Host: Mudgeacca Station
Written by Claire Britton, Station Manager
When I moved back to work for the folks at the end of 2013 I found myself as a proud owner of my first poddy calf pretty quick. I figured it wouldn’t be the last poddy I got, so I decided to name them in alphabetical order as they came along. It has been a blessing really as I can remember all their names! Some did not survive after their naming, but since coming into my 5th year home I am up to the letter ‘Y’, with the latest in the house yard called Yarlow, named by my partner Ryan.
This is Larry, dubbed ‘Happy as Larry’ as his tail used to get a work out at milk time signalling her was very happy.
My very first poddy was called Andy, and I sold him and the next one, Buzz, last year as heavy weighted bullocks. I know it might be a shock to some that I actually sold my poddies off to the abattoir, that doesn’t mean I don’t love them and didn’t shed a tear when they left on the cattle truck. I cannot justify them living their lives out in the paddock becoming a shelled out bullock that will eventually lose all it’s teeth and not be able to survive, if a drought hasn’t taken them beforehand. At least selling them they are continuing the cycle of life, providing protein on someone’s plate. That is what gives me peace, they haven’t gone to waste. I spent about $200 on medical products on Buzz as he was blind when I brought him in. If anybody knows how much calf milk powder is, it’s not a cheap exercise to raise them.
This is Buzz, who I found blind, he had a very good mother but was unable to drink due to his sight so I brought him in to be raised and treated, in which he had a full recovery of sight.
Calves become poddies for a few reasons, mainly if their mothers have bottled teats and then the calf can’t suckle properly to get the milk to survive. Other reasons are that their mother’s have died for some reason; weed poisoning, drought, giving birth, prolapse from birthing, lameness or they simply just don’t claim the calf after birth (bad mother). I do water runs often so you drive around checking that the cattle have water and get to know the cattle quite well. It pays to take notice of the cattle when driving around, see what condition the calves are in, if there is a cow bagged up with no calf might mean the calf has died or can’t get a drink from the teats and could be somewhere else. A weak calf that hasn’t had a drink stands out, so they could be a potential poddy to bring in. It all adds up. Although my Dad jokes a calf only has to ‘bellow’ twice for his Mum and I claim it as a poddy!
Iggy, Hugo and Jacey sunbaking together. I have only had three calves at once a couple of times and their bonds become very strong, surviving together.
I pay for the calf milk powder, feeders and medicines myself and the poddies I bring in are then my own as I have my own brand. Raising them is not for the faint hearted, the mortality rate is high, there is feeds around the clock when they are first brought in and severely dehydrated. I have learnt that a calf also needs the will to live, you can do everything under the sun to get a calf to survive but if it’s given up on life then it’s death will be inevitable. Every calf I’ve had is different, so I can’t read from a text book about what will be wrong with them, but I have that experience from others to look for symptoms and signs of either getting worse or better. I have a great relationship with a Veterinary clinic and they are happy to post out products I may need to help me raise them. They are also the best to contact for opinions and over the phone diagnosis. We have great technology these days I can send a photo of a calf, injury or something of interest direct to a vet and they can then visually diagnose the issue.
When I had to travel between places to help muster and the poddy’s got bigger I wouldn’t have room on the back for a cage and they were too big to fit on the front seat, so I trained them to tie up in the back like a dog. Charlie, in this instance, absolutely embraced it.
At the end of the day I raise poddy’s because I do love it, and they give so much back. I can’t stand to see a calf in the paddock that will eventually die without human intervention. When we are having big days, they become even bigger when you’ve been up feeding a new calf, or getting up an hour earlier to just give the poddy/poddies breakfast. I shouldn’t forget to mention how much of a pain in the butt they become when they are released back into the main mob. I get a lot of feedback from my co-workers telling me one of my poddies was in the lead the whole time leading the mob astray into channels or the wrong way, or they have been on the tail walking as fast as a turtle as they are just so quiet, and the motor bikes don’t bother them. I just say “sorry, got to love them don’t you!” … Whoops!
My dear poddy’s bringing up the tail on a muster, they may be slow and casual but they get there in the end.
I like to keep my poddy calves a little bit feral, I think it benefits them for when I do put them back into the ‘real’ world with that main mob and they have to fend for themselves. They get used to dogs, as we have 4 here at the house and they soon think they are a dog after a while. So, I do worry they won’t fear dingo’s or wild dogs, but they aren’t dumb and I’m sure they can sense if a dog is intending to harm them.
Ryan my partner attempting to get a scratch on a particularly ‘feral’ poddy (on the left), we named her Rhonda and she never became quiet enough for us to pat yet we still successfully raised her.
Only one out of all my poddy’s so far is still scratchable out in the paddock and his name is Vanilla. My usual rule is that they have one bag of milk powder each, so if I have one calf in it’ll get one bag and then be bushed, if I have two calves in at the same time they will get two bags and such. But Vanilla was different, he was and is still just so special. I found him a good week after he would’ve seen his Mum so I was very surprised he was still alive, I brought him back to the house and he was a textbook calf, drank easily and just didn’t look back. Vanilla mainly got his name from being the similar colour to vanilla Ice cream, he’s a Charolais cross. One bag of milk powder soon came and went and he was still at the house! We were pretty dry at the time leading into the summer and I like to bush them onto decent grass so they can go ahead. I worked out that he was 6 months old when I bushed him.
The one and only Vanilla, continuously reminding me how much he ran the show and that I couldn’t ‘bush’ him just yet.
We recently mustered his mob in and I called out his name and he bellowed back and came up for a scratch, melted my heart! Poddy love is the best love!
Vanilla giving me a lovingly kiss at our reunion last muster.