Station life so far for an Indonesian exchange student

Written by Irvan Prasetya – Student, 2013 Indonesia Australia Pastoral Industry Student Program.
Edited by Libby Doney, Program Coordinator, Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association.

When the birds are singing, when the wind is knocking on the door, when the dogs are barking, it is our call to wake and get prepared for work. We are working from sunrise until the sun sets. For the first week of our station placement we stayed at Sturt Downs Station.

Sturt Downs in a family run station. Jane and Wade are the owners. The first thing that they showed us was the technology to record every treatment that is done to the cattle. The computer, which is connected to the crush, can save and backup a record of treatments faster than we could do manually.

The first time we went mustering, instead of riding horses or motorbikes, we sat in the car watching the working dogs doing their job. They followed their owner’s orders, Kadja, who is a German lady and dog trainer living at Sturt Downs. The dogs walked the 874 cattle from the paddock to the holding paddock, and then to the yards for recording & drafting process.


At Sturt Downs we had the opportunity to do branding, ear tagging & marking, vaccinating, and even using tractors to move hay for the cattle. It was fun. But we did see one sad thing – Wade had to shoot one of the cattle that couldn’t stand up.

After a week, we came back to Cave Creek. The owners of Cave Creek are Rohan and Sally Sullivan.  Rohan’s parents, Jim and Barbara also work at the station. One of our jobs here has been to feed some cattle with feed salt and feed mix. Jim told us that the protein in the native grass is very poor, only 4%. This is why the cattle are fed the feed mix, and it’s why the Cave Creek cattle are bigger.

Soon there will be a mustering day at Cave Creek for cattle that will be sold to Vietnam. This should happen in a few days. While we are waiting for that Sally agreed to take us to Mataranka Station to see grass burn-off and to do fencing.

Stuart (Stu), Stuart (Stuee), Boyd, and Ewan accompanied us to do the fencing. Our hands are full of scratches but our minds were full of happiness. Boyd asked us about the population in Indonesia. When I told him it was 250 million, he was so surprised that he kept talking about it for the whole day.

In the afternoon, Stu burnt grass to prevent bush fire burning out the station. Boyd and Stuee helped to prevent the fire from going near the station. Me, Izmi, and Ewan helped to place the sign “Warning, Smoke Hazard Area!” on the highway.

It’s been good to see more than two stations in NT. Rohan has told us there are more than 250 stations here. So far everything has been great, but there is one wish that we are hoping to happen soon – mustering with horses, quads, and helicopters!

Two weeks later . . .

After all the excitement at Sturt Downs and Mataranka Station, we are finally heading back to Cave Creek. My first job is to help Howdie, one of the workers, to cut and weld some steel pipe. I’m using the oxy-cutter and welder to get the job done. Don’t forget the protective equipment just like Civil Train has taught us!

Izmi was feeding some cattle and learning to drive so fast in the paddocks with Jim. But I’m not beaten yet, because I’ve driven the truck from the yard to the paddock. On Monday afternoon, Rohan turned us from being cattleman to sharpshooters. We shot ten bullets into a target and ant hill. Now Izmi is ready if her boyfriend cheats. She can castrate, she can shoot!

Our dream comes true; we muster some cattle to the yard with one car, one quad, and one helicopter. At long last, Izmi beat me that day. She flew with James the pilot from the yard to the homestead. I only flew around the homestead for five minutes.

When we were drafting, one big bull tried to chase me. I was running around a tree. Luckily the bull stopped chasing. Rohan sold 24 chosen bulls, including the one chasing me, to Vietnam with help from a livestock agent.

On Sunday night, Rohan’s sister Rosemary took us to Mataranka Homestead. It was so wonderful; we ate while listening to the best country songs, on a starry-filled night. Such a romantic situation!

Our time in the Outback hasn’t come to an end yet. At the moment we are staying at Birdum Creek Station to do some fencing and gate building. Izmi has been cutting some steel pipe. She’ll turn into a full on cattlewoman soon!

Soon it will be our last day with the Sullivan family. Next we are going to work at Pigeon Hole Station, and then some more training at Katherine Research Station. We have really enjoyed our work here, even if the bulls still hate us.

The Indonesian farming system is very different to here, and I have learnt one message for my beloved country:

“As long as we enjoy our life working with all those cattle, watching the calves running around looking for their mum, it will always be worth it. What we give to the cattle is what we will get from the cattle”.