The importance of getting off the property and linking up with other producers during times of hardship cannot be overstated.
In between organising events for the kids, adults at the Santa Gertrudis National Junior Show and Camp had the chance to share a laugh over a meal and chat about the circumstances of 2018.
With the drought continuing to bite 58 per cent of Queensland and 99.7pc of NSW, events like this provide an opportunity not just for the kids, but the parents, to have a change of scenery for a few days.
The O’Brien family travelled more than 800 kilometres to attend the annual event at Warwick’s Morgan Park on the southern Darling Downs.
This is the third year the family has attended, citing the family atmosphere and good grounding skills for the kids as two reasons that keep drawing them back.
“It’s a wonderful life experience,” Kate said.
“They learn responsibility, they learn about the industry and get to socialise with kids of like-minded views.”
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Both 10-year-old Harrison and 9-year-old James agreed the skills they learn at camp can be put into practice back home on the farm.
“I do like looking after my bull and judging and going to sleep,” Harrison said.
For James, meeting up with old friends from last year and picking up new skills was another highlight.
“I liked learning how to tie the bank robbers knot and learning how to handle cattle if you need to move them,” James said.
The O’Briens operate Santolina Santa Gertrudis stud at Tottenham in central western NSW.
In 2018, they recorded less than 152mm of rain.
Determined to make the most of the situation, Justin jokingly said their cows had become Queenslanders but the family wasn’t quite there yet.
“We’ve been in shocking drought for 18 months or so now and have been feeding for nearly all that time,” he said.
“It even got to the point where we trucked our cattle down south to Wagga and we’ve got cattle up into Queensland now.
“We’ve got a 1400km spread on our cattle now; just to keep our genetics going for a future for the boys.”
Kate said events like the Santa camp are crucial when times get tough and create a supportive community for the next generation of cattlemen and women.
“It’s such a supportive society, it’s about encouraging, inspiring and keeping the industry going and it is a really magical one,” she said.
“We need to support each other; everyone needs to be there for each other so it’s the whole package.”