The Bull’s Head Muster

Host: Heytesbury Cattle Company
Written by Lea Hamilton, VRD Station.

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Heytesbury Cattle Co. (HCCo) runs a quality herd of approximately 160,000 Brahman cattle, capable of selling sustainably up to 40,000 head per annum, each bearing the famous ‘Bull’s Head’ brand. HCCo operates six stations, comprising of Birrindudu, Moolooloo, Pigeon Hole, Mount Sanford and the famed Victoria River Downs (including out-station Humbert River) in the NT and Flora Valley in the eastern Kimberley region of WA (including out-station Nicholson), spanning 2.5 million hectares. Victoria River Downs (VRD), was established in 1883 and was at one time the largest cattle station in the world. The total area of the VRD lease stretches across 8,900km2 and runs just shy of 100,000 head of cattle. Known historically as ‘The Big Run’, it is now run as four stations: VRD, Moolooloo, Pigeon Hole and Mount Sanford. In 2016, historic Humbert River was purchased as an out-station of VRD, adding another 10,000 head of cattle and a further 100,000 hectares to HCCo.

VRD is perfectly situated on the banks of the idyllic Wickham River. Located directly behind the main house, the Wickham gently meanders its way through the dry landscape, with regal trees growing on a lean as a result of the raging torrent it becomes during the wet season. Majestic, ancient boabs dotted throughout the complex compliment the well maintained, original buildings that provide housing for the many staff contributing to the operation of the station. Flocks of noisy corellas circle the tree tops before coming to settle in noisy groups amongst the branches of the long-established mahogany, flame and fragrant frangipani trees. Two brahman poddy calves comfortably amble amongst the houses, luckily grazing on the thriving, cool green lawns surrounding the station complex.

Aerial shot of VRD Station.

In 2014 HCCo held our first Bull’s Head Muster (BHM) at VRD, a unique occasion where employees from across our six stations had the opportunity to leave work behind for a day and come together as one, meeting other members of the HCCo team to create new (and re-establish old) friendships, learning new skills and gaining an understanding of the company vision and its future direction, while having plenty of fun. This first event in 2014 was so successful that we now run the BHM annually, completing our fifth BHM in 2018. The planning for the BHM begins weeks before the highly anticipated event is to occur and in the lead up to the event the VRD crew work tirelessly to have the complex looking its absolute best to host this significant occasion.

In July 2018 the staff at VRD welcomed colleagues from surrounding HCCo stations, along with staff from our Perth Head Office, and the day went like this…

In the chill of the brisk morning air the whole group was initially welcomed by company owner Paul Holmes à Court and his family. During his welcome speech, staff were given an insight into the company for which they work so hard. Paul spoke about the Mission and Vision for the company and its Core Values in a manner that was engaging and positive. Time was then spent by each attendee introducing themselves to the group, stating their role within the company and the station on which they work. This set the tone for the day, which was ultimately an atmosphere of openness, transparency and overall excitement for what lay ahead.

Our Fabulous Team!

All staff then broke into groups led by station managers and senior staff, to take part in activities they would not normally experience in their usual day-to-day tasks. These activities included butchery and sausage making, vehicle maintenance, basic and advanced horsemanship, heavy machinery operation, preg-testing and bore motor maintenance. Group participants learnt new skills and were provided the opportunity to put these skills to the test with the support of experienced mentors.

Kubota/Bore Maintenance Activity.

Vehicle Maintenance Activity.

Heavy Machinery Activity.

After a beautifully laid out lunch all staff attended an informative business/finance session, successfully pitched in an easily understood manner. Afterwards, all stations formed into their groups to compete in the highly anticipated Station Challenge in which staff were to complete various tasks they would encounter in general station life, for example, build a panel yard, providing hay and water to stock, boil a billy, cook a damper, identify weeds and provide details of what happens to cattle when processed through the yards. The closing challenge was a group of 6 staff members from each station walking 5 head of weaners around a course within a large holding yard. The most successful team, with a focus on communication and quiet cattle handling skills was the Head Office staff from Perth; their course completed very skilfully in an enviable time! Ultimately though, after all points were totalled, the highly coveted Station Challenge trophy was finally won by the Flora Valley team, who now have bragging rights… until next year! A great day was finished off with a bbq party, music and some impromptu entertainment from some of the more outgoing members of the HCCo crew.

Horsemanship Activity.

Station Challenge: anyone for tea & damper?

Flora Valley Crew taking a break!

Becoming a staff member of HCCo is a truly unique experience. The phrases “good things come to those who wait” and “you get out what you put in” don’t apply; unparalleled learning opportunities are presented to you before you are even aware you want to experience them.  This ideology is demonstrated almost every day by the leaders and management of this family owned company who strive to upskill and mentor those who challenge themselves to work in the remarkable and extraordinary environments of the HCC stations.

Bring on Bull’s Head Muster 2019!

Bull’s Head Muster 2018.