Host: Eversleigh Station
Written by Jenny Underwood – Owner, Eversleigh Station.
They say that experience is a good teacher. My husband was born and bred on the land and he has experienced his fair share of the good along with the bad times. When the wet season failed to eventuate early in 2013 he knew that we would have to start making some serious decisions so that we could make it through the year. Beginning in April 2013 we started to sell off our aged cows – it was such a heart-breaking thing to do to say farewell to the “good old girls” that had produced so many calves throughout their lifetime. It had to be done; if we didn’t lighten off our numbers we would run out of grass before it rained again.
But it didn’t rain and so we had to keep selling. During 2013 we sold off all of our dry stock – all male cattle as well as 50% of our breeders.
Selling cows and calves. During this time the cattle market was very depressed; the market was flooded with cattle and in some cases graziers were lucky to be able to sell their stock and make a profit. These cows and calves sold for $450/unit.
2014 arrived with a dreadful heatwave . . . and no rain. The selling persisted.
The drought continued to extend its deadly web across many areas of rural Queensland and NSW. There was little to no agistment available so the only option for so many was to sell more and more stock.
We spent decades building up our Droughtmasters into a herd of cattle that we were extremely proud of. We had to do something that would enable us to retain as many cows as possible to keep our breeding operation sustainable.
So, early in 2014, we went in search of another property that we could lease or buy and where we could send some of our cows and at least keep some of our core breeders.
At the end of June in 2014, we bought “Pine Hills”, a 6000 acre (approximately 2500 hectares) property 40km north of Wallumbilla in the Maranoa/Warrego region around Roma. We also have a 5000 ac forestry lease attached to the property. We were able to bring down a number of our females which was a great relief to us.
The proud new owners of Pine Hills – June 2014.
My husband spent a lot of his time away from Eversleigh overseeing the arrival of more and more cows being trucked to Pine Hills. We were very lucky to have an excellent caretaker who looked after Pine Hills for us. It was a 940km one-way trip from Eversleigh to Pine Hills, so Roger made the most of his time while he was away doing maintenance and improvements to the property as well as cattle work. In the meantime I stayed at home as we were still feeding cattle on a daily basis at Eversleigh even though our numbers were slowly dwindling. We had been fortunate to get some agistment which enabled us to keep cows and calves as well as some weaners.
A load of young cattle on their way to Pine Hills. This scene was repeated many times throughout 2014 and 2015.
2015 arrived with another heatwave and no wet season. We continued to lighten off numbers and still the drought refused to break. Towards the end of 2015 we sold Eversleigh and Aireworth – a bittersweet decision and one which we didn’t make lightly – and moved permanently to Pine Hills. As the name of the property implies, we are surrounded by hills and trees – not all of them pine trees though.
There are lots of bottle trees on Pine Hills. They are one of my favourite trees and each one has its own fascinating shape.
Life is very different and we now embark upon a new chapter in our lives and have much to learn about our new property. Because of a number of drought management strategies which included securing agistment, selling off dry stock and feeding those left at Eversleigh and Aireworth, we were able to stock Pine Hills with our own cows and calves.
Walking cows down a laneway – the hills and timber make mustering a lot different to the open downs country of Eversleigh.
Walking cows and calves along the road beside the pine forest lease country.
Moving was a huge undertaking – considering Roger had lived there for almost 30 years and in that time had accumulated lots of “treasures” – but we managed to get everything, including the last of our stock, shifted down to Pine Hills by December, just in time to celebrate our first Christmas there.
Approaching the homestead – our new home and how it looked when we arrived in late 2014.
We have lots of learning to do and we have a number of projects and challenges ahead of us. I look forward to sharing stories of life on Pine Hills with you in 2017.