FOR Kim ‘Cob’ de Pledge, the Pilbara is in his blood.
The original leaseholders of Yanrey were John and David Stewart and it was sold in 1898 to Thomas ‘Tom’ de Pledge, who worked in the pastoral industry for many years, before working at Yanrey as a jackeroo.
Under the De Pledge’s management the station expanded.
Yanrey grew to be the third biggest station in the Ashburton Road Boards District, with an acreage of about 900,000.
In his time, Tom de Pledge was an influential pastoralist who was actively involved in local development of both Onslow and the Ashburton district in general.
It was once a prominent sheep station and had one of the last overland droving of sheep in 1953.
The station was then passed down through the generations.
Cob took on the station from the Alston family in 2006, in a deal that included neighbouring station, Koordarrie.
Together with his brother Rory and his wife Kristie de Pledge, the two stations were run from Yanrey, until 2010 when the two leases operated as two separate business enterprises.
Yanrey station, 200 kilometres south-east of Onslow, runs 7500 head of predominantly Droughtmaster cattle, which includes 1300 Charbray infused cattle.
“We have stuck with the Droughtmaster for all those good reasons that everyone runs them,” he said.
“At the end of the day, they can go to more markets and into feedlots.”
Cob said when he first moved to the station there were a lot of short-horn types, which they have managed to phase out in the herd.
The de Pledge family was first introduced to Droughtmasters in the 1970s, with Cob’s father Joe being one of the first pastoralists to introduce Droughtmasters to WA.
Joe had shifted away from Brahmans over the years, as Droughtmasters had good temperaments and were more preferred in the South West over Brahmans.
Cob said Joe has been leaning towards ‘droughties’ at Mandora and he had stuck with them ever since.
In 2010 Yanrey suffered from a harsh drought, like the rest of the Pilbara.
But since then the station has experienced a phenomenal wet season, with an increase of the average rainfall of about 100 millimetres each season.
“We have been very lucky here,” he said.
“Our average was about 250mm, but in the past few years it has gone up to 300mm, which is a big spike in rainfall.
“We have had 310mm so far this year and most of that was in February.”
The ability to adopt and expand to change is what strengthens a pastoralist in the years to come.
Over the years this is what the de Pledges have done at Yanrey.
In 2006 the family’s focus was to improve the herd and its management, building infrastructure to suit their needs.
“We have put in 26 new watering points, we had to revamp some of the established ones and some new bores,” he said.
“We put in a lot of fencing and designed and build better fences that supported better herd management.
“It has allowed us to muster more effectively and stockpile cattle into paddocks so they are happier.”
The station has a fencing network that keeps the herd calmer and easier to manage on their way back to the homestead.
“We want to put more trap yards in our trapping program and add to our lane-way set up we have,” he said.
“We have three major trap yards, we trap the cattle in the yards and walk them up to the house yards.
“We trap 1500 head without a helicopter, it is a lot cheaper and a lot less stressful for the cattle and everyone involved.”
Cob also operates Cob and Co Transport which transports his cattle to market.
Together with Cob and Co Transport driver Cliff Graham, he transports cattle from Yanrey and some of the other de Pledge stations from across the Pilbara to Harvey, Broome and their Badgingarra farms or feedlot yards across WA.
When he is on the road, David Kemode and Meg Batty help manage the station and during muster season, the station takes on an extra 10 staff.
Yanrey will start mustering in May this year and again in September, depending on the season.
Cob said the beauty of having the trapping system for mustering was getting the cattle to market faster and with less stress, making for shorter days.