The McDonald Family operating through MDH Pty Ltd is one of Australia’s largest cattle operations, unique in the fact that it is both a family owned and operated business. With a wide geographical spread of country in Australia’s vast North Queensland Outback, MDH runs approximately 170,000 head of cattle across 11 cattle stations, occupying approximately 3.8 million hectares.
The McDonald Family has been associated with the Australian cattle industry for over 180 years. The original Don McDonald came from Scotland as head stockman of the first shipment of live cattle to Tasmania in 1827. He took up a sheep run, “World’s End” in South Australia in 1829 and moved to Bowen in 1862 as part of Queensland’s pastoral expansion. Don McDonald lost his life in a conflict on Australia Day while looking for fresh grazing land.
The family patriarch, Jim McDonald, who turned 100 in 2007, began working on the land running cattle in the Bowen District in 1924. Then, because some of the best land around Bowen was being acquired for sugar, Jim bought Brightlands Station near Cloncurry in 1946 because of its ability to produce good cattle even in dry conditions. Jim was a visionary and it was his continuing love of space that set the company on its growth trajectory.
Control of the company has passed to succeeding generations, sons Bob and Don and grandsons Alastair and Alexander (Zander), all of whom have been fully engaged in the family business. Both Jim and Bob have served long terms as Shire Councillors, while Don AM OBE is a former President of the National Party, underlying the family’s commitment to the community.
MDH is now a vertically integrated beef-producer with 75% of its production passing through its own feedlot prior to export. This strategy is enhanced by its partnership with the world’s largest meat company, Brazil’s JBS.
The McDonald Family has prospered for over 180 years through a love of the bush, a deep knowledge of the industry, investment in land, science, technology and innovation, strong relationships within the family, and with employees, and a deep ethical tradition.