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Unseasonal weather brings almost four years' worth of rainfall

By James Liveris, Thursday June 24, 2021 - 23:07 EST
ABC image
The Dalgety Brook that runs through Dalgety Downs Station, in WA's Upper Gascoyne region. - ABC

It is country that can make or break seasoned veterans; land so unforgiving that it has crippled many graziers. 


But as the old tale goes, when it rains the Southern Rangelands is one of the most resplendent landscapes in Western Australia.


And this year the narrative is playing out, with the Gascoyne region on track to have possibly its wettest year on record.


Pastoralist Hamish McTaggart from Bidgemia Station, located 10 kilometres east of Gascoyne Junction, said it was an amazing year.


"I keep saying unprecedented, I can't remember ever feeling like this on a cattle station in eight-inch rainfall country," Mr McTaggart said.


"It is a season that I possibly might never see again in my lifetime."


Bidgemia Station has recorded 520mm of rain so far in 2021.


Mr McTaggart said the number ranked in annual rainfall figures.


"The wettest year was in 1927, and that was 550mm ? so we're a pretty good shake in 2021 being the wettest year ever," he said.


"If we did break that record, that would be more rain in 2021 than the previous four years put together."


Mr McTaggart said he believed that most of the farmers in the Shire of the Upper Gascoyne had had substantial rain.


 "It ranges, in some small areas there would be 10 per cent that are slightly below average, with a fair bit of the year left to go, 50 per cent being very solidly above average, and the remaining 40 per cent probably being best year on record."


The Bureau of Meteorology said typically this time of the year was the northwest region's dry season, but clouds bands had brought unseasonal rain, which had occurred consistently.


Bidgemia Cattle Company is no small operation, working on 6000 breeders and running about 12,000 head of Droughtmaster/Brahman cattle in total.


With cattle prices reaching unprecedented highs this year, Mr McTaggart said it was a great time to be a pastoralist.


"I don't think I've ever seen cattle prices like this," Mr McTaggart.


"It is surreal.


"With a dry season, there's a fair bit of stress that goes with it and you're throwing yourself at your station making sure your cattle are as happy and healthy as they can be.


"When you know your cattle are happy and your staff are happy and the pressure comes off, it is a very relaxing, lovely place to be."


Mother Nature lends a hand


The rain was so widespread that from Minilya to Wooramel, lush green shrub barricades the normally desolate red dirt Northwest Coastal Highway.


This month alone in coastal towns such as Exmouth, there have been local reports of 260mm recorded in 24 hours.


In the eastern part of the region, however, the timing of rain was crucial.


Peter Matthews, the manager at Dalgety Downs Station 300 kilometres east of Carnarvon, said the last few years had not been easy.


"When it is that dry people don't tend to talk about it much, but you know they are hurting," Mr Matthews said.


"Especially the ones who have taken all their cattle off, it's not good to hear, or see."


Dalgety Downs recorded 295mm since the start of the year, and 61mm in late December last year.


Mr Matthews said it was grim leading up to that point.


"Back in 2019, we only had 47mm, and then 150mm the following year," Mr Matthews said.


"It was very harsh, the cattle knew it, and we knew it."


"There have been a few stations around the area that have taken all their cattle off because it's been too dry," he said.


"We removed more than 50 per cent of our herd and managed to get by with the rest."


But following the rain, things quickly turned around and now the station is thriving, with both the Gascoyne River and Dalgety Brook flowing through the property.


Mr Matthews said it was delightful.


"There is grass as far as you can see and the cattle are happy," Mr Matthews said.


"At the start of the year it was just brown, nothing.


"Now there is beautiful long grass, you'd think you're down south ? I've been up here six years, and this is the best I've seen it."







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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