2017 done and dusted

Host: Farrcombe Contracting
Written by Raine Pugh

Another year for us done and dusted. Much like everyone else’s it involved lots of hard work and good fun. Here is a glimpse of our contract mustering lifestyle last year:

It all started with our yearly recruitment process, locating a combination of enthusiastic men and women ready to join our team. Our working year began at Newcastle Waters Station this year, the day after Potter arrived home with the latest additions to our contracting fleet: A Kenworth, a single deck crate and a buggy. Painted black with purple flames up the sides, the husband did think he was a pretty impressive sight driving along the highway. Unfortunately for him, I got to spend more time driving the Kenworth this year then he did, so much so that I am thinking of naming it ‘Mrs Boss’.

The purpose for these new additions is to have extra horse power to pull the gooseneck and be able to carry extra plant horses from camp to camp. In total we are now able to carry up to 45 horses in one hit. Whatever space we do not fill with horses is filled with buggys, vehicles, freezers etc. Every little spare space counts.

The new Kenworth and trailer set up at camp. The husbands pride and joy.

The season kicked off well and we even spent the Easter long weekend branding weaners at Fergusons Yards. Our first social function for the year was the Daly Waters Campdraft at the beginning of May. Fortunately for me, Potter was busy working and allowed me to draft his horses leading to a couple of finals and a place in the Open! We finished our round off at Newcastle Waters and shifted camp to Dungowan Station on the Buchanan Highway. Here we were fortunate enough to base ourselves at the homestead as we were the permanent caretakers at the time. This provided us the luxury and conveniences of a real house, shed, stables and staff accommodation … allowing us to all become a little spoilt.

Easter weekend with the crew branding weaners.

The next social outing on the agenda was the Katherine ASHS Campdraft, since we are committee members and major sponsors this was a whole crew affair with our staff helping to set up, run the backyards and pack up this event. A big weekend but always a lot of fun. Especially Potter who managed to win the Maiden on his all time favourite horse ‘Ann Henry’. He often threatens that if Annie could cook, there wouldn’t be a need for his wife.

Back to work we went, spent the next few months mustering at Dungowan but also managing to make it the Costello, Kununurra, Pussycat and Timber Creek Campdrafts. As per usual I headed off ahead of the crew to take the Kenworth, gooseneck and horses to the venue and set up a campsite. Upon his later arrival at Kununurra, Potter was feeling unwell with a severely inflamed forearm. It was decided a quick trip to the hospital was needed to get the necessary pain killers so that he could compete with ease over the weekend at the campdraft. However, the nurses quickly wheeled him into emergency and put him immediately on a drip of antibiotics. Turns out he had cellulitis in his arm – a result of it being crushed by a cow and pierced with a vaccination needle within the same week. Of course I was not too disappointed as this meant that again I got to use Potters horses at the campdraft, allowing me again to make a couple of finals. After annoying the nurses so much over the weekend they finally released him in time to make an appearance at the bar on Saturday night.

Potter stuck in Kununurra Hospital during the campdraft weekend.

My good luck and Potters bad luck continued to Pussycat Campdraft, where we were having water issues at the station and once again he had to stay behind. Of course I volunteered to take his runs (of course it would be too late for a refund on his nominations … or so I told him). 8 finals and 3 placings later meant that I had a much more enjoyable weekend than my hubby.

Proud of the horses at Pussycat Campdraft.

All having a drink after another long walk.

Eventually though it is time to get back to work, by now it was September and the days were getting hotter. We finished our mustering off at Dungowan and moved our camp back to Newcastle Waters. Our time at Dungowan though ended with heartbreak. Our horses had picked up a dose of ‘walkabout’. Walkabout is a condition where the liver begins to shut down after eating a poisonous weed. Once the liver becomes damaged, the spinal cord and brain begins to swell causing the horse to lose all coordination. Rapid weight loss, constant pacing and lack of coordination occur. Watching this process is devastating and a young couple working for us lost two of their horses. An absolutely heartbreaking process. We got another 10 of our horses tested with two coming back with positive results, one which died weeks later. Although we had heard lots about this condition and the weed is quite common in the top end, cases are very rare and not much information regarding this was known, something that I have now since been studying quite closely so that we can avoid this in the future.

Potter and I managed to escape down south for a couple of weddings and also pick up ourselves a new car. The year began to wind down and so did our work. By mid December our staff started to pack their belongings and head home seeking some comfort from the cooler southern climates. Potter and I continued to work and do some caretaking over the wet season. Now the process of maintenance and recruitment begin again for another year chasing bovines.

Excited to be picking up the new car.

Loading weaners onto roadtrains at sunrise.