By ERWIN CHLANDA
There’s nothing like the annual Show to bring town and cattle folk together in Alice Springs.
It starts off tomorrow with the cattle sale at the Bohning yards, and the judging of the “unled” classes at the Show Grounds.
If you’re struggling with the term “unled” – that’s the cattle judged in the pens, not being led around by someone holding a rope.
Pastoralists are expected to be bringing in about 80 or 90 head from stations as far as Ammaroo, 320 km to the north-east, vying for the blue ribbons.
Those cattle who are getting led are judged on Friday – the main Show Day, where Alice Springs will be, pretty well holus-bolus, some 20,000 people out of a population of 25,186.
On Saturday morning is the bull sale – 45 beasts from “down south” plus one producer from Queensland. Last year saw “total clearance” with prices reaching $7000, and averaging about $5000.
The Bohning yards are filling today with 3212 cattle, more than a million kilograms, from throughout The Centre, offered jointly by three agents – Landmark, Elders and Territory Rural – to buyers flying in from around the nation.
Landmark’s Steven Gaff says interstate the feeder cattle are bringing around $2.65 a kilogram – take off the freight costs for a guess as to what they are likely to be bringing at tomorrow’s sale.
The lack of rain, hardly any since January, is putting pressure on the producers: Some have already transported stock to the southern states.
The rain has been “patchy” says cattle stewart at the Show Locky Fife: Pockets in the Alice Springs area had “reasonable rains but the majority missed out. The 30mm in early March didn’t do much”.
The need to reduce the free ranging herds in The Centre has made prices softer.
Herbie Neville, from Elders, says prices have come back a lot since last year, but the yarding is of a “very good quality”.
How do they manage to be in good condition?
“Genetics, better bred cattle, selecting cattle that are doing well in The Centre,” says Mr Neville (pictured).
Saturday morning’s bull sale will compete for the crowd’s attention with the junior cattle men and women showing their handling skills in such classes as “hand reared led poddy calf – 12 months or under” or “presenting any of the following led: cow / calf / steer / bull / heifer”.
There will also be the judging of the home made sausages! BBQed, of course.
When it’s all said and done, there’s the cattlemen’ bar (membership available at the gate) where the women and men under big hats are telling their stories – tall or otherwise.