Panitya Agriculture owns and operates Rupee and Clevedale Stations located a short distance east of Broken Hill. In the semi-arid far west of New South Wales the landscape has a wild, rugged beauty to it and time slips away when you are enveloped by the rocky slopes and ephemeral creeks of the Barrier Ranges. But this is home, and this is why I love it.
Having been raised in Melbourne, the endless horizons and abundant wildlife of Broken Hill were a far cry from the bustling crowded city. However, I quickly learnt that country living wasn’t always synonymous with peace and quiet, and the catch-cry “there’s never a dull moment on the station” was repeatedly confirmed.
The family business was established in the year 2000 at the beginning of a decade long drought. As they say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” - well we definitely learnt to be strong. Initially the property was destocked of merino sheep and cattle. With no grazing pressure from livestock, the family commenced documenting the native plant and animal species. The occasional sprinklings of rain produced a green tinge almost overnight and we knew it was just a matter of time until the drought broke and the country was re-born.
Damara sheep were originally stocked after a few favorable seasons, however, as preferences in the sheep industry changed we moved into Dorpers. These have been great at showing their resilience to dry and hot conditions and have proven to have excellent mothering skills. They are also browsers, eating a wide variety of vegetation. The property is run on organic principles to demonstrate our commitment to animal welfare and good land governance. Total stock numbers are kept at a conservative level and when seasons are unfavorable stock numbers are lowered. As well we endeavour to handle the sheep in a low stress environment.
Two conservation reserves have been created with funding from the Lower Murray Darling Catchment Management Authority so as to protect several stands of Eucalyptus gillii (Curly Mallee), a species that is very restricted in occurrence in NSW. The reserve provides the opportunity for the reestablishment of the trees as well as protecting the understory from grazing, hopefully assisting in the recovery of a rare species and enhancing catchment biodiversity.
Pest control is an important part of protecting young livestock as well as native vegetation and wildlife. Control activities are used for fox, rabbit, feral cats and wild dogs. We have been pleased that our efforts have paid off and numbers of these pest species have remained low. Feral goats are also prevalent across far western NSW and those on the property are regularly trapped or mustered then trucked off to market. Keeping goat numbers low is essential for reducing grazing pressure and helping protect the fragile ecosystem.
Back at the homestead we engage in a variety of activities that promote sustainable practices and ease our footprint on the land. Food scraps from the kitchen are fed to our poultry, which in turn provide us with eggs, as well as manure for use on our vegetable garden. Rainwater tanks catch the infrequent downpours and provide us with clean drinking water. Solar panels on the homestead provide electricity to farm buildings and water pumps which deliver to distant paddock troughs. Native trees and shrubs are planted around the house and surrounding paddock to provide shade and windbreaks, thereby reducing evaporation and erosion. Bush tucker plants, such as Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) and Elegant wattle (Acacia victoriae), have been fenced off from grazing. We are experimenting with nesting boxes in trees to encourage birds to remain in the area and an island in a dam has also been established to provide waterfowl with a safe environment to rear young.
We are always looking for ways to embrace greener faming, for the benefit of our livestock, natural ecosystem, and for the future generations.
I am now also a Young Farming Champion for the At4Agriculture program, sponsored by Meat & Livestock Australia and the Target 100 campaign.
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