DEEP in the heart of the Gulf Country lies Iffley Station, a sprawling cattle property which turns out about 12,000 weaners annually.
The 404, 685 hectare property is located about 180km south of Normanton on diverse terrain which is half sandy forest and half open Mitchell plains.
With an abundance of water year round, Iffley is a well established breeding station in the Gulf.
The property was owned by Kidman Anglis and Co throughout the 1930s and was purchased by the Cloncurry based McDonald Family (MDH Pty Ltd) in 1979, who still own it today.
MDH Pty Ltd is one of Australia's largest beef cattle operations, and the company is both family owned and operated.
Husband and wife team Heidi and Clint Smith have managed the property for the McDonalds for the last 16 years after first arriving in the Gulf in 2002.
The couple, who have four children Sam, 17, Hughie, 15, Archie, 12 and Bridget, 9 are clearly happy with their lot.
“The McDonalds are wonderful people, we are very lucky to work for them,” Heidi said.
Heidi, originally from NSW, went jilarooing with a mate in the Territory when she turned 18, hasn’t looked back.
She met her husband to be Clint in 1996 when she was working at Brunette Downs Station and he was at Alexandria Station.
They married in 1999 and worked at Connemara Station near Longreach before moving to Iffley in 2002, where they now employ about 15-20 people.
Heidi said they ran about 30,000 head of red Brahmans and have about 20,000 breeders.
“We’ve got half forest and half Mitchell downs country.
“We’ve got an abundance of water, we get rain over the wet season which we’re pretty lucky for.
“We’ve got Spear Creek and Forrest Creek that run into our main water hole, which pretty well fills up every year. We’ve never had a year it hasn’t filled and then we’ve got the Saxby River running through as well.
“We’ve got Brahmans because they’re adaptable to up here, but Iffley has always been red Brahmans.
“We breed all our own horses as well for the horse plant, so we have 15-20 broodmares that were breed each year to use on the place.”
Heidi said the station turned off about 12,000 weaners each year to MDH's backgrounding stations south of Mount Isa and Cloncurry.
“If the southern places have had a good enough season we turn off the weaners to them. A lot are around Cloncurry or south of Cloncurry and then they go on down to the feedlot. Some of it stays in the domestic market but a lot of it gets shipped as boxed beef overseas.”
Heidi said in dryer years, they held their own weaners until conditions improved.
“We had three or four years when it was terribly dry down there, so we were carrying a lot more cattle than we normally do.
“Obviously we need to spell accordingly so if we do have a year when we can turn off, we have to spell the paddocks accordingly to make sure they do return to the state they were in.”