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Rain reprieve saves stock at Yowergabbie

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Last December Yowergabbie Station’s Jorgen Jensen was just days away from destocking, but he made a last minute decision to hold off.

Although sheep prices were continuing to climb, dry seasons and wild dogs meant the young pastoralist wasn’t able to capitalise on the rising market.

When the Countryman visited him in September he was toying with the idea of selling all of the family’s Merinos.

By December he had made up his mind to de-stock and buyers from New South Wales were looking at the station’s 2200 sheep.

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“They were offering good money, but I would have been left in a position where I couldn’t have cleared debt,” Jorgen said.

“I had agistment organised, enough for six to eight weeks, so I decided to see what happened in the New Year.”

Less than a week later the skies opened, dumping much needed rain across Yowergabbie’s red soils.

Since then, more than 230mm has fallen on the property, prompting an explosion of feed.

That feed is now beginning to dry off but is still valuable tucker.

Jorgen hasn’t seen his sheep this fat since the 1990s and said he had definitely made the right decision not to sell his stock.

“I felt pretty fortunate I didn’t sell them, but then there was a mad panic to get some rams,” he said.

“We’d sold our rams the year before because we weren’t going to mate, but we managed to buy 35 and put them straight in with the ewes.”

Those rams came out in mid-April and, with winter rain, Jorgen said he would consider building-up sheep numbers again.

“As good as this rain is, if it doesn’t follow up in winter then it’s a flash in the pan,” he said.

“If we don’t get that winter rain we’ll just keep a minimum of breeding ewes, maybe 1500.

“These are all decisions you make on the go.”

But even with good winter rain, Jorgen said the pastoral industry’s confidence had been seriously dented and would take more than one good season to return. “Ten years is a long time to be without regular winter rainfall,” he said.

“In the meantime, we’ve had to put up with a lot of other things — wild dogs being the latest.

“Many places will need significant investment in infrastructure to get up and going again.”

Nevertheless rain is nearly always welcome at Yowergabbie.

“It’s made things easier and it gives us a shot at this year, rather than selling-up stock,” Jorgen said.

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