When Hughenden graziers Colin and Denise Delahunty bought an opportunity mob of cattle from the Mareeba saleyards in July, they had to show them the way to water.
It had been so long since stock were last in the paddocks at Rockwood there were no pads to guide the cattle to watering points.
Not only that but the Delahuntys had to go out and buy trough rubbers to replace all the ones that had perished through lack of use.
Last year the property recorded 100mm of rain for the year. The year before that it was 150mm, and in 2013 a whole 160mm fell on the property situated midway between Muttaburra and Hughenden.
If anyone was entitled to feel hard done by when the winter rain that brought relief to many parts of western Queensland passed them by, it would be Colin and Denise, but they don’t see it that way.
“We’re used to dry times, we’ve learnt to manage,” is how Colin summed it up.
“We destock and go early – it’s a policy that has paid off.
“It hurt at the time, but then we got onto cleaning out dams. Some hadn’t been dry since the 50s, so we were busy.
“We don’t depend on them but they’re good back-up.”
In the 1990s, when it was just as dry, Colin said they “did two laps” around the long paddocks of Queensland with some of their cattle and had others in 13 different places, from Camooweal to the NSW border.
This dry, combined with the Indonesian live export suspension, caught them and others by surprise, forcing them to offload 3000 cattle in 13 weeks in 2013, some for $250.
Despite that, they are looking beyond the drought and have recently bought 20km of exclusion fencing.
With a 30-year culture of trading inbred, Colin said it would give them the ability to buy in opportunity mobs of sheep, even though the last mob left Rockwood eight years ago.
“We’re trying to give ourselves a chance,” he said. “Cattle are rosy at the moment but if it falls over, we can’t run sheep unless we do this.
“The dog problem is as bad as ever, and roos invade us from the hills to the east.”
It’s all part of a philosophy that is bolstering Colin and Denise despite having green grass and good rain within a 50km radius.
Stock trading has been part of their ethos for 30 years, hence the Mareeba purchases earlier this year, when they could make use of feed from a single fall, and now they follow the KLR system.
“We’ve just found a principle that helps our thinking,” Colin said. “It helps us decide what to buy.”
The property has Scottish Australian Company heritage, the remains of a woolscour and a Cobb and Co change station, but the Delahuntys are placing it for the 21st century.