Host: Dampier Downs Station
Written by Anne Marie Huey – Manager, Dampier Downs Station.
There aren’t many days off in the middle of the cattle season. When I lived in town, weekends were a chance to sleep late, maybe wander down to the local coffee shop for a lazy breakfast and a leisurely peruse of the papers. These days – not so much. Take last Sunday for example.
My day started at 5.30 am, just as the sun was coming up. My first job was to let the dogs out for their morning exercise. It’s a beautiful time of day and despite not being a morning person I can’t be too grumpy as the dogs are always super excited to see me.
Once the dogs were safely back in their cages it was time to do a bore run. This means driving out to the bores to make sure there is enough water for the cattle. Those that are getting low need to be pumped, troughs checked, and a general scout around for any potential problems. I also had to drop off a drum of diesel for Mike, who was frantically grading fence lines in an attempt to ward off a major bushfire burning next door.
The bore run took care of the rest of my morning, then it was back to the homestead for a quick bite of lunch and another let-out for the dogs while I cleaned out their cages. Then it was time to head down to the yards to help out with the branding of a few weaners.
I got the job of bringing the cattle up, which is my favourite job in the yards. You might have to walk a few miles and eat a lot of dust, but I do enjoy working the cattle through the back yards all the way to the race. It is a great opportunity to practice my low stress stock handling techniques. Things were running smoothly, the sun was shining, and the cattle were flowing nicely.
The team doing the actual processing (branding, ear marking, castrating, vaccinating, and dehorning) were doing a great job, even with the new hydraulic calf cradle that took a bit of getting used to. This is a great invention that takes a lot of the hard work out of branding. It does, however, require a bit of practice to perfect the timing when catching the weaners and so on this day one or two managed to escape.
This was not really a problem as all it meant was they ended up in the back yard again and I would simply bring them round once more. Now, as cattle evolved as prey animals they don’t really like being on their own, particularly in stressful situations. Their first instinct is be part of the mob, which means it is often easier to move a large number of animals than just one. Unfortunately, late in the day one heifer escaped and found herself on her lonesome.
She was fairly unimpressed with proceedings thus far and being on her own in the back yard brought out her feisty side. Mike often criticises me for not being enough of a coward, but I believe if you work with cattle long enough you become a reasonable judge of when an animal is just bluffing, or if they are seriously going to hurt you. As I walked into the yard to move this heifer she ran straight at me. Every instinct I had screamed that she was not going to stop, so I did the only sensible thing and turned around and ran. I picked out my bit of fence and flew up it as fast as I could. Unfortunately, the heifer had the same idea and (even more unfortunately) picked out the same bit of fence.
I hit the fence, she hit the fence and then we both promptly fell off the fence. I now found myself boxed into a corner with an increasingly irate heifer shaking her head at me. I followed the only course of action open to me and started squealing like a schoolgirl at a One Direction concert.
It wasn’t until I saw the look of total surprise on her face that I realised she hadn’t even seen me in her headlong rush to the fence. Her sole aim was to get out of the yard and now she was very surprised to find herself confronted by this strange caterwauling creature. Being a sensible heifer she gave one final shake of her head and trotted off to the far side of the yard.
I let the dust settle, then checked myself for damage. My arm was a bit tender but I think it was my ego that took the biggest bruising. Fortunately she was one of the last for the day, so I was soon able to take myself back to the homestead to lick my wounds – then feed the dogs, cook dinner, sort the laundry, check emails, pay a few bills, and get ready to do it all again the next day!