On the stunning property Castletop, near Narrabri, NSW, successive generations have built an operation that now includes Angus, meat sheep and a thriving motorbike park.
Story Ken Eastwood Photos Josh Smith
It’s a very peaceful muster on Castletop. Just open the gate and the mob of Angus cows and calves start moving quietly through. A chorus of mooing attracts the rest of the 300-strong mob, and soon most of them are resting up under ironbark and box trees in a fresh paddock, munching on waist-high grass that’s turned golden in the early morning light. Above them, the steep forested peaks of the Nandawar Range provide a spectacular backdrop.
Farmhand Brock Mullard and his boss Scott ‘Blue’ Michell putt around the 200ha paddock on trail bikes to get the stragglers, but they don’t have to give much encouragement. Using a system of rotational grazing designed to regenerate the paddocks, they move the cattle once a week onto fresh pastures, and in this absolute bumper season there’s a lot of grass left behind.
“You think, ‘Why are we moving them out of this paddock?’,” Blue says. “There’s still so much here. But they can’t wait to walk through that gate and get that new feed.”
Come the weekend, this quiet scene will burst to life as up to 100 trail bikers descend on the property, which they know as ‘Bike Territory’, to access every farm track and trail – from easy meanders on the flats to motocross tracks with wild jumps or winding, rocky single tracks up and down 45-degree slopes. Scott and his wife Regina opened the farm up for trail biking 12 years ago and it’s become a very successful source of extra income, particularly during a recent three-year drought. It’s just one of the continual changes that Scott and his family have been making on the property for four generations, as they adapt to changing markets, conditions and technologies.
This story excerpt is from Issue #136
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2021