Written by – Kylie Savidge, Owner, Southampton Station.
Acacia aneura or Mulga is part of the wattle family and grows rather well in our country. This tree is a life saver in dry times such as we are having and is known as a living haystack. Cattle do well on mulga as long as you use a mineral supplement to make up for any deficiencies in their diet. We push mulga with our dozers and also cut it with chainsaws, dozers are by far the most efficient means of knocking it over.
We have two Vicars dozers, about ’54 models (these are about the equivalent in size and power) as the D7E and one D7E Caterpillar, a ’68 model. The two Vicars are kept going on a wing and a prayer. Ivan, the D7, is much easier to maintain with most parts readily available.
You have to be careful whilst driving them in the scrub, there are plenty of things to be aware of, sticks that will come through the cab, logs that are too big to crawl over and can wreck tracks and wheels, stumps for the same reason. We had one dozer get stuck on a big yellow jacket log about three weeks ago and it proved a challenge to get off. The ground is so hard and dry it turns immediately into choking, powdery red talc the minute any pressure is put on it. The tractor has a big ripper on the back and so a steel plate was cut so the ripper could be placed on that to lift up the tractor and then blocks cut to put under the tracks to lift the dozer up off the log. This took several hours and it was a big sigh of relief to have that off as we had hungry cattle waiting for scrub and of course you don’t really have the time to spare when these incidents happen.
Most of my weekends are taken up with cutting mulga with my chainsaw (Alice, seeing as I spend so much time with it I thought I should name it) and motorbike and a dog (you never know when you will need a dog) riding around cutting scrub for hungry cattle. Having a dog with you is also vital for the health of your motorbike seeing as cattle are very curious and love chewing on things! Although this weekend I came back to my bike to find said dog sound asleep and weaners licking my bike!
I go out reasonably early each morning and cut out a tank of fuel which takes about an hour. Alice is a Husqvarna 445 and is most economic on fuel, which is really annoying when you are cutting scrub with your hubby or Dad and their saws use two tanks to your one and they are having smoko and you are still going! I then go out in the afternoon and put out another tank of fuel. I am getting quite good at all the maintenance required. I sharpen my own chains and take good care of Alice as I figure that way she will take care of me. I am also getting much better at cutting down trees and reading which way they will fall. Another thing I learnt quite quickly was not to have my shirt tucked in to my jeans as this just fills your jeans with prickly sawdust, always button up your shirt or you will find more sawdust in places you don’t want sawdust, always empty ALL pockets when washing your clothes or you will spread sawdust through every load of clothes you wash for about a week!!!!
I wear impact gloves whilst using the saw as they protect my hands from both saw and trees. Mulga is a very prickly, scratchy bush and is also poisonous if you get splinters or stakes. Scratches get very sore and need to be looked after once you get home.
On the 27th Oct after we had walked our heifers away and had come home I went out to the Top Paddock to put out a tank of fuel. Once I had run out of fuel I headed for home only to have my motorbike break down about 5km from home. With no UHF radio I had no choice but to start walking. I grabbed my water bottle and hoped I would meet someone on the way as I was on the access road that heads to the block behind us and the people who own it are carting water and cutting scrub up there.
Luckily it wasn’t a too hot a day and there wasn’t a bad breeze blowing even if it was about 1pm. I wasn’t really looking forward to this as I had been up since 5am and had spent the morning walking heifers to their new paddock. I was about halfway home when I heard the rumble of a vehicle and saw dust coming my way!! Yay! It was our neighbour going through with his water tanker. He offered to take me home but I reckoned it wasn’t worth him trying to turn about so got him to call Brian on the two way and get him to come and rescue me, which he duly did.
I was rather glad to see him as I was starting to ache fairly badly and was sore from where my horse earlier that day seeing if I was awake, ducked his head for a moment or two when we were chasing cows. I was awake much to his disgust! Once home and having had a bit of lunch it was time to have a shower, pack the esky, kids and dogs up, chuck the horse float on and drop off a borrowed horse and head back to town for the school week.