Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Alex Wilkinson
Since I arrived a little over a month ago, we’ve been very busy having completed the first round of mustering, vaccinating, de-horning & said Bon Voyage to around 1500 sale cattle, who caused quite a stir with the price they commanded through the first of the station’s AuctionsPlus sales – a testament to the meticulous management of the cattle at Kalyeeda.
The team currently consists of Peter and Cheryl Camp with Justin Cooney – all of whom run the show and generally keep things in order.
Then we have Zoe – the cook Chef – a backpacker who was largely vegetarian before joining the station and has kept us all fed with hearty and nutritious meals as well as lots of cake which has proven to be an essential staple food to keep everyone going!!
The stock crew – what legends!
The stock crew consists of Peter and Justin – head honchos! As well as Benji, Ffion, Hugo, myself, Henry, Mariah and the newest addition Holly! We hail from all over the place including Wales, Zimbabwe, Germany, NSW and WA and make up a fair old motley crew of backpackers and students all with different levels of riding and stock handling experience. We’ve learned to be efficient, productive and safe (for the most part) in our work under the expert and hawk eyed supervision of Peter and Justin – they don’t miss a trick!
Peter and Justin keeping a sharp eye on their young crew
Having worked with cattle back home in the UK, it’s been a dream of mine for quite some time to experience life as a stockman in the north Australian cattle industry, and particularly to be able to muster on horseback as, to my knowledge there is no equivalent in Britain.
My dream became a reality soon after joining the team, taking part in my first muster along with fellow first timer Henry. I must admit I was a little nervous having not ridden regularly for a couple of years. My anxieties must have shown as before we left Justin took one last chance to check that I hadn’t totally lied about my previous riding experience. I was then determined not to show myself up.
Before I knew it we were loading the horses in to the truck and making our way to ‘Duck Hole’ – the paddock over which the choppers had been frantically whirring about, hunting cattle from the thick scrub and wattle into lighter country still dense with spinifex, tall grasses and colossal ant hills.
As we mounted the horses the dawn sun provided a warming glow, though still not penetrating the cool breeze blowing from the rangelands to the east. There was a high red sandstone façade on the horizon – an idyllic setting for my dreams to come true.
After a short wait we received the call to move in and round up the steady stream of heifers appearing from the dense vegetation to the east. It was all going well and we were making good progress. I thought me and Flash – my recently appointed steed were getting on well and bonding, until seemingly out of nowhere he spooked, bolted and let out a couple of violent bucks!
For a moment I thought;
‘I’ve got this’ – ‘Maybe the saddle bronc wouldn’t be so hard after all!’
I spoke too soon.
I lost my stirrups and before I knew it I was coming crashing down to the ground landing flat on my back with a loud crunch. Fortunately my backpack softened the fall. No major damage done except for my pride! A tense moment followed as I climbed to my feet to see Flash and the mob disappearing into a cloud of thick dust and then an instant of panic ensued over the radio as the word got round of the fall.
I soon caught up with Flash, remounted and with a quick word from Justin;
“Ride your horse, will you!!”
We were on our way again! Only a couple of kilometres remained before the yards. Enough time to regain composure and bring the mob in calmly. Thankfully there’s been no more dramas on the following musters and generally things been going smoothly!
For the past week or so the work horses have been back out in the paddock as we’ve been undertaking some improvements in the yards. In particular the weaner handling facilities have been improved. We’ve been busy digging holes and trenches to extend the race. The cement mixer and welding equipment have had a healthy work-out and we’re almost ready to start the next round of mustering – the breeder cattle.
Sadly, within the next two weeks four members of the current team will be leaving us for Uni and other commitments, then Justin will be resuming his role as horse-breaker. This means Hugo, myself and Holly will be taking on even more responsibility in the yards as things start heating up again.
Hopefully we can take the heat & the extra workload in our strides. Either way I think I can speak for all of us in that we have really enjoyed our time here, are looking forward to the next challenge and the rest of the season at Kalyeeda!