'Mini mes' make farm life fun

Johnston kids follow in parents' footsteps at West Wyalong


News
Billy and Brumby Johnston from West Wyalong. Photos Craig Johnston.

Billy and Brumby Johnston from West Wyalong. Photos Craig Johnston.

Aa

Meet the families in the 'little hands, big hearts' tribute to our bush kids.

Aa

When it comes time to muster, Brumby and Billy Johnston are the first to jump on their bikes moving sheep from the paddocks to the yards.

When their father Craig Johnston is shearing, the young brothers - aged five and three respectively - are penning up, sweeping and often "like to think they can throw the wool clip".

They even have their own 'toy shears' to lend a hand in the shearing shed.

When Mr Johnston is counting sheep numbers, the pair chime in with their own random numbers - and he often has to start again.

And when their parents have to hand-feed sheep because there is not a blade of grass on the ground, the pair are getting their hands dirty right by their parent's side.

"They are mini mes, everything I do, they want to do, they want to be just like dad," Mr Johnston joked.

"They want to help all the time.

"They are an integral part of the team, anything we do, they do, which is how we were brought up."

Brumby and Billy Johnston are pretty handy in the shearing sheds. They sweep up and try to thrown the wool clip. Photos by Craig Johnston and Tessa Nicholson.

Brumby and Billy Johnston are pretty handy in the shearing sheds. They sweep up and try to thrown the wool clip. Photos by Craig Johnston and Tessa Nicholson.

Like most landholders across the state, Mr Johnston who runs Austral-Eden Merino Stud at West Wyalong, said it had been a tough couple of years.

The Johnstons have not stripped oats since 2016.

"We get enough rain to grow them but not enough to strip it," he said.

But to further rub salt into the wound, in that same year they lost an entire crop and some livestock when a fire ripped through their property.

"The whole place got burned out," Mr Johnston said.

"We haven't had to the rain to bring it back. It's like we had a drought before the drought."

For the first time, instead of growing their own fodder, the Johnstons had to buy 250 bales of canola hay to feed out to 3500 breeding ewes.

"Everything has been tough, the only good thing is sheep prices are great," he said.

"We've had about five inches of rain this year, normally we have 16 inches and from April to June that is normally our wet season but it doesn't look that way.

"Don't get me wrong there are little windows of good times, we won best Merino ewe in NSW at Dubbo Show.

"It's these little goals that help us keep punching on."

Related reading: The Land pays homage to our bush kids in the 'little hands, big hearts' edition

But he said he could not do it without his beloved fiance Tessa Nicholson and their three children.

While Sophie, at one, is far too young to help on the farm.

Her older brothers more than make up for it.

"They know about the 'bloody drought' and why we feed sheep, no rain means no grass," he said.

"When there is a little sprinkle Billy tells his mum 'that will be good for the crops'.

"He then says 'we will be able to get the header out'.

"They follow the rain charts as much as we do.

"They love being with us and help feed but even the kids are saying it's enough, I think the novelty has worn off.

"But we are so proud of them. They are way ahead of their mates, farming is just like second nature to them.

"Our kids make it fun, it makes the day a little smoother especially when they do funny things."

Three genreations of Johnstons. Craig and his sons Billy and Brumby with their grandfather Barry at West Wyalong.

Three genreations of Johnstons. Craig and his sons Billy and Brumby with their grandfather Barry at West Wyalong.

It's shearing time at the Johnstons. Tessa Nicholson with her one-year-old daughter Sophie at their West Wyalong property.

It's shearing time at the Johnstons. Tessa Nicholson with her one-year-old daughter Sophie at their West Wyalong property.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by