Quigley farewells Kidman's

Quigley farewells Kidman's

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Continuing the story of Paul Quigley, who has retired after 21 years as pastoral manager for S. Kidman & Co.

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Paul Quigley: His sweet run, continued from last week

AFTER 10 years with Twynam, a position came up at Kidman's 32,000ha Kiargathur Station on the Lachlan River near Condobolin, NSW.

Having gotten his teeth into cropping at Gunyerwarildi and serious irrigation at Jemalong, the move to Kiargathur was something of a natural progression for Paul.

Harry M Miller had never expressed any faith in Paul's farming capabilities when he was at Dunmore so when Paul won the district wheat crop at North Star he flicked Miller a note just to let him know he could grow a crop.

Typically Miller's response was brief and uncompromising. "Enjoy the moment," was all he said.

In his first year at Kiargathur, they shore 30,000 sheep but with the demise of the floor price scheme numbers were quickly reduced.

Instead, the focus shifted to cropping and breeding bulls for the company.

Initially they were breeding only 50-60 bulls but ultimately the number of Santa Gertrudis and composites being sent off was around 600.

The cropping program included a lot of dryland but also a fair bit of irrigation.

Maize and sweet corn were grown and they were one of the first into cotton in the Condobolin area.

Eight years passed before the decision was taken to divest Kiargathur and the property was sold to Roger Fletcher.

Around the same time the pastoral manager job came up.

When Paul went to Kiargathur, John Ayers was managing director of Kidman's and Stuart Nunn looked after the pastoral properties.

Stuart had decided to move on and Paul applied for and got the pastoral manager position.

John Ayers was still chairman and Greg Campbell had been CEO for a couple of years when Paul moved to Adelaide.

LOOKING FORWARD: Paul Quigley believes technology, genetics and animal health are where the big gains lie.

LOOKING FORWARD: Paul Quigley believes technology, genetics and animal health are where the big gains lie.

Paul described John Ayers as a quietly spoken person, really smart, easy to talk to, a genuine nice guy.

Similarly he spoke highly of Greg Campbell as a great leader; a person who understood the industry from growing up on a cattle station, had a scientific background and was a good communicator.

With Stuart Nunn still there for a short while, Paul sat back, listened and learned.

The managers, whose experience and capabilities he had the greatest regard for, were all on different levels as to how they managed cattle. In the north, particularly at Ruby Plains and to a lesser extent at Helen Springs, they were segregating.

With so many years of stud cattle experience telling him the importance of measurement in the pursuit of profit, Paul was excited by what he saw. Here was the first indication of how they could really measure their calving and weaning rates.

In the Channels they joined all year round so Paul took the segregation idea up with the managers there.

What he found was that without a defined wet season, the cows only cycle when there is feed and that can come at any time of the year and that is when you have to get calves.

Trying to put a four-month joining period in would mean no calves in some years so the segregation idea instead was limited to the establishment of three-to-four month calving groups.

That way at least it was possible to identify cows that were slipping from group to group and calving at say 15-month intervals instead of every 12 months.

Getting the best production model across the portfolio of properties was also challenging.

Historically the Kimberley and Barkly properties would carry their calves on until they were a saleable product and that meant the steers were getting the pick of the country.

It didn't happen overnight but what they did instead was decide which blocks represented breeding blocks and not run steers on those.

Now the male calves are weaned, branded, earmarked, tagged and trucked down to the Channels. When they get there they are dehorned, castrated and turned out onto grass.

With so many years of stud cattle experience telling him the importance of measurement in the pursuit of profit, Paul was excited by what he saw. Here was the first indication of how they could really measure their calving and weaning rates.

Previously they would have been taken through to bullocks but now they go to feedlots at 400kg. This frees up country and allows more breeders but also gives the heifers the pick of the country and gets them to joining weight sooner.

As Paul said "It is all about fertility and getting live calves on the ground. Can't afford to carry cows that don't do that."

As to breed, Santas are still run all through the Channel Country and SA while Brahmans are decreasing in the north in favour of composites.

Of course, plans can often be interrupted by season and that is very much the situation at present where moving cattle according to feed resources has become a big part of the task.

Good runs in the three river systems from the northern wet allowed transfer of 50,000 head from Helen Springs, Brunchilly and Macumba.

If a season develops, anything preg tested in calf in April will go back up there and anything empty will find a market.

Going forward Paul believes practical improvements such as yards and waters will help day-to-day management but technology, genetics and animal health are where the big gains lie. He looks back ruefully at his boots-and-all approach years ago to introducing the first commercial herd management system to a somewhat sceptical audience of property managers but is convinced it is one of the better things he did.

At 69 he still feels he has something to give and would like to remain active in the industry a bit longer.

But for the moment it is the festive season and making the best of time with family before eldest son Simon returns to his research scientist role with University of Queensland, daughter Jo and son Peter to their respective roles with NLIS and daughter Victoria to her executive office manager role with Dairy Food Safety in Victoria.

Paul and Fran have six grandchildren and Paul is confident he will get a couple of them onto the land.

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