Rick rolling in clover in Boulia's channels

Rick and Ann Britton revel in rare good season at Boulia


Beef
Rick Britton, Goodwood, Boulia, says the good times will balance up some of the drought conditions experienced since 2013. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

Rick Britton, Goodwood, Boulia, says the good times will balance up some of the drought conditions experienced since 2013. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

Aa

Boulia's Rick Britton tells everyone he's got to have lemons for breakfast these days to stop grinning because he's never been in the position, grass-wise, that he's been in since March.

Aa

Boulia's Rick Britton tells everyone he's got to have lemons for breakfast these days to stop grinning because he's never been in the position, grass-wise, that he's been in since March.

The dreadful misfortune that visited cattle producers along the Flinders line in February brought perfect conditions for growers further south west.

"In 24 hours we had 30mm - you couldn't wish for better rain," he said. "It put a crust on everything and set a foundation, then we had a handy flood."

When it rained properly in March, bringing a flood that was just 50cm below the 1974 flood in the Burke River at Boulia, the Brittons feared it would wipe out the grass already grown.

However, Mr Britton said the March flood had been unusually clean and within 12 hours of the water going down, the grass was back up and thriving.

Not all have been so lucky - some areas only had one rain event and as Mr Britton said, "one watering of a newly planted lawn isn't enough".

He's entitled to be happy about the feed after enduring two huge droughts at the start of the new millennium.

Read more: Landscape a mosaic of black and green

It's not often he can say they're having a season where they can hear the grass growing.

"At the moment when I go round and check our steers, and I want to keep an eye on how they're going weight gain-wise, I can hear the bullock hide stretching.

"They're putting on so much volume. Even the older cows that we bought, they've probably gone from a score 2 to, I'd say they're close to a score 4.

"We've only had them home since March."

Part of their diet is a herbage Mr Britton calls Georgina lucerne, which grows about two metres high with a purple flower.

"Whatever's in that, where the bullocks are, they are just pouring on the weight," he said.

Rick and Ann Britton's bullocks are 'pouring on the weight' thanks to the Georgina lucerne and other herbage grown in the wake of March flooding down the Georgina River system in Queensland's far west.

Rick and Ann Britton's bullocks are 'pouring on the weight' thanks to the Georgina lucerne and other herbage grown in the wake of March flooding down the Georgina River system in Queensland's far west.

The cows Mr Britton refers to are a mob of 1200 head, purchased in a seasonal gamble between February and March events.

"There was a real lull in the cattle market so we just went and bought," he said.

"I'm my own worst enemy - I sent a truck of bullocks to Roma the other day and filled it up coming back through Blackall.

"The bullocks were 600kg and you're replacing them with 192kg stuff - it's not a bad trade.

"It was one-third of the price of what we got for the bullocks, and the truck was coming back anyway."

One of their properties, 12,140ha in size, is currently sustaining 500 head on 4050ha of flood country.

"We're treating it as one big paddock but the cattle are living in that one area.

"They're leaving all the good Mitchell grass country alone for next year's weaners to go back onto."

Related: Brittons showcase sustainability in the Channel Country

The last time the Brittons experienced a season like this was in 2009-10, when they bought Brahman cows in calf to Angus bulls, whose progeny put on over 2kg a day on grass.

Mr Britton said they dressed out at 320kg as milk and two tooths.

"They were the best yielding bullocks we'd ever sold at that milk and two tooth age," he said. "Usually we've got to have them at that 24-36 months to get them up to that (weight). These were under 18 months old."

Mr Britton said he had never been fussy about what sort of cattle he bought for restocking purposes.

"I could always go and buy cattle that have got better genetics than what ours have got," he said. "The old school blokes tell you that 90pc of your breeding is what you put down their necks."

It's not surprising that the Brittons are running part of their operation as certified organic, which came about when they purchased a property in the shire that already had certification.

"We thought, we're going to keep it organic - all the groundwork's been done.

"When our first audit took place, we already did all the paperwork so nothing changed.

"We try and keep the history of what we do, how we do it, all the time.

"We're organic by default."

Their other secret to success is working hard to get their cattle quiet.

"Like the old man said, you can't fatten idiots," Mr Britton said.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by