LOVE OF THE LAND: Geoff and Jacque Blacket of Marlee Downs Station near Mitchell in Queensland, with their two children Savannah and Jayden.
LOVE OF THE LAND: Geoff and Jacque Blacket of Marlee Downs Station near Mitchell in Queensland, with their two children Savannah and Jayden. Contributed

A day in the life with the Blacket family

ANNUAL rainfall at the Blacket's cattle property near Mitchell is around 18 inches.

A small amount they've come nowhere near close to receiving in the past six years.

Geoff and Jacque run two, 16,000 hectare properties in the region - Marlee Downs Station and Tamanick Station.

Geoff grew up on Tamanick Station and in his 20s, purchased Marlee Downs with his parents in 1985, as they needed a drought-proof block.

Tamanick is fattening country with its buffel grasslands and Maranoa river flood country.

While Marlee Downs is hardy, mainly rugged mulga lands.

It's been seven years since the Blacket family, including their two teenage children, Savannah, 15 and Jayden, 14, have been on a holiday.

"We have responsibilities for cattle, dams have been dry, we've had a diesel generator going 24/7," Jacque said.

"Plus, up until the changes with vegetation management we were feeding cattle the mulga.

"We have sometimes had hay delivered, we get it dropped closest to the bitumen at Tamanick, as a top up for the weaners, it costs a fortune."

DRY TIMES: Blacket cattle feeding on mulga lands.
DRY TIMES: Blacket cattle feeding on mulga lands. Contributed

WORLDLY EXPERIENCE

WHILE the family hasn't been able to leave the property for almost a decade, they experience different cultures, right in their own backyard.

Geoff and Jacque regularly host backpackers on their second-year holiday visa.

"We've been hosting them since about 2008," Jacque said.

"We have a maximum of four a year - they always want to stay longer.

"We have a Canadian fellow here at the moment, he's been here since November and wants to stay until June.

"We're a small business so employing two people at a time has Marlee at capacity."

Jacque said her husband Geoff was the "typical Aussie bloke" and the backpackers just loved him.

"He uses a lot of slang," she said.

"I think he teaches them every kind of Aussie slang they could possibly learn.

"They form a great relationship with him working in the paddock." Jacque said the backpackers offered a whole range of skills.

"If we have a project in mind and can't find someone local do to it, I jump on Facebook and have a look at the backpacker's page and see who is posting and what skills they have," she said.

"We hosted someone from the Netherlands who was a diesel fitter and able to fix the D9H dozer for us.

"They seem to thoroughly enjoy the experience."

And according to Jacque, it's also been a great experience for her children too. "It's been good for our children to socialise with people from other countries," she said.

"We've had people from the UK, who play soccer and they've taught my kids how to play.

"The backpackers love their great Aussie experience and we love it too."

 

Geoff and Jacque Blacket of Marlee Downs Station near Mitchell in Queensland.
Geoff and Jacque Blacket of Marlee Downs Station near Mitchell in Queensland. Contributed

THE ALL ROUNDER

JACQUE grew up on a cattle property in New South Wales.

Twenty-two years ago she was nursing in Toowoomba.

It was while attending a nurses' fundraising ball in Charleville she met Geoff.

"It took him forever to call," she joked.

"But he rang out of the blue... We've been married for 18 years."

Jacque home-schooled their children until they reached Year 7 and for the past four years they have employed a home tutor. Savannah and Jayden are schooled through Charleville School of the Air.

For their final years of schooling the kids will attend Scots PGC College in Warwick.

Jacque runs the household, the business and helps her husband in the paddock.

And like most farmers, she works for off-farm income as well, as a nurse, due to the drought. Jacque said her children were her best helpers. "They have no choice," she laughed.

"Geoff is away a considerable amount - mustering the cattle on Tamanick and getting them ready for sale.

"We've just got the minimum number of cattle at the moment." In a good year, Jacque said Tamanick had the capacity to carry 2000 breeders and another 1000 at Marlee. Originally Geoff's parents had herefords, however in recent years, they've moved to herefords crossed with beefmaster. But eventually want a full droughtmaster herd because of their hardiness.

Geoff and Jacque Blacket of Marlee Downs Station near Mitchell in Queensland.
Geoff and Jacque Blacket of Marlee Downs Station near Mitchell in Queensland. Contributed

VEGETATION LAWS

JACQUE said she and her husband Geoff were appalled at the vegetation management saga, saying people had a poor understanding of how to manage mulga lands.

She said they had spent time and money processing previous permits and management plans, only to recently receive a letter saying all previous arrangements were void.

"I've heard it will be around $3000 to get a permit to clear very little areas of 400 ha," she said.

"Waiting two to three weeks for the permit to be granted is too long when cattle are waiting for food.

"You can only have one permit per lease.

"This does not allow for cattle in other areas on your property. In a drought time we don't have $3000 for each permit we require. The mulga lands are our lifeline, we have to push it for it to regenerate, so it can reseed and re-shoot."



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