ANGUS AND KIMBERLEY MCKAY LOVE WORKING SIDE-BY-SIDE ON THEIR NORTHERN TERRITORY CATTLE PROPERTY, UMBEARRA STATION.
Angus and Kimberley Mckay work side-by-side on their NT cattle property, Umbearra Station, which has been in the family for more than 50 years.
ANGUS AND KIMBERLEY MCKAY are about to commence a round of mustering that will continue for almost seven sprawl in weeks. weeks. there’ s a sense of purpose here at their sprawling cattle property Umbearra Station, 340 kilometres south of Alice Springs on the South Australian border; contractors are organised and due to arrive, leaving only last-minute checks to ensure the process runs smoothly. “I love this time of year and it’s satisfying to have the cattle tidied up after branding, drafting and pregnancy testing and back to their paddocks at the end of it,” says Angus. Angus was just 25 years old when he took over the 3600-square kilometre property from his father 10 years ago. “It was a bit of a shock but you sink or swim!” he admits. He has clearly chosen to do the latter and — along with his wife Kimberley and their three-year-old son Oliver — has risen to the challenge of managing some 7500 head of red Angus cattle. Over the past decade, the young couple (who are expecting their second child in January) has undertaken many improvements on the property, including water and infrastructure development, and they recently achieved a long-term dream to gain organic certification. The station is mostly open plains with gum watercourses, mulga and granite hills and when Country Style visits, it’s never looked better with drifts of wildflowers amid the native pasture. “This is one of the best seasons I’ve seen here,” says Kimberley. “I love how the country has blossomed.” Aside from running their cattle business, Kimberley tends the large garden at the station, which she describes as their “little oasis in the middle of nowhere”. Angus’s mother Mary started the garden (sadly she passed away from cancer when Angus was just two years old) and in recent years, Kimberley has planted more trees as well as a vegetable patch and new front fence. “I love our garden,” she says. “It’s so relaxing and I take a lot of pride in it.” The Mckay family have owned Umbearra for 54 years. “I’ve had this opportunity because of the way my father Thomas developed and set up this place in the early days and gave us the chance to run it as our own,” Angus says. “We hope to do the same for Oliver one day.” >
KIMBERLEY I grew up in Coober Pedy and moved to Alice Springs when I was 18, where I studied a diploma of children’s services. That’s when I met Angus, and after 12 months of a long distance relationship I moved out to Umbearra to help him on the station. The first thing I noticed about Angus was his cheeky smile; he’s a very kind and relaxed person and easy to get along with. At 19 you don’t think too far in the future, so I didn’t really expect to still be here 10 years on, but once I lived here for a while, I found it was too beautiful to leave. It was a big learning curve for both of us the first couple of years together; his family had only just recently left and I didn’t have anyone here, but there were neighbours who took me under their wing. I’d ring them about everything and they were a great support to me. The first two years were the hardest; I moved out during a really bad drought in 2007 with only 57 millimetres of rain for the year. Times were tough and we had to destock the property. We had rain after that and since then our cattle numbers have bred up and it’s constantly busy here now. I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company and we also have staff around us and other families nearby who we arrange to get together with every fortnight. I found it quite difficult to buy bulk groceries when I first moved out but I was soon given information on independent grocers in Alice Springs, which is 340 kilometres away, and I stock up and keep it all in our storeroom. We are in town every three to four weeks for station-related purchases and I make sure we do a bulk order of fruit and vegetables. I really love the cattle work and working with Angus side-by-side for a whole round. I miss being so involved but Ollie is quite adaptable and I manage to get out for a while each muster. Angus and I work really well together and he is passionate about everything he does, plus he is a fun father to Ollie. Angus and I are always trying new ways to improve our business and make it easier to run. We are part of a benchmarking group with other station businesses where we compare and discuss our figures. I enjoy being fully involved in the business and the lifestyle it brings is the most special part. We hope to give this opportunity to our children one day if they choose to come back and take over. We are lucky to run a business in central Australia, which has the most beautiful landscape, as well as raise our family here.
ANGUS I was born and bred here and after boarding school in Adelaide, I came home and alwaydiddidacoupleofyearsofcontractwork.ialways wanted to come back to the land and never had any intention of doing anything else. Growing up, we were hands-on from an early age and spent a lot of time in the stock camp as my mother passed away when I was two. By all accounts she was amazing; she was a pilot and helped muster and was a big part of the day-to-day running of the station. I met Kimberley when I was 24. We’re best friends and work really well together. I admire what a hard worker she is; she does bore runs, cattle work and all the office work for our business and she holds the homestead together — I couldn’t do this without her. I love that we are giving Oliver the same opportunities I had growing up; climbing round hills, playing with horses. I love our beautiful country — we miss out on things living here, but we gain a lot too. You are your own boss and you’re in your own little universe out here. I enjoy the cattle work and all the changes you can make to a herd over a generation, from genetics to fertility. Over the summer period our main job is maintenance and keeping water up to the stock, then from February to March we get into cattle work, then again in June and July, and October and November. I love the fact you can do everything — be a truck driver, pilot, pull bores and do cattle work — there’s so much variation. We’re lucky to have Kulgera Roadhouse on our property, which is 40 kilometres from the homestead. On any given Saturday night there will be local station people in there catching up. Kimberley and I race together in the Alice Springs Off Road Racing Club as well as the Finke Desert Race. It’s a great opportunity to have a break from the cattle side of things.
ABOVE, FROM LEFT The Umbearra Station homestead was originally a small Sydney Williams hut. A grapevine grows along the front awning with grapes ready to pick each Christmas; Oliver, Kimberley, Tara, the 11-year-old labrador, Angus and Tinker, an...