PMT (Pre Mustering Tension)

Host: Hodgson River Station
Written by Jo Bloomfield – Manager, Hodgson River Station.

PMT is a common infliction that affects all people involved with herding animals across Australia. It can occur in sporadic intense inflictions or slow pressure increases affecting both male and female personnel. It is definitely felt more intensely by those who are ‘in charge’ and required to organise, delegate, or simply pay for the requirements of a muster. It affects some people more acutely than others but is directly proportional to long term outlooks and issues in relation to animal health, weather, staff, input costs and marketing issues.

PMT is highly contagious and felt by most, very few are immune to it though there is the occasional ‘special’ person who remains unaffected. These people are viewed with much admiration, suspicion, or outright jealousy by others.

Symptoms are feelings of dread, excitement, or worry mainly in the lead up to the first muster of the year. The patient will be nervous, stressed, likely short tempered, and will attempt to multi-task a multitude of jobs each waking hour to alleviate the condition leading up to the muster. Sleep will be affected, mostly bad. Symptoms only minimally subside while mustering and stock handling occur but may completely disappear as the last healthy animal is released and/or a healthy pay cheque is received for the work involved, preference being for both of those things to make one feel truly cured.

Instant treatment is yet to be found to be effective that doesn’t involve having healthy animals and being paid for those animals. My husband likes to talk with similarly inflicted people on the phone for many hours in which they carry out musters on several properties in all circumstances while rebuilding all sorts of machinery and mentally visualising establishment of new and wonderful improvements. It seems after a number of hours this talk is so exhausting the actual muster must seem like child’s play and easily dealt with, thus the symptoms of PMT are temporarily relieved.

Some who have tried alternative treatments consume copious amounts of alcohol at times throughout the muster, preferably with others who are also likely affected and can offer companionship, sympathy or simply a chat, unfortunately the aftermath has side effects of blurred vision, headaches, and sensitivity to loud noise. Others tend to alleviate the constant pressure of PMT by having temper tantrums on the spot or at anyone within hearing distance, including range of UHF radio channels, unfortunately again the effort to alleviate being of little use except tending to be quite comical to one’s partner.

The cure is to get out there and muster, get the job done, and take each day as it comes, unfortunately relief is only temporary and PMT will rear its ugly presence the next time mustering comes around.

We are in PMT stage; we are getting ready to muster. While we do jobs on the property that are general maintenance in regards to fencing and repairs, getting ready to muster is slightly different in that it often involves the actual equipment to be used to be examined and checked, like trucks, trailers, bikes, yards, or materials to be ordered which will be required through the year when working with the cattle.

For my husband, ‘he who gives orders outside the house-yard’ pre-muster is going over the truck and trailers that we use for our in station cartage of animals or for general freight of goods we require. He will repair any metal fatigue areas or generally service machines like the four-wheeler motor bikes to ensure as trouble free an operation of them as we can.

For me, being the ‘Minister of Finance’ I organise the materials or goods we will require while mustering. This may be obtaining quotes, placing orders, and organising items like ear tags, vaccinations, treatments, and ensuring we have the consumable equipment needed to carry out branding, castration, and de-horning.

With our son, our main (actually only) worker we will all spend time going over the stock yard. If we require major repairs or modifications to any point of the yard we will have undertaken this some time prior to muster. A few days before putting cattle in the yard we will grease any hinges or points of movement, ensure all water points are clean and working, sprinkler system is all working for dust suppression. Clean the areas around the dip and crush, tidy up any fallen tree branches that may affect movement, and just generally make sure everything is in working order and opens, shuts, slides, swings, and latches as it should.

Pre-muster involves making a very basic plan of attack over which much debate occurs as to which paddock will be mustered, in what order, how and where, and most importantly when the activities are likely to occur.

Once this plan has been devised a helicopter is booked and the last minute preparations finalised. This may be making sure all radios are working, safety equipment like helmets is available, and for me cooking biscuits that are anywhere up to 30-40% sugar.

For larger properties organisation of staff prior to muster is a major issue, I tend to only have to concentrate on finding a home tutor for our daughter. If we are able we will employ one to two other people for short periods to assist with mustering.

The PMT for us this year, May 2013 is relatively high, and higher than in other previous musters, except 2011 (Animal live export ban period) due to the fact of the difficulty of market pressures at the moment and the simple unknown of where we are going to sell our cattle to. Our main live animal export market is Indonesia but we also send cattle to other countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Egypt.


This is our small body truck which we use to cart our requirements in to the property and some on station cattle carting. In this case we have round bales of hay, Jarra. We’ll do several loads of this through the muster to use for feeding weaners and other stock while in hand. Most of our supplies are obtained from Katherine, a 600km round trip to home.