A little about our place, Kilcowera Station, a working cattle place and also Farm Stay
by Toni Sherwin
Jillaroos on Kilcowera Station
Life on Kilcowera Station, SW Queensland
We have owned and cared for Kilcowera (49,210 ha) since 1980. In that time we have raised our 2 girls, teaching them primary school at home with the aid of Distance Education and School of the air, they went to boarding schools in Toowoomba at the age of 13 for further education.
Through the 80's and 90's we ran both Hereford cattle and Merino sheep on the 2 places (we also own Zenonie next door, 32,634 ha). After 5 years of drought in the early 90's we joined OBE (Organic Beef Exports) and commenced the certification process with NASAA (National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia) for organic accreditation. We were certified organic right up to 2004.
Unfortunately we found ourselves in the next drought and even though we sold all our sheep and two thirds of our cattle we had to supplement the remaining cows with a product that was not acceptable to NASAA. So we had to relinquish our organic status, however we still run the 2 properties in the same sustainable way and do not use any chemicals, HGP's or antibiotics on our pasture fed cattle.
Kilcowera abuts onto Currawinya NP on our eastern side. Currawinya was gazetted as a park in 1991. Our eastern boundary was and still is on the eastern side of Lake Wyara, part of the NP. When National Parks took Currawinya over they knocked part of our boundary fence down and graded a road to Lake Wyara.
Since then whenever the water levels are very low in Wyara we have not been able to utilize that paddock which joins Currawinya for grazing our stock as they could wander onto the park and not be seen again by us. We are talking about a paddock of 29,476 ha nearly three fifths of Kilcowera.
Greg has been negotiating with NP's managers for the last 3 or 4 years to try to come to an agreement to erect a new fence on the western side of the lake. We have given NP's in excess of 3000 ha of land and an agreement has now been reached for the erection of a new fence – even though it is still not up.
We started our foray into tourism in 2001 with the encouragement of the local Tourism officer who felt we had a special place that people would want to visit. We thought so too, even though the thought of dealing with a multitude of strangers was a little daunting.
That first year we hosted the Cobar Rotary Club on their annual rally. There were 40 odd vehicles, 85 people, beds made up (and showers!) in the shearing shed as well as the quarters, blankets, mattresses, chairs, tables and portaloos, borrowed from neighbors and also hired from various places for the event. My Mum, one daughter and a sister-in-law drove down from Mt. Isa to help us cook for the multitude and keep them all happy.
We all had a great time, they stayed for 2 nights and when they left the following morning, the organizers said they would be back and so they have been in 2007! It was a pretty full on intro into the hospitality industry.
Our little tourism business is steadily growing; we feel we must be doing something right as we have repeat visitors who appreciate the improvements we are constantly implementing around the place. We do not aspire to be too commercial or expensive but want to retain the outback feel and continue to offer guests our time, hospitality and knowledge of our place and the local area.
Editor's note: Also see Toni's 2010 update in the comments.
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