Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Kidman: the jewel in the crown

To know this Cooper country properly you've nearly got to cut your grinders here

Story: Nigel Austin
Photos: Leon Mead

Kidman: the jewel in the crownWhen heavy storms swept across Durham Downs station in western Queensland in late July, manager John Ferguson went on full alert. He ordered a helicopter to check the station for stranded cattle and downed fences, and for his ringers, who were caught in a stock camp.

"I hope they're OK; they've got a UHF radio and horses if there's any trouble," he says. "The real worry is if you don't get cattle away from the floods you can loose them quickly. But it's really only a local flood because the Cooper's main channel has risen less than a metre."

After Ferguson had checked the property by air, he found his stockmen safe and, thankfully, no damage to the vast station through which the Cooper Creek flows for 120 km from north to south. The same rain system swept on through the inland, flooding towns in northern New South Wales and leaving behind a $100 million trail of destruction.

Kidman: the jewel in the crownBut in the heart of the Channel Country, the timely winter rain brought a smile to the face of the veteran cattleman.

A good flood, when the water fans out across up to 55 percent of Durham Downs, can be worth more than $1 million to the owner, S. Kidman and Company.

Once again the Kidman master plan of utilising the three great western Queensland rivers, the Cooper, the Diamantina and the Georgina, was brought into play.

Within days 2500 cattle began arriving at Durham Downs from the north. They would help take advantage of the plentiful feed, virtually guaranteed to last through until summer.

Kidman: the jewel in the crownAs the water receded in the following weeks, the Channel Country once again sprang to life. Soon a luxuriant spread of feed grew from the Cooper Creek floodplain, which becomes like a lush green feedlot. When it rains the lignum bushes grow as tall as a horse and the annual grasses, clovers and bluebush spread across the land, producing feed to suit the fussiest eaters.

The Channel Country is sometimes also known as Kidman Country, for it was here that the "Cattle King", Sir Sidney Kidman built the stronghold of his empire. Story end

Full story: Issue 1, October-November, 1998

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