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Well fed cattle all year round

Ninda Creek is a 3567 hectare grazing property near Lakeland in southern Cape York, and is owned by Peter and Annette Marriott who have implemented some interesting and successful sustainable farming methods to maintain a high quality cattle product all year round.

Here, Annette chats to us about how they manage to keep their cattle well-fed all year round in this harsh climate.

Q. How have you achieved the quality of your feed?

A. Like most Cape York properties we could fatten several thousand head during the wet but were unable to run a fat beast during the dry. In 2003 we received a permit to clear. We now have approximately 1200 hectares of cleared country. Of this approximately 350 hectares has been planted to improved pasture (Rhodes and Humidicola grass and Verano, Cavalcade & Siratro legumes). 250 hectares of this is suitable for baling hay.

Q. What’s the secret to maintaining the quality beef all year round?

A. Nature provides quality feed during the annual wet every year. We bale this bulk feed to preserve the natural protein and feed the hay back to the cattle during the dry.

Q. So how do you manage through the dry season?

A. After the wet finishes pastures hay off but winter showers and heavy dew on the dry grass makes it go black and unpalatable. By September- October there is insufficient protein left to sustain a cow and calf. We are able to supplement feed with hay.

Q. It must create quite a bit of work to grow the pasture, bale and store the hay, then distribute it as the fresh pasture quality deteriorates in the dry season.

A. We don’t move the hay from the paddocks until they’re being fed out, unless we need the paddock. The hay will survive two wet seasons where it sits. It’s simple and effective and means the cattle continue to have high protein feed all year.

Q. Have you been using this method for very long?

A. We started this practice 17 years ago with an old stack hand, just baling enough for ourselves. When we purchased a new baler we began selling hay to assist in paying for the baler.

Q. Have you both always lived on Cape York?

A. I was born and raised in Cooktown before moving to Lakeland. Pure Cape York stock! Peter was born in Orange in NSW. His family was involved in a company that bought Crocodile and Holroyd Stations in about 1969. At the age of only 19, Peter moved to the Cape and managed these two stations with his brother, and has lived on the Cape ever since. Both these properties were sold by 1988.

Q. How long have you owned this Ninda Creek property?

A. Peter’s had part of the property, about 600 hectares, since 1989, and together the family bought the balance, of what became Ninda Creek Station, from Bill Reddie and Laura Wallace in 1999.

Q. Thanks for chatting with me Annette. It sounds to me like you and Peter are living a wonderful life here at Ninda Creek.

A. Yes, this is our home, our life, and we love it. We have no plans to ever live anywhere else.

Annette showed me around the property and there’s lots more to tell—for another time.

Cattle photos provided by Annette Marriott