A Utopian Outback

Host: Lake Nash Station
Written by Sarah Hughes – Manager, Lake Nash Station.

Howdy Central Station followers, it’s a pleasure to connect with ya’ll!

This is Sarah Hughes from Lake Nash Station on the Barkly Tableland, Northern Territory. My husband Fred and I have managed Lake Nash for almost 2.5 years and it is safe to say there is NEVER a dull moment. I sometimes liken my world to being on a ship – we are all on it together, with nowhere else to go (or nowhere else I would rather go)! I am thrilled to share the happy news that Fred and I are starting a family! We have just had our important 13 week scan and ‘Poppy’, as my siblings have fondly named him/her, is travelling well!

I grew up on Malakoff Station, a cattle property approximately 300km (as the crow flies) North-East of Lake Nash. One of my most treasured childhood memories was sitting in the shed after a hard day’s mustering listening to the men yarning. I loved gaining valuable information about how to survive in the bush. It’s funny to reminisce now on my childhood and where it all began. There is a saying about Africa and how it gets under your skin. I think that saying is just as appropriate when referring to northern Australia. God’s country!

1.1 Duncan Poddy Calf copyDuncan, our legendary Poddy calf I grew up with on Malakoff. Duncan was a Brahman bullock we reared when his mother passed away giving birth. Never will you find a gentler giant weighing a mere one tonne! Sadly, Duncan passed away a few years ago.

1.2 copyLet the legends live on. This is Molly, our newest addition to Lake Nash. She’s sucking well at just one week old after her mother sadly also passed away giving birth.

Lake Nash is owned by Georgina Pastoral Company which also runs Caldervale, Tambo, and Keeroongooloo, Windorah. Having a good team is the key to any successful operation. Lake Nash employs 35 staff members from all around Australia (and sometimes from overseas). Last year we had an Italian cook straight out of Positano treating the staff to delicious pizzas, pasta, and lasagna. We love to see delightful characters such as Luca stop in and experience the remoteness and beauty of the Australian bush.

One of my greatest passions living up here, apart from observing the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, is flying. I acquired my Private Pilot’s License in August 2014 which I found incredibly stimulating. It has also proven to be very practical; from collecting stores during the west season to inspecting cattle and waters. My first solo flight right here on Lake Nash is one of those life experiences I will always treasure. I’ll also never forget flying over the MacDonnell Ranges surrounding Alice Springs for the first time, experiencing the exquisite Northern Territory landscape from a totally different perspective and feeling such freedom. Fred also flies fixed wing light aircraft and helicopters. We’ve had many wonderful times navigating the skies together.

1.3 Elspeth and Sarah Hughes copyMy old friend Elspeth (left) and I enroute to Lake Nash in TOC, our light aircraft, from the Mount Isa airport. It takes 45 minutes in TOC from Mount Isa to Lake Nash compared to three hours by car.

1.4 copyView of Lake Nash Station from above!

Lake Nash Station covers an area of 4.2 million acres and is bisected by the Georgina River. The aggregation includes Georgina Downs and Argadargada Station with a total carrying capacity of 70,000 head. Much of the country consists of rolling plains of black soil well covered in Mitchell grass and overlaying limestone. Lake Nash, along with Georgina Pastoral’s other stations, has recently attained organic certification. The station is ideally located for organic production and currently runs a mixed herd of 55,000 cross bred cattle with an additional 6000 joined purebred Wagyu females. The majority of the herd are joined to Ultrablack bulls (13/16 Angus x 3/16 Brahman) which are highly fertile and homozygously polled, which means all progeny should also be polled.

1.5 copyWeaner Camp Head Stockman Geoff King and his crew.

Of course iron levels are healthy on the station with staff consuming a beast up to every two weeks. The staff eat together in the station kitchen and come weekends our newly renovated social club is a hive of activity. Staff members quench their hard earned thirst and catch up on weekly shenanigans. We often enjoy the company of teachers, nurses, builders, and coppers who pop down for a sundowner from the local aboriginal community, Alpurrurulam, situated eight kilometres up the road.

During the cooler and busier months of the year the crew attend numerous local camp drafts, rodeos and race meetings including Brunette, Camooweal, Harts Range, and the Mount Isa Rodeo. Of course one of the latest and most popular recreational activities is plunging into the new swimming pool for a spot of water volleyball or just cooling down after a long day’s work. No doubt there will be many pool parties as the weather warms up.

1.6 Stock camp copyStock camp mustering desert paddock.

While there is no better place in the world to unwind than in my garden with a G&T and dog Herbert, Fred and I are fortunate in that commercial flights operate out of Mount Isa to Brisbane enabling us to make it to the ‘Big Smoke’ now and again. We love attending friend’s weddings and other social occasions, getting our city fix of hip cafés and restaurants. Of course when all is said and done, there’s no place we’d rather be, than right here in the top end!

Fred, Sarah, and Herbert enjoying a Lake Nash sunset in the garden

It’s difficult for Australians who have been brought up in urban landscapes and never ventured to the outback to comprehend what it is really like to live on the land. I suggest if you are one of these people, come and visit us at Lake Nash.

We love what we do and it is deeply ingrained in our souls. It is important for all Aussies to understand where their food comes from and that no one cares more about their animals than the producers themselves. There has been plenty of criticism and controversy in recent years over the beef and live export industries. All I ask is you take the opportunity to learn about the industry and the people in it, before you lose trust in it. I think you’ll find we’re a pretty good mob, after all.