One of Queensland’s northernmost wool producers was celebrating the wool price revival as he completed a five-day shearing of the 5500 head ewe portion of his flock.
Located 90 kilometres south west of Hughenden, Brendan and Jane McNamara run a commercial enterprise at Abbotsford, consisting of 7000 sheep and 200 Droughtmaster cattle.
With the property split in two, Brendan completed the first round of shearing a month ago, shearing 1600 wethers. This week with the assistance from Robert Tutaki, Tutaki Shearing, Longreach, Mr McNamara undertook the second round of shearing with 2700 ewes, 700 weaner ewes and 2100 lambs.
The Tutaki family has been contracting for the McNamaras for more than 30 years.
Originally starting the family business in Hughenden, the contractors relocated due to the drought and downturn of wool.
“In 1990 there was probably seven or eight shearing teams in Hughenden,” Mr Tutaki said.
“Today there is only two in Hughenden and two in Muttaburra. When the sheep left this area, everyone travelled south to follow the industry.
“I left Hughenden in 2003. Now Abbotsford is as far as we come north and we also cover Muttaburra and Longreach and 60km west of Winton.”
Despite most sheep producers swapping to cattle when the bottom fell out of the wool industry in 1991, Mr McNamara did not give up on his enterprise.
“Sheep have been in my wife’s family since 1912 so she had sheep in her blood and I grew up with sheep also, so we wanted to continue it,” he said.
“We still run sheep because we enjoy it and I believe this country is suited to running both sheep and cattle and it is easy to keep sheep alive in a drought.”
After seven years of drought in the Hughenden area, a wet winter in 2016 brought relief to many stations in the region.
“We had a wet winter last year which certainly helped us.
“We have gone through the hard times, and for the people who have stayed in the industry it’s time for the good times. If there wasn’t money in sheep people wouldn’t have them.
“There were stages when people couldn’t sell sheep so they were shooting them and selling wethers for five to 10 dollars a head – we sold wethers last week for $80 a head.
“Wool prices are excellent at the moment, averaging close to $2000 a bale which is great compared to 10 to 15 years ago when it was $700 a bale.”
The wet winter also brought increased lambing rates to Abbotsford Station with 83 per cent this season.
Mr McNamara said this was also due to his successful pest control including Maremma guard dogs.
“We do have issues with wild dogs and we have been running Maremma guard dogs for seven to eight years now and they do a great job of keeping dogs away from the sheep.
“They take time and money to get trained and working well. We get them as pups and have them in the yards until they are about five to six months old and then we get them desexed before we put them out in the paddock.
“We lose very few lambs to wild dogs now, having only had one hit of dingoes in seven years – losing 14 wethers in one night.”