Kristie De Pledge shares her story of life on a cattle station in the Pilbara

Today we would like to introduce you to Kristie De Pledge.  Kristie in partnership with her husband Rory and young children are building up a cattle station from scratch in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.  Kristie is very passionate about connecting with consumers and advocating for agriculture.  She has just started a blog to share more about her part of the world: www.koordarriestn.wordpress.com

This is Kristie’s story

Me!!. What about me? What about what I do? What is so interesting about that? Here is my story and you can make up your own mind.

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To put it in perspective lets take a little look back and start with my great grandfather George Hutton. George was an Englishman who came upon a sheep station in the shire of Upper Gascoyne, WA, called Mooka Station. He met and married a German girl working nearby and together they made a small home on Mooka, at the foot of the Kennedy Ranges and proceeded to develop their station.

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Kennedy Ranges Western Australia

Together they brought 8 children, 7 girls and 1 boy into the world. My grandmother was the youngest of those children and did not receive any formal schooling until she was 8 years old. It was a hard life back then, washing clothes in the copper and a tin of apples was a special treat for Christmas.

My father’s side of the family were farmers from Victoria. My grandparents sold their farm in Victoria to buy a sheep station in the Upper Gascoyne. They drove across the country, with 6 children, 3 dogs and all that they owned on the back of two vehicles.

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Victoria to the Gascoyne – a distance of over 4,000km

When they arrived at Mooloo Downs Station, the previous owners left the next day at 3 am. A distance of over 4,000 km.!!! What an amazing challenge for my dad’s family to have undertaken.

Back to me. I am the eldest of 4 children and grew up on a sheep and cattle station called Mt Phillip in the Gascoyne. What a wonderful childhood. So many adventures.

Walking sheep along laneways with mum and my siblings. Playing for hours out in the bush, km’s from home! I remember running home once, to beat a dust storm coming right after us.

Dust storm

Riding our horses through the creeks. Sleeping on the lawn in the summertime because we had no power for 24 hours. We had pet lambs called Rambo and Rocket!

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I loved going for walks with my grandmother from Mooka. She knows so much about the flora and passed this love of the bush to me. She is the one who taught me not to be afraid of the bush at night time. This feeling inside me, this fluttering and heart burning feeling when I smell the rain landing on dry sand or move through a mob of cattle that we grow and care for.

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Picture taken by Graeme Minchin

The feeling of pride and utter contentment when a job like a new fence or pipeline goes in, how do I explain this? How do I share it with you? No idea, but going to try anyway.

My husband and I now own and run a cattle station in the Shire of Ashburton, West Pilbara, WA.

 

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It had been abandoned for 30 years

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In June 2010,my husband, Rory and I moved here after clearing a patch of ground, and erecting the barest necessities for life.

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These included solar power, water tank and source, staff accommodation in the form of a donga, a shed, two dongas with plans for further work(never-ending actually), fenced house yard for children’s safety and a caravan to sleep in until I got the dongas cleaned up.

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Home sweet home. It was a dry year and there was no garden, no lawn, no trees to speak of.

Our property is called Koordarrie and is approximately 127,500 hectares

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We run around  4,000 head of Droughtmaster cattle and have a staff of up to 6 people every year, who range from international travellers on rural exchange type programs to Aussies.

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A typical day in December is spent checking tanks, fixing pipes, distributing mineral supplements like Beachport lick. At the moment we are also clearing lines for a boundary fence and new pipeline with the bulldozer and grader.

From November to April  we will erect more fences and make water point improvements and undertake general day to day maintenance. We hope for rain that doesn’t always come. Our annual average rainfall is around 11 inches. Based on years of a lot, then a little.

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From April through to June –we prepare the fencing, machinery, horses, motorbikes, panels and trucks for mustering. We train our staff for day to day jobs like checking solar pumps and fixing small jobs like pipe leaks, trough float repairs and tyre repairs.

June and July are our really busy months when we begin mustering stock and remove the weaners from cows, and sell saleable cattle. We shift from areas under grazing pressure to areas of property with better ground cover. We are always maintaining our watering points and station plant.

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We place a lot of emphasis of careful mothering up, giving the cows and calves plenty of time to reunite and confirm the bond between them after mustering.

From October to early November we complete the mustering and shift cattle for effective management of herd and tidy up loose ends like broken down pumps, troughs and fences, whilst we still have staff

In November we start the summer jobs like fencing off pressure areas or holding paddocks and put up new infrastructure like yards or traps for less intensive labour of stock handling.

Yard building

When your starting from scratch as we are, money must be carefully spread across the whole of the property, with projects like fencing, watering points and relevant infrastructure, general maintenance, food and fuel always at the front of your mind.

Seeing my own children growing up in this wonderful, experience rich environment fills me with happiness. There are so many amazing things happening within agriculture right now and technology has enabled us to connect with the wider community.

I hope sharing my story shows that there is fun, excitement, sadness, wonderment and satisfaction to be had, right here, right on your doorstep in this beautiful country .

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