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Organics shielded Qld farmer from drought

Beef and grain farmer Eddie Shaw switched his Queensland property to organic 15 years ago and never looked back.

He runs fewer cattle than other producers near Capella, in the drought-declared Central Highlands, but keeps bigger feed reserves and isn't as hard hit by shortages.

The beasts are then sold for a premium price.

"It gives you a massive strategic advantage to be organic because you're not trying to get the maximum amount of money out of every beast all the time," he told AAP.

"You run less cattle but you make more money."

Organic beef is more expensive because pesticides, chemical fertilisers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones are barred from the cattle's feed.

Verification as "organic beef" by an accredited third party is required under Australia's strict requirements.

Some big players have taken their share of the organic beef market since Mr Shaw moved in, however an annual 30,000 tonne shortfall of organic grain on Australia's eastern seaboard means it's in high demand.

Two thirds of Queensland is in drought, and for farmers putting food on tables across Australia or exporting their produce overseas, every raindrop counts.

Farmers in Mr Shaw's patch are madly planting crop seed after rain in recent days, and there's hope it will bring some relief for those paying through the nose to feed their herds.

"We've basically gone from famine to feast," Mr Shaw said.

"Our buffer grasses will respond, so in three to four weeks time you won't be able to find the cattle with all the tall grass.

"Nature is very good when it's on your side."

Last year was Mr Shaw's best for wheat, harvesting 4,000 tonnes after a March cyclone dumped much-needed rain.

"Farming is one extreme or the other, very quickly," he said.

Mr Shaw went organic to get ahead of beef producers he feared would also flood that market if they became EU-accredited.

"If we wanted to stay in a premium, niche market, the only way to go forward was organic and we haven't looked back ever since, it's been incredible.

"Instead of being price takers, we were price setters."

Mr Shaw sold off 2,000 of his youngest cattle in 2015, but has since built his herd back up.

© AAP 2020