Six generations of Central Australia’s legendary Hayes family have lived and worked on Undoolya, the NT’s oldest cattle station.

Story + Photos Kerry Sharp

Located on the edge of Alice Springs and dissected by the majestic East MacDonnell Range, Undoolya station was established 150 years ago and for more than half that time has been feeding domestic and global markets with premium beef. 

The late Ted Hayes Snr, great-grandfather to current owner Ben Hayes, introduced the British Poll Hereford breed to Undoolya in the 1940s – reportedly because he was so impressed by the quiet, easy-going demeanour of a bullock in a mob he was walking through the area. Ben says that in an ambitious logistical feat for those times, his great-grandfather shipped Poll Hereford bulls and heifers across the Tasman from New Zealand to Port Melbourne and had them loaded on the Ghan train bound for Alice Springs. 

Undoolya now buys all its bulls from either SA or northern NSW and maintains a cattle herd of 5000 to 7000 head, depending on seasonal conditions. “Herefords are a really tough and hardy breed that have acclimatised and do exceptionally well in this arid part of the world,” Ben says. “They’re not picky eaters and thrive on whatever they’ve got available. I’m hanging cows on hooks that are dressing out at 400kg. That’s a pretty big animal.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #147

Outback Magazine: February/March 2023