Sheep commitment pays off

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Last September things were dry on Mt Magnet’s historic Boogardie Station — the last of the properties in the region still being run by the descendents of its founders.

It had been a tough run of seasons on Boogardie, as drought and wild dogs challenged even the most confirmed ‘sheep men’.

Brothers David, Paul, Henry and John Jones have remained committed to sheep despite many Murchison pastoralists moving away from wool, but nine years of failed winter rain has seen the station’s flock contract to about 7000 head.

Sitting at the table in the same kitchen that had nurtured generations of the Jones family, Henry’s thoughts on the future could be boiled down to just one sentence.

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“We were hoping it might rain again,” he said in a typical laconic fashion.

Six months on, more than 150mm in the rain gauge and green feed bursting through the red soil has meant there’s reason to smile — but it’s a cautious optimism.

The brothers received 100mm a week before Christmas, 16mm in the first week of January and 35mm just over a month ago.

“I’ve been hard pressed to complain about that,” Henry said.

“You never really expect a rain like that before Christmas or before February, but to have good prices to go with it is a nice change. This rain will get us through the winter, but it will be interesting to see whether that pattern changes.”

At the start of April, the brothers finished shearing 6400 sheep and for the first time in a decade they had to muster using motorbikes.

“Because of the rain we couldn’t trap around water and it wasn’t economical to get a plane,” Henry said.

“We’d like to think there are still a few more sheep out there though.”

The rain means the brothers can aim for a decent lambing and they’ve locked their ewes in holding yards for the mating period.

“We sold 1500 mated ewes last May and that dropped our numbers,” Henry said. “In hindsight, we would have been better not doing that.

“But now, for the amount of sheep we’ve got, the feed will hang on for a long time. Any further winter rain will be good.”

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