Host: White Kangaroo Station
Multi tasking… they say women are better than men. Mothers tend to have a supernatural skill to attend to several tasks as if they were working from a body with more than two sides of a brain and certainly more than two hands.
Dinner, bath and bedtime… A hectic span of an hour or so in any household with small children. Working in rural industry also means that this is peak business time. Those who have been outside using the daylight hours for physical labour have now come inside and settled in to the office do business. And those who tend to pick up the phone in the “witching hour” “terror time” “momentary madness” are men. Men, who either have children so far flown from the nest that they can’t recall this reality, or those who are escaping that exact reality in their own house by burying into the quiet reprieve of the office. “Have I caught you at a bad time?” “Oh no, of course not”, I reply as I wrangle a child back into his chair to eat his spaghetti, intervening before that spaghetti can be propelled at the walls, or throw an object that the mongrel moggie who has found the pot of spaghetti on the stove and will soon make his meal of it. “I’m calling about some red polled Brahman semen…”
A considerable part of our cattle business is the Brahman Stud, which my grandfather founded almost 50 years ago. Our breeding program focuses on heritable traits which are profitable and desirable for northern Australia cattle herds (fertility, growth, polledness – meaning lack of horns, temperament, meat quality etc), made all the more relevant as our breeding herd is located in the north, where the animals must face the same environmental challenges and constraints as the herds within which the genetics are extending to. For many years we have been selling semen in elite sires domestically as well as overseas. We are seeing a trend towards greater use of semen in artificial insemination (AI) in northern herds in recent years, where more value is being placed on genetic improvement. The use of semen allows for careful matching of a sire’s traits to the individual herd and right down to an individual cow level. I very much enjoy the interaction with clients that often comes along with this. Our industry is a very passionate one and the sharing of knowledge and experience in cattle production and breeding is rewarding.
Multitasking. Semen sales and client relations. Where am I going with this? Enter a 2-year old… The time? Witching hour, of course.
Why I answer the phone, I don’t know. I should let the cool, calm Sarah on the voicemail recording take the call… but I settle in to talk details of sires with a client looking to do quite a large scale AI program. The small child of the household seems happy enough to play contently with his armful of tractors until I am free for bathtime. Some clients know exactly what they are after when they pick up the phone. Others are looking for our experience and knowledge of individual bulls to guide their choice, going into great depth as to their type of cow (body size, breed content etc), problems they would like to correct, the direction they would like to take their herd etc. I do enjoy this way of doing business, as we explore different options, build an understanding and often learn from each others experiences with cattle breeding.
My concentration is broken by the high pitch “Yip yip, yippety yip” of that 2-year old boy in the next room. Then a chant of “Mum, Mum, Mum”…. I ignore it for a moment while still talking. “We have found that Red Dollar’s daughters have great longevity in the herd and good udders”… Looking over my shoulder to the little hands being shown to me by a very proud child. What is that? Is that what I think it is? Oh my, that is what I think it is (no pants in sight). It is up to his wrists. Breathe Sarah. “Jacob Rio is a bigger framed bull, more suited to a moderate size cow”. What the hell has gone on? Child skips away in delight, with each skip leaving a footprint of mess on the kitchen floor. Thankfully I have a cordless phone and quietly follow the child, not making eye contact. I pounce and we head to the bathroom. Soap, water, phone still to my ear. “Have you seen the young polled sires down towards the bottom of the webpage? Rio Grand is a son of Jacob Rio and is from an exceptionally fertile cow line”. Soap, water, towel and the child is clean.
It was no mean feat to get the task done quietly. Not cute, not adorable, not tonight. “Are you familiar with the poll gene test, as we have 3 young sires which are homozygous for the poll gene” I follow the messy footprints around the house with a handful of wet wipes. The discussion on the phone shifts to the latest stud sale auction results. I pounce on another sticky mess on the floor, almost in triumph. Wipe, wipe. Oh dear, it is on the couch. Wipe, wipe. How it get there? Wipe, wipe. Only once did I casually say “Sorry about the background noise, I have a chattering toddler”. We wrap up the conversation with the client planning to email through photos of his cows for me to look over and advise further the package of bulls that would be suited to his herd.
There is nothing quite like having a client on the phone to force a sense of calm on a mother who might have otherwise either blown her top or burst into tears. Both mother and child survived the memorable episode and I built a good relationship with a new client which led to a considerable sale. Although I did have to call him back the next day after I had given him the wrong email address. Where was my head at?
My little helper must have his own gloves and pliers. Jobs do take twice as long, but it really is a joy to sit back and watch him have a go.