The paths we take

Host: Yarrie Station
Written by Andrea Craigie – Station Hand/Record Keeper, Yarrie Station.

Andrea has returned to Yarrie Station again this year and works as a Stationhand/Record Keeper. A lot of her role includes collecting, collating and summarising station records as well as yard work and handling weaners.

I’d have to say that a pretty common question I get when I tell people I work on a station is “Why?”

One of the next would be “How does that relate to your uni degree?”

Gaining a degree and then heading straight to an outback cattle station is definitely not the most common path to being on a station, nor is it a normal progression following graduation. But despite it being a little odd, I love this life, have gained a lot from it, and surprisingly have been able to offer back plenty to Yarrie Station due to my different skill set.

So why would you go to a station after uni?

. . . especially after you have acquired a sizeable debt?

. . . when you probably aren’t in the best shape having put on a few kilos with all that beer and Netflix?

. . . and you haven’t done and “real” work in the past three to four years – or maybe even never if you went straight from school to uni like I did?

. . . and the best “experience” you can offer a station is that you are an awesome procrastinator, can pull all nighters (after leaving everything to the last minute) and a full load of uni was 20 contact hours per week?

Now that’s a pretty hard sell.

But there are other things you can use to sell yourself: enthusiasm, willingness to learn, admitting that you don’t know everything, or really anything much at all, common sense, honesty, being a team player.

I have been fortunate in the stations I have worked for that they are happy to take you without much experience if you have the right personality, work ethic, and values. The above traits are all important and cannot be taught – the other stuff, the “experience”, that can all be taught to the right person.

4.1 - Horse riding - Andrea, Tamsy and Amanda copyHorse riding – Andrea, Tamsy, and Amanda.

For me, coming north was all about having a “gap year” following graduation, being “free” (because uni really was sooo constraining!), just working, earning money, and not having to “think critically”.

It turns out that station life was nothing like I had imagined, and certainly not like all those romance novels had lead me to believe – they cannot convey the absolute exhaustion you feel deep in the mustering season as the work goes on, days off seem to disappear beyond the horizon, and lack of phone service keeps you cut off from the rest of the world. But then they don’t show you the complete exhilaration at learning a new skill, doing something yourself that first time, or really watching the spectacle of Mother Nature around you either.

4.2 - sunset copyThe end of another awesome show by Mother Nature.

My “gap year” has turned into 2016 being my third season as I have returned to Yarrie Station as a station hand and record keeper.

Coming to work on a station and in the northern beef industry has changed me so much as a person and as a potential employee. I believe that I have learnt and experienced so much that will make me stand out when going for a professional job that directly utilises my degree. I now know the meaning of hard work. The idea of a 38 hour work week is completely foreign – not because that is so much, but the opposite; in the peak of mustering season it is not uncommon to do double that work time. I have become much more efficient, practical and capable. Not just in myself, but also with the resources I use and have available.

4.3 Monitors cows copy

I also think that while we don’t always have a lot of practical experience to offer there are plenty of different skills we have that not considered essential on stations but can have a huge value if utilised. My computer skills weren’t too shabby after studying, and particularly my excel skills have been transferred into highly useful things for Annabelle with the records on Yarrie Station. I have built new documents and templates, and have started “future proofing” a lot of documents so that they give annual summaries automatically.

Last year I made (amongst other things) a new budget tool for the farm to use. And I am currently working on some new tools including one for pasture budgeting and one looking at animal performance and growth, that are designed especially for Yarrie. I wouldn’t have been able to do these things without my experience at university. And as a result some of Yarrie’s records are now providing us with really powerful information that directly influences Annabelle’s management decisions.

I also work a lot with a software program called StockIT, which allows us to record unique histories for every individual animal. This program (which I wrote about last year) provides us with so much valuable information. Because of what I had learnt before coming to Yarrie I am able to run statistical test on this information to see what the real differences are. We are conducting trials with various things – feeds, multivitamins, animals weights, and can now see real data as to what is effective. For example we now know how long it takes the average beast to recover from trucking when they are sent down to our southern farm. Different lines (groups) perform much differently, and take different time periods to get back to positive weight gain. This can influence Annabelle’s decisions in making sale plans, how long cattle are spelled at the farm for, if animals go to the farm for a period, or straight to sale from Yarrie.

So why would you go to a station after uni?

It’s an awesome adventure, and much more exciting that a gap year backpacking Europe (in my opinion at least).

You get paid, maybe not as much as a grad job, but certainly much more than you ever had at uni.

You learn and grow yourself. You become less materialistic and far more realistic. After thinking so much at uni you learn to do, and make-do.

The life skills will look pretty good on a resume.

The memories, stories, experiences, and friendships stay with you forever. One day you will sit back and tell your grandkids about that time the mickey charged you in the yards and you only just got away, or the magic of watching the landscape change colour every day around you.

It different; certainly not what they prep you for in the cushy confines of uni life. But you can find a niche where you never expect and end up having unbelievable adventures.

And you never know where that “gap year” may lead – a totally different career path, lifelong friendships, incredible memories, or perhaps you might meet “the one” and together build a life that you had never imagined.

4.4 monitors lizard copyStopping to look at the little things – this guy was having a great time until I disturbed him when checking the water at this mill.