Rain brings station back to life

Kate MatthewsCountryman

‘Exceptional’ is how Nullarbor sheep pastoralists Peter and Barbara Brown describe this year’s season.

They’ve recorded almost 300mm of rain since January, including 117.6mm in February and more than 70mm in June.

It’s been almost a decade since the couple have had such a good start, and with their station up for sale, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“The season coming up is going to be a humdinger — a crackerjack, ” Peter said.

There’s an abundance of green feed — including spear grass, bindii and buckbush bassia — and puddles along the 30km driveway.

“The rains have all come at the right time, ” Barbara said.

“At the start, I was jealous our neighbours were getting 100mm when we were getting 20mm, but we’re lucky we didn’t get the rain they did with pumps under water, buildings damaged and grass dying.”

The Browns run 13,000 adult Merinos and have 9700 ewes lambing on 314,000 hectares of sheep country.

They will shear close to 20,000 sheep next March, including lambs, and will be producing around 500 bales of wool.

They shore 14,000 head in March and expect to sell 450 bales of medium wool.

In 2002, they produced 700 bales of wool but had to sell 12,000 sheep due to the dry season — but they would have had to sell more if it wasn’t for their bore water supply. Today, numbers are well on the way back to their peak of 26,000 head.

“We are one of the few pastoral properties in WA left running sheep, ” Peter said.

Wild dogs in the Gascoyne, Murchison and Goldfields have seen many pastoralists shift their focus to cattle or goats.

But the Browns said they had very little trouble from wild dogs.

“We are lucky that we have a dog fence either side of us, but it can act as a funnel, because the dogs can walk around the outside of the neighbour and come through, ” Peter said. “We’ve always got plenty of baits waiting for them.”

If a wild dog is seen during muster, staff know to forget the muster and go after the dog.

“A few years ago in one part of the property we got five dogs in three months, because we had 30 per cent lambing and the bore north had 91 per cent lambing, ” Peter said. “They can do some damage and if you want to run any stock, you have to control the dogs.

“We’ve done a lot of dog control over the years and, as a result, we have fantastic bird life here and very little trouble.

“Baits, baits and more baits are the only way to go.”

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