Small is beautiful at Taroom

Parry-Okedens add Charbray genetics at Taroom


Beef
David Parry-Okeden's breeders are still in good condition despite the hot dry summer just past at Alamby, Taroom. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

David Parry-Okeden's breeders are still in good condition despite the hot dry summer just past at Alamby, Taroom. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

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David Parry-Okeden's small breeding operation to the north of Taroom is the epitome of thousands of others all round the state - intimately understood and managed.

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David Parry-Okeden's small breeding operation to the north of Taroom is the epitome of thousands of others all round the state.

While it might rely on some off-farm income to make ends meet, it allows an intimate knowledge of one's stock and the country they're running on, so that adjustments can be made quickly when it gets dry, like it is now.

David and his wife Sarah came to Alamby 28 years ago after they met and married in the state's north west.

Sarah was a pharmacist and the business in the little town of Taroom was perfect for the young couple to take over, and run a property at the same time.

They have 200 breeders on the 1215 hectares at Alamby, half of it good brigalow, soft country, and the rest sandy box hollows running back into white sand, pine trees and wattle.

David's management program is an "as the wind blows you" style, adapting to what the weather delivers.

"We don't take our bulls out," he said. "If I'd taken the bulls out and you run into a dry spell like this, you've got no calves or too many, or cows heavy in calf. You shouldn't fence yourself in."

In a normal season, Alamby and its Taroom neighbours would have buffel and native grass growing to people's knees.

Instead, yellowing stalks are hanging on in a landscape getting dustier by the week.

Some of the weaners on the drying feed at Alamby, north of Taroom.

Some of the weaners on the drying feed at Alamby, north of Taroom.

David says it's the country at its worst and not a typical scene at the start of autumn in the highly productive region.

After a normal season of close to 600mm and a great seasonal break in October last year, the rain tap turned off at Christmas time.

"We had heat. We had beautiful green soft grass and the heat just went on. We had southerly winds and nothing," David said. "We're here, we're not at McKinlay or Mount Isa so we're not used to it, but it's just hit us really hard. It's normally a good, safe area and it's let us down."

'Alamby breed'

He runs what he describes as 'Alamby breed', starting off with a Brahman-Hereford cross but now leaning towards Charbray.

"In this country you've certainly got to have fair content of Brahman in them," he said. "We've got no ticks but it's only just there to the north, and moving around."

Related: Landholders reject tick line changes

Conversely, they're located far enough into the south east that they have to remember their main markets' appetite for a flat-backed article, hence the shift to Charbrays.

While other, larger operations in the area grow crops and feed cattle, sometimes selling to meatworks, David wouldn't go past his breeding business.

"They're great old things, cows. While you're asleep they're making new ones, and they're cheap to run."

He can run down a bitumen road to saleyards at either Roma or Dalby to market his weaners.

As a smaller operator, competing to buy bulls at sales doesn't add up for him. Quietly poking around and finding an article that suits in the paddock is more his style.

The hot weather has dried out the paddocks at Alamby throughout summer.

The hot weather has dried out the paddocks at Alamby throughout summer.

As to what he's looking for in a sire, he said he just bred an article that suited the country.

"You can have a green one and a black one and a red one; it's whatever does well and you can tell that by their coat and their manure," he said.

"I like to have a cow that's a good milker and quiet. Temperament's a big thing, with bulls and cows, because we've got trees.

"It's whatever can handle this country."

It's at times like this that scrub country comes into its own in feed supplement terms.

While David is reluctant to start a fullblown feeding program, he gives his cattle a dry lick that helps them digest the foliage they can reach.

"On that good country, once you've run out, you've run out, whereas we've got the old sticks and leaves and we're still going," he said.

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