End of the road

17 Mar, 2015 01:00 AM
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Winton beef producer John Jenkins has been on the road for two years trying in vain to save his breeding herd. Mr Jenkins is pictured outside Emerald in October 2014.
I'm bloody shot to tell you the truth
Winton beef producer John Jenkins has been on the road for two years trying in vain to save his breeding herd. Mr Jenkins is pictured outside Emerald in October 2014.

AFTER two years on the road, desperately trying to save his breeding herd, Winton beef producer John Jenkins is reluctantly giving up and selling the entire mob.

The stoic cattleman has received only 173mm (7 inches) of rain through 2013 and 2014 at his Winton property Namarva, all the while gallantly fighting to keep his business alive.

Currently moving along the Springsure-Tambo road, Mr Jenkins and his wife Karen are resigned to the fact that selling the mob is the only way to stop the cycle of spending.

The gentle bushie concedes the decision to take his herd on the road has actually hurt him financially much more than it helped.

"I'm bloody shot to tell you the truth," he said. "The plan was to keep the breeder herd alive but, yeah.

"I haven't had any income, just expenses and it's bloody expensive being on the road."

The Jenkinses own the 16,000- hectare Namarva Station an hour south west of Winton. They normally run 800 breeders off the back of an average rainfall of 300mm (12 inches) a year.

"Namarva is a bit of channel country and a bit of downs country with spinifex and mulga.

The couple have 1300 head in their mob, including 300 from western neighbours Clara Fisher and Sandra McGavin of Tranby Station.

The family's journey began in 2013 after enduring what in hindsight was only the start of a completely shattering drought.

"We left home on June 9, 2013, after a very ordinary season in 2012.

"We had not a bad wet season but got winter rain that spoilt the feed."

Faced with the scenario of seeing carefully bred, high-grade Brahman herd die, Mr Jenkins decided to save them by finding grass where he could.

With not much feed between Winton and the shire boundary, the decision was made to truck the mob of roughly 800 head to the Morella siding north of Longreach and head south.

Unfortunately, the impact of the historic 18,000 head Brinkworth cattle drove passing through the area destined for Hay, NSW, and the increasingly dry conditions threatened the closure of

the stock route.

"We had no choice, we had to go somewhere.

"The only grass that I knew of, short of heading to the south-east corner of the state, was around Emerald."

The mob was trucked to the Fernlees siding between Springsure and Emerald in September 2013 and stayed in the area for 12 months.

"We left home with one bull but bought a couple after a year because I thought surely we'll get a wet (season) this year.

"I may as well get them in calf. So I got them in calf and still no rain."

For the first nine months on the road, not one drop of rain fell on Namarva.

In March 2014, a storm blasted across one side of the property and dropped 100mm (four inches) of welcome rain.

"We got 53mm (2 inches) in January this year and 20 mm the other day.

"The place is devastated, there's nothing left, nothing at all."

The decision to effectively give up the fight to save the herd and dispose of the entire mob was a soul-searching choice but expected market prices should soften the blow.

"I'm going to try to pull the weaners off and get a bit of grease (fat) on the cows. They will probably go to the meatworks and we'll sell everything else through the saleyards."

Mr Jenkins will try to send his cow herd to Rockhampton or Biloela meatworks while he sees value in sticking to the Emerald saleyards for ease of access and to minimise freight costs.

The ongoing impact of losing every beast the couple own will hit hard.

"I don't know what the future is."

"I hope I don't have to get off the land but I might have to do something else for a while."

The heartbreaking strain placed on both John and Karen has been lifted somewhat with the recent assistance of caretakers at Namarva, which has allowed Mrs Jenkins to join her husband on the road full-time.

"Karen was coming and going (between Winton and the mob) for a while but she's settled in now, which is good. We've had good help, too, with backpackers and Dianne Janssans, an Allora girl who's been with me for 14 months. I can't thank people like Dianne and the locals enough.

"It's heartening and very humbling the way people have treated us."

Government assistance and drought subsidies have been of little help.

"The only assistance I could possibly get would be loans. Loans are fine, but I've got enough loans already."

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QCL
Sharon Howard

Sharon Howard

is a livestock writer for Queensland Country Life
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

Virgin Queen
17/03/2015 8:57:14 PM, on The Land

In every business, decisions have to be made, some people make good business decisions, some people make bad business decisions. Keep 200 head only of young breeding stock and pray for rain.
Bushfire Blonde
17/03/2015 6:31:10 AM, on Queensland Country Life

Would the present and past CEOs of the Australian Banks like to make a substantial contribution to this family's plight? They would not miss a few $100ks due to the amount of money that they are paid annually.It would be a reward for this family paying the highest Interest Rates in the Western World and suffering the consequences of the high $Au due to this factor.

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