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Todmorden Cattle Company is a family partnership, which is involved in Agri-Business. Our principal activity is breeding, growing and marketing predominately commercial Poll Hereford beef cattle. The partners are Gordon Lillecrapp, Mary Lillecrapp, Douglas Lillecrapp, Mary-Anne McMichael.
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Gordon Lillecrapp

Mary Lillecrapp

Douglas Lillecrapp

Mary-Anne McMichael

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The partnership owns and operates four rural properties, with the principal property being Todmorden Station, a Pastoral Lease, located along the Oodnadatta Track, between Oodnadatta and Marla, which is in the North West of South Australia. The other properties are located in the Mid North region of South Australia are Hillview and Glengarry, which are south of Snowtown, adjacent to Highway One. Walaki is a little further south of Snowtown, to the south of Lochiel.
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Click map to enlarge.

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Click map to enlarge.
Click map to enlarge.
 
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Todmorden Station managed by Douglas Lillecrapp, is a vast holding being 716860 Hectares (7168.6 sq km) in area with an annual average rainfall of 175 millimetres, which is highly variable. It is rangeland country, meaning that the land is too dry and seasons unpredictable for cultivation, but natural vegetation will support successful grazing of beef cattle.

Todmorden supports 5000 to 7000 cattle ,depending on seasonal conditions. We aim to maintain 3500 breeding cows and an annual calf drop of 3000 calves. Todmorden Station has had a consistent record of producing quality Poll Hereford beef cattle since 1962, with the annual turn-off averaging 3000 cattle. Apart from the Poll Herefords there is a small Grey Brahman herd as well.

The herd is described as basically a ‘’self – replacing’’ herd. This means for every animal sold another is born, so the aim is to sell the natural increase, every year.

Annually 1000 background steers are sold to beef producers with improved pastures, normally further south, on agricultural farmed land. These producers normally grow these cattle out to around 300 kilograms liveweight, which is the target entry weight for cattle moving onto a feedlot. Cattle in feedlots are then fed a high protein ration which is usually Feed Barley, for around 100 Days for domestic markets, like the major supermarkets.If the season at Todmorden Station is above average, then 500 heavier steers are often sold as feedlot cattle, meaning that they qualify for direct entry into a feedlot. Some steers may even gain enough weight and condition to go straight to the slaughter works. The balance of cattle sales are “Cast for Age” cows and cull heifers. These normally are consigned to slaughter works but some cows are sold with ‘’ calves at foot’’ to other beef producers.


Todmorden Station does not use Hormonal Growth Promotants (HGP) to promote growth rates with our cattle. However many Australian beef producers do, but we consider that using HGP’s limits market flexibility. European countries have a ban on the importation of beef where cattle have been administered HGP’s.

Cattle raised on Todmorden Station are also completely free of any chemicals, though at this stage we do not hold any organic accrediations. Furthermore, Todmorden Station is not part of a Quality Assurance program like ‘’Cattle Care’’. However since 1 January 2004 our beef producing enterprise has adopted the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and all cattle sold are under the National Vendor Declaration system.

During 1997 Todmorden won the Southern Australian, Commonwealth Bank “Ibis Award”, which is an award to landholders who have demonstrated commitment to sustainable farming practices and meeting landcare objectives. Click here to view news articles.

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Summers are very hot with the average daily maximum temperature during January and February being 36C – 38C. It is quite common to have 10 days over 40C with some days reaching 46C to 47C. Evaporation estimates for January are 500 millimetres, which means any moisture disappears very quickly. Occasional isolated thunderstorms can occur during summer and, if we are lucky a Tropical Low Pressure system may bring several days of extensive rain, usually originating from the Indian Ocean.

Winters are much more temperate with the average temperature with the average daily maximum during June and July being 18C to 20C. Light frosts can occur and rarely it does rain. Rainfall during the cooler months is usually caused by a Frontal system linking with the North West cloud band which can produce moderate falls. Evaporation estimates are much kinder during winter, with the estimated Evaporation rate for July being 140 millimetres.

The Annual Evaporation rate is 3400 millimetres so this means the annual rainfall of 175 millimetres is only “a splash in the pan”.

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Marys Well drought conditions

Marys Well after rain
 
The station has a high level of infrastructure, subdivided into 32 paddocks. There is over 1000 kilometres of fencing on Todmorden Station (boundary and internal). Watering points are extensive with 23 bores, supplemented with 20 pipeline tanks and 60 dams. Pumping systems include Windmills, Solar Pumps and diesel motors driving Mono pumps. Our emphasis is to use natural energy to pump water and will phase in more Solar pumping systems into the future.

Solar Pump System Yardinna Bore
There are 16 major, strategically located cattle yards equipped with 4 way overhead drafting facilities, restraining bails and calf cradles incorporated into the yards. This provides a safe and secure restraint so that all cattle husbandry proceedures can be carried out. Portable weighing scales can be used in most yards. To supplement the major yards there is also numerous holding paddocks and smaller yards, to enhance efficient musters.(Muster means to gather up or round up cattle). With this level of infrastructure very efficient handling can be achieved without adverse effect on the cattle, stock persons and minimal impact on the environment. Cattle are generally moved about the station by road transport which further adds to achieving greater efficiencies and is also kinder on the environment.



Douglas & Michael using the Calf Cradle for branding.

Most of the mustering is done using motorbikes, but coordinated by aircraft to locate the cattle and position the mustering tem. UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radio is used to provide air to ground communications, as well as between the mustering team. There is a UHF repeater, centrally located on the station which extends the range of UHF radio communications.


The Mustering Team
(LR –Jonathan Florendo, Alexis Yu & Phillip Jarloyan 2004)
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Todmorden Station has an extensive network of station roads which link all of the cattle yards and watering points. The road network requires constant maintainance and a Full Time Plant Operator undertakes the required maintainance. Equipment used to carry out this maitainance is a road grader, front end loader and bulldozer.

Infrastructure at the homestead includes the Main House, Staff Kitchen and Quarters, Sheds for motor vehicles, Power Station (as all electricity has to be generated due to remoteness to the electricity grid) and the Aircraft Hanger.


The Grader Man moving camp
(Dennis Walkington - 2004)


The homestead is located close to the centre of the station and has most modern amenities. Recently a Hybrid Solar power generation system was established which provides 24 hour 240 Volt AC electricity. Telephone communications are provided by Telstra via a microwave radio link and broadband internet via a two way satellite system. Television is also received by satellite with the ABC, Imparja and Central Seven being available. ABC regional reception is via Satellite as well and re-transmitted on the FM band.
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Douglas receiving weekly mail from Charter Air


The mail service is weekly from Alice Springs with the service provided by an aerial contractor. The homestead complex is quite large with the owner’s house, staff kitchen, staff quarters, mechanical workshop, garages, hanger, store room, butchering area and gardens. Most food supplies are brought in 1,100 kilometres from Adelaide and stored in a Cold Room and Deep Freezers. It’s important to order in advance and have enough food. Beef is the main meat consumed and is slaughtered on the station.

Staff numbers vary but it is usually between 5 to 8 persons. There are usually 3 to 4 station hands, Cook/Housekeeper and Plant Operator. From time to time it is necessary to engage contractors to clean out dams, build cattle yards or to further assist with cattle mustering.


Flying Doctors Clinic

"The Alberga" arrives at Todmorden
 
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Todmorden has six Land Systems as identified by the Marla /Oodnadatta Soil Conservation Board, as described in its District Plan.


This Land System is located to the northern part of Todmorden Station. It consists of parallel sand dunes running north-east to south-west, with interdune flats up to one kilometre wide. Soil type consists of deep red sands on the dunes to shallower red sands over clayey limestone rubbles on the interdune flats. Vegetation is dominated by dense Mulga woodland with an occasional Sandhill Grevillea and Cookwood. Understory grasses include Wollybutt, Neverfail and Bandicoot Grass. Cattle can survive in this area during prolonged dry periods grazing ‘Top Feed’ like Mulga, but do not gain weight readily.

 

The Alberga Land System includes the Alberga Creek, associated depositional flats which extend further to sand plains. Soil types consist of gravelly sands along the course of the Alberga Creek with sandy silty clay along the depositional flats. The sand plains consist of shallow red sands over calcareous rubbles. River red Gums and Coolibah predominate along the course of the Alberga Creek with Silky Brown Top being the main perennial grass. The depositional flats and sand plains support some Coolibah but Mulga, Ironwood, Dead Finish and Marpoo are the main over story species. Grasses include Kerosene, Mulga, Limestone Bottle Washers and some Mitchell Grass. After flooding this Land system is highly productive cattle country, with high ephemeral vegetation growth as well.

This is the largest Land System found on Todmorden Station. It consists of undulating gibber tablelands with numerous gilgais being intersected by and extensive drainage system being the North and South Neales. Soils are either deep red or brown clays, the landscape is covered with reddish gibber stones. Gilgais vary in size from only a few metres to approximately 10 metres in diameter. Following rain gilgais “pond” water, promote plant growth and are highly productive. The gibber table lands support Oodnadatta Saltbush with Mitchell Grass, Neverfail and Flinders Grass. The creeks support Gidgea as the upper story species with Cotton Bush and an abundance of annual species after flooding. Cattle do well in this area, particularly after rain.

 

This Land System is found on the western side of Todmorden Station and consists of stony tablelands with gilgais. There is also an extensive plateau system as well. Major drainage areas include the Coongra Creek, which contains many waterholes. Soil type is similar to the Oodnadatta Land System, but the stones are larger and more tightly packed. Bladder Saltbush and Mitchell Grass dominate the stony tablelands with River Red Gum, Coolibah, Mulga and Dead Finish along the creeks. This area isn’t as productive as the Oodnadatta Land System, but the series of waterholes along the Coongra Creek allow cattle to spread over a large area.

 

The Breakaway Land System is found on the south western part of Todmorden Station. It consists of silcrete capped hills with a mix of land gibber flats. The slopes are made up of eroding shales which are variously coloured. The area has an extensive drainage system which feeds into the Neales. Upper story vegetation includes Mulga and Northern Myall. Bladder Saltbush and Mitchell Grass dominate lower story vegetation. Small numbers of catlle do well in this area and it has good ‘run off’ capabilities enabling water to flow easily into drainage systems like the Neales.

 

Wooldridge land system contains a combination of calcareous open flats, wide braided watercourses, circular sand dunes and clay pans. Bladder Salt Bush with low blue bush cover the flats with Mulga, Tall Kerosene and Limestone Bottle Washers the main grasses. The watercourses support Coolibah, Gidgea and Mulga. Lower story vegetation inlcude Cottonbush, Queensland Bluebush and a host of annuals after periodic flooding. This area is the most productive area on Todmorden Station for cattle as it responds quickly following rain.

 

The Snowtown properties cover a combined area of 1143 Hectares and are managed by Gordon Lillecrapp. Actual areas of each individual property are, Hillview 428 Hectares, Glengarry 446 Hectares, Walaki 269 Hectares.

We have separate Share farming arrangement for each property with Barley, Wheat and Field Peas being the main crops grown. Cattle graze the stubbles after harvest and Clovers, Oats and Vetch are also grown on a rotational basis in conjunction with the cropping program to provide fodder for cattle coming down from Todmorden and for hay production.

The Snowtown properties enable us a greater degree of market flexibility with various types/classes of cattle drafted to suit specific market requirements. Oaten or a combination of pastures are used to provide hay for Todmorden Station (to be used as part of our weaning program) and for the Snowtown properties. Hay is usually cut and baled during late September or October. The grain crop is a winter crop with harvest being during November or December, depending on seasonal conditions.


Cattle grazing at Snowtown


Gordon Lillecrapp manages these properties with the assistance of an Overseer, who lives with his family at Hillview. Occasionally there is a need to engage a casual Farm Hand, especially during the hay making season.
Rainfall is predominately winter with reasonably reliable rain events between June and October, mostly as a result of frontal systems. Summers are hot but not quite to the extreme as Todmorden. Winters are also temperate with the occasional frost and quite a few rainy days.

The Snowtown properties are an integral part of our beef production operation, strategically located adjacent to Highway One, Mid North graziers, feed lotters, Dublin Livestock exchange, T & R’s processing plant at Murray Bridge and the slaughter works at Snowtown.

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