Agistment or bust: drought plan well worth it

Waiting out the drought worth it at Pooncarie Dorper stud

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Thomas and Jack Cullinan, Pooncarie at their first ever sale that exceeded all expectations after a searing drought.

Thomas and Jack Cullinan, Pooncarie at their first ever sale that exceeded all expectations after a searing drought.

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Not letting the drought beat you: agistment winner

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The Cullinans have been graziers near Pooncarie since 1890, but going through the record books, Gary Cullinan reckons there has been little to rival the drought of the last three years.

And there's probably never been such a smart survival strategy as the latest Cullinan generations have just employed.

Instead of selling, or feeding on farm, they agisted about 2000 breeder Dorpers out to many properties both north-west and south-east of Pooncarie over the last three years.

And the cost has been worth it.

Gary Cullinan says he may have spent over $100,000 on livestock transport - the largest cost of his agistment - but with Federal drought transport subsidy, that cost was halved.

And with rain falling over the last eight months, the flocks were slowly brought back to Carstairs Station since 2010, the last mob returning in September, and as Gary says "we were able to hit the ground running".

Speargrass and burr has grown up and summer grasses are not far away as the landscape at Dust'n'Rain Dorpers south of Pooncarie has changed dramatically.

Speargrass and burr has grown up and summer grasses are not far away as the landscape at Dust'n'Rain Dorpers south of Pooncarie has changed dramatically.

With the price of Dorpers rising dramatically in the last six months, the investment in agistment has been worth it for the family.

The Dust'n'Rain stud just sold 110 rams, that averaged $3700.

Gary said they were expecting just $1500 to $2000 at the inaugural sale three months out.

With 34 bid cards handed out on the day of the sale, the rams went to buyers as far away as Cunnamulla in Queensland and Nyngan in New South Wales and Ouyen in Victoria.

The other price rise has been for Dorper lambs rising from $300 to $420.

Ewes with lambs were getting $371 not long ago but now attracting up to $500.

"It's enormous," Gary said of the turnaround and price hike, especially after a drought where the Darling didn't flow for years and the pools left were filled with rotting dead fish that made the water undrinkable.

The family were able to put down three bores to help secure some water for the household and remaining stud stock.

He feels now for graziers who had to sell their stock and are now trying to buy back into Dorpers.

For a long time during the drought the Cullinan family often questioned their strategy.

The drought went on and on, and in some areas near Broken Hill it ended up four years' long.

But what a change.

Now with another 25mm last weekend, the pastures are bursting with life, speargrass and burrs that the Dorpers don't hesitate to eat and soon there will be summer grasses.

They will have feed for at least 12 months, even if it doesn't rain.

The Darling River is flowing again and the 'water views' from the homestead are finally restored.

What hasn't returned are the kangaroos.

The black kangaroos died in the paddock and the blue and red ones just moved on and haven't come back.

But the Cullinans are breathing a sigh of relief.

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