Not just cats and dogs

Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Barb Camp – Station Hand, Kalyeeda Station.

One of the best things about living on a station is the animals we get to have around the place. We’ve had orphan dingo pups and injured wallabies. Corellas that have fallen out the nest and brolgas that like living in the machinery shed. From the 600-kilo ex-poddy steer that can only walk in circles to a one-winged Galah that makes the dogs run in terror – we’ve had some interesting creatures sharing our home!

3.1 As you can see our dogs are pretty aggressive . . .

When you’re moving more than three thousand breeding cattle 21 kilometres for vaccination and tagging, it’s inevitable there will be some mis-mothering. We do our best to make sure all mums and bubs are reunited at the end of the day, but sometimes we’re not successful. These babies that don’t find mum come home and get bottle reared by us – our poddy calves.

3.2James giving water to a dehydrated calf. This little fella was too small to walk with the mob when we mustered them in. He hitched a ride in the bullcatcher to the yards where we held the mob up together and he managed to find mum.

These calves grow up and progress onto the reticulated green lawns of the homestead before joining the main herd when they get old enough to look after themselves. Of course, sometimes we get poddys for other reasons. For example, Dingo.

Dingo is a 600kg brahman steer with a large set of racks on him. He lives in the homestead paddock with the ‘killer’ cattle – those who are unsuitable to sell live export (usually for reason of some sort of deformity like not having a tail) – which we will eat ourselves. Not Dingo, though. He’s a bit of a mascot. We found him as a tiny baby calf, all big ears and eyes – and covered in blood. Wild dogs had attacked him, chased him away from mum and ripped into his back. We bottle-fed him and treated his wounds as best we could but it was pretty touch and go. Miraculously, he pulled through. The attack left him permanently disabled though. He has some form of damage to the nerves in his back and cannot co-ordinate his back legs to move faster than walk. It can be rather amusing to muster him as his front end might be trying to follow the mob but his bum is heading in the opposite direction.

3.3Our orphan dingo pup found by Peter around a bore. As a wild dog she was never suitable as a station pet. She lived with us under the guidance of our faithful blue heeler until she got too old, then she was re-homed at a wildlife retreat.

Also in that paddock we have Will and Grace the donkeys that think they might be cows. They were both orphaned as foals. Grace was picked up as a baby thing by one of the chopper pilots and given to a ten year old Wave to look after. She grew up with the poddy calves and thinks that’s what she is. Will was mustered in the following year with a mob of cattle. We had seen him out and about when checking the bores around the property and knew he had lost his mum too but had taken protection from the savage wild dogs by living with the cows. Now Will and Grace are older we us them for the same role as those Brahman mothers – as our poddy calves got older we sent them out to the paddock with their donkey minders to protect them against feral dogs.

3.4Baby Grace was exceptionally cute! Now she’s older she looks after the young orphan cattle from dog attacks for us.

One of the greatest characters we’ve had living with us is Fred. Fred is a Galah found by a family friend on the side of the road in a sorry condition with a broken wing. After a trip to the vets and the amputation of his left wing he was alive but incapable of going back to the wild. Instead he became the station guard bird. Fred ruled the roost. He would wander around the floor of the shed of an afternoon and cause chaos – he would hone in on people he didn’t like and bite their socked toes as they came back from lunch to put their boots on. If one of the dogs was caught napping unawares he would give them a merry nip on the tail to send them off howling. Unfortunately, Fred met an untimely end on one of his afternoon strolls where he wandered under the wheel of a trailer. We will always miss his evening chant of ‘Fred wants a beer!” as we get back in from work.

3.5Fred was certainly one hell of a personality! Swearing, singing, biting the dogs, and getting rowdy on rum – this little bird was more feral than most of the blokes that have worked at Kalyeeda!