What’s happening at Wallal

Host: Warrawagine Cattle Co.
Written by Jacinta Mills – Owner, Warrawagine Cattle Company.

The breakfast table here in the kitchen at Wallal is quiet this time of year. This morning it’s just the 3 of us; Mum (Lynda), Dad (Geoff), and I.

3.1Lynda, Jacinta, and Geoff.

Whilst Geoff and I eat our breakfast and chat away, I realise Lynda started her day about an hour before us. She is busy looking at the calendar for the week ahead. Lynda does this so she can work out what staff are based here at the homestead, what staff are at the pivots and if there are any guests due. She is also chatting to Geoff asking what day is his quietest this week so she can organize a store run to town. Being a station woman she is great at multitasking. Not only is she busy getting smoko ready, Lynda is also peeling a bucket full of potatoes for tonight’s tea.

3.2Lynda in the kitchen.

We have been given the opportunity to diversify here at Wallal and with a bore already in place we have chosen to put in centre pivots. These pivots are going to be used to produce hay which will therefore drought proof both Wallal and Warrawagine. We will eventually have three pivots in place all being 47ha each (totaling 140 hectares or 350 acres). Long term we will be planting sorghum for hay and silage.

3.3An aerial photo of our centre pivots.

Whilst talking with Geoff, he informs me that one of the pivots is nearly ready for seeding with oats, whilst the other is still being cleared of sticks and rotary hoed to pull up any small roots that may be sitting under the surface of the dirt. We have chosen to go with oats as our first crop as it grows a lot better in the cooler months. It’s all hands on deck down at the pivots. Everyone is putting in the hard yards to get everything up and running. Simon along with Nat and Michelle (Nat and Michelle have just joined us and will be a floating between both Warrawagine and Wallal) have been doing a fantastic job at getting the final clearing done on pivot three. Simon mentioned that if all goes well we should have oats in the ground by the end of the week (Fingers crossed it happens and I can share some photos with you all). I can’t believe how fast things are changing down there. It really is a sight to see. It has also been a very big learning curve for everyone involved and we are enjoying it immensely.

3.4Final stages of clearing.

3.5Almost ready for the first crop to go in.

Dazza, Pauly, and Northy are progressing nicely with the assembly of the shed. So far they have got all the footings in place and have five of the seven uprights installed. It is now starting to resemble a shed rather than an abstract sculpture in the middle of nowhere. This shed will be used for the storing of machinery and also the storage of the baled hay.

3.6An early aerial shot of the shed.

3.7Shed at the pivot.

Putting in three large pivots means we require a lot of different machines. Tractors, front end loaders, bulldozers, graders, backhoe, combines, mowers, balers, small vehicles, and trucks will all need a home out of the weather when they are not being used.

3.8Photo credit: Emily Stretch.

As I mentioned earlier we were hoping to get the first crop in and we did it. Pivot three has now been seeded with oats and the sprinklers are going. At the moment the pivot is being turned on everyday with about 7mm of water falling onto the ground. Work has now moved over to the next pivot to continue getting it completely cleared ready for seeding as well. But for now it’s a waiting game with the first pivot and fingers crossed in about 7-10 days we will see some lovely green oats sprouting out of the ground.

3.9Oats and fertilizer going into the combine.

3.10And the oats are in the ground!!!

As well as all the work happening down at the pivot there are still tanks and troughs to check as well as fences and the cattle. A bore run here at Wallal is a pretty easy and quick one. But as we don’t have any windmills (cyclones are the reason we don’t have them) everything is solar pumped with a generator as back up. This means everything has to be checked every day making sure all the cattle have plenty of nice clean water to drink.

3.11Heifers at a freshly cleaned trough.

3.12Happy, healthy cows and calves.       

We have also just installed a brand new telemetry system (that has been designed and built by Alex Mills). Inside the tank, the system uses sonar to find out what the water level is. This information is then sent via 3G network to our mobile phone as well as a webpage (this webpage shows us in graph and chart form the water level). We receive these updates five times a day so that we can gauge if the solar panels are pumping enough water or if we need to go out and start the generator.

3.13Telemetry system on one of our tanks.

The bore ute is probably the most well equipped vehicle at Wallal. Not only does it carry the normal tool bag, jack, spare wheel, trough broom, and shovel. It also has on board: fencing strainers, fencing wire, snatch strap, trough blocks, liquid minerals for the cattle, jerry can of unleaded, jerry can of diesel, and a ladder. All these items would be used at least once a day. Who ever happens to be doing a bore run is also checking fences for any breaks, loose wires, or broken steel pickets.

3.14Bore run vehicle.

We also take the opportunity to sometimes just sit and watch the cattle. Sitting and watching helps to not only see if there are any sick or injured cattle but it also allows our cattle to get used to us and become more friendly.

3.15Friendly calves enjoy having me visit.

Between all the work at the pivot site, bore runs, and general daily homestead jobs, it doesn’t take long to fill up a day here at Wallal.

3.16Sunset down at the beach.

Before you know it you notice the warmth has started to disappear and has been replaced by a nice cool sea breeze. It’s at this time you look at the clock and realize it’s after 5pm. For some of us it means heading back to the homestead for a nice cold drink and preparing for tomorrow. And the same goes for the guys at the pivot.

3.17The best way to end a day.