Mt Eba Station
With a lifetime's worth of industry knowledge behind them, Peter and Margie Whittlesea purchased Mt Eba Station, in partnership with Paul and Michelle Cousins and Australian Pastoral, in 2015. Pictures supplied
Known locally as 'the gateway' to the heart of South Australia, Mt Eba Station is rich in both history and natural beauty.
The working historical station was given a new lease on life in 2015 when Peter and Margie Whittlesea purchased the property in partnership with Paul and Michelle Cousins and Australian Pastoral.
For Peter and Margie, it was an opportunity to fulfil their shared dream of owning and operating a sheep and cattle station.
The 336,698 hectare (832,000 acres) pastoral and tourism operation is located 120km from Glendambo and 700km from the bright lights of Adelaide and has a stocking capacity of 30,000 grown Merino sheep ,which the station is currently hitting after experiencing three consecutive years of good rainfall.
"The last three seasons have been exceptional for us," Margie said, adding the area usually receives about 150mm per year, however received 317.2mm in 2020, 139.6mm in 2021 and 390.8mm last year.
"This year has started well with 60mm to date."
Margie said the peace, tranquillity and beauty of station life can often come hand in hand with a seemingly never-ending work list.
"To do water runs and see your stock wandering around the bush, peacefully as the sun sets or rises...even watching your stock as you muster them in for a campaign, as they wander in, can be quite moving.
"No words can really describe the feeling, it can be just magical." For those wanting to try their hand at station life, Margie said there are a few things to consider before making the leap.
"It can be hard work and long hours, but ever-so rewarding," she said. "If you are not the plumber, you're the electrician, or the builder, painter, tyre changer, engineer, pilot, shearer, crutcher, cleaner, cook, nurse - I could name another 10 hats, I reckon."
Though life on a station, much like anywhere, can come with its own challenges and inspirations and while her and Peter have enjoyed their time at Mt Eba, Margie said a lack of access to family, friends and social events can take a toll.
"You really need to get away for a break to rejuvenate your mental health and just to check in on the 'real world'."
Working with sheep and cattle throughout their farming careers, Peter and Margie said it was great to see the current Mt Eba Station ownership group working together to utilise their individual strengths.
The group has also invested in numerous technologies to reduce labour costs and work hours including solar panels, trough surveillance cameras and a desalination unit.
"Telemetry has been a big game changer for us," Margie said.
"Being able to check the northern waters which can be up to 65km from the house on cameras has saved us a lot of time and less cost with staff and running of vehicles during water runs."
Peter and Margie also tackled the challenge of learning to fly a gyro-copter in 2018 which they use to check their stock, fencing and troughs.
"This is also a huge time saver and is relatively cheap to run with fuel also. Without the Gyro, we certainly would not have had the opportunity to see the landscape after big rains - to see the whole property green and where the creeks all flow is something special," Margie said.
"We also use the gyro for stock management to see where the stock are grazing and moving around the paddock, again we wouldn't be seeing this if we just were driving around."
In 2017, Mt Eba installed a desalination unit to reduce the salt levels in the water around the homestead complex.
"[This was] a big saver in ensuring that all our facilities are salt-free and stopping any corrosion in water appliances and taps."
Margie said the long term goals of Mt Eba Station commercial Merino herd were being met with the flock infused with Cousins Merino Service genetics.
"Our breeding aims have not changed and, after eight years, we feel that we are well on track to achieve our commercial goals.
"Our aim is to hold 15,000 ewes during a drought, fingers crossed that when the next drought arrives that this is achievable."
The couple are currently working to open up more country in the north and say they are grateful to have a team of "great staff" giving them a helping hand.
The team at Mt Eba Station offer visitors the opportunity to come in and experience a unique way of life with many visitors happy to get in on the action.
"We have met some of the most amazing people to date, everyone has a story and we love to hear theirs as much as they want to hear about ours," Margie said.
"We [also] do a tour around the complex explaining the history of Mt Eba and this normally takes about two hours before they head out for a comfortable 4WD to Paisley Hill and to the centre of SA to visit Wilson."
For more information visit: mtebastation.com.au
*First published June 2023 for Stock Journal - owned by Australian Community Media.