Overlanding or droving cattle were the only means of transporting them to market or from property to property prior to motorised rail and road transport. Initially it was a lucrative business when Adelaide was short of meat. References to pastoral ventures in “Pastoral Pioneers”(Various Government Statistical Registrars and Livestock Statistical publications) which did not receive profitable returns showed the riskiness of the business in the early days of the colony. Droving became an integral part of the beef industry, and while today we associate it primarily with the far flung pastoral areas, until motorised transport became the norm, cattle were all walked to markets, abattoirs or between properties.
Information on droving and on the development of stock routes is provided in detail in Leith Yelland’s book “Pads, tracks and waters”.(Statistical Registrar of SA 1884)
The routes followed depended on water availability, be it natural, man made wells or bores or tanks, as were prevalent on the West coast where underground water was unprocurable. The key bores along the northern routes were put down in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.
There are still portions of the original travelling stock routes along which major roads now traverse, particularly in the Orroroo to Wilpena area. In the far north the routes to the northern rail line at Marree still exist but were last used for commercial cattle movement in the early 1970’s. Yelland reports that an estimated number of 32,000 cattle were moved along the travelling stock reserves in 1889.(Statistical Registrar of SA 1884)