With its well-watered downs country, Iffley has an important role to play in MDH’s cattle operation.

Story by Nathan Dyer

The mercury has just hit 35 degrees Celsius, the flies are incorrigibly friendly and wispy white clouds streak across the blue sky above. A line of red Brahman cattle strings out along a brown dirt road and the radio strapped to Josh Townsend’s chest crackles with news from above. The head stockman of Iffley Station, in Queensland’s Gulf Country, tilts his head towards the leather radio pouch and listens closely to the distant voice of helicopter pilot Monte Jackson.

“We’ve got another couple hundred, I reckon, coming in from out here,” shouts Monte, above the roar of rotor blades. “Righto,” replies Josh, straightening in his saddle, as he leads the 1000-strong mob down a gun barrel-straight road from a paddock known as 12 Mile to another called Earles Camp. It’s early April, and the ringers on Iffley are two weeks into their first round of mustering. Late rains have delayed the start of the season, but filled Iffley’s catchments to the brim. The grassy downs of the 405,000-hectare property shimmer an emerald hue in the morning light. Clouds of grasshoppers sail along in front of the mob, landing then alighting from one green patch to the next.

“We had a pretty good start in December but then it didn’t really rain in January or February,” says station manager Clint Smith, splashing along a soggy track in his ute.  “So we were looking down the barrel of another pretty dry year.” But 200 millimetres in March changed that. “Now all the dams are full, including some we haven’t used for three years,” says Clint, pulling up at Cobbs Dam, which looks more like a lake. “There’s two years’ water in there,” says Clint, leaning on the bull bar of his LandCruiser as a flock of ibis takes to the sky across the dam’s brown surface. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #109

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2016