THERE will be no Wingham campdraft next month, after substantial changes to beef management at Cooplacurripa Station has resulted in the unavailability of cattle for the iconic event.
The great drove of 1000 head from the upper Nowendoc Valley to Wingham, a distance of 80km, for the early November campdraft has been a feature on the Manning Valley calendar for the past quarter century.
The local show society has come to rely on the generosity of the station owners in providing not only the campdraft cattle but a spectacle unlike any other in their downriver delivery, on foot, with the help of horse and dog, over the course of a week.
Wingham show society president Elaine Turner said there had been offers by other producers of smaller cattle numbers but that just wasn’t enough for the three day event as planned.
“With the price of cattle the way it is there is a real shortage,” she said,
New owners of Cooplacurripa Station, Rifa Salutary, are changing the way they raise beef and CEO David Goodfellow says heifers normally made available for the great drove will now be put to bulls 12 months earlier than before.
Rifa Salutary, part of Zhejiang Rifa Holding Group, purchased the 22,548ha Cooplacurripa last December for $29m with 8000 head of mixed breed cattle.
Rifa Salutory has since purchased nearby properties, just downriver from Cooplacurripa: “Kerriki” and "Number One" for $3.5 million with the deal closing last March.
These properties come with irrigation licences and the opportunity to improve local pasture.
As a result Cooplacurripa’s strategy has now changed, with the main station being retained as a breeding operation only with steers sent to Rifa Salutary’s fattening property at Warialda, where fodder crops will provide the bulk of feed. Heifers will go to “Kerriki” and “Number One” where they will build frame and condition ahead of joining.
With calves weaned in June and July, cows will stay at Cooplacurripa to rest and regain strength in a bid to improve production and fertility.
At the same time the herd is changing from predominantly mixed breed to Angus – all new bulls are now black – and Mr Goodfellow says it is Rifa Salutary’s intention to create an all-black herd in the near future.
“We were a big supporter of last year’s campdraft and we are very keen to keep strong community ties, but since we have acquired additional land near Cooplacurripa we have simply changed our management focus,” said Mr Goodfellow.
“We are now getting higher productivity out of our young heifers. They will now be joined in November whereas in the past they would have been joined the following year.”
Mr Goodfellow noted the Nowendoc Valley, like much of the North Coast, had struggled through a dry year and was looking for spring storm rain at the moment, yet Rifa Salutary was pushing ahead with new pasture development and fertiliser programs on paddocks that had irrigation.
“Cooplacurripa will focus on a cow and calf operation and we will grow out our cattle on other properties,” he said.
The shift in management is expected to lift the carrying capacity of cows on Cooplacurripa to over 5,000 breeders.
“We have retained most of our heifers from last year and plan to breed through to create a larger herd, Mr Goodfellow said.
“What we are doing here is exciting. These properties have enormous potential.”