In 1847 James Coutts took out an annual licence to run sheep. At 10/- per annum rent and comprising 104 square miles, his run roughly corresponded to the she-oak and ti-tree country of what was to become Para Wurlie. The section became known as “Coutts Run” and was the beginning of recorded settlement in the area. Leases followed at Cape Spencer, Corny Point and White Hut. The carrying capacity of 42 square miles was given as 4,000 sheep in summer, but it was said to be necessary to move the sheep in winter, as they were susceptible to ‘coast disease’.
The Gilbert brothers of Pewsey Vale in the Barossa hills took over Coutt’s Run in 1857. The head station was at Tuckokcowie southeast of Warooka, with out-stations including Orrie Cowie, the latter of which Joseph Gilbert acquired freehold in 1870.
The early sheep men on Yorke Peninsula soon discovered that sheep did not do well in some areas. It seemed the only remedy for the wasting ‘coast disease’ condition was a change of pasture, and so for years much of the mallee country of the foot of Yorke Peninsula was not used to its full extent.
The break-through in treatment of coast disease did not come until the early 1920s, when it was realised that a shortage of trace elements was the problem. Eventually it was discovered that two missing elements on Southern Yorke Peninsula were copper and cobalt. Copper could be supplied by adding it to superphosphate. Cobalt was another matter.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s it was found by C.S.I.R.O. that a cobalt “bullet” could be inserted into the sheep’s stomach, and would be retained by the sheep. This was done with the aid of a specially designed “bulleting gun”. However even this did not work as well initially, discovering that gastric juices in the stomach prevented the cobalt from being absorbed. There was a simple answer – just add a grinder (an ordinary grub-screw) – and the sheep could carry its own inbuilt supply of cobalt for life.
Two well-known Merino Sheep Studs in operation today are Orrie Cowie and North Cowie, both situated west of Warooka on the old Corny Point road.
Orrie Cowie Station divided in 1922 and it was at this time TA Murdoch bought the homestead block. Among the breeds of rams that were available at the time of the sale were Lincoln, Stropshire, Southdown, Leicester and Merino.
The Orrie Cowie bloodline had its beginnings in 1937 when TA Murdoch started his flock. Son Vic Murdoch continued, registering his merino stud in 1965 and poll merino in 1968.
North Cowie began in 1978 as a result of the amicable dividing of the Murdoch family. Vic Murdoch retained the ‘Orrie Cowie’ name while KG Murdoch & Sons formed ‘North Cowie’, initially continuing to breed rams for the parent stud, and then in 1987 commenced selling their own rams.
North Cowie continues to run its studs on the farm where the original Orrie Cowie homestead remains.
Both Orrie Cowie and North Cowie currently still remain in their respective Murdoch families.