Water at your service!

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

Bore runs are one of my favourite jobs, its well known in my family that if I go on a bore run I will either complete it in time just about or I will not be due back for some time due to my very bad habit of distraction. What distracts me? Well that would be the cattle and a slight little urge for going on a wee adventure (slight detour off the bore run), when you take the time cattle are quite fascinating to watch or talk to.

Video: Very curious cattle at a bore

Noreena Downs has wells and bores which are our water supply to the cattle. We use tanks and troughs which are filled up from jet pumps (fire-fighters), solar panels, windmills, submersible pumps, and air pumps.

When we do the bore run we drive into each water point at a slow pace so as not to scare the cattle so they stay used to the vehicle. If you drive in there full speed all the time it makes the cattle uneasy which results in them not liking the vehicle coming near them which then makes the water check an uncomfortable thing for them. We check the tank for water level and the trough for water to make sure components are working and maybe even clean trough if is dirty – the cattle love it when you do the trough they are always on hand to help you, for some water points every 6 weeks the cattle get a liquid mineral put in called Beachport (it’s a supplement).

When the cattle turn up at a water point they will have a big drink, then a few sips, and then go find a shady tree sit down and chill out. They will get up throughout the day to have a few sips, I don’t know about any other station but our cattle get up from their slumber at approx 4 pm = have a big drink and then will go out to feed for the night dead on 4.30pm, very consistent timing.

I tend to like to drive through the mob to educate the young cattle and so I can also observe what is going on in the herd; medical, calving issues, injuries, illnesses, weight condition, any silly cattle to commit to memory for cull, who’s new on the block, is that bull working, and how your sale cattle are going.

Once that is done then we start the pumps or the solar motors (if they were off). Sometimes the motors require servicing which means an oil change, air filter clean or renewal, clean fuel bowls etc.

If something is broken we have a few tools we carry on the motorcar so we try to fix it then and there or bolt home (if cattle are running low/or have no water) to get the right equipment.

3.2‘Don’t mind if I do’, an overly curious weaner interrogating the car, PS when around Noreena’s cattle do not leave the door open.

mirrors are coolThis mob often wreck our vehicle wiring underneath from chewing on it!

Once started I check the motor is producing water and then off you go to next one. I don’t do it so much now but curiosity kills the cat and I like to go up to the new calves (little baby cattle) to see what they are like and who their mum is. Yep I’ve been chased and threatened quite a few times, but watching the bond between a cow and her calf is dazzling and yet slightly dangerous . . .

I’m going to put a few of the things I see into words although it will do no justice as it needs to be seen.

When a station cow (female that has had a calf for four years and over – quite often station female beasts become cows at 18 months) has a new calf, she can often be seen trotting off from the watering point with this uncoordinated legs creature trailing her. Straight away you know she has a newbie and is taking that calf away to hide it and keep you from looking at it, why would she bother running away with it when she should know you’re not going to hurt it, it’s a natural instinct called protection, why do most mothers do things?

With little bubs cows don’t always moo out loud, they can communicate with their calf through silent mooing through their belly, it sounds like a long and quite murmur, each cow has a different tone which means the calf can pick her out.

3.3Protective Droughtmaster cow keeping watch over her calf.

Some cows will do anything to protect their calves like charging at you or knocking the calf to the ground and putting all four feet in a rectangle around the calf so she is now standing over the top of it.

One of the hardest to watch is when a calf has been bitten by a dingo/wild dog and mum has obviously been able to fight the mutts off or they were just play biting, the calf is sitting down with a roaring infection stemming through them, mums beside it nudging it to get up, licking it and mooing to it, she is clearly distressed and the calf is in horrific pain and panting and more than likely (95%) dying. Anyone who thinks dingos shouldn’t be controlled (trapped, baited, shot) because you think it’s cruel then you should see this for your own eyes, it will gut you to pieces, I have seen it time and time again and it breaks me every blipping time.

Most calves don’t survive dingo bites and attacks, bites cause an infection if they can even get past it, they will lose some of their meat and muscle and have the scarring and severe attacks – that means being eaten alive involve the mutts ripping the calf to pieces and turning the hide inside out to eat just about everything.

3.4Mob of breeding cattle with calves and weaners at Scotties bore.

Noreena’s cattle are very territorial just like villagers, during summer you pretty much know what cow will be at what water point. You can take the cows 56km away from their home put them in a paddock for seven months then let them go again and a good few will slowly make their way back to their home, even the weaner heifers are the same, keep them in a paddock for five months take them out to a place where the feed is abundant and tail (tailing out means to hold them together as a loose mob and let them feed on grass, trees, shrubs) them out for a couple of days, give them two weeks and they just meander back to their birth place.

You’re probably thinking the young ladies are heading back to find their mothers, but the mature cow is doing the same thing, there’s just something that lets them think it’s safer and more comfortable where they were born, although heifers do like to hang out with their mother time to time. You can be mustering and bring two mobs together, the heifer from mob two will go up beside parental cow from mob one they will sniff each other or tap head and shoulder and heifer will tail her around not to suckle but to emulate her and learn from the cow. It’s pretty cool hey how they have this secret bond between mother and daughter that you don’t notice unless you watch, a lot of mother daughter pairs can also be easy to pick as the heifers develops in her own way her mother’s looks, definitions and characteristics, and quite often temperament.

3.5Cow with young calf and her weaner daughter.

The male Mickey (little bull) is the bigger sook, he likes his mother to lavish attention on him by licking and rubbing and feeding him when it suits him. He has a set of balls and gets randy when a cow or heifer being chased by other entire males walks past then he’s off for the chase leaving his mother behind to either chase after him as he goes or just wave him sayonara for a while.

Sometimes the cows have girlfriends. Yes that’s right like you and your best gal pal having a coffee out at a cafe, they hang together for years, months, or weeks at a time, they may even calve together.

Bullocks (big steer – a steer is a castrated male) quite often choose a beast with reasonable size to match his own. Bullocks like to be sneaky (hence why they have got so big by the time they are caught) so their partner in crime generally shares the same interest.

3.6Cattle pad – the cattle’s idea of a road, a pad always goes towards a water or feed point, they even have connecting pads, while us humans are building bitumen roads and highways the cattle are doing the same for ease and comfort

Tomorrow’s blog – What happens to calves that lose/don’t have a mum?