Getting prepared for the season

Host: Liveringa Station
Written by Karen O’Brien – Manager, Liveringa Station.

The 2014 mustering season for us has just kicked off. The ‘season’ refers to those months of the year when it is cool and dry enough to muster, draft, and truck cattle around and off the station.

Over the wet, jobs which we don’t have time to do during the busy months of the year are now attempted. General maintenance of the property takes place. This wet Brent, one of our long term ringers and our Head Stockman, Chris, spent much of their time monitoring bores between rain events and fixing and re-modelling some yards and fences . . . the benefit of having been here for a while is that these guys have come to know the yards, laneways, and holding paddocks well and have a good idea of what improvements will make life a bit easier this year.

Early in the year, before the majority of the team turn up, preparations are made for the coming season, readying the station infrastructure for the dry season and coming muster. Ringers need to assist the boreman to make repairs to and around bores and water points. Because of the amount of surface water around during the wet, maintenance to bores hasn’t been a priority. It is important to carry out repairs and maintenance before the surface water disappears.

1.1Grant’s bore, a typical set up with windmill, tank, and trough.

Induction of new staff is vital. During March and April, as the ringers turn up, Jed and Chris will try to ensure that new staff understand and are aware of the dangers and hazards of the job. The work out on a cattle station is dangerous; ringers spend their lives working with unpredictable cows and horses, they drive 4WD vehicles on bush roads, and operate heavy machinery. Helicopters also pose a danger and there is a protocol we need to follow when working with them. Jed reminds everyone that our isolation should play a big part in their everyday work related decisions. If a person becomes injured, help is usually a considerable distance off – stock camp is over an hour from the station and the station is another one to two hours from the local hospital.

Before the first round of musters, the ringers will be allocated two or three horses each. They need to spend a bit of time working with these animals, particularly the very young ones, in order to be ready. All ringers are expected to shoe their own horses . . . and in 40 degree heat, for a first timer in particular, this is no mean feat!

1.2Katy shoeing her first horse . . . the look on her face (plus the lack of a shoe) indicates that she has just started!

1.3Glen working a skittish horse.

During this time the ringers will also go around all accessible fence lines, checking for damage from the flooding water or cattle. All ringers know (or learn early on) how to mend a broken fence.

1.4Brent, working on a brand new fence line and gate.

Getting the “gypsy wagon”, our camp kitchen, ready for stock camp also takes place around this time. Over the last few weeks, Chris and his enthusiastic team proudly scrubbed, mended, polished, and painted the vehicle. Sanja, our returned camp cook, found it suitably amusing to discover that they had painted most of the cupboards shut! With the use of a screwdriver, I think she has managed to get them all open once again . . . apparently renovations aren’t a ringer’s forte . . .

1.5This is the camp trailer and kitchen which the ringers set up out at McRea’s yards last week.

Sanja arrived just before Easter and has been busy organising stores for the stockcamp. She will cook in this portable kitchen for the ringers when they go out to muster the more remote (from base) paddocks.

1.6Here Sanja is pictured inside the gypsy wagon – her recently refitted stockcamp kitchen.

This year’s cattle team includes: Seven ringers, a Head Stockman, a boreman, and two staff based at Inkata feedlot for feeding, trucking, and other general station jobs. These are the people who work directly with the cattle on a daily basis. However, there are numerous others who live and work at Liveringa who all contribute considerably to the running of this business. There is an entire cropping/farming team, lead by Barry – Jake, Lisa, Woolly, and Megan. Barry’s wife Bev looks after all the lawn mowing around Inkata.

There is Lauren who manages the majority of the administration for Liveringa and Nerrima Stations. There is a truck driver (Ralph), a grader driver (Ken), a mechanic (Terry), and his apprentice (Matt). There is the lovely Carmel, Terry’s wife, who does all the cleaning, and Sue our awesome cook. We also have Sanja, our camp cook (who goes out and ‘camps’ with the ringers for weeks at a time). We employ Catherine as a Home Tutor to assist with the education of our three boys (who do School of the Air). Mandy and Frosty act as Caretakers at “Old Liveringa”, the original Homestead. We also have a fairly constant stream of visitors including vets, pilots, truck drivers, agents, TAFE instructors, hawkers, course instructors, our boss, researchers, medical students, and so on. My job is primarily to organise accommodation for everyone, to supervise the cooking and cleaning (and admin related to these) and manage the staff Rec Club.

Liveringa has a really interesting mix of people from all walks of life and multiple age groups. We get together for a meal up at the Rec Club on a Friday night which is a lovely opportunity to socialise with neighbours that we may or may not see all week. Every now and then we try to organise a ‘fun’ activity through our Club . . . in the past we’ve held trivia nights, a mini Olympics night, a “Liveringa’s Got Talent” night, and Christmas parties.

1.7A rather quiet Friday night at the Club.

Now the 2014 mustering season is in full swing.

Tomorrow Jed will talk about the first muster and draft of the season . . .