Features, Outback, Truck driver, Truckie Profiles

Water drilling family says big move is ‘not what we expected’

It was a major tree-change of sorts for the Haighs, selling up their Queensland home and moving 3000 kilometres away to a remote 5000-acre farm, about 200 kilometres north of Alice Springs.

Though in reality, husband and wife duo Danyelle and Anthony Haigh and their two boys – nine-year-old Heath and four-year-old Theo – hadn’t spent much time at home in years. Instead, they lived their lives on the road, going anywhere and everywhere for their business Murranji Water Drilling, which they’ve been running since 2014.

The family has still been hard at work water drilling, together with building up their farm and hay business.

They’d be pulling road trains through some of the toughest terrain – Anthony in his Western Star 4964 and Danyelle in her 2015 Mack Superliner, which she’s named ‘Pink Bits’.

They sold their family home and many of their possessions in the hope of providing a more settled life for their kids. All the while launching a new hay business to cater to the local cattle industry.

Theirs is one of only six farms in the Northern Territory to be producing hay, which is the property’s main source of income.

They have a lease to buy agreement on the farm, with the hope of eventually purchasing the property for just under $7 million.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get the farm up and running and launch their new business endeavour, and they’re still on the road water drilling too, although not quite as much as they were.

“At the moment we’re probably on the road a month and then spend a month at home – that’s how we’ve been going since June,” said Danyelle.

“We had slowed down with the drilling, but with everyone realising there’s going to be a drought, we’ve got a lot more work on in that area. We’re trying to stick to the southern end of the Northern Territory and the Barkly. But if one of our long-term clients rings and says we desperately need you, of course we’d do it.” 

Since their move, the Haighs have endured many challenges, from the difficulties of setting up a new business, to having to battle nearby fires to keep their home – and their dream – safe from harm’s way.

The farm currently runs three pivots to grow hay, but the Haighs are planning on adding more.

When Big Rigs spoke with Danyelle earlier this month, the family had only just made a quick dash home while enroute to Mt Isa, due to fires encroaching on their property. Thankfully, they were able to get things under control, though at the time the fires were still burning just 5km away.

“Anthony had worked on stations before when he was younger so they had to back burn and that sort of thing – it wasn’t really familiar to me at all. It’s not something we had really thought of until we were here. 

“The whole move here is not what we expected at all. This has been 10 times harder than we both anticipated or could have predicted with the amount of breakdowns we’ve had.

“Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong. But we’re starting to see an improvement,” reflected Danyelle.

“I miss my family terribly though, that’s been one of the hardest things, because Anthony and I are both very family orientated, so that’s been a struggle for us all including the kids –  they miss their nan and pop and their cousins, but we had some family spend Christmas with us last year which was really good.”

Nine-year-old Heath and four-year-old Theo love splashing in muddy puddles when the family hits water.

As for their kids, they’re in their element on the farm. “For Heath and Theo, they’ve kind of been on the road their entire lives anyway, so they’re getting a bit of that normality now. I’ve really seen them flourish being on a station and having all the animals around. There’s always something to do and build!” Danyelle added. 

The Haigh family became familiar faces in trucking after their regular appearances in hit television series Outback Truckers – and more recently starred in their own reality show called Outback Farm, produced by the same company, Prospero Productions. The six-episode series aired on 7Mate, after premiering in August. Filming for the show started in February 2022 and concluded around March 2023. 

Danyelle admitted, “After watching the show ourselves, it’s shown us just how far we’ve come.”

With Danyelle and Anthony both being truckies themselves, their business model is centred around the fact that they can not only grow the hay, but also transport it themselves, enabling them to be more competitive. 

At the property, they’ve put in a 28-hectare field serviced by massive pivots, which provide irrigation to grow the hay. 

“The hay side is going really well, we can’t actually keep up with the demand.

“We’re in the process of trying to do some more improvements. We’ve actually had a few requests lately from WA to cart our hay over there because they’re in drought there. We have talked about it but want to make sure our existing clients have what they need for the year first.”

Danyelle was excited for the farm to get its very own sign, which was installed recently.

There are currently three pivots on the farm. “But we want to put in more,” said Danyelle. “To maximise our water licence, we’re allowed to have two more, as we’ve been allocated a certain amount of water.”

The hay season typically begins around September/October and runs through until around March, though heat and rain play an important factor. “If we get rain, the hay grows much quicker because of the nutrients. And because one of the pivots wasn’t actually fully running for the whole season last year, we should be able to get a lot more hay this year. But we’re expecting the next wet season to be quite dry,” added Danyelle.

Already, their hay venture has seen them travel many thousands of kilometres, delivering their product throughout the NT. “We’re trying to keep it local and it’s all to cattle farms. We did eight loads each just to one station.”

With the hay component now running along nicely, Danyelle says there’s a few other things on the cards at the property too. The couple has opened a caravan park and accommodation at the farm, and are hoping to further build on the tourism aspect.

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