SET in the heart of the abandoned Arltunga goldfields, about 130 kilometres from Alice Springs, Ambalindum is a station rich in history and prime Santa Gertrudis blood cattle.
Gold was discovered there in 1887, with the station settled several years later, in the early 1900s, by Frederic Cavenagh.
Until the early 1940s, sheep were run but these days Santa Gertrudis-cross-cattle are the main focus with 5000 breeders run on the 3317-square kilometre property, which also trades steers and bullocks.
Fresh from several years of bad drought, the station has been rebuilding herd numbers, and station manager and owner Tim Edmunds says he plans to expand to 8000 breeders.
"Ambalindum has been under-developed," he said.
"I plan to put in a bit more expansion, with more watering points and better infrastructure.
"Finding staff can be a tough gig but with better yards and fencelines it'll make it a lot easier."
Tim runs the station with the help of his wife Emily and their young family, and some long-term staff.
They have been at Ambalindum since 1996, when Tim was appointed manager.
In the years since, he has slowly increased his ownership of the property in conjunction with former owner Philip Reid, who still runs some cattle on the property.
"I started managing the place in 1996 and the herd has come a significant way since then," Tim said.
"This is partly thanks to Philip for his commitment to genetics – there is greater control."
Tim is a big believer in buying-in genetics.
"I want to have self-replacing heifers but not bulls," he said.
Most of his Santa Gertrudis bulls are bought at the Centre State Sale at Warnertown, including sires from Seymour Vale, Goolagong and Walmona.
"In 20-odd years of contract-mustering some of the heaviest bullocks I've seen have been Santas," Tim said.
"It's not impossible to get 900-kilogram plus bullocks."
He aims to sell cattle as weaners, at 300kg to 350kg. In 2012, the weaners made $1.95/kg on-farm to backgrounders.
Selling calves as weaners means easier trucking, with 34 steers to a deck, versus 18 bullocks.
The weaners also travel better than bullocks – an important consideration when it comes to animal welfare.
A twice-yearly roundup of cattle, in April and September, ensures the calves can be caught, marked and subsequently sold at this target age.
It also reduces the number of 'mickey' bulls, ensuring purchased bulls can cover an increased amount of cows.
"Mustering twice a year means you miss a bull calf in April then you're more then likely to get it in September," Tim said.
Cows are culled for temperament, in order to ensure calves are quieter to handle.
"Temperament is very much a genetic thing," he said. "But spending time with young cattle in the yards also helps to desensitise them and means they will perform better in the long term.
"Producing cattle that perform well also means buyers will return."
Tim aims to produce cattle with good conformation, even colour and type, like peas in a pod," he said.
"I also try to limit the horn if we can because it's preferable to dehorning. As we go on, Poll cattle will go to the fore."
Tim aims for cows with good, heavy frames to produce calves with good weight-for-age.
"The heavier we can get our weaners the better," he said.
*Full report in Stock Journal, February 21 issue, 2013.