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Beyond the Bale : Dec 06 - Jan 07
By Melissa Marino It was at 3am, in the middle of winter, when Rob and Kathryn Mitchell were carting stock water to a paddock about 30 kilometres from home that they first really questioned what they were doing. It was dark, cold and still. A wind 'drought' as well as a water drought meant that not only was there no surface water, but supplies from the windmills were also drying up. The ewes were lambing at the water points and unable to walk too far with their young at foot, so the scarce food supplies around them were also running out. "It became a real nightmare," says Mr Mitchell, a fourth- generation woolgrower whose 175,000-hectare station situation head-on: "You support each other, rationalise the options and handle it the best way you can." Mr Mitchell says that he and Kathryn accept that despite their efforts throughout the midwinter nights to keep their sheep and lambs alive, they may have to unload most, if not all, of their stock in the new year. Unlike those who waited in vain for spring rains, the Mitchells' D-Day was at the end of August -- a critical date identified by the Yalgoo BestPrac Group when, allowing for the norm of no real summer rain, feed supplies and stock numbers are audited. "We got to that critical date and realised there wasn't much left," Mr Mitchell says. Modern pastoral management holds future hope 10 MANAGEMENT BEYOND THE BALE A Murchison couple are managing their way through a drought that has no precedence in their record books 'Barnong' stretches across the pastoral zone near Yalgoo, 500km north of Perth. "But you got to a point where you just had to concentrate on the job at hand without worrying too much ... worrying sort of happens when the crisis is over." That particular crisis was over after about a month of carting water and supplement feed, when the lambs were old enough to move further from the mills and August brought a little rain. But that was before the extent of the 2006 drought was known. For the Mitchells there is no alternative to facing the
Feb 07 - Mar 07