Tom and Paul at work.
Tom and Paul at work.

Every brand is big statement

IN 1890, shortly after arriving in Australia from Norway, Eivan Hummelstad set up a successful business in Haymarket, Sydney, crafting hand-made branding irons and earmarkers for livestock.

Today, his three great-grandsons continue to run the business, Hummelstads, which now calls Grafton home.

Brothers Paul, Tom and Bill Hummelstad are the fourth generation to be working the forge and hand-making branding irons and earmarkers.

Bill said it was a real honour to be working in the business started by his great-grandfather and said the manufacturing process for their products hadn’t actually changed much since Eivan opened the business more than 120 years ago.

“They’re well made and they’re hand-made. We still do it the same old way they used to do it, the only difference now is that we’ve got bandsaws and we’ve got a gas forge so we’re getting pretty advanced now,” Bill chuckled.

“So everything is done here. We make everything just about from scratch, except of course for the metal which we get in.

“There’s also a lot of pride involved. Quite often we’ll get an earmarker sent to us that has our great-grandfather’s maker’s stamp inside the handle. We can fix those up to near new condition and send them back out to do another 100 years of work.”

Bill said it was this hand-made approach that gave the business an edge in the market.

“We still have to compete against cheap imports, but there’s not too many. There’s a mob in New Zealand and they make a so-so sort of mass-produced job. They might last for a couple of seasons, but the difference with us is that they’re hand-made. They have to be hand-made to be made properly.”

The business, brought to the Clarence Valley from Sydney by the brothers in 1995 now sits conveniently across from the saleyards in Lillypool Rd, South Grafton, where Bill said it does a roaring trade.

“Every single farmer has to have a brand and an earmark, or should have, and there’s plenty of them about. Even the little hobby farmers get them off us,” he said.

Mr Hummelstad said since introducing a website their business had now picked up some international buyers too, with orders being sent overseas to New Zealand and Scotland.

Bill said a lot of planning and thought often went into branding irons and earmarkers, even before the crafting phase started.

“We talk to our customers because a brand and an earmark for someone is very personal. Sometimes it could be their great-grandfather’s design, for example, so you really have to have a hands-on approach with this sort of thing,” he said.

“There’s over 20,000 different earmarks and with the brands it’s unlimited really. So what we try to do is if people have an idea they can consult us about the design and we’ll help them come up with something.

“Basically it has to be something that’ll work and be clear. Some things look good on paper but don’t always look good on the horse’s bum.”

The brothers don’t just work the forge over there either; being the only three staff at the business they cover everything from organising advertising, answering the phones right through to sweeping the floors.

Bill said he wouldn’t have it any other way though, and said it was a real privilege to be working with his brothers.

“It’s really good. Any arguments we have are sorted out in about 10 seconds,” he said.

For more information about Hummelstads, visit www.hummelstads.com.



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