Young Guns

1 March 2011

David and Josh have been selected to be in the Spectators “Young Guns” series, below is the article that appeared in the Hamilton Spectator.

Dave and Josh Vickery – Young Guns Series

Dave Vickery – Product and Inventory Manager and Josh Vickery – Operations and Harvest logistics Manager, Vickery Bros, Coleraine.

Age: 28

Dave and Josh Vickery are 28 year old brothers and the third generation of Vickery Bros from Coleraine, each with different skills that will take Australia’s largest fertiliser spreading company and grow the business into the future.

The boy’s parents are Geoff and Sue Vickery from Coleraine. Josh and Dave have both completed tertiary degrees and are working in the family business, Vickery Bros.

Dave was educated at Hamilton College then Melbourne Grammar for Years 11 & 12, then had a year off working on farm at Frances with sheep beef, cropping, small seeds and irrigation. He attended Marcus Oldham graduated with Advanced Diploma Rural Business Management. He then went back to Deakin University and did another six months course and graduated with a Bachelor of Business in Agricultural Management. During his year out from Marcus Oldham he went to Tasmania and worked with a fertiliser distributor.  After graduating he went travelling and started in the business at the end of 2008.

Josh was educated at Hamilton College, completing year 12, then went header driving for a season in NSW with Ian Hudson a local contractor. He lived with Dave in Frances and also worked on a farm with irrigation, sheep, clover production and cropping. He attended Marcus Oldham (a year before Dave) and graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Rural Business Management. During his year out he worked in a Farm Supplies business in Donald. After studying he went to America for 12 months and did the harvest there, driving headers and trucks, starting in Oklahoma and went all the way through and up into Canada. He started in the business in 2007.

Dave said his role in the business is a bit of everything.

“From January to June I am out spreading fertiliser in a spreader truck and in winter I jump into the office and relieve the logistics staff when they go on holidays, organising trucks, spreaders, farmers and grain.

“I like truck and spreader driving but I also do a lot of office work, logistics, quoting, reports on spreaders, reports on trucks, help the manager look at what we are buying, when we are buying, how much we are paying and where should we be sourcing it from.

“I do that for three months then back in the spreader come springtime when we do hay paddocks maybe urea on crops. Then November, December I jump in a road truck and cart grain for the harvest and I also do a bit of depot work.

Josh said his role is less office work more operations.

“I drive a spreader through from January to June, then sit in the office for a week or two and then I do a bit in the sand pit and carting sand, I get in the workshop and help the mechanics then run the harvest from end of October.

“ I take  a few boys and trucks up to NSW and cart grain, we start at Ardlethan north of Narrandera and work our way down to Frances and we probably have 9 or 10 semi’s there. I drive around organising them doing the logistics,” he said.

Vickery Bros was started in 1948 by the twin’s grandfather, Alan Vickery and his brother Jack. Alan died in 1974; Geoff came into the business 1976 when he was 23. Jack eventually retired and Geoff grew the business steadily. After a trip to New Zealand in 1989, Geoff purchased spreaders with big flotation tyres and that changed the business from six months of spreading fertiliser into spreading 12 months of the year.

Vickery Bros are Australia’s largest independently owned, vertically integrated, fertiliser distributors. They are the biggest fertiliser spreading contractor in Australia spreading 60,000 tonnes of granular fertiliser, 20,000 tonnes of lime and 20,000 tonnes of gypsum per year. Their fleet includes 18 fertiliser spreaders, 13 semitrailers, 28 front end loaders and 35 road vehicles.

Dave said his father has commodity (or drought) proofed the business with six strategically located depots at Mt Gambier, Frances, Edenhope, Coleraine, Heywood and Woolsthorpe.

“We have 50 full time staff, from Agronomists, truck drivers, mechanics, administration, receptionists, sales, logistics, stock controllers, concrete works operators and loader drivers. We also have two concrete trucks and do about 1200 metres of concrete a year and a couple of excavators,” he said.

Both agree that the main business is the fertiliser.

“It is a port to paddock chain. We start at the port unloading boats, do a bit of importing (not a great deal it doesn’t make up a big part of the business), from the port take it to the shed, agronomists in the field talking to the farmer, our trucks cart it to the farm, our spreaders spreads it on the farm so it is all in one chain,” Dave said.

Josh said the business also does grain and sand which is something to do when they are not doing fertiliser.

“Grain fills three months of the year when our trucks aren’t carting a lot of super. We buy around four to five thousand tonnes of grain a year. So we do grain storage and grain cartage.

“We also do sand and the reason we went into sand was to keep the trucks loaded going to Portland.

“We do 50,000 tonne of sand a year, the sand is used for concrete, it is extracted from the Glenelg River screened on the side of the river to remove stones and drift wood, sold to concrete firms in Portland Mt Gambier and Hamilton.

“We also bought the sand business with wind towers in mind. Each wind tower has 300 tonnes of sand underneath it,” Josh said.

The boys said their goal for the whole business is to continue to grow and continue to be the largest independently owned vertically integrated, fertiliser distributors in Australia.

“While providing the professionalism that you get when you deal with Vickery Bros, grow by continuing to the best at what we do and be more efficient. Down the track, continue to grow the port to paddock. If importing is better for the customer and for us, we will do it,” Dave said

Josh said the other potential area for growth of the business is to expand into other areas of southern Australia and provide the same professional service.

Their long term vision is to both stay in the business and continue to grow it.

“Josh and I both have different interests and different talents, in different areas, the business is big enough for both of us and there is enough room in the business for us to have our own little things and work together to achieve a common goal,” Dave said.

“We will both probably end up in the office. Dave is more a numbers sort of man, I am sort of busier with the trucks and the spreaders, more organising them. I will probably end up in the office whether it is logistics, organising spreaders, or be out there making sure that everything is happening right, like the old man does now. He has got a pretty good job like that, he drives around and checks everything,” Josh said.

They also realise the importance of good staff.

“We have been very lucky, Geoff has had a core group of probably ten that have been with him for ten or more years easily and have helped to build the business up to what it is today,” Dave said.

The brothers are confident about the future of agriculture and their business.

“I think Agriculture has a bright future with the growing population we have got to feed, that everyone talks about. Nutrients or fertiliser is a pretty core part of that equation going forward, to produce more and more food and be more productive,” Dave said.

Article by Ian Whiting