TEAM SPIRIT

AN­GUS AND KIM­BER­LEY MCKAY LOVE WORK­ING SIDE-BY-SIDE ON THEIR NORTH­ERN TER­RI­TORY CAT­TLE PROP­ERTY, UM­BEARRA STA­TION.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS CLAIRE MACTAGGART PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MICHAEL WEE

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 Aus­tralian stumpy tail cat­tle dog, en­joy­ing a pic­nic in the garden. FAC­ING PAGE Tin­ker, Oliver and An­gus head­ing to the shed.

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