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Beyond the Bale : March 2011
March 2011 BEYOND THE BALE ON-FARM 20 FAST FACTS l Improved rainfall across the eastern states has created the best grazing conditions for many years. l Woolgrower Robert McBride in western NSW is keen to boost his stock numbers to take advantage of the good conditions. l Mr McBride is pleased that he stuck with Merinos and can now reap the financial rewards. The country that helped make the wool industry world famous has come to life in spectacular fashion. Mother Nature has spared no expense across western NSW, putting on a once in a lifetime show. She has broken a decade of drought and then made sure of it. Country that had been barren and baked for years is now teeming with life. Lakes have appeared in sandy valleys overnight, the water now bubbling with fat tadpoles desperate to make the most of a golden opportunity. Wide open plains cooked under years of blue skies can now run thousands of sheep in endless spear grass, saltbush and burr, not to mention the species being seen for the first time in decades. Like across most of eastern Australia, "if only we had more sheep" are words being commonly uttered around here. One man who still can't quite believe it, is effervescent woolgrower Robert McBride, owner of the 400,000 acre Tolarno Station on the Darling River, 200 kilometres north of Mildura. After purchasing the station in 1996 he then lived through 14 successive years of drought where annual rainfall hardly reached 75mm or 3 inches, roughly one- third of the long-term average. He totally destocked the property twice in that time and presently runs a flock of 15,000 Merino sheep and is keen to rebuild as fast as possible. But as a keen student of history, he knows this country has broken thousands of hearts since the early settlers arrived 150 years ago, all looking to make a fortune, all looking for seasons like this. Tolarno has received just under an average of 10 inches a year since the 1850s. However 10 inches fell in two or three days in January, following on from good rains over the previous 12 months. This causes its own problems with flies and the washing out of roads and bridges but Mr McBride and his team will take that ahead of the dry dust they've been through. Shearing every eight months is another initiative at Tolarno to boost production. "I feel very sorry for the people of Queensland through the horrific floods they have endured and I know the torment of drought that many in WA are going through, but I didn't know this country was capable of this amazing resurgence. I have to keep pinching myself. I now get up with a sense of adventure rather than dread," Mr McBride said. Mr McBride is not only excited because of the enormous production on Tolarno but the fact that it coincides with a revival of wool. He could easily run more goats or other breeds of sheep, like many others have, but has stuck with Merinos and is now ready to reap the reward. "Wool is not a fibre of the past, it is a natural fibre of the future and I believe it has many great opportunities ahead of it. The marketing campaigns currently under way are certainly helping reconnect the world with wool and it is the hope of times like this that helped me get through the past 14 years". To rapidly boost his flock numbers he is double lambing and, while he acknowledges this involves extra mustering, marking and crutching for Tolarno manager Graeme Mc Guiness and his team, he is keen to capitalise on one of the best opportunities the region has seen for some 60-70 years. "It is simply brilliant to see nature this way and to have wool as part of that; it's great to be alive." More information: View and listen to Robert McBride in a soundslide at www.wool.com/mcbride Big country blooms once again Robert McBride with daughter Kate and son James with rejuvenated pasture on his western NSW property.