The Country Downs story

Host: Country Downs Station
Written by Nikki Elezovich – Owner, Country Downs Station.

Hi to everyone reading this blog. As you may have garnered from our profile, I am Nikki Elezovich from Country Downs Station. My husband and I feel quite privileged and humbled at being a part of such a grand scheme as Central Station, as the purpose of it is to provide those people who are wanting to learn more about rural life, a solid foundation on which to base their thoughts and opinions.

I, personally, am what would be considered a ‘town chic’. I was born and raised in Broome, WA, went away to boarding school in Perth, battled my way through Uni in Perth and then in Townsville, Qld, where I completed my Honours in Marine Biology. After a number of years working in aquaculture within the pearling industry, a bit of mining and then a bit more fish aquaculture, I followed my heart (rather foolishly) into the middle of the Dampier Peninsula to a little known (and much denigrated) pastoral lease called Country Downs Station.

1.1An aerial view of the homestead and surrounds in 2008.

1.2The house I moved into in 2007. It is the enclosed in end of a shed. We have since done even more work to it! 

1.3The welcome sign at the front gate.

Country Downs is an average sized property for WA pastoral leases, comprising approx 185,000 hectares . . . but believe me . . . it doesn’t feel ‘average-sized’ when we need to do a bore run!! My husband, Kurt (who you will meet later in the week), bought the property in February 2003 and up until 2007, struggled along on his own (with a couple of helpers here and there), working in the mines to pay for his dream . . . a real-life cattle station! In 2007, Kurt quit the mines and I too gave up all that  I had . . . the career, the house, the car, and the social life to be a part of that dream and to focus everything we had on the business of producing food for the world . . . well our 0.01% portions worth anyway! Despite the multitudinous ups and downs, successes and failures, accolades and complaints, stresses and gratifications, I am still here to tell a story or two (or seven!).

1.5Our first trough and trap yard setup, 2005.

1.4Some of our cattle in 2007.

I greatest hope is that those of you reading our week’s worth of ‘daily life’, end the week slightly insightful, moderately entertained but mostly, informed about why it is we do what we do and continue to do regardless of the odds and seemingly endless array of ‘hard luck and bad trouble’ (to quote Lee Child). I will apologise in advance, as I don’t often tell a story, but when I do, I tend to get on a roll and it ends up an epic, so lest I bore you before I even begin, “Welcome to week in the life of Country Downs!”

1.7A lovely young heifer, 2006.

1.6The first set of yards built – a view from the tank stand, 2004.

As I said before, since 2003 Kurt has owned and operated Country Downs pretty much on his own, with the help of a caretaker here and there. Since 2008, it has been just the two of us running the entire operation. We have developed the property from 30 head of cattle (that you rarely saw except for dust!), three actual working bores (but no operating pumps), no yards, no remaining intact fences and no access to parts of the property beyond the homestead and an area which we refer to as the “The Melon Patch” in the northern part of the lease that the previous owners developed for horticultural purposes.

1.9Some of the first “30 head” – all you could ever see was dust! 2004

1.8A sample of the original scrub cattle on the property, 2004.

1.10Constructing our first 90 tonne water tank, 2006.This is the base/plinth.

1.12A typical lovely day in paradise! Overlooking the Homestead yards from the tank stand. 2006

1.11Developing bores. In 2008, we got three bores done at the same time as we had waited three years for the driller to come out and do one! Our average depth to water is 80m, but some holes are up to 140m!

We have, however, had the very good fortune of having great family and friends who have, at regular and irregular times, helped us out.  These special people have lived with us for days, weeks and even months in some cases and given us their knowledge, expertise, brawn, brains, and general willingness to help. They have all done this for nothing but our gratitude, thanks, and some fresh home grown beef and/or vegies to fill their freezers and fridges with. But without them, we may not have made it as far as we have, starting with literally nothing to what we have now, which is an operating station running at approximately half its capacity.

1.13Mates giving us a hand to install a floor so that the ‘house’ was all one level! 2006

1.14The first (of many) improvements to the house after I moved in. Installing a ceiling with insulation. It meant no more 47oC in the wet or 0oC in the dry inside the house, 2007.

1.15Me getting in amongst it . . . if the boys can do it, so can I!

1.16The first side of the house done . . . phew . . . time for a beer.

1.17My kitchen for the first two years.

We are still in what we would call ‘developmental phase’ and have a number of years before we would consider ourselves to be operating at capacity. Currently we run about 3000 head of cattle and are hoping to double that over the next five to seven years (give or take!). We run predominantly Brahman and Brahman-cross (or brahmanX) cattle, but since the debacle with the Live Export Suspension in 2011, we are investigating different opportunities with different breeds to create a composite herd that has the potential to fit into almost any market. As the old adage says “Don’t put all your eggs on one basket” . . . and as you will soon probably find out . . . I am a ‘stick in the mud’ for old adages!

1.19Our first lot of Charolais stud bulls purchased in 2011.

1.18Our first lot of stud bulls (Brahman) purchased in 2008.

1.20Our first lot of Senepol stud bulls also purchased in 2011.

So how did we get here? Well Kurt’s family many, many moons ago owned and operated Nita Downs Station, south of Broome (who the current owners you have met already, I believe), so cattle is in his blood. Whilst I am a Broome girl, I am neither a city girl nor a rural chic, but that sort of in between, could deal with either lifestyle kind of person and I chose to go rural! I have had many moments where I have wondered “what the hell am I thinking?” but I am still here giving it a good hard crack.

What have we done?  We have built a life and a business out of not much at all. We got married in our own backyard in 2010. But our biggest and proudest achievement was producing our two sons, William (2009 vintage) and Rory (2012 vintage). Until Rory was born, both Kurt and I managed to, rather efficiently, run and develop the station without needing employees. However, having two small children, one of which is in Kindy through School of the Air, we realised that the station and its requirements were getting bigger than what we could handle on our own. So we hired our very first employee, Mary.


1.22Our wedding in the back yard with family and friends, 2010.

1.24The main course cooking, a beast on a spit!

1.23The ‘Reception’ and ‘Accommodation’ area. Our wedding, 2010

1.26Rory at birth, 2012. With Will and myself.

1.25William at birth, 2009.

1.27William and Rory in 2012, a week after Rory was born.

Mary is a gorgeous Scottish girl who was prepared to spend six months of her Aussie travels ‘doing time’ for us. I am sure you will all get to meet Mary over the next week and appreciate her help as much as we do. Having Mary meant that I could be Kurt’s offsider again (not a job for the faint-hearted!) and therefore, hopefully catch up on all those jobs that have been mouldering on the “List of Things to Do” for far too long.

So to sum up, our not-so-brief introduction, some of the things we would like to ‘introduce’ you to that we consider a part of everyday life include:

  • Trapping not Mustering
  • Work, Play, and Education
  • “Can Somebody give me Dr Do Little’s Number, My Menagerie is Driving me Crazy”
  • The Big Boss, The Backpacker, and The Bean-counter (a day in the head of each!)
  • Diversification
  • What do you do when there’s no cattle market?

Some of our readers will have a chuckle at our endeavours, some of you may nod your heads in knowing wisdom and some will no doubt be thinking (as I do on occasions) “what the hell are you thinking?” But hopefully, most of you, after this week, will know something that you didn’t before and hopefully, most of you will have a greater understanding of a primary producer’s natural affinity with the land, the livestock, and the complex relationship that occurs between everything in nature. So I will leave you this first day with my own take on an often used adage . .  “Sarcasm and dry wit is the saviour of my sanity!”

Ciao ciao, Nikki