We were very fortunate to be welcomed for a few days stop at Lakefield Station, a large cattle station in the Northern Territory (south of Katherine) owned by the Riggs Family. Garry and Michelle let us wander around the farm, watching, learning and sometimes even helping (the boys mainly) about life on a cattle station, and the skill of rearing Brahman cattle on this difficult terrain. In UK terms the Station is vast, covering 59,000 hectares (approx. 145,000 acres) with about 6,500 cattle. Ollie was particularly delighted to see they also have goats (with day-old kids they got to hold), horses, a donkey, working dogs and friendly family dog called Dexter. Cameron found the Riggs’ kids bicycles and explored the farm- yard and paddocks.
Garry and Michelle, along with Sam their young stockman, took us up to the stockyard, and the boys helped count the young calves (weaners), Michelle herding them on horseback, Garry checking out their physical condition, while Sam sprayed them for ticks, approx. 650 in all. It was dry, dusty work but we all loved it!
Dinners around the homestead table were both tasty (very fresh beef!) and informative, as Garry was more than happy to answer our thousand and one questions about the farm and the cattle industry over a few glasses of wine, and we were surprised to learn that most of the cattle will head off to Indonesia from the Darwin ports. We also left with an esky full of delicious beef and fruit, as they also have 1,000 Mango trees on the property.
It was a long dusty 38 km drive from the homestead to the stunning Lake Duggan at the north-west boundary of the property. This ranks as one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places that we’ve visited since we began our travels; the flocks of galahs, scores of water birds and brightly coloured bee-eaters were a joy to behold. Not to mention the huge red kangaroos that we saw hopping through the bush!
Cattle farming in the Territory is clearly challenging, but farmers like Garry and Michelle, who respect the land and clearly love what they do, deserve our admiration, and we were sad to leave. Its quite humbling to think that they bought the land as completely undeveloped bush-land fifteen years ago and then built all of the necessary infrastructure including a homestead, 250 kms of roads, 400kms of fencing and 36 dams! No wonder Lakefield Station won the Australian Government’s Innovation in Sustainable Practices Award last year.