The unsung heroes of the pastoral industry

Host: Blina Station
Written by Matt Wood – Manager, Blina Station.

We always hear about the Managers, the Headstockmen, and the Ringers that embody the station life. However, all too often we forget about a group of people that do a huge amount of skilled and important work behind the scenes to keep the station running. The Boremen and Mechanics.

I suppose that galloping after cattle, wheeling big mobs of cattle and helicopters darting in amongst trees, makes for more entertaining stories than changing windmill buckets, fixing the generator, and cleaning out water troughs; but few readers appreciate the importance of these people.

Some stations don’t have specific individuals to handle these jobs, just everyone pitches in in some area to make it happen. However, on Blina we have two Boremen.

Andy Hallen and his family, Ann, Brody, Jack, Saskia, and Keira, along with governess Annie Rogers live at Ellendale, which is an outstation of Blina. Andy’s primary role is to maintain the watering points on his two bore runs. He looks after some 50 odd watering points, over a couple of hundred kilometres of run.

3.1 copyAndy Hallen.

Jason Deacon, is the Boreman/Mechanic at the main station. He has a few less watering points to look after, but is also the man charged with keeping the station fleet of vehicles in working order. We have a regular maintenance schedule, which we try to follow and run a significant plant of machinery. It is a full time job keeping it all rolling (and Jason will be the first to tell you that our gear isn’t the newest, and our ringers have a definite skill when it comes to breaking things . . . worst of all the manager!).

Water is the single most important thing on a station, and as the Manager it is always on my mind. I am constantly wanting to know that all of our 24,000 head have access to good clean water, and plenty of it. Early in the season, the bores are checked weekly, however as we move into the drier end of the year, and temperatures rise alongside cattle losing condition, every dam, tank, and trough requires checking twice a week. The work is ongoing, and never ending. Obviously pumps need starting and stopping, windmills and engines need regular servicing and repairs. Solar bores and components need monitoring and replacing. There is always something that needs welding up, or a rusting pipe that needs replacing before it fails. A poly fitting gets burnt here and we have no water over there.

Maintaining watering points is absolutely 24/7. Cows still need water on Sunday afternoon, and they don’t care that it’s a public holiday or that the Rodeo is in town. The welfare of our animals is our priority, and so we are constantly monitoring and maintaining watering points. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world, the bore run still gets done, and the repairs are made, no matter what time or day it is. And it takes a special bunch of people to make this happen. People who are willing to drop all their plans at a moments notice, and be on call 24/7.

Andy and Jason also drop out and monitor our loose lick supplement, which is a mixture of urea, salt, protein, and trace elements. The mix helps cattle to utilise the dry feed late in the year and get some nutrients and energy out of it. I liken it to lacing dry weetbix with sugar.

Over the wet season, whilst all the ringers are on the piss on some beach, Jason and Andy are slaving away under vehicles repairing things, and in the workshop pre-fabricating things for the season ahead.

We are lucky to have Jason, who is an Auto Electrician and Mechanic by trade. Andy has learnt his skill set from years on stations and in the bush. Sometimes we may be waiting two or three weeks for the correct part, and there is plenty of improvisation that goes on to get the job done. All too often Andy and Jason are told to head down to the dump, find a part, and “just make it bloody happen”. When we are not fixing problems, Jason and Andy work towards improving all of our watering infrastructure, to stay ahead of the game so to speak. Every good improvement made means that it;s one less headache to worry about. Constance and I are extremely fortunate to have these two skilled and loyal employees on our team. And they deserve some recognition for it.