Family of farmers building an empire for future
BLOOD is definitely thicker than water, and the strong bonds of the Gross family have created an empire which has resonated in the Warwick community for a quarter of a century.
In 1988, the Southern Downs was cracking under severe drought, and the Gross family created Risdon Park Feedlot as a way to fatten up cattle before selling to local butchers.
A humble start saw the family pitch in on weekends to build the feedlot from scratch.
"I had a vision to build the feedlot and get it government accredited," Bill recalled.
"There's a big feeling of satisfaction when there is nothing there and you build it all up from the ground.
"It's the achievement when you do something yourself, it's all Gross-made and we set it all up."
Bill and Nancy Gross then decided to put their livestock knowledge to good use, and created Gross Wholesale Meats.
"Our boys Howard and Angus were finishing school, and we wanted them to be involved in a home-based business as they were keen to stay on the land," Nancy said.
Howard started working with his parents in 1989 and learnt the ropes by trial and error.
He was responsible for buying livestock for the feedlot and wholesale business and scoured the region for good cattle prices in Toowoomba, Warwick and Oakey.
Angus also came on board after he finished his education and was mainly in charge of the day-to-day operation of the feedlot and properties.
The Gross' stock was first slaughtered at the former Toowoomba Abattoir but after that closed they used Pittsworth Abattoir.
"We killed our cattle there for several years," Bill said.
"The boys spent many late nights loading the beef out and carting cattle over to Pittsworth during the years our business grew."
Gross Wholesale Meats has seen the rise of technology and many things have changed since the 1980s.
Nancy did the business paperwork by hand for several years and when Howard and Angus married, their wives Tanya and Kylie took over the bookwork when computers came along.
"We didn't have phones until about 1995, and we would just usually yell across the paddock or jump on a horse," Bill said.
As Gross Wholesale Meats grew, the family also supplied pork and bacon to butchers, which they sourced from local produce.
Lambs were next on the agenda, and Angus regularly travelled to Glen Innes and Inverell in northern New South Wales to find the best product.
Meanwhile, the Warwick sheep and lamb saleyards were becoming one of the top-selling centres in south-east Queensland.
The Gross family purchased locally and finished store lambs on grain at Risdon Park Feedlot to keep up supply when livestock numbers were down.
Today, their feedlot grain and lamb pellets are supplied by Riverina Stockfeeds and Killarney Co-op.
They slaughter their meat closer to home as well, and use the Carey Brothers Abattoir at Yangan.
"We try to buy locally where possible; it helps the graziers and the farmers," Bill said.
"We have attended the markets every week for years.
"I have seen a lot of people come and go."
Fresh produce from Gross Wholesale Meats is sent via refrigerated transport five days a week locally as well as Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Toowoomba.
One hundred-day grain fed bullocks for the Jap Ox market also come out of the Risdon Park feedlot and are processed in John Dee Abattoir Warwick and JBS (Swifts) in Brisbane.
As well as producing beef, lamb and pork for 25 years, the Gross family are passionate about breeding, producing and exhibiting prime cattle across south-east Queensland.
Their most recent success was at last month's Warwick Show and Rodeo Society Prime Cattle Hoof and Hook competition, where Risdon Park Feedlot exhibited the Champion Grainfed Carcase.
Bill said there were no plans for future development for Gross Wholesale Meats as yet, as they were focusing on strategies for the tough economic climate and weather situation.
"It's pretty difficult to keep our head above the water," he said.
"It's slightly harder for us because we are not a large company."
Bill and Nancy have been married for 52 years and now have 10 grandchildren in total.
"Our grandsons are very keen on steer competitions and have had success at local shows and the RNA with both prime cattle and led steer showing," Nancy said.
Howard's sons Lachlan, Benjamin and Jacob, as well as Angus' children Brianna and William, are all keen on the country life and helping out in the family business.
Bill said the secret of his business success was dedication.
"It's hard work, you have got to be switched on to be successful," he said.
"You work seven days a week and can't afford to make any mistakes.
"You just have to think about what you are going to do and plan everything each day as it comes."
He said he wouldn't be where he was today if it wasn't for the strong bonds of the family.
"I couldn't do it without them," he said.
Nancy said she felt the same.
"We have always been a close family," she said.
"This really keeps us together."
Bill has lived in Warwick his whole life and said he wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's a very friendly town and very progressive," he said.
"Warwick is going to do great things."