Host: Soudan Station
Written by Sarah Ferriday – Overseer, Soudan Station.
Hi, my name is Sarah Ferriday, my husband Shane and I are the Overseers on Soudan Station, a 1.3 million acre outstation of Alexandria, with North Australian Pastoral Company (NAP Co). We started at Soudan 12 months ago; and what an amazing experience it’s been.
Shane and I met while working on a cattle property in south west Qld, ‘Babbiloora’ for Australian Country Choice (ACC). We spent approximately seven years in the Augathella area working between ACC properties and a privately owned property, ‘Bogarella’ for Rob and Lois Grummitt. This time of our lives was an invaluable experience; Shane worked his way from station hand to Head Stockman in the first three years and gained skills and knowledge that he will use throughout his career.
After a short time in the Central Queensland region, we were fortunate enough to be offered the position of Overseer on Soudan for NAP Co. An Overseer essentially manages the property under the guidance of the Station Manager; Shane’s the ‘eyes and ears’ for this part of the Alexandria aggregation. We deal with the day-to-day running of Soudan and report back to the managers of Alexandria, Stephen Bryce and Narda Grover on a daily basis.
Soudan is located 105 km over the QLD/NT boarder into the Northern Territory, 320km from Mt Isa. The housing complex is located 100m from the Ranken River which runs into the Georgina River, ending up in Lake Eyre, South Australia. The river provides great entertainment throughout the year; swimming during the warmer months and fishing and yabbying all year round – Mark, one of our bore runners cooks a mean yabby carbonara!
At Soudan, we are responsible for breeding high quality beef cattle; the first link in the NAP Co supply chain. When our calves reach a specified weight or age, they are weaned; taken off their mother so they can start their own journey through life. The weaning process is undertaken at an age when the calf is old enough not to require ‘Mum’s’ milk and the cow is needing to put her energy into producing another calf.
The weaning process occurs at a similar time in the calve’s life as an older teenage child is ready and rearing to move out of home and gain their own independence! All our female weaners are transported to Alexandria, where they will go into the breeding herd and the male weaners are branded, ear marked and ear tagged, and transported to one of our channel country properties where they grow into fat young steers ready for our feedlot. The branding process is a necessary activity that ensures ownership of each animal.
Each station has its own brand, a symbol or sequence of three numbers and letters identifying that property; we put this brand on all our young stock to indicate they belong to Alexandria, in addition to the brand, we have a corresponding ear mark; this is a small shape, the shape varies from property to property but is another form of identification; that is cut from the ear of the weaner to give a better visual indication of ownership. As the final form of identification, we put an NLIS (National Livestock Identification System) button in the ear of each weaner, similar to having an ear-ring put in your own ear; this is an electronic method of identifying animals. This entire process takes approximately 40 seconds to complete; catch the calf, brand, ear mark, tag and NLIS button, very quick and relatively harmless necessity to ensure we maintain ownership of our animals.
Even though our role is to manage a large herd of beef cattle, we are also responsible for the welfare and interests of our staff. As part of my role, I am the first aid officer and responsible for the two medical kits we have on the station; RFDS (Royal Flying Doctors Service) and EMK (Emergency Medicines Kit) medical kits. Our RFDS medical kit is QLD based, whereas our EMK medical kit it NT based. Even though we live in an isolated area of Australia, we have medical assistance on hand. Our contact with both the RFDS and EMK is invaluable, they are just the most amazing Doctors to speak with and very, very helpful with all sorts of issues.
We are in a very unique situation living right on the Barkly Highway, literally approximately 100m off the bitumen, which is very helpful during the wet season as we are always able to get to town, but there is a down side; Soudan is the first point of call for any accidents that occur on the highway. Though, with the amazing assistance and support of our local police station, located at Avon Downs, just 56km from us, and access to the RFDS or EMK, we are in good hands.
As each day passes, we are getting closer and closer to mustering; and today, we have started. Well before daylight and with a sense of anticipation and a slight nervousness, the stock camp load their horses on the truck and drive off down the road. There’s nervousness from our new staff as to what the day will hold and a sense of anticipation from the old hands who are just so glad to be back on their horses behind a mob of cattle. Then just as the sun is peeking up over the horizon, we hear the familiar sound of the chopper firing into life (much to the excitement of the kids, especially Hayden who wants to be a chopper pilot when he grows up) and heading off for a big day of mustering.
Twelve months have flown by so very quickly for us and it has been the most enjoyable experience of our lives. The people that we have had the great pleasure of working with at Soudan have been wonderful and we are so very grateful for their contributions. Every day at Soudan is amazing; there’s smiles, many laughs, an odd tear, but all in all we are making some great memories.