The story of a 100 year old grazing family from Julia Creek was told at a Paddock to Plate Luncheon on Wednesday when Bob Lord shared his family’s farming history.
Located 90 kilometres north east of Julia Creek, Kilterry Station started off as a sheep enterprise in its early days, before markets forcefully changed their commercial operation to cattle.
Owner Bob Lord said their property was one of the last two operations to change from sheep to cattle, north of the line.
“In the early days, dad used to talk about there being 100,000 sheep north of Nelia, now it is very much cattle country,” he said.
Switching to a cattle enterprise, Kilterry Station now carries 10,000 commercial head of Santa Gertrudis cross Brahman and a small stud of 300 head.
“We buy our bulls from down south and bring them here,” Mr Lord said.
“We are trying to breed an animal that can gain our carcass weight and be acclimatised to the environment in the north and still meet a southern market.”
Before a failed wet season in 2013 and a series of dry years that followed, Kilterry Station had more than 400 head in the stud – but the drought took a heavy toll.
“When we came out of the drought we found there were some cows that were very superior after one of the most severe tests you could put a stud through,” he said.
“The blood line that survived we have honed down on because when the times were tough they kept condition and the ones we noted didn’t do so well, we let them go.
“So as far as adaptability goes it is something the stud will be able to carry through.”
In support of their cattle enterprise, Kilterry ventured into cropping Forage Sorghum and more recently barley.
“Cropping has always been in the family over the years. It was brought on by the drought trying to grow fodder for our weaners to keep our progeny going forward,” Mr Lord said.
“We plant 50 hectares and grow enough feed to support 1000 weaners or to background some cattle to get into a market.”
Mr Lord said by exploring barley it was a gamble – but would be used as a cash flow to the horse market and preparing his cattle for market.
“It does have this pros and cons and it is still too soon to tell how our crop will shape up this season. We have watched different producers harvest cereal crops over the years with varying results. Cropping out here is also difficult due to location and rainfall.
“We use artesian water to irrigate our crops. We are still working with the government to try and relieve help with licences, otherwise we do have a small dam near the house that we use as a back up.
“The artesian water is very helpful but it is still a small amount of water in relation to grow a crop for our amount of cattle.”
Mr Lord said something his family had struggled with over the years was old farming equipment.
“Farming out here is not as popular as cattle. If you need a road train or a helicopter there is an abundance.
“But being so far away from everyone else in the farming industry comes with its challenges.
“Therefore if you ask for a silage cutting machine the closest would be in Emerald and the person who could fix it would be on the coast somewhere.
“As far as machinery goes you need to be self sufficient and run a one man show.”
Mr Lord said he was intrigued to see how his barley would harvest this year.