Written by – Kylie Savidge, Owner, Southampton Station.
February 2012 was the last water making or grass growing rain that we have received. Yes, there have been some falls of rain since then but none of them did much good, just enough to make a nice green pick grow and bring in a few thousand kangaroos to chew it off with not much water run off at all.
The previous three years had been very wet years with record rainfall and flooding in our area. I am sure you all would have seen media coverage of that.
By about Oct/Nov 2012 we were starting to think about what we would be doing if we had no rain over our wet season, which here in our area starts around the end of September and goes through until about March or April. We had a huge body of dry feed and were very concerned about fires as there were many dry lightning storms coming through. Over the summer storm period we attended six or seven bushfires around our property, all but one of them started by lightning.
I walked the soles off a new pair of work boots back burning in the mulga ridges off of the neighbouring property in December 2012. The temperature was horrendous, 47 degrees on our eastern veranda at home, heaven knows what it was up where we were fighting the fire.
I have a very healthy respect for fire and would much prefer flooding to fire. Each fire is different and all of them are scary.
We had three fires that week. We were lucky enough to be able to get them under control in the order they started in but it left a lot of very tired and worn out people praying that there would be a little respite before the next one. We had one ute as our dedicated fire unit, always half full of water and ready to go. You get rather proficient in packing up and getting going in a hurry after a bit.
Fortunately for us there were no fires on Southampton and we are rather grateful for that.
Dad and I made a cut-off date for destocking and Easter 2013 was decided upon.
Dams were drying up at an alarming rate due to the extremely hot weather and hot dry winds that caused evaporation rates to soar. Anecdotally, it was said that over 100 days of the summer were over 40 degrees and 20 of those over 45 degrees. We have only one paddock that has a bore water supply and the rest of the property is watered by dams that catch water via a series of catch drains strategically placed around said paddocks.
With the feed haying off and no rain to bring it back again we needed to look at the future and make some tough decisions with our stock. Cattle had to be sold to allow our breeder herd to remain at home. Steers were sold; weaners were sold as well as all of our cull heifers and dry cows at Easter. Prices were dropping rapidly so we made very little money on these cattle. We hope that the market will pick up when it rains.
Weaners/calves were weaned off their mothers so the cows could have a chance to stay in condition over the winter of 2013. These were then fed in the yards and surrounding house paddocks. We then sold what we could out of these cattle and the rest were sent away on agistment.
Young calves in yard and walking weaners June/July 2013.
In June/July I made the call and it was a tough one to make and sold off our heifers I was keeping to join this September to some lovely young Santa Gertrudis bulls that were bought last year. We also sold off all but 125 of our remaining steers. This has proved to be a good choice but it was not one made lightly and it damn near broke my heart to watch the trucks leave with these heifers.
As the year has gone on our dams have dried up, we now have only two with water in them that are usable. Our house water supply is gone and we are now on a very limited supply of bore water.
We are watching and praying for rain as I am not sure how much longer we can continue with our water running out so rapidly.
We shifted 125 of our first calf heifers and their babies away on agistment this weekend 26 and 27th Oct. They joined 260 head of cows that were already away on agistment on the neighbouring property which has a lot of mulga available on it as long as the water keeps up.
It is heart breaking now to see these lovely heifers calving beautiful calves and not having the milk to feed them on. I added another poddy to my house yard mob on Sunday 3rd Nov as his Mum whilst looking after him as best she could just did not have the milk to do so.
He is a tiny little bloke but seems to have taken to bottle feeding quite well and I hope that he will continue to do so. You do what you can with what you have and I cannot let them starve or shoot them. So I always bring them home, some you win, some you lose but at least you try.
Without Rheanna and Ricky’s help this would be impossible to do with me being in town during the week and Dad pushing scrub seven days a week.