Rarely do beef producers take into account the tides and winds when carting stock to market, but for the Duke Islands Pastoral Company, it's a delicate operation.
Located 25km off the Capricorn Coast in central Queensland, the Duke Islands archipelago consists of Marble Island (1011.7ha), Hunter Island (121.4ha) and Tynemouth Island (202.3ha).
The islands were settled in the first half of the 1900s as a pastoral enterprise.
The late Brisbane stockbroking identity Rex Jones purchased the Duke Islands group in 1968 when it was a sheep station, before subsequently developing it into a cattle property.
Duke Islands is now owned and operated by Rex's children, Lyndal Bayly, Guy Jones and Fiona Winten, with their respective children operating as directors on the Duke Islands Pastoral Company board.
The island currently runs approximately 200 Droughtmaster Brahman-cross cattle.
The facilitation of the cattle shipments, general maintenance of the islands and management of the cattle is handled by current Marble Island managers David and Kerry Barnes.
Mr Barnes described their jobs as very rewarding.
"Walking the cattle over the island ridge, you look out to three portions of ocean, you can see 13 islands and it makes you realise what a nice part of the world it is," Mr Barnes said.
"The owner's family frequently visit Marble Island to escape and re-energise in this private and tranquil reserve."
Deer also inhabit the islands, and Mr Barnes said management of the island was difficult with them roaming free.
"The deer destroy our fences and the salt air erodes the barb wire and render it pretty useless within five years," he said.
"It's a constant battle, but it's not all bad. It's all very achievable, but it just takes planning and versatility."
In recent years, Mr Barnes said cattle have become more of an emphasis for the company.
"We're building up our breeder herd, with a focus of producing good quality offspring for breeding or to sell into the feedlot market," he said.
With several dams on the main island, there isn't a shortage of water.
"We've recently equipped an old water bore that use to water cattle 20 years ago but our main source of water is rainwater and one major dam located on the island," Mr Barnes said.
Cattle are transported from the island via a small barge called Jeeves, which allows the export and import of approximately 14 - 16 cattle each shipment, depending on size, across three pens.
Generally, five to six barge loads of cattle are taken off the island, with return trips often bringing new cattle and heifers to the island.
The cattle are transported over to Langham Beach at Stanage Bay, where Rex Jones also purchased a large seaside property to bring cattle over to the mainland for further grazing before selling.
Mr Barnes said these major transportation sessions takes place from Marble Island each year, pending weather conditions.
"With the transport of cattle, we're dictated by the tides," he said.
"We have to have the bigger tides, which aren't there all the time and you have periods through the month where tides are not high enough for us to operate."
Mr Barnes said it required a lot of precision planning.
"The planning takes around two-three days including getting it all set so you can achieve the best possible outcome," he said.
"We muster them down to the beach, where we've set up a portable race and pens, and a loading ramp on the beach," he said.
"We allow them a big curfew before loading them as well.
"Once we leave Marble Island on a high tide, we also try get to Stanage Bay on the same tide."
Cattle are then trucked a further 175km to Rockhampton.
"The barge would be a better ride than the transport they get on the mainland," Mr Barnes said.
Back in May, the company sold Droughtmaster steers and cows at the weekly Gracemere Sale at CQLX.
Their 15 steers averaged 289kg and topped their weight category selling for 640c to return $1854/hd.
Marble island also boasts tourist accommodation, which the company says is a 'unique experience on a private island meets cattle property homestead'.
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