He certainly hopes so. Like all cattlemen, his livelihood is in the lap of the gods – almost literally. “The word is that we’ll get an early wet season this year and then 10 years of good wets.”
The last two seasons have been the toughest the Dyers have recorded since they took on the lease at Hayfield- Shenandoah stations 45 years ago.
“We have been fortunate that we have been able to capitalise on the strong export market in the last five or so years,” Juddy says.
The family company APN has been able to fund a massive expansion of water and fencing infrastructure. And last year they were able to spell every bit of black soil over the wet, which enabled them to get through the drought fairly well.
Juddy and his wife Sally run Hayfield, 3500 square kilometre station 600 kilometres south of Darwin, and two other adjacent properties. They have their three children Orry, 5, Emma, 3 and nine-month-old Louis.
It’s still a family show – Juddy’s parents, John and Val Dyer, who bought the properties in 1974, recently moved back to Hayfield after a stint in town. Their eldest, Nick, and his wife Kathy own Heli-muster NT, which has bases at Victoria River and Katherine, and operate a fleet of choppers and fixed-wing aircraft.
The youngest, Lisa, and her partner Brad, manage the southern half of Hayfield, known as Sturt Plains, an extra 1000 square kilometres of country that borders Newcastle Waters.
They operate a spelling and dipping facility for cattle clearing the tick line to go south and a high-grade Brahman commercial and stud herd. Hayfield is well known for its quality Brahman cattle, sought after for both productive breeder and live export performance.
The genetics from the sought-after Hayfield Heifers originate from Apis Creek and Lancefield studs, which first imported Brahmans into Australia from the United States. Joining the bulls over the VRD Shorthorn was the start, but real gains were made when the Dyers had to destock 2000 breeders during BTEC.
With the compensation money from the forced destock they were lucky enough to find an exceptional herd of 1600 droughted heifers at Helensly in Queensland. Val did the deal 1993 as John had been severely injured in a terrifying helicopter accident.
“Good cattle are easy to sell,” Juddy says. “When the market is tough you can still find a home for them.” Juddy was born in Katherine and apart from a year at agricultural college, a few years at boarding school and three months backpacking in Europe, he has always lived and worked on Hayfield.
“I don’t know anything else,” he says. “It’s a good Life.” Hayfield’s cattle are freighted to Darwin and then shipped to Asia as part of the lucrative live export trade.
“Live export is the best cattle business in Australia. Demand is increasing but supply is stagnating.” Juddy began his education with Katherine School of the Air when there were no computers – just radio contact.
The family also had a governess, even though Val Dyer is a highly qualified teacher. “Mum wouldn’t teach us. She didn’t think that would work out well. “I would be given a two-week workset by School of the Air, knock it out in a week and then go to live at the stock camp.”
Juddy spent most of his high school years as a boarder at St Peter’s College, one of South Australia’s leading schools.
“They found me a bit loud, a bit rough, a bit feral,” he says. “But most of the boarders were farm boys.” He later spent an unhappy six months at Kormilda College in Darwin. “I couldn’t understand the racial tension there. I’d never experienced that. I was brought up with Aboriginal people.
All the stockmen were Aboriginal. “Those stockmen were our heroes. The best ringers always had the best horses – they rode in the rodeo, they had girlfriends.”
Sally grew up on Kurundi cattle station near Tennant Creek and studied through Alice Springs School of the Air until going to St Philip’s College in Alice Springs in Year 8. She used to catch the Greyhound bus to Alice. “It was a shock going to boarding school. I found my groove and enjoyed it from Year 10, but the first couple of years were hard.
“An old friend was there and we shared a room. We soon got fed up with each other and became enemies. We’re now good friends again and laugh about it.” Sally returned home for two years after school and then joined agribusiness company Landmark, first in Alice and then Darwin.
She met Juddy at the Victoria Hotel in Darwin. “I had never seen him before but, funny enough, had heard his voice many times over the radio.” Sally says life in the Outback is “what you make of it”. “Someone falling ill, being bitten by a snake or coming off a horse is always in the back of your mind. We rely on CareFlight – and they’re amazing.
“And bringing up three kids out here has its challenges, especially with education and health care. Their nearest playmates are 30 kilometres away.” TQ