HARD work out in the North-West brings its rewards which have not been lost on the Crowley family of “Mapoga” and Goonoo Goonoo Station, Brewarrina.
Thirty-year-old Scott Crowley, the next largest employer in the region behind the Brewarrina Shire Council, is now employing upwards of 80 people in his CRO Contract Shearing business.
He and some of his mates are so keen on the shearing and wool industry, they set off to New Zealand a fortnight ago for a month’s work while there is a lull in his business.
Mr Crowley said a “fair swag” of his sheep breeder and grazier clients affected by the prolonged dry and drought had him shear all their sheep earlier in the year as a wool income stream in case they had to quit all surplus and even breeding stock if the drought continued.
“We had shorn about three-quarters the number of sheep we would shear per annum in the first six months of this year,” he said.
“Everyone needed their sheep shorn as wool prices are so high, and now the the Brewarrina region has received up to 60 or more millimetres of rain owners have decided to move back to their original shearing.
“That has left us with a month to spare, so I decided to head over the “Ditch” and spend a month shearing in the south island.”
With several members of his shearing teams and friends, Mr Crowley flew out of Dubbo for Central Otago to work for local contractor, Peter Lyon based at Alexandra.
Mr Crowley’s shearing teams work from Cooma through to Tibooburra, up to Dalby, Queensland, and across to Mount Hope “and anywhere between”.
He gained his wool classing ticket when 16 at Red Bend Catholic College, Forbes, and after leaving school began rouseabouting and pressing, then shearing in many sheds.
“I was about 17 when I kicked-off and I have been contracting now for the past three to four years,” he said.
“It’s a very fulfilling experience running several shearing teams and knowing everybody is doing their best for the woolgrower client.”
Scott and his brother Matt are fourth generation Crowleys on Goonoo Goonoo Station, the first owner being their great-grandfather Bill Crowley.
Ownership then moved to their grandfather, then their father, Brett, who with their mother, Emma, are current owners.
Brett is a keen Red Angus breeder who began using Red Angus bulls in the early 1990s and due to this drought has had to cut back numbers to some 200 being the nucleus herd.
He’s been hand-feeding since last June but was happy to receive upwards of 60mm in the recent precipitation.
“It’s begun to green up but we really need another fall to do some good and make feed for cattle,” he said.
Mr Crowley said the 2000 drought and following eight years had sorted him out. They sold a lot of cattle back then, but had been rebuilding the herd up until last year.
“That drought was severe, but the cattle toughened it out, just like they would this current drought,” he said.
Mr Crowley said he bought his first Red Angus bull in 1992 based on Tullatoola blood and had never looked back, joining them to Santa Gertrudis and Brahman females in a breeding-up program.
“It’s a low-maintenance herd and calves pack on the weight when the season is good,” he said. His aim was to find a cow that was low maintenance and produces a quick-growing vealer.
“While Brahman and Santa Gertrudis was the base, their crosses were low maintenance and very tough,” he said.
The family also runs 1000 Merino ewes of Gunnegalderie blood.
At just 25 years-of-age, Matt Crowley has been conducting his own pregnancy scanning business “MOOS’n’EWES” for the past seven years – the name thought up by his mother.
When he left school at 16 he began contract mustering mainly throughout the Brewarrina region and by the time he turned 18 the scanning business was established.
Matt’s territory runs right through NSW and Queensland with his brother, Scott suggesting Matt wears-out a Hi-Lux just about every year.
He’s always “flat-strap” scanning sheep and cattle from Tibooburra, Wanaaring, Wilcannia to Nyngan, Cryon, Walgett and north through St George, Cunnamulla, Charleville, Surat, Quilpie and Thargominda.
Matt scans close to 120,000 ewes each year and used to scan some 30,000 beef females, but since the long dry, he estimates that number of cattle had dropped to about 10,000 head a year.
“There’s not as many cattle about at present as there was before this drought,” he said.
“So the business is mainly sheep.”
Keeping up with technology Matt has installed an electronic tag reader into his scanning system.
“There’s a growing number of sheep breeders using electronic tags now, so it’s another service I can provide,” he said.