The Bitch - 580 horses to carry a dross of export cattle

I ran into the back of “The Bitch” yesterday morning a few klicks out of Daly Waters heading west along the old beef road – now called the Carpentaria Highway – headed for Borroloola, on the McArthur River in the NT’s Gulf country.

I managed to squeeze past her – and her three sister trucks – over the next hundred or so klicks and pulled up ahead to take some shots as they rolled past in clouds of red dust

She's' Lovin' It (sic)

After taking these shots I caught up with this mob again at the Heartbreak Hotel at Cape Crawford where they all turned right to head another couple of hundred k’s down to Brunette Downs station to pick up their loads of cattle and carry them back north to the export yards a thousand or so klicks away in Darwin.

She's Got It

The Beef Roads program ran across Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and northern South Australia from about 1949 through to the early seventies and included essential arterial roads like the Carpentaria and Tablelands highways in the NT.

And while they have had a fair bit if upgrading over the years they can still be pretty rough going.


As I followed The Bitch down the jump-up just before Cape Crawford the rear trailer – being outbound they were all empty – jumped and bounced across the rough surface like a thing possessed. No way was I going to try to overtake her there.

At Cape Crawford I wandered over to catch up with the four drivers while they grabbed a quick corn-beef sandwich in the shade of The Old Girl.

Modern day beef roadies Ian, Jason, Stephen & Rankin...

Ian, Jason, Stephen & Rankin were all out of Kalala Station outside of Daly Waters on the Stuart Highway.

Stephen told me that their trucks were all Kenworth “650” models and pulled about 580 horsepower. Each of the three trailers ran on twenty huge tyres. Adding the eight drive and two steering tyres they ran to a total of 70 wheels on the road.

The Old Girl at rest. Cape Crawford, November 2011.

Each trailer carries about twelve or thirteen head on each of two bays on two decks for a total of 12 bays and upwards of one hundred and forty-four head of cattle.

In rough terms that means that The Bitch – and her sisters – will each carry cattle worth – at current values of $782 a head for export cattle – $112,600 from Brunette Downs to the yards in Darwin. Each load will weigh around 50.4 tonnes.

Across the four trucks in this convoy the total value of this run will be around $450,000 with a weight of 200 or so tonnes.

The last trailer...
and the dust it raises...