June 11, 2008

Drought Shuts World’s Biggest Ranch

The largest cattle ranch in Australia and the world has been closed down because of the major drought gripping the country.

Anna Creek Station, encompassing 9,267 square miles, has had 16,000 cattle in the past. The herd had been reduced to 2,000, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The ranch is owned by S Kidman & Co., founded in 1899 by cattle baron Sir Sidney Kidman. About half the cattle have been sold for slaughter and the rest moved to other Kidman ranches.

Greg Campbell, the company's managing director, said this is the third time Anna Creek has been put in mothballs because of drought. The current drought in Australia is the worst in at least a century.

The drought is very severe, Campbell said. Before the weekend, when there were a few millimeters of rain, Anna Creek hadn't had rain since December.

Terry Ormond, the ranch's human resources manager, said that dramatic climate swings are normal at Anna Creek, in one of the driest places in the world. He said he has seen people knee-deep in clover on the ranch.

It's the type of country that responds dramatically to rainfall, he said. "You

only need a few inches, and you're laughing. It can get rain from the winter cold fronts coming up from the south, or from the tropical storms way up north. But it can miss out on both."