WITH drought conditions worsening in the north and west of the state, demand at Glengowrie Feedlot, Victoria Hill, has hit an all-time high.
Owned by Benn and Robyn Brown, of Bogunda Station at Prairie, near Hughenden, the feedlot was constructed during 2009, with the first cattle coming into the feedlot in November that year.
The original intent was to finish cattle from the Brown family's properties up north, however they also custom feed cattle for clients at Julia Creek, Winton, Cunnamulla, Roma, Hughenden and Rockhampton.
With the 2280 SCU (standard cattle unit) feedlot at capacity for the past 12 months, managers Mike and Jacinta Bashford have more clients than they have room for.
Mr Bashford said the feedlot finished approximately 2500 head per year for the Brown family.
"Most of the time we have 100 day Jap cattle, but for the last six months, since the dry has taken its toll, we've had a lot of cows, who are only on grain for 40-50 days," he said.
"They are all western and north western cattle, and we have a lot of repeat clients, including Shane Mills, of Mills Cattle Company. He is a big operator, based at Injune, with about seven blocks of country.
"We trucked 15 decks of bullocks out last Sunday for Mills Cattle Co, to Teys Brothers, and they averaged 630kg, gaining 2.5kg/day over 100 days," he said.
"A further nine decks of cows went to Dinmore, and they averaged 531kg, after coming in in pretty poor condition from Chiltern Downs at Winton.
"Demand has really grown in the last eight months, and we have had to turn away some smaller operators wanting to feed about 50 head."
Mr Bashford said the condition of cattle coming into the feedlot was deteriorating.
"In the west, they've just about run out of cattle which
are up to trucking," he said.
"We had some cows come in from Julia Creek back in July and they were very weak. They averaged a weight gain of 3kg/day in the feedlot."
As well as custom feeding, the Bashfords also opportunity feed a few cattle themselves.
"We probably feed about 200 of our own each year, but if I can't get my $80 per head I don't worry about it," he said.
"The margins are getting less and less, and it is all dominated by the weather. In a wet season feedlots are not popular, but I don't like seeing people in trouble with the current drought conditions.
"It is getting pretty tough for cattle producers in the west."
Mr Bashford said he mixed his own feed for the feedlot, consisting of a wheat/barley ration, under the guidance of nutritionist Phil Dew, of Integrated Animal Production (IAP).
"We endeavour to source grain for the feedlot locally as much as possible, as well as growing our own silage and hay," he said.
Farming 324 hectares in total, this season the Bashfords planted 200ha of oats and 121ha of barley for silage.
The current dry conditions are a far cry from the floods of recent years, when 162ha of the Glengowrie property went under water in January, 2011.
"We lost all of our lucerne, corn and wheat, plus three bores in that flood," Mr Bashford said.
However, life goes on, and last week when the Bush Telegraph caught up with the Bashfords, along with their two staff, Tony Armstrong and Mick Aspinall, they were processing 250 steers and heifers just trucked in from the bosses' property at Prairie.
"We have another 400 head due in tomorrow from Rockhampton. They are trade cattle who have been forward contracted to Teys Brothers," Mr Bashford said.
"It never stops - there is always something to do," Mrs Bashford, who is also responsible for the book work, said.
However, the family had extensive feedlot experience before coming to Glengowrie.
Prior to managing the Darling Downs feedlot, the Bashfords managed a 3000 cow breeder block at Mt Driven, St George, for the Sullivan family.
"It was 28,340ha, and we managed it for seven years," Mr Bashford said.
"We also ran a feedlot induction business prior to that from 1995 to 2002, and our clients included the 50,000 head Myola feedlot at North Star, and Courallie Feedlot at Moree," he said.
That's when their two sons, Will and Jack, were born, and Mrs Bashford recalls processing cattle while her babies were in prams.
"A few wild ones jumped over the prams," she said.
While they are not feeding cattle, the family's other interest is breeding Quarter Horses for the sport of cutting.
Their top stallion, Chulas CD Hickory, imported from the United States, recently won the maiden draft at Allora, with staff member, Mick Aspinall, in the saddle.
In June, this year, they purchased another top cutting horse, four-year-old Tanami Katt, who was a National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) finalist in Tamworth this year.
Mr Bashford has had cutting horses since he was a young bloke, having won his fair share of buckles over the years, and has big plans for his newest purchase, with his mate Terry Clifford, of Rio Vista in Texas, coming over to compete on Tanami Katt next year.
The Bashfords also enter cattle in various prime cattle shows in the local district, and had their most successful year of showing in 2011, when the Glengowrie Feedlot exhibited the champion prime beast at the Allora, Clifton and Warwick Shows.
"The boss was pretty happy about that, and they are great people to work for, as they pretty much let us run the business as if it were our own," Mr Bashford said.