanent or electrical fences and put in new water points. We rotate the animals around quickly to give the paddocks a rest period long enough to allow the plants to recover properly.”

“As part of our livestock management program we’re also sowing winter annual cover crops and we’re trying to get a perennial base under those as well. So, as part of our equipment replacement plan, we’ve re-built the underside of a model 56 Massey Ferguson combine using modern double-disc openers and a retrofitted liquid injection system. We’ve also got pig manure that we’ve sourced locally that we’re composting on farm to spread prior to sowing.”


When asked about some of the challenges as a young farmer, Dougal is pragmatic in his response: “A lot of people think farmers are incredibly wealthy, they see land prices shooting through the roof and at the same time the commodity prices are going up but so is the cost of farming and some of the input costs are skyrocketing. As a young farmer buying land, you need to manage a high interest bill, or a high lease bill as well as paying for inputs required to produce the food so you can make some money.”

Natural Capital Accounting Program

Through the Natural Capital Accounting Program Dougal is looking to identify and better manage some of the natural ecosystems on his property. He is hopeful that through the project they can put a realistic value on the natural capital on their holdings. Then, opportunities might be available for improved marketing of their products or finance options that are supportive of the environmental benefits of working with nature. He is also hopeful the consumer market will be receptive to the approach: “If we can prove to consumers that we’re increasing natural capital, they will be willing to pay a premium for our products,” Dougal hopes.

Dougal is also engaged in the BCG GAPP (Extending whole farm sustainability to young farmer discussion groups in the Wimmera and Mallee) program in 2020/21 which was funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants program and initiative of the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. “Young Farmer initiatives that enable knowledge transfer, not only between BCG and the farmers, but also between farmers themselves is an invaluable mechanism to support the next generation in the industry”

Looking forward, Dougal is keen to start the process of taking over management of the enterprise: “I think next year I will be leasing the property and taking over management of the business and the farm. Sheep work is good for me, I always enjoyed that aspect of farming because I don’t love sitting on tractors all day. At this stage we’ll continue to work with the Trotters to do the cropping and I’ll continue to manage the sheep and when Paul needs a hand, I’ll give him one.”

For more information on the Farm-scale Natural Accounting Project visit:

or contact Ali Frischke at BCG.

Upcoming Events

Become a BCG Member

BCG exists for its members. Research and extension activities are designed to provide members with information and resources that will help them improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of their farm businesses.

Improve your profitability

Receive the latest research, extension and event news direct to your inbox! For a limited time, receive a free technical bulletin when you subscribe.