STORIES FROM THE BUSH

Lynn Takayama
Retired

Well, now may be the time. We’ve had our cattle for two years and we have 40 calves. Is it “sell the calves” time? Prices have been depressed: drought, drought everywhere and graziers selling their stock — not enough, or no, feed. Hence, a depressed market flooded with cattle that often are in poor condition. Ain’t that the way of the world? Perhaps it’s capitalism personified: the market determines the price. Too bad for producers and consumers when the crucial factor (weather), over which one has no control, is the determinant.

Trying to find the sweet spot in the cricket bat of beef production is the trick. Weather’s good, heaps of food, beautiful-looking cattle — hold or fold? Hold them too long and everyone’s selling at the same time, prices go down. Fold (sell) at the right time — and there it is, the sweet spot.

Our cows and calves are looking fantastic despite the bad season. In the vernacular, our cows are solid with plenty of depth and our calves are sappy. The Cowboys and Cowgels out there will understand the language.

We’re way understocked and our feed has held up despite the very poor rainfall over the last year. Stocking rate is the number of beasts per hectare that the country can support well. It’s easy to overstock when there’s lots of feed and water in the dams.

The trick is to plan for the worst-case scenario (no/low rainfall) and diminishing feed supplies. Also, to take care of paddocks so that whatever rainfall there is can be totally utilised and, therefore, the feed will hold up. I’ve learned all these things since taking the Cowgirl course.

Anyway, to hold or fold? We need professional advice, so we invited a local stock agent out to have a gander at our pride and joy. He compliments us on the quality of our herd but thinks that if we hold for another few months we might be able to double our takings if our feed holds up and if it rains. So, we’ve decided to leave it for another day the excitement involved in selling cattle.

We still have some paddocks with tall grass and we will use those for the holding period. The river stopped running for a couple of months but with good rain at its source and some substantial rain here six weeks ago, the water started flowing again along its meandering course.

It hasn’t rained here for some weeks now, though, and the dry seems to be closing in again. Once again the river is threatening to become a series of pools rather than a body of water that slowly moves along its ancient course. The dry plus the increasing cold at nights have put a halt to grass growth. The place seems to be shutting down for the winter.

These things aside, it’s fantastic to see the seasons marching in and leaving again, and we look forward to winter after such a harsh summer this year. Autumn has been delightful and our deciduous trees are shedding their clothes and bearing up for the winter. Spring will bring new leaf growth and we look forward to seeing that cycle repeat itself. At the moment we take comfort in observing and adjusting our lives to the natural cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

On a different topic, but still animal, we found ourselves with six adult roosters who would rather fight than eat. We’re now down to four because two of them were so concentrated on their fighting day after day that they allowed themselves to be ambushed by a feral cat. The other four cocks continue unabated in their Mohammed Ali-esque behaviour.

In the meantime, you’ll be delighted to know that the Cowboy bought a new hat and, take it from me, he looks particularly handsome in it.