It has been a dry and dusty six long years for Wyandra cattle producers, Tangles and Jenny Webster of Goolburra, and the landscape doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
The couple are situated 45 kilometres south west of Wyandra, and the last decent rain with flood-out effects over their Warrego River country was in 2012.
“We headed into drought after a very long and hot summer some 10 months later,” Mrs Webster said.
The couple love what they do but if only it would rain, as over the past six years they have tried every management strategy to keep the nucleus of their breeding herd alive.
“It really has been the most difficult, horrible drought and one of the longest as it has been unrelenting for six years,” Ms Webster said.
It was in April 2015 that the couple sent their 200 Angus cows and calves on agistment, running with bulls at Echo Hills near Roma.
Ms Webster said after some lovely winter rain in 2016 they decided to bring them home as they thought it was a sign that normal seasons were about to return.
“However, again we went back into drought and didn’t see our first rain again until 2017 with the highest fall being 26mm,” Mrs Webster said.
In November 2017, the couple off-loaded again and went back to Echo Hills for a set period of four months.
“As Echo Hills received good rain while our cattle were there, we were extended another month before they came home again,” she said.
In April this year, the Websters made the decision to sell all cattle on agistment except for the core 80 Angus heifers plus a bull, and they returned to Goolburra.
They joined about 30 head of odds and sods that had remained and were being handfed.
“Our feed bills have been astronomical over time,” Mrs Webster said.
“We buy cottonseed as protein from St George for $315/tonne, buying in 48 tonne at a time with freight costs of $5.50/km.”
The couple source almond hull from Victoria at $80/tonne plus freight, which the cattle love as part of their roughage diet, along with hay.
The Websters have sourced hay from Queensland and as far south as Victoria, paying $180/tonne, again buying in $46 tonne loads and stacking.
“We are on the last of the load and we are now looking for more,” she said.
Also adding variety to the diet of their breeders is grape marc sourced from a South Australian vineyard.
“The winery gives this to us as it is another source of roughage, and all it costs is our freight to bring it back to Goolburra,” she said.
To make feeding out easier Mr Webster has attached tow bars to a series of six box trailers that he joins together on the back of his work vehicle, which resembles a mini road train, to feed out the protein and roughage through the paddocks.
“It is not cheap to feed stock, and we will do it as long as necessary, as keeping our cattle alive and in ready to join condition is our ultimate aim.”