Cattle station rebuilds after crippling drought

After almost shutting down during the drought, the world's biggest cattle station is back in full production.

Four years ago Anna Creek Station, which stretches over 24,000 square kilometres between Coober Pedy and Lake Eyre in South Australia's far north, was down to just a few hundred animals after destocking.

But after three years of better-than-average rains, the famous pastoral property has rebuilt its herd to almost 17,000 head of mainly Santa Gertrudis and Brahman cattle.

"It's just good to see cattle back on the place," said head stockman Gordon Warren, who has spent more than half his life working on the remote station.

The once bare sand dunes that drifted freely are now secured by scrub, that may not look particularly lush but is nutritious.

"Whatever grows here is beautiful cattle feed," Mr Warren said.

"Strangers come here and have a look and say what the hell are these cattle eating, but we've trucked some good cattle out of this place." In the last financial year more than 5,000 calves were branded at Anna Creek and around 4,000 animals sent to slaughter.

"It's good to put steers up the race and have a look at their weights," station manager Norm Sims said.

"You turn them off young, you know you're making really good money on them." Anna Creek is part of the S Kidman and Co pastoral empire, a family-owned company which has a dozen stations.

The revival of the largest one has come at a good time.

It has also been used to add value to cattle from the company's northern stations, that had nowhere to go after live exports to Indonesia were temporarily stopped last year.  "We've put weight on them, we've been getting a calf or two out of them and then sending them on," Mr Sims said.

"If they didn't have this place and other places in the channel country, they'd be feeling it pretty hard." While he is relishing the revival of the desert country, Mr Sims is also realistic about the chances the good run will continue.

"We haven't had a rain for the last four months since the end of February," he said.

"So if we don't get a rain, like a summer rain, it could be back dry again within the next six months." Watch the full report on the revival of Anna Creek Station on this Sunday at noon on ABC1.

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