John Luther on his drought stricken property Wishaw Station, near Prairie.

Dam down to last drops on drought stricken station

Seven years of drought takes its toll at Wishaw Station.

JOHN Luther reckons he’s got just a few more weeks until the last dam on his 84,000 acre cattle station in North West Queensland runs dry.

Then it will be back to pumping from the bore to keep the last remaining Brahmans at Wishaw Station at Prairie, 380km west of Townsville, in reasonable health.

John and Eva Luther are entering their seventh year of drought and like so many, the ruthless dry is taking its toll.

They had their last decent rain in 2011, and it’s been an uphill battle ever since.

Son Logan, now 20, was pulled out of boarding school at All Souls in Charters Towers after he finished year 10 in 2012 to help on out on the property. His sister Tameeka, 17, followed two years later and in between working on the farm, is finishing her schooling with School of the Air.

They do what they need to do to adapt and survive the tough conditions.

“With the bank pushing you've gotta move forward, just keep the cattle alive, get them mustered and branded, lightened off, otherwise there’s none of that stuff (money) so you just keep chiseling at it,” Mr Luther said.

“With water and lick, it’s full on. There’s not much improvement. That motor going now is pumping water, it’s been going for six years. The system we live under here we’ve got quite a lot of stock, even with the prices there’s still not much return in the hip pocket, then you get hit with this so you’ve got to keep them alive.”

“I’ve got it worked out with lick what suits this place for me now, but it look a long time. That helps, getting the right mixture of lick.”

Mr Luther said he hadn’t destocked and guessed he had between 2,500 to 3000 head of cattle, including calves.

Of those, Mr Luther said about 1000 were breeders, which is half of what he’d run if the drought breaks.

“To pull them all through hasn’t been easy and the numbers have built up, so without mustering it’s hard, you cannot know. Last year, the year before, wherever there’s a shower we follow them with lick and kept the water pumping.

”Until I got the lick worked out the calving scene wasn’t really good.”

Mr Luther said he sold two decks of weaners in November and was hoping to sell whatever else he could round up in a fortnight.

“They keep shifting for water so whatever we get there on the day. We’ll keep all the heifers, but Mickey Bulls, big Steers, what ever comes in.”

Mr Luther said February was traditionally the wettest month, but they needed rain in November or December to get a start on the wet season.

The property received an inch and a half of rain in November, but they’ve seen little since.

He said the conditions were as bad as he’s seen them in the 33 years he’s owned Wishaw.

“We've had dry years, but then again people who lived here all there life got caught out too. 

“It just goes on and on and it's going to take a really good wet for the country to recover and grass up.

“When I came here in ‘84 it was real good, there was water everywhere, for five years after that it was bloody dry.

“Then in ‘91 here we had 32 inches in six weeks, that put grass everywhere, big grass cover, but no good because it grew that quick cattle was poor pushing its way through the feed.

”When you’re on the land you watch nature a bit, here in ‘84 whenever the black ants start running up the trees it rains, but they’re still on the ground with no movement.

”I’ve got a gut feeling this could be the daddy of them all this one, it's not looking good.

“We're all hanging out and hoping. I think the only way to work it is plan for a dry year and hope to Christ you get a wet one.”

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