Video: Tom and Bill Alston – Stonyhurst Pastoral

As part of our 'It's never you, until it is' campaign, third-generation Beeac farmers Tom and Bill Alston of Stonyhurst Pastoral share how using drones to muster their sheep makes their operation safer and more efficient.

Tom and Bill Alston of Stonyhurst Pastoral: Farmer case study

It's never you, until it is - Agriculture campaign 2021

Tom and Bill Alston

Tom and Bill Alston are Managing Directors of Stonyhurst Pastoral Company. The brothers are third generation farmers who run a cattle and Merino wool farm and have introduced drones to muster on their 6500-acre property in Beeac, Victoria.

Tom knows first-hand how important safety is on the farm. 'In 2008 I had a bad accident while riding a motorbike without wearing the proper protective gear. I lost a lot of skin and it was about three months of rehab in the hospital back and forward and getting swabs put on and taken off. My family felt the impact - I was in a lot of pain and I couldn't work on the farm, so they had to pick up the slack and the work that I couldn't complete.'

Since the motorbike incident, both Tom and Bill ensure safety is number one on their farm.

'I have a good relationship with my WorkSafe inspector and turn to him every once in a while for advice. It's always good to have a fresh set of eyes look over the farm. I see the farm every day and can miss some of the potential safety hazards,' said Tom.

Inspector, Glenn Woods who has visited the Alston brothers at Stonyhurst says 'There can be hesitation from farmers to open their gate to WorkSafe out of fear an inspector will give them a hard time and cost money. The fact is, we're here to help and make a difference. Our first focus is always education, chatting about farming and how doing things safer can be efficient. A big thing for us is to ensure you, your workers and your family return home safe at the end of the day.'

Tom and Bill were early adopters using technology to increase efficiency and reduce risk on the farm.

'We've introduced drones on the farm to move away from sheep mustering with motorbikes. On the motorbikes, mustering could take us half a day to a full day, but with the drone we can do the work in a matter of hours. It's more efficient and a lot safer,' said Bill.

Speaking from past experience, Tom knows you can't put a price on your own life. 'If you crash the drone, you can just get another drone. But if I fall off a motorbike that will really impact my family and the farm.'

The brothers are advocates of embracing change within the industry, with Tom noting there's a culture in farming of 'my father did it that way, my father's father did it that way, so that's just the way it should be done, which needs to change – a lot of farming practices can be done a lot safer and a better way.'

Tom Alston

"My advice to anyone on a farm or agricultural setting would be to get in touch with your local WorkSafe team, have a chat and get them out, have a look around and see what you can implement. It would probably surprise you to know the little things you can do to improve the day-to-day safety of yourself or anyone working in that environment."

Related videos

Catherine Velisha: It's never you, until it is

Catherine Velisha: Multicultural workforce on-farm