The development of Wyambi properties, comprising 10,000 acres (4,047 hectares), in North-Eastern Tasmania, from rough bush and marsh land into one of the best beef properties in Australia was accomplished with the aid of an enthusiastic, dedicated staff.
The Agnculturai Bank began clearing, draining, ploughing and putting in roads in this area about 1960, and the first public land sale was held in December, 1963, when I bought two Sections totalling nearly 3000 acres. Then in February, 1964, I bought another 2000 acres, named West Wyambi, now sold to Bob Morris, and in 1967 we added another 5000-odd acres. All were bought at public auction.
Development of the Wyambi properties is relatively new, as in fact is the whole of the North-East. The good chocolate soils of Scottsdale and Ringarooma were discovered only in 1856, although there were sheep properties on the coast before this. Our area was part of the Waterhouse Estate, originally owned by Mr. J. Williams, of Launceston. Mr. Peter Webb became its first manager in 1830, and it was later owned by various people.
The Agricultural Bank bought it from Mr. Don Von Bibra for development after the Second World War.
Mining played a big part in opening up the North-East. In 1869 Lewey Richardson, a shepherd of Mr. Williams on Waterhouse, discovered gold at Lyndhuist. Tasmania's first Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Du Cane, arrived the same year and as Tomahawk town was established in 1869 it was named DuCane. However, it was renamed Tomahawk officially in 1963, as the river and island bad always been known by that name.
We called our property 'Wyambi' because that is the aboriginal name for Tomahawk. Through our property you can see signs of an old road, called Webb's track, which was built in 1869 from Lyndhurst to Tomahawk wharf, also constructed the same year. The heavy crushing plant and other machinery for the mine at Lyndhurst were unloaded at the deep port of Tomahawk.
At that time Lyndhurst boasted 2000 people and four hotels, and must have been the biggest centre of population in the North-East. It was called after the Governor's father-in-law Lord Lyndhurst.
The first tin lease was taken out by George Renison Bell in 1874 on the Boobyalla River, which runs through our central property. This was the first tin discovered in Tasmania, and incidentally Bell later discovered the famous Renison Bell tin mine on the West Coast.
Donald Campbell's Caledonian Hotel, Boobyalla (Ringarooma Port)
Back Row Left - Right: Bill Ross, Ted Baily, George Groves II,
Dave Daws (sitting), Bill Cleaver, George Bonninghain (standing).
Front Row Left - Right: George Lyall, Tom Priest, George Groves Snr. (sitting),
Donald Campbell (sitting), Bill Daws, Alf Daws.
Gold mining was never a major success in this part of the North-East, but tin mining has been a big industry. Derby at one time had the biggest alluvial sluicing tin mine in the world.
Unfortunately, the sludge from the mining eventually ruined the Ringarooma River port, which was renamed Boobyalla in 1888.
There is an old cemetery on our property at East Wyambi, which is in the Boobyalla area, with grave stones bearing the names of some well-known pioneers, such as Thomas Morgan, the Campbells and others.
Robbie's tombstone in foreground,
John's in centre and Colin Campbell's on right.
Our son is buried at this cemetery at East Wyambi, along with our grandson Robert John Shield, Helen and Evan's only son.
I remember saying to John about nine months before he was drowned that we should fence this cemetery and do it up, because sometime I would want to be buried there. He said, 'Dad, we can't bury you on this hill top where you can see whether we are working. We will bury you in a hollow where you can't check on us.'
Later on he did mention to one of his mates he wished to be buried there.
It is a lovely spot for a cemetery, with the native bushes and animals, plus sometimes three or four hundred big steers surrounding the cemetery, looking over the fence.
It is lovely, but sad, to see John and Robbie's tombstones in close proximity to the animals and birds they loved. It seems fitting that their tombstones are adjoining the tombstones of the old pioneers of this area, because John played a big part in the development of Wyambi and Robbie was certainly interested in the animals and the country side generally.
Helen and Evan were sent this lovely little poem after the funeral of their three year old son, Robbie.
The Child God Lent I'll lend you for a little while, A child of mine, God said, For you to love him while he lives And mourn for while he's dead.
It may be six or seven years, Or only two or three, But will you, till I take him back, Take care of him for me.
He'll bring his charms to gladden you And should his stay be brief, You'll have his lovely memories As solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay, Since all from earth return, But there are lessons taught down there, I wish this child could learn.
I've looked the whole world over, In my searches true, And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes I have selected you.
Now, will you give him all your love, Nor think the labour vain Nor hate me when I come to call To take him back again?
I fancied that I heard you say, Dear Lord Thy will be done, For all the joy Thy child shall bring, The risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter him with tenderness, We'll love him all we may, And for the happiness we've known Forever grateful stay.
But should the angels call for him Much sooner than we planned, We'll brave the bitter grief that comes And try to understand.
Great Shepherd of the sheep... We thank You for the love his life has brought to us. We bless You for the assurance we have, that in the brightness and joy of Your heavenly Kingdom he has a place so near to You that he shall ever behold Your face. Amen.
We have tried to set out in this book the original vision of what could and should be done and how eventually this was achieved. Making a decision on which Crown Land blocks to purchase, was the most important matter to be decided before the sale. To decide on the actual value of each area in its undeveloped state seems logical. However, this is seldom done, leaving guess work and trauma for the purchaser when the bidding starts. Some seven or eight blocks were being sold by public auction, and they ranged from 1400 acres to 2500 and 2800 acres. There were no roads, just tracks, through them, for the area had never been developed, and in the past it had been rough bush and swamp country, running a few head of stock. Many people thought it would never be suitable for pasture.
So we first had to decide whether it would be suitable for development and if so, which parts should be developed. This procedure applies to the development of any new ground: plan which parts should be left for shelter, which should be left for native herbs and which should be further developed.
I spent some three weeks on horseback riding around the properties, although before that I did get charts of the area. All the charts were available. The CSIRO had some land charts, showing the sub-soils etcetera, and I studied those, also contour maps showing the water courses, rivers, creeks and dams already on this undeveloped country.
During the three weeks I rode around the properties I made notes, and this personal survey was valuable. For instance, there was one property of 2500 acres up for auction. I decided how much it would be worth when it was developed, how much pasture would need to be laid down, how much water and shelter were there, and how much it would cost to develop.
Some of the area would have to be ploughed, some scrub was best left in place, some additional waterholes would be needed, some trees should be planted for shelter, and soon, whereas other properties in the area had plenty of shelter and plenty of trees.
Having estimated these requirements, I had to decide its potential stock-carrying capacity, whether sheep or cattle. Then I estimated what those stock, for instance ten dry sheep or one three-year-old steer, would make the land worth when in production. Method of calculation for carrying capacity of a property is generally worked out in dry sheep equivalent (D.S.E.).
Then I took the cost of developing the property off what I thought it would be worth when finished. The balance was what I could afford to pay for it. For example, I estimated that $66,000 was the maximum I could pay for one block - it cost $300 above my limit ($66,300), but as it adjoined my property I was prepared to pay slightly above my maximum price. Another property, for which I estimated I could pay $70,000, because of better water and flats, I bought at public auction for $40,000. A third property I thought was worth $30,000 brought up to $67,000, which I thought was far too expensive and let it go.
But most of the bidders at the sale in 1967 had not been all over the properties. An exception was Graeme Propsting, who knew the area he was interested in. While not suggesting the other bidders had not been over the blocks that interested them, I do not think they had any idea what percentage of grass they would get, how much pasture they would need to develop, and how much it would cost them to do so, plus all the other considerations. I doubt if they had taken soil samples to check the pH and mineral content of the soil, so they may not have done their homework fully. This is essential before buying a property. I know one person who paid quite a big price for a block, and I mentioned to him that he had some good ground, with a branch of the creek flowing through it. He told me lie had never seen it, yet it was the best ground on the property. That surprised me.
One of the best ways to decide what a property will earn is to look at the scrub and native trees growing on it. For instance in Tasmania, one should note whether there are paperbark ti-tree (melaleuca species) and texture of the soil. It does not matter whether the colour is brown, black or sandy, it is still really good soil. On the other hand, the black-stemmed ti-tree grows in very sour (low pH) soil which is uneconomical to develop. It may be worth while if you have only a patch of it, for it can be improved with the application of three tons of lime or dolomite to the acre, but generally to develop a big area like that would be economic suicide.
Wherever lily sags grow in our area the soil is really good. The lily sag is quite a good herb, even with the pasture, but of course you can have too many. Cattle need about 40 per cent protein and about 60 per cent roughage. If you clean up a paddock of lily sags you will still have some of them left around bushes and trees which will still supply the cattle with much needed and very valuable roughage content with your clover.
Another tree which is a good indication of soil value is the ground oak, which looks something like the she-oak, except that it grows close to the ground. Wherever this grows we think the soil is generally pretty good. Presence of the nut bush also is an indication of very good soil, with a pH of five or 5.2 to 5.3, but generally speaking it would not be below a pH of 5, and would be quite rich.
It is a big job assessing the value of some thousands of acres and costing the property through. And it is not only an assessment of the fertility of the area that is important, but the physical cost of getting it under pasture. Where there are native trees the retention of some of them as shelter belts can cut the cost of pasture development.
Normally we would leave shelter trees on the tops of hills to protect the flats, and we would also leave some native herbs in these areas, where they would be growing among the trees and rocks, and it would be better to leave them in their native setting. It would be quite expensive to clear these areas, and quite foolish economically, because if you clear the whole area, which many people coming from Europe want to do, you will be faced with the cost of putting the trees back and planting hedges, and the cost of doing so is astronomical.
You may have some subdivision fences already there, but the provision of an extra fence to protect the trees you plant can easily cost you $2000 or $3000 an acre. Then putting in trees at $1.50 to $1.70 a tree, plus plastic to put around the young seedlings at about 20 cents each, four stakes at 10 cents each for each tree, is adding to the cost. In addition, there is the cost of planting them, so if you plant, say, 800 trees per acre in a hedgeline you..are up for at least $3 a tree, or $2500 an acre, which makes the operation a very expensive one. Then you have to wait for the trees to grow. So it is foolish to get rid of the beautiful native trees which are already there.
It is interesting that when animals have a choice they will always sleep under a she-oak or bull oak instead of a eucalypt - or even a blackwood. lam sure a scout master would get his team to unroll their packs under a she-oak or bull-oak in a native bush area. The blackwood is a beautiful tree, as is also the eucalypt, but it is wet and cold underneath them. You will find that the cow dung will be under the oaks, the roots of which tend to come to the surface and needles drop on top. The same applies if you plant trees such as the radiata pine.
The radiata pine may not be the iaost attractive tree shelterwise and is tall and scraggy and some wind blows through it, but it stops the gales better than a hedge. A hedge causes a vacuum like a paling fence and the wind hits it, jumps over it and roars on, whereas if you can let 30 per cent of the wind through and divert 60 to 70 per cent above the tree the whole area away from the wind is protected for a far greater distance than if you had a beautifully thick, matted hedge right to the ground.
Early in the development of Wyambi we bad a great character,
Martin Riley, baling, hay for us. Another well-known identity, Jolly
Lette came into the paddock. Martin said, '
Try that bale over there
for weight Jolly.' Jolly picked up one bale and said it was not very
heavy. Martin said, '
Well try the next one.' Martin knew that a big
black snake had unfortunately been raked up and baled and was caught
in the back section of the bale. As Jolly lifted up the bale of hay, the
snake struck at Jolly and fortunately missed him. This is another
example of a joke that could have gone wrong.
The boys often played jokes with one another at this time and John used to really enjoy the jokes. As they were riding along one person would talk to another about football and then the third one would ride up behind and lift the horse's tail and put a stick under it. This often made it immediately shy, buck and throw the rider off! John had quite a big spill one day, but no bones were broken and he quite enjoyed the joke.
Another day John was dehorning a big wild steer and after tagging it, before he could move, David Probert let the steer out and John had to jump quickly to one, side to stop being hit against the steel and concrete. This was a great joke and tested his reflexes for the football field!
I am getting a little bit old now for too many of these practical jokes. I know some years ago I was walking through a pen of cows and one charged me. Although she had no horns, she would have knocked me badly against the posts and smashed me up a bit, but I put my hand over her eyes and jumped to one side, because she was close tome. The boys laughed. They said that they were just watching, knowing she was going to charge me; she had tried to climb up on the horse to get at one of the other men. So of course all these things are bits of fun and frolic, especially if you are in your teens or young, but as you get older your bones get a little bit stiffer and you are not quite so supple to take too many of their jokes. Still it is all part of life and it's all really good fun and all done with a really good spirit, so of course tills is very acceptable.
David was always capable, but at that time he was young and full of fun. David still has a good sense of humour, but now has not so much time for jokes with his responsibilities, with his family of three and overseeing the largest property in Tasmania.
David is very fortunate that he has always been very well supported by Jill (his wife) who gives assistance at very short notice. This can range from the delivery of a special knife, drenches or solving many problems that require immediate attention. However, the family has not suffered in any way with Jill 'soften immediate departure from the family home. The children are well looked after and will develop into capable people like their parents.
Developing the Wyambi properties was a daunting task but I believe that once a man makes up his mind to do something and has done his homework the job is half done. Very few jobs are impossible to do; of course, some are, and that is where the homework comes in. The story goes that a father brought home two bundles of green sticks tied up tightly. He said to his powerful elder son, 'Can you break these?' His son tried and found it impossible. Then his younger, weaker son asked if he could try. He untied the sticks and broke them one at a time.
Life is like that. When some problems seem too much all at once they become easier if tackled one at a time, and when the first has been conquered the others seem easier. So I think mostly it is simply commonsense; planning and research and good, hard work will achieve results.
People have told me I am lucky, but I find that the harder I work the luckier I get. Some people are scared to have a go, because they may make a mistake, but Henry Ford claimed that his mistakes made him a millionaire. He said if you make 6 or 7 per cent on your business you just go along and never really get to anything great, but if you have a failure and lose a lot of money you become very efficient, pull up your socks and get into it; then your business will flourish, and instead of 6 or 7 per cent profit you could make 100 per cent in a boom period. It is said that farming is difficult because things are never stable and we have a lot to cope with. But we are fortunate things don't run along smoothly, because if they did we would never make progress at all.
In the development of Wyambi I set out to do the cheapest and quickest jobs first, making them economically viable as soon as possible.
I have known farmers who, as soon as they bought a piece of land that needed developing, put a really good fence around it at a cost of much money and time. Then it was two or three years before they actually used the land for stock, because they had to plough it and leave it for two to three years to sweeten up and absorb nitrogen from the air. But they could have done a quicker job by dumping a lot of lime or dolomite on it, although this is not SO economical as fallowing. When a small amount of lime is used it is still a couple of years before the land is ready to be grazed.
Our policy is to get the land productive first and do things like new fencing last. The fencing of that area would last for only 25 years, so if fencing is done first and you have two or three years before you need it, the life of the fence is cut by 10 per cent.
It is always surprising how wet some new areas of ground are when being developed or after the pastures are first sown down. However, after a few years of pasture all the water is taken up and the ground dries out, sometimes too much. Therefore although it is necessary to put in ditches to get the grass established, in the early stages these ditches do not want to be too deep or they will reduce the water table later, affecting your pastures.
Waterhouse was so wet when first developed that it was necessary to place ditches everywhere, but now, with it all under pasture most of these ditches have been filled in.
Wyambi was just as wet when first sown and for a year or two afterwards. So we decided just to develop the easier parts of Wyambi, such as swampy, flat areas first, and then the more difficult ones. We left the drier, hilly and stony areas as they were, for use as shelter belts. Shelter belts are very expensive - too expensive if you have to plant them and wait a long time for them to grow.
Virgin ground at Wyambi which we developed and sowed to pasture - 1966.
Note clover development and trees left for shelter.
In the same way, when we build a water hole for stock, we first look for a spring that is bubbling out of the ground reasonably fast in summertime. We dig that out, because the hole does not have to be so big if water is bubbling up from the bottom. If you have to put in a waterhole from a catchment the cattle gradually drink it dry, and evaporation also tends to dry it out and it gets boggy on the outside, whereas a good spring - and there are a lot of them in different types of country all over the State - keeps the waterhole full of clear, fresh water all the year round. And I consider that spring water because of its mineral content is best for anyone to drink from, whether animals, humans or birds.
If a spring is not bubbling at the surface of the ground, we watch the wombats, which are wonderful water diviners. They sniff around the top of the ground in the dry weather and then burrow down and find really good water. We dig a hole at that spot and usually the water is very good for stock.
Working with Nature in this way helps cut our costs and makes the place more productive and our labour more effective. Working with Nature is very important. For instance, when planning a stockyard it is best if possible to build itso the cattle walk into the wind when being driven towards it. This, of course, is not always possible. You may have a main road right through your property and you have to build the stockyard in a central position, and often on high ground, and it may really be the easterly side of the property.
But cattle will walk into the wind, and of course, if you gather them on a day when an easterly wind is blowing there is no problem. But if a westerly is blowing when you gather them you will have a problem, because cattle do not like their hair ruffled up.
Sowing new around at Wyambi. Note - trees left for shelter.
Bob Jensen drilling in 1965.
John, our son, with his three dogs on Wyambi in 1975
(a year before he was drowned on the property on May 29th 1976)
His horse, Smithy, used to be an outlaw, but John made a good stock horse of him.
John was a far better rider and better with dogs than I am.
Walking into the wind keeps their hair flat on their bodies, so they will endeavour always to face into the wind. Otherwise they can get cold and they get worms and all other sorts of problems. This requires drenches, occupies time and uses up surplus cash. This is an important consideration when it is necessary to gather a mob of, say, 500 cattle in a 600 or 700 acre paddock. If a strong wind is blowing you will always find them feeding into the wind, hence the need for a lot of thought when siting a stockyard.
The design is also important. Today there are quite a lot of designs about from the various government departments and stock people, showing that a circular yard is the best. The cattle like to go around in a circle. The actual construction of the stock yard is quite important for the efficient handling of cattle, but the siting is also quite important.
Of course it is also important to decide which trees to leave and which trees to clear or the appropriate species to plant in a particular area.
You do not want to plant pines too close, where eventually brittle limbs will fall into the yards. We spend a lot on trees. When I was a sawmiller down the North-West 40 years ago I think I was the only miller to plant far more trees than I cut down. I claimed this at a meeting, and no-one contradicted me. Now wood-chipping and saw-milling companies are becoming more tree-conscious and are planting more trees.
If you take all the ti-tree away from the outside of a bunch of eucalypts or take all the she-oaks or bull oaks away, the eucalypts will suffer from the cold winds and die. Then you will have no protection for the stock at all. If a mistake is made and a protection is taken from the eucalypts, pine trees, she-oaks, boobyallas or ti-trees have to be replanted quickly to save the eucalypts - a very expensive exercise. This really only applies to salt-laden, windy areas of our properties and others. In some areas of the State the eucalypts will thrive with no protection from the above trees.
This is another example of how necessary it is to plan the development of your property along with Nature. A bulldozer can knock down in one hour what took hundreds of years to grow.
Young trees being planted.
With the alteration of environment and soil conditions
due to increased fertility through heavy stocking,
some native species have died.
Native species more suitable to new environment are being planted.
I think that we have to have development, but it must be done wisely. There are really no books on it, there is no authority on it, so I think it is a matter of a person drawing on his own experience and knowledge of just what to do in a case like that, after viewing the trees in the surrounding neighbourhood.
It is essential, wherever there is a high bank, to leave the native trees to protect the flats, and to leave the roughage growing in amongst them for stock, and wherever possible to leave the she-oaks and blackwoods, which are very good, as shelter from the wind and protection for other trees.
Blackwoods will survive quite well in the open, where many others will not. Rather than destroy our native trees we plant pine trees on the windward side of a shelter belt so the salt air does not affect the natives, which will then grow happily on the other side away from the prevailing wind and salt spray.
Speaking at Scottsdale at a meeting of farmers to form a Tree Growing Association I made the point that if in the next two or three months 90 per cent of the world's population died it would be a major calamity, especially if we and our relatives were included in that 90 per cent, however our planet might not be worse and probably better for it. But if 90 percent of the trees in the world died in a couple of months it would be a calamity from which it would be difficult to recover. Quite a lot of people were surprised and appalled at the comment, but it is true.
We are going to need more and more trees as our population increases. The world population is about five billion and increasing, and although we are using aluminium, fibre glass and stainless steel in many cases instead of wood, we are using more and more timber all the time, and we are using more and more paper.
So I mentioned at the meeting that if the Third World countries began using toilet paper on a big scale the forests of the world would need to be increased enormously for us to survive!
Most people don't think about it, and don't understand the situation we are in. We need more and more trees for the protection of our pastures and our crops if we are to feed all the people in the world.
In Victoria it has been proved that shelter trees on properties enable them to produce 25 to 40 per cent extra tonnage, and stock do much better, as pastures grow much better with shelter.
So the world is becoming more tree-conscious. Trees not only keep the air clean, but help in the battle against pollution generally. Trees are now being planted along main roads because it has been found that they absorb a lot of the noise of traffic.
When a housing estate was developed near our home at Scottsdale we planted quite a number of trees and fenced off the area, and the result has been very good from our point of view besides benefiting the people next door. Because of the trees, neither of us can be disturbed unduly by noise, so this helps general privacy and contentment in the area. Main roads boards throughout the world are using trees to deaden the sound of traffic, whereas previously they regarded them merely for their aesthetic value.
Trees also provide natural shelter for wild animals, birds, bees and spiders. Birds shelter and nest in them, and they eat many of the corby grubs and other pasture pests, and the same applies to spiders and predators that live on insects and other pests.
Spiders are among our greatest assets, but unfortunately, when paddocks are sprayed vast quantities of spiders are killed. To get an idea of the wonderful job spiders do in controlling pests one has only to go across a paddock on a dewy morning to see the millions of spider webs everywhere. There must be a fantastic number of spiders in the soil, and they are living on insects which damage our crops. So we should worry about sprays which kill spiders, and I feel we do not do enough research into how best to protect Nature's helpers; they all need a certain amount of shelter, which trees provide.
The U.S.A. Defence Department is now experimenting with spider web strands for the making of light weight, strong helmets and other items. It appears that by the turn of the century spider web material could become the miracle fibre of the next decade. Robert Bruce received his inspiration to try again from a spider swinging on a strand of web; now we may be again going back to the humble spider for inspiration.
At Wyambi we have planted many kilometres of shelter trees since we began our development there. When we took over there were only a few rushes and no trees on some areas, which now have an assortment, including a lot of berry trees and many others, grown mostly from seed. We must not overlook that berry trees and others supply the birds with feed for the winter. This also helps the trees as the birds' manure droppings help to fertilise the trees, so one thing helps another in nature's environmental cycle.
We have planted trees along the roadways. Naturally you can't plant seeds in grass ground; it has to be freshly ploughed or disturbed ground where a road has been made. The Wyambi properties have become known as some of the best cattle areas in Australia, and numerous articles have been written about them. In the 12 years up till 1985 we sold 2500 fat cattle per year from these properties. All these cattle were grass-fattened on the place and most of the 2500 fats sold annually were bullocks weighing about 300 kg. dressed weight.
It is only 27 years since I acquired my first block, and we are very proud of what we have done. We had about 1100 acres sown to pasture when we bought the total of Wyambj and now we have 6300 acres under pasture, apart from 28,000 acres on Rushy Lagoon. Before we leave the Wyambi scene may I digress a little with the thought that the nomenclature of features of our countryside can be influenced in the oddest way.
Take the road from Bridport to Wyambi, for instance. The main road crosses Sheep-wash Creek, which got its name from the fact that the Von Bibras, who owned Waterhouse Estate, used to wash their sheep there before they were shorn.
John told us how some years ago there was quite a big drop over the side of the bridge to the water. On one occasion his mate Patrick Simmons was passed by a car going 'hell for leather' towards the bridge. The driver failed to slow down sufficiently for the crossing and crashed through the railings into the stream below. Patrick arrived on the scene just as a chap got out of the front seat of the car.
'Have you seen my dog?' he asked. 'No,' said Pat, 'but are the women all right? They're screaming.' 'Yes,' came the reply, 'they'll be O.K., women always scream. Tell me, have you seen my dog?' We now call it the 'Have you seen my dog bridge!'
The Von Bibras are one of the leading pastoral families in Tasmania. Don Von Bibra I knew well, and he was a terrific person. As a kid I had met his father, known as 'Wig', whom my father greatly admired. They were running about 12,000 sheep and 3000 cattle on the Waterhouse-Tomahawk area before it was developed. The shepherds had huts scattered over the place, as there were no well-constructed roads in those days. The remains of the huts are still visible. The shepherds would be marooned in their particular area for various times during the winter period.
Cattle were often sent by train down to the Von Bibra property at Ross, and for some years the drovers brought their herds to our little farm for water and a rest on the way to the railway station at Scottsdale. Our place, of 100 acres (40 hectares) (later 250 acres - 101 hectares) was only a mile and a half (2.4 Idlometres) from the station.
I remember, when I was a little fellow, about four or five years old, the drovers had a mob of about 686 steers being counted through the gates. I sat on top of the fence and counted also. They just rushed through the gates, but the drovers were very expert and could still count them accurately.
To humour me, one of the drovers asked how many I had counted, and I said '886.' He thOught I said 686 and told the other drovers that I was a wizard - he had never heard of a kid who could accurately count a mob of rushing steers! I kept quiet about my mistake, basking in the glory for years with the drovers.
Ken Von Bibra, Don's son, has now bought a large area of ground adjoining us at Rushy Lagoon. It is pleasing to see Ken back in the general area his father and grandfather previously owned. He will do a good job with his new property.
Transporting stock in Tasmania is now almost 100 per cent by motor truck, for the railways no longer transport stock. I think this is not only cheaper and quicker than droving, but it is easier on the stock.
Some 30-odd years ago I bought a few hundred head of cattle at Bothwell and paid a drover to take them overland to Takone. This was about half the length of Tasmania. They all arrived, but their feet were very sore, as the going was very rough through the highlands. It took them many weeks to get over their sore feet, although they were more easily driven around the property than others -they were 'trail broken.'
The first cattle we sent to Wyambi in 1964 we drove out from Scottsdale, but they are all transported by motor truck now. The older generation thought cattle droving was with us for ever. My old grandfather, Dan McLennan, was trying on his death bed to buy a strategic block of land, as he thought that people would always be droving cattle. He could not have been more wrong.
When I was buying steers in the saleyard for Wyambi, sometimes there would be a pen of stunted steers, probably from the islands, with big old horns. They would sell reasonably cheaply as they were supposed to be poor doers. We would immediately dehom them and put them on reasonable feed. They had lost blood when dehorned and then made fresh blood, so soon their coats would shine through good health.
The vets often take up to half a gallon of blood from a racehorse's jugular vein, when he is not performing. Then after making new blood, he will often win races. This is the same principle as was done in the old Bible days, when they bled people with leeches and other methods to help them.