It hasn’t been his best year for growing wool but Quilpie grazier Steven Hall has seen it happen before and he reckons, provided kangaroo populations can be managed, the district stands a chance of breeding back into productive times.
Tipping out just 150mm of rain from shearing to shearing in the last year, Steven and his wife Karen couldn’t make a huge contribution to the fleece section at the Quilpie show in September, with wool weights way down.
They would normally run 6500 sheep across 65,000 acres of mulga and flooded country at Greenmulla, south of Quilpie, but they’re down to 5000 head at present.
In an average season they would expect to truck 170 bales of wool but this year, for the third year in a row, that was down to 120 bales.
“We marked 450 lambs out of 2500 ewes at crutching time,” Steven said. “This drought was the first time we fed sheep with supplements.
“It’s had a greater impact on us than other droughts – it’s been brutal.”
Steven believes there’s a strong correlation between productivity and kangaroo pressure.
“In high rainfall areas they’ve got lots of grass and no roos; at Birdsville they’ve got fat cattle and no roos. Here, where the roo populations are dense, we’re eaten out in three months.”
He said a year ago, when Greenmulla recorded some winter rain, kangaroos were coming in waves onto the grass that grew, so much so that ewes were walking away from their lambs.
“It’s (kangaroo harvesting) an industry that’s got to be fixed,” he said. “If we don’t lift our production, even on our limited rainfall, we’re never going to keep pace with inflationary pressures.”
Steven’s keen to stay in wool, using Mumblebone bloodlines, saying there was more money in their SRS concept, mixing wool and meat, in his 12 inch rainfall country.
“It’s because of the cashflow, there’s a little bit all the time, and meat prices have been good for a while,” he said.
Something like the seasons between 2009-11 are needed now, Steven said, “to put young sheep round us again”.