A well-oiled machine

Host: Yougawalla Pastoral Co.
Written by Jane Sale – Manager, Yougawalla Pastoral Co.

Your cattle management starts and ends with your people management. Like any small business every person makes a difference and the leader must set an example. Unless you are planning on doing your cattle handling on your own, what you do and your attitude, sets the tone for how the people around you will treat each other as well as your animals.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not something we are particularly good at or that we always do. It is just something that we are becoming more and more aware of through good and bad decisions in the past. As we have grown from a bare block at Yougawalla Station to taking on Bulka and Margaret River Stations, and sub leases, we have added a new area to manage and a growing herd every year. In eight years, Haydn and I, through our partner’s support, have gone from 1000 head of cattle on 850,000 acres to 42,000 head of cattle over 3.4 million acres. This has required a huge learning curve and work load for us but none has been greater than gaining the knowledge of human resources.

2.1 some of team Yougawalla 2014 copySome of team Yougawalla 2014.

Induction for our staff takes place at the start of the season and we try to gather everyone from all stations in the one place. We discuss safety procedures, behavioural expectations, basic house rules and regulations, as well as demonstrations of maintenance for vehicles and living areas. It is much easier to make things clear before problems start to arise. We involve all of the management team as well as returning staff who may think of something that is helpful from when they started out.   

At the homesteads we do our best to make everyone feel included and welcome. This in turn makes them feel secure and part of a team or family. We are individuals from all walks of life living together who need to make an extra effort to communicate with each other and to talk to anyone that can help with an issue that arises. The key is not to complain to someone that cannot help the situation. Things can turn sour over the smallest things in a stock camp and as managers the example must be set. The buck stops with you but it also must start with you showing the way, and most importantly making yourself available and approachable.

2.2 Part of team Yougawalla 2015 copyPart of team Yougawalla 2015.

Cattle handling demonstration and training is imperative and the more obvious aspect of preparing staff for station work. For three years, Jim and Terry Lindsay have held a Low Stress Stock handling course (LSS), for our staff. This always starts in a room with our staff telling Jim what their expectations for the course are and what they would like to learn. Jim starts by telling them what a wonderful opportunity they have been given. This is so true for us all and every year while doing the course I have learned more about our employees and myself out in the yards with the cattle, under Jim’s instruction, than I could through living under the same roof for a mustering season.

All of the above is preparation for handling our cattle, whether it be working in the yards, on a bike, in a chopper, on horse or loading trucks. As Jim Lindsay says “Attitude is everything” and preparation is key. As an overseer for the day, if I walk into one of these scenarios trying to rush and start yelling at the animals and the staff, the people and the cattle are not going to react well. That means an unsafe and an unhappy environment for all involved. The staff will feel my urgency and tension and start to do the same. With our employees well prepared, they know what is going on, why it is going on, and what the safest way to do it is. They should be aware that there is no room for ego or show-off behaviour. Everyone should feel safe and know that their team mates have their back. There is nothing like working in a yard with a group of calm, quick, and well-prepared staff, I can see it and feel it in everything. The cattle don’t move through slowly but they move easily. It’s like a well-oiled machine and it’s my favourite part of the work here.

We know we have a long way to go, especially as we have grown so quickly. This year we are planning on holding a personality based leadership workshop with our Yougawalla Pastoral Company employees. We hope that this will improve rapport around the living quarters and give us the knowledge to take advantage of individual personality strengths when handling the cattle as a team. We aim to create an environment that people are proud to be a part of. As we start to get more and more staff retention in our management teams, contractors, and our station crew, we hope that this demonstrates that we are at least heading along the right track.

2.4 The crew relaxing at Yougawalla copyStaff relaxing at Yougawalla.