“When you look at the way Australian farmers developed, it was fighting the land, fighting droughts, fighting fires, fighting weeds.
“I’ve now realised that if we work with it, the land will work with you and it really gets a lot easier.”
These are not times any farmer, including Mr Royds, would describe as easy.
But the holistic management approaches he has taken on his 457-hectare farm, Jillamatong, mean his costs of production are minimal, allowing him to cope better than most with the drought that has hit NSW and the ACT hard.
Mr Royds has not sprayed chemicals on his property for nearly 30 years.
One of the biggest changes he’s made is the construction of 14 weirs along a four-metre deep erosion gully, which was taking water and fertile soil off his farm and out to sea.
For just $10,000, he was able to “put a plug” in the erosion gully with the weirs, which remarkably remain almost full at a time when farm dams across eastern Australia are drying out in the middle of winter.
The results are easy to see.
A dam put in just two weeks ago at Jillamatong started filling up with groundwater “faster than the guy could dig it”.
Mr Royds is also re-designing his dams in a bid to spread more fertile soil and water across the farm, and to stop some of his best silt ending up in the bottom of the dams.
“I have enough water for the whole town,” he says.
A new Soils for Life analysis of Jillamatong shows an average yearly profit before interest and tax of $112,258 between 2004-05 and 2013-14.
The analysis shows that Mr Royds’ profits during the 10-year period were an average 230 per cent higher than the 146 farms south-east Australian that took part in the Holmes and Sackett benchmarking program, while his expenses were just 40 per cent of the average farm’s.
“I don’t focus on profit. I used to,” he says, when asked about the Soils for Life analysis.
“The real reasons are because my costs of production are minimal compared to [other farms].
“I’m not spending $10,000 a week feeding. All up this drought, I’ve spent $5000 on supplements for cattle.”
While he has plenty of water and his cattle are still fat, this fiscal year won’t show the same results.
Huge mobs of kangaroos ruined Mr Royds’ plan to run his cattle on another block he owns down the road from Jillamatong during winter.
Mobs of as many as 150 kangaroos ate $50,000 worth of pasture Mr Royds sowed on the other block after the year’s only big rain event, in February, and also chewed down the grass at Jillamatong.
He is now planning to put in kangaroo exclusion fences to prevent a repeat of that situation, and will say goodbye to the 50 cattle he’s got left next week as the grass at Jillamatong gets shorter.
Mr Royds has struck a deal for agistment that will enable him to get some of his stock back when the drought breaks.
While Mr Royds doesn’t dwell on the financial impacts, he admits droughts take their toll on him.
“It’s a hard thing for somebody in the city to understand what it’s like,” he says.
“A farming mate of mine said the other day, ‘You go to work every day [during a drought] and instead of getting paid, you’re paying. And you know that you’re going to have to keep paying.
“That’s the hard thing, knowing you’re not going to start making money again for probably two years.”
Mr Royds prefers to occupy his time learning and making decisions to put his farm in the best possible position.
The third-generation Jillamatong farmer is a long way from the days when he took “the moron approach”.
“It’s far better for your soul if you step out that door in the morning and you’re thinking, ‘What can I do to encourage nature to grow and the farm to do better’ instead of getting out and going, ‘What have I got to fight and kill today’,” he says.