Summer Fun

Host: Noreena Downs Station
Written by: Kate Paull – Owner/Manager, Noreena Downs Station.

During the summer months the jobs can change and vary a lot.

Below are a few examples of my days and sometimes my family members.

1) When it buckets down with rain, I get super excited. Yes this will grow the grass and new shrubs and keep generating what has already sprouted up, encourage breeding of birds, lizards etc, lift the cattle’s spirits, and then there’s the dirtiness . . .

When we get a good amount of rain I get to jump on one of my beloved four wheelers, load up a set of wire strainers, pliers, plain wire, and after making sure I have a two way or satellite phone and water and then I’m off to do the floodgates. Floodgates are a fence that continue on from a fence across a creek or river, when the creek/river runs really well the floodgate gets knocked down due to the current of water.

Video: Flowing water in a creek and you can see where the floodgate is meant to be.

My first stop is steer paddock north east near the homestead then it’s down to the south and out to Tubs paddock for a few, then Dad’s big floodgate and little creek then ending at Scotties. I don’t be naughty on the bike as it is dangerous and plus as I’m going along I get mud caked any way. It’s so nice to tinker along at a leisurely pace on the bike and notice your surrounds, watch the birds, smell and look at the new grass and fresh water, you might come across some of the moo cows and have a chat to them then there’s the delicious MUD oooohhh boy I love riding in mud but I do not like it thrown at me.

I have nine floodgates to check.

7.2Poly pipe floodgate attached to cable my Dad made and strung up many years ago there is a basic three strand plain wire fence behind it, this floodgate has only come down once – best one out.

2) Bore runs – see bore run blog, these are done every second day during summer and every third to fourth day during winter.

We check water regularly in case something has gone wrong at the bore/well. My belief is give or take for every day cattle go without water it sets them back on an average of three days. Cattle can easily perish in summer without water.

In the last two weeks all the cattle’s switch/brush (stringy hairy bit at the end) have grown out really quickly from last year’s bangtail (bangtail – where the stringy hair pass the last bone on the tail is given a straight across haircut to identify they have been in the yards), this is due to the nutrition pumping through them from the green grass.

Over the last three weeks heaps of our heifers (female under four years or uncalved) have started calving. They are calving now due to our winter rain in late May and June last year, and the majority of our cows have already calved in October, November, and December just gone they are timing in with our summer rain. For a while they were calving August/September due to the drought and some small winter rain but we’re back on track now as it is good to calve when you know your calf will have grass and when the cow will be able to supply heaps of milk from the grass. The heifers only went into season a bit later than the cows as their reproductive system probably wasn’t ready at the time (not mature).

Rain makes female cattle cycle. Here’s an interesting fact: in a drought some heavy content Brahman cows can shut off their reproductive system, it’s called S.O.S (save our souls), when more rain comes and it’s a good season its starts working again (having calves).

3) Fencing – so lately I have been doing a mob of the holding paddocks we use for one or three nights to hold cattle in. Camels and donkeys have a bad habit of ruining fences and dingos/wild dogs are just as bad with using the fence not far from the water point to push their prey into in order to kill it.

7.3A damaged fence no thanks to dingos running their prey into it and pushing it over, once down the cattle start tramping through it.

Our fences mainly consist of barb and plain wire with pickets and steel strainer post and steel stays.

7.4Wire strainers tightening an old fence that we still use.

4) Yard building – Joe is making a new raceway and slides for the Peedonah yards and they look fantastic, can’t wait to try them out.

5) Burning off rubbish country – At the correct time of the year, preferably after one shower of rain we like to strike a match into buck Spinifex (big prickly suffocating grass shrub), old rank grasses such as wind grass, buffel grass, Mitchell’s, flinders, spear grass, always making attempts at mulga thickets and blue wattle thickets. We burn these to generate new clean growth; old grass loses its nutritional value.

Buck Spinifex suffocates grass and shrubs and grows really high three to seven feet and when you’re mustering in it there is only a 17 cm gap to zip through some time so we have to surf it, plough in ride over it, and get out quick. Spinifex is really prickly so if you fall in it you will have a pimple to pop a few days later.

Mulga thickets are dark, stakey and can be hard to spot cattle in, if you ride into a Mulga thicket on Noreena which is inevitable you are likely to also run across a golden orb spider and web, their web is apparently the strongest although they are cool to look at.

Blue wattle, not anyone’s favourite that for sure if you ride through it, you will either come out with a rip in your shirt or pants or bleeding! And yes cattle do run through it, the leaves have catchy spikes on them on some trees and spiky twig branches on the other. To burn on property you have to obtain a burn permit which is easy to get.

7.5Burning off, notice the Hawks in the smoke, they are looking for lizards etc.

6) Heading to Newman with Nathan in our value liner Mack truck with the drop deck in tow to pick up a roller from town to do a main roads job and me to pick up the V8 from a workshop. Slim Dusty playing in  the background, hanging out with my favourite bloke and more views of breathtaking scenery (a bit higher up in truck can see a bit more). No matter how many times I come around a corner or over a rise I still get a wee flutter in my heart when I see the beautiful display before me, I appreciate it so much and never tire of  it.

Video: In the truck listening to Slim Dusty and looking at the country.

If anyone would like to see some cool scenes from the Pilbara head to YouTube and type in ‘The sport that produces food part 1 and part 2’ by Niffy Paull and watch to your heart’s content.

7) Mum uses summer to do all her weeding and pruning in her garden, she quite happily sits there peaceful as listening to an audio book on her iPod and hacking away at the overgrowth.

Everyone in my family listens to audio books, especially when we do bore runs or drive any where over 30 minutes we find the audio book stimulates our brain when we are driving so there is no chance of us getting driver’s fatigue especially on a hot day during summer, also you can listen to a book while you work, two birds with one stone.

8) PR work, Job ads and Interviews – this is one I clearly need more experience at.

I tried setting a website up for Noreena lately but holy Whiteman that was tricky so only got three quarters of the way through nah leave it till next summer to come maybe I would have picked up a trick or two to better utilise it.

At the moment I am trying to use social media to our advantage, Noreena Downs has its own Facebook group of which my siblings and I are continuing to post lots of Noreena photos on it in order to let our members see what a station might be like, what little rough old Noreena is like and it’s a great way for future employees to see whether Noreena will suit them so they don’t get here and it’s a big shock. Times are a changing and if social media is there harness it I reckon.

My other thing was placing job ads for station hands, a cook and a bore person, most people do a small ad but no not me I put all my requirements right out there, so no one without the attribute will get disappointed if they send through their resume and get rejected. When I read my own ad I think crikey woman you’re a ball breaker with massive demands oh well best to be honest.

Job interviews are not my strong point, due to me actually being shy apart from when I know people well enough in my own environment. I get really nervous at the start of the interview probably even more than the applicant themselves, oh lordy I wonder how many times I have probably said um.

9) Keeping suspicious cows on their toes – this summer I had a mob cows in our steer paddock, “under suspicion” I call it. They are big fat hippopotamus type cows with curves and cellulite to boot, according to lots of people when cows are in this shape it is likely that they are no longer calving or losing their calves at birth but this is not always the case they are just plus size girls and relishing it and are still fertile.

Some of these cows do have bottle teat and are pregnant, bottle teat is where the teats on the udder are 9 cm or more in diameter, the little calf can’t fit their mouth on it to suckle so they end up starving and the rest are just god damn suspicious due to them being big. The reason I have given these cows a chance is they are fantastic frame cows and were good mothers last time I saw them with a calf, they all weigh between 570 to 712 kg so they are big ladies.

So when I know one of these cows is getting close to calving (I do weekly inspections) I go out on my bike every second day to observe, all normal teat cows have calved and raised no trouble to date, the bottle teat cows once calved I have been mustering them in to our homestead yards, milking the cows udder out for a few days and getting the calf on.

I know the bottle teat cow is stuffed for breeding now but we would not ever send them to abattoirs heavily pregnant and plus we have one healthy calf that gets to stay on its mother (eventually the teats narrow up enough for easy sucking) to be raised by her until weaned and cow to be culled.

I also had another 15 head in the paddock for education and a mob of snot bag cows that have been culled for life and just waiting to go to Muchea next month (over 110 head in the paddock all up). A few weeks ago I mustered the whole mob in with just me and my bike it was so easy, when cattle are educated and quiet they are very easy to control it really does pay off as in this circumstance. Nathan gave me a hand in the yards, he worked down the back penning up and putting them into the race, I worked up the front drafting four ways and earmarking and tagging the calves and bang tailing the good mother cows so they could go back bush to take pressure off the paddock, these cattle were a pleasure to work, I had a blast.

I only have the bunch of snot bag cull cows, a few young cows, and heifers that didn’t like the education idea (now culled) and a handful of cows under suspicion. At least we have a mob of hefty size cows that are fertile and raise their calves and for the rest (handful) are done with their breeding career unless they calve and raise it successfully before middle of April.

7.7Young fat cows with half-day old calves.