Solid beef prices pivotal for Nita Downs

30 Nov, 2016 10:22 AM
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Nita Downs station has successfully installed its first 40-hectare centre pivot, helping the station grow its first sorghum and Rhodes grass crop.
Nita Downs station has successfully installed its first 40-hectare centre pivot, helping the station grow its first sorghum and Rhodes grass crop.

STRONG beef prices have allowed the Forshaw family, on the 210,000 hectare Nita Downs station 200km south of Broome, to diversify their business.

They have established their first centre-pivot irrigation system with plans for five more.

Damien and Kirsty Forshaw, who traditionally run Brahman cattle, see irrigation playing a big part in the northern cattle industry, helping grow extra fodder and putting extra weight on cattle.

Following water approvals Ms Forshaw said they had successfully installed their first 40-hectare centre pivot which is helping them grow their first sorghum and Rhodes grass crop.

"We have wanted to do this for a while as we want the extra weight on the cattle quicker and be able to turn them off earlier," Ms Forshaw said.

"Any day now we will put cattle on there to fatten up.

"Then we will then start on the next program."

Apart from putting extra weight on the cattle the family said this would drought-proof its operations,

"This is one of the main reasons, aside from the extra weight," she said.

"If we have a bad wet season there is always a risk we won't be able to put the weight on the cattle.

"With irrigation it will help, rather than taking handouts."

Ms Forshaw said the beef prices had helped them get the project off the ground.

"It was good timing for us," she said.

"The cattle prices have been better, it is expensive to do so you need some good income coming in.

"So those prices have helped."

It has been a long time coming as government red tape and permit approvals made the process longer than expected.

"It is a slow process," she said.

Ms Forshaw said while they had a "few dramas", the clearing and scale of the development was only small scale by comparison.

"What we are planning on doing has a lot of environmental benefits as we can manage the country better," she said.

"At the moment we have all year-round grazing.

"Irrigation will allow us to spell country and take country out of areas."

The long-term plan is to have enough irrigation pivots to have year-round cattle supply from Nita Downs.

"We just need to keep plugging away with the processes," she said.

"We intend on having five centre-pivots, but we will definitely have another two in the short-term and that will allow us to manage the station better.

"We have a few neighbours also thinking about diversifying, while some are put off by the work involved in establishing it."

Mr Forshaw said if the Kimberley and the Pilbara positioned itself as competitors with other markets, like China, the region needed to "gear up for all year supply".

"To be competitive globally with the emerging markets we need to gear up," she said.

"We are in a blue tongue free zone, so that is a plus for us too."

The region has boomed with a number of irrigation projects to the north and south of Nita Downs, including the government's Water For Food program.

A number of cattle stations are also applying for permits to diversify into irrigated fodder production, which Ms Forshaw said was a benefit for the north.

"The State government has spent about $5 million on the La Grange project identifying the areas that have good soil and water, which our area has," she said.

"The State is heading in one direction, yet it is still difficult and needs to be a bit more of a smoother project for those now coming on board."

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FarmWeekly
Jacinta Bolsenbroek

Jacinta Bolsenbroek

is a senior journalist at Farm Weekly

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