Mark Liebich wears many hats. He’s a designer, engineer, mayor, farmer, father and husband, and he’s an innovator. He takes some time between farm field day appearances to speak to Rosie O’Keeffe about the expanse of his Grenfell business, his family’s growing involvement, and his passion for farming.
Driving along the country roads throughout our vast rural landscapes, the red logo is prominent as flocks of sheep gather around lick feeders in the paddock.
Whilst many farmers are familiar with the Bromar name now, when it comes to the range of quality farm machinery, many would not be aware that the equipment is designed and manufactured right in the heart of Central West NSW.
He may recall beginning to weld things together as a child of around 10 years of age, but Mark Liebich could not have predicted the success he would go on to have in designing, engineering and manufacturing industry-leading and award-winning lick feeders, hay feeders, band seeders, mother bins and chaser bins, all while managing a large farming enterprise.
It was in 1990 that Mark, who was then working as a shearer, was tinkering around in a shed on his parents’ property when he patched together a trailer sheep feeder that measured how many times the augur revolved, giving an accurate gauge of how much grain had been fed out.
He won The Land’s Inventor of the Year at the Australian National Field Days in Borenore that same year for this innovative piece of equipment, and being able to purchase a MIG welder with the prize money, was the catalyst for several other designs now marketed nationally, all formed from an identified need within his own farming practices.
It was the demand for subsequent designs which influenced Mark establishing the Bromar company as it is known today and five more awards were achieved at future field day events to further bolster interest in the products.
“If you can see a need for a certain piece of equipment, then you can see how it needs to work, and you make it work,” Mark explains.
“Other engineering companies have to really rely on feedback, but we trial everything on our own property and the idea has simply come from my picking up new ideas from identifying that there needs to be a better way of doing something on the farm.
“I really see it as innovative equipment for farmers of the future.”
Today, 35 people are employed at the impressive 5,500 square metre shed on a three-hectare site on the edge of Grenfell in which all the equipment is built. Mark’s son Joshua manages the workshop, whilst daughter Emma and Bronwyn are involved in the administrative processes. Apart from some laser cutting and folding which is done off-site, all design and production is completed from the Grenfell head office, which keeps up demand of more than 350 dealers now selling the nine Bromar products nationwide
Just as pieces are welded together, several B-doubles are leaving the premises each week to make interstate deliveries, while administratively, the phone rings incessantly and new emails fill inboxes.
“The products we make now were all tested 20 years ago and we fine-tune them to add to the features,” Mark explains, as he packs up ready to embark on a trip to Bendigo after having been liaising with dealers and farmers in Adelaide, Henty and Hamilton over the previous days.
He says the best selling products are the multi feeder which was invented in 1997 and the range of lick feeders invented in 1994.
The Bromar multi feeder can be used for filling grain and pellets into feeders and grain fertilizer into combines. With its twin bin design it has the ability to mix grain into feeders and change rates of mix. The trail feed system can change size of trail and rates of mix or just feed out of one bin or the other and the multi feeder can also be used as a grouper for filling a combine or air-seeder.
One of the key parts of the sheep lick feeder is the plastic inserts consisting of 11 holes on either side of the feeder. Sheep lick the grain out of these holes upwards to use the saliva on their tongues to get it out. The feed area is easily adjusted by moving the metal covers above the plastic inserts in or out to either open up or close down the feed area.
It was also in 1990 when he won the initial award for innovation in farm machinery, that Mark’s father gave him 100 hectares of farmland to begin a farming enterprise that he has since grown to more than 2,800ha through the purchase of further land.
He now manages this farm business alongside two of his sons, Scott and Mitchell.“We grow canola, wheat and barley. Agriculture was always something I was going to be involved in and I’m still there on the farm when I can be, when I’m not travelling. With farming I really think that you can’t just become a farmer in four to five years, it takes years of experience to make decisions and having that knowledge of the past can also help shape the right decisions for the future.
“We’ve been using a lot of strategies on our farm to conserve moisture and I think there’s a lot of positivity for the future with the demand in grain and demand for wool and lambs.” Grenfell is a community he’s become quite passionate about, even more so since first becoming elected to serve as Mayor and Councillor of the Weddin Shire in 2012.
“Grenfell is a very productive community in its cropping and livestock farming enterprises and we have a strong community with a lot of infrastructure development happening at the moment with a new swimming pool, medical centre and ambulance station, sportsground developments and a new TAFE facility, so it’s great to be a part of that and leading those projects as the mayor.
”Mark is always looking ahead, and now his family are all involved in the farm and Bromar business, (sons Joshua and Scott even having received recognition with an Inventor of the Year award in 2005 for a high-tech hay feeder), his next invention definitely isn’t too far from his mind.“It definitely makes me proud to have given them a future too and they are all striving in their respective roles,” Mark says. “I’ve got a lot of ideas ticking over in my mind waiting for the right time for release. You’ve got to have future business strategies.”
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