Queensland Country Life article ‘Quilpie works mulga magic’

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It’s been a long time since substantial rain fell on Stewart and Tracy Sargent’s 49,000-hectare beef property Granville, 65km north of Quilpie.

With just 150mm of their 325mm average annual recorded in 2013, the Sargents are certainly living in one of the regions hardest hit by the current drought. But the ability of their Droughtmaster and Droughtmaster-cross herd to withstand the dry conditions has, at least, been some comfort.

“Dad and I just had a drive around this morning and they actually look okay,” Stewart said.

“The bulls are still fat and cows are all bulling again, which is amazing. It goes to show that if you wean hard enough in this country and get the calves off quick, they will start joining again straight away.”

The Sargent family runs 1700 head of Droughtmasters, including 750 breeders, and 4500 Merino sheep on Granville.

The property features large tracts of mulga that has again proved invaluable during this drought.

“After two big years in a row in 2011 and the start of 2012, we have plenty of mulga and a lot of it is low, so we haven’t pushed that much at all yet,” Stewart said.

The Sargents were also supplementing their sheep and cattle with a urea-based dry lick but switched to a Beachport Liquid Mineral supplement in November to cut costs.

“We have gone from spending $800 a week on dry lick to $800 for the past six weeks. It seems to be working really well.

“The cattle and sheep both seem to be holding condition on it. I like that all the stock are getting it, rather than lick where you can have a situation where some animals are getting most of it. We’re delighted to have found it.”

Available through major rural merchandise suppliers including Elders and Landmark, the liquid supplement is administered through water troughs but doesn’t require expensive dosing equipment necessary for other water-medication systems.

“You buy the dosing caps and they just screw onto the drums, which you leave in the water trough and the supplement drips out. It makes the water go a brown colour but the stock don’t seem to mind that at all.”

Keeping the herd in the best condition possible during a drought is paramount for Stewart. He leaves his bulls in all year round and usually does two musters a year to wean and brand calves, aiming to turn the progeny off at about 18 months.

“We like to sell locally, but if we can’t our steers and cull heifers are generally sold through the Dalby Saleyards.”

Stewart also has his own pregnancy scanning equipment, which he uses to cull empty cows at mustering.
“Anything that doesn’t have a calf we put on the scanner, and if she is empty, she goes. We’ve been running Droughtmasters here for over 20 years and have been happy with our fertility during that time. The Droughtmasters are just good, hardy cattle. They do well in this country.”

Stewart and Tracy have been busy trying to develop Granville in recent years, but say the drought has forced them to delay plans to continue expanding their piped water system across the property.

With the help of their three children, Harry, Eliza and Elliott, the pair installed 30km of poly pipe through the middle of their property after the last drought to improve their water security.

“That has helped a huge amount during this drought,” Stewart said.
“We don’t have a lot of surface water that keeps for very long so the piped water is very important to us.
“I would love to put in another 20km and everything would be spot on.”

Stewart has also started installing trap yards across Granville to save on mustering costs.
“We usually muster with a plane and a chopper but it’s getting too expensive,” he said.
“I have seen trap yards work well on other properties and our place is well suited to the idea.
“We have had to delay that too but we’ll get it done gradually over the next few years. It will make it easier and cheaper to muster and we will be able to do it more often if we need to, like when it gets dry.”

Published by Queensland Country Life
Written by Penelope Arthur
11th February 2014

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