Home Sweet Home

Host: Mystery Park

Written by – Tess Camm, Owner, Mystery Park.

As we turn off the highway onto the gravel road, the dust flies thick and fast behind us. In my left window I notice a handful of dry cows walking along a cattle pad towards water, dust also settling in their trail. I have been away from home for ten weeks and there is a stark difference in the season since July.

I have been away at Uni in Brisbane and have just returned home for the week for my mid-semester break. Due to the increasingly dry season and time of year, there is a lot of work ahead for the week, and beyond.

As grass becomes a limited resource, the first job is to re-weigh the weaners. Being younger stock, we prefer to keep them closer to the house in smaller paddocks and where it’s more convenient to feed them supplements. As the weaners approach 180kg liveweight, we draft them off and take them to a paddock further from the house, as they are bigger and stronger and require less care.

1_1Leading the weaners home.

Luckily my Uni holidays coincide with the school holidays, meaning my five little siblings are able to join in the fun too! So Andrew, ten and Lachlan, seven, and Hamish, five and Adelaide, four saddle up alongside me and we set out to muster the first mob home for weighing.

1_2Hamish McArthur is all smiles after a big ride!

As we ride, the kids fill me with entertaining stories about what I’ve missed out on since I was last home, and impress me with there progressing horse-riding skills. The cattle are comfortable being mustered as they are regularly shifted through our rotational grazing plan, so before we know it we are closing the yard gates behind them. Now it’s time to get down to the real work.

After weighing about 30 head, we get a feel for what the cattle weigh, and are able to separate, or draft them by ‘eye’, rather than weighing each individual – a much quicker process!

Mum, Andrew and Lachlan worked away at drafting the cattle, while Hamish, Adelaide and I continue to weigh the cattle that the drafting team thought were around the cut-off weight, just to be sure. Hamish chased the weaners up the race (narrow alley that leads to the weigh box) and Adelaide scanned their NLIS tag (each animal has an individual ID tag with a readable chip) with a reader. All that was left for me to do was check the animal’s weight on the monitor and let them into their respective yard. Many hands make light work!

While drafting the weaners, we noticed the cattle were carrying a few ticks. With the uncertainty in the season, we decided not to take any risks with parasites, and dipped them. We use a plunge dip, which is a more cost effective way of clearing animals of pesky parasites. The cattle simply follow a race (narrow alley) along until it comes to the dip (deep pool), where cattle submerge themselves before swimming several metres to the other side and walking out a ramp into a draining pen. This allows the pesticide to coat the animal and effectively remove all ticks.

1_3The weaners are all back on grass as the sun sets on the day.

After a late lunch, we split into two teams to walk the ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ weaners away to their new respective homes, or paddocks. That’s it for today folks, we’ll see what tomorrow brings . . .