Where it all began

Host: NKL Contracting
Written by Kayde Jayne Lehman – Owner, NKL Contracting.

Hello readers,

Well let me tell you May 2017 rolled around faster then expected and my decision in 2016 to host Central Station for a week to be honest has been pushed aside to make room for changing nappies, moving out of a caravan, getting my BAS lodged on time, and clinging onto whatever sanity I had left.

Our 2015 contracting crew in the Pilbara.

Running our own contract mustering business has been some of the best times I have had with my little family (and some of the most exhausting), so let me start by filling you in on how it all began.

I grew up a builder’s daughter in the north Queensland country town Chillagoe, population 200. Although I attended the town school, my dad had a solid reputation for rebuilding old station homesteads and cattle yards so a lot of our childhood was spent camping out on properties. I guess you could say that this is where the love for station life firmly attached itself to me.


Yarding up at Wrotham Park Homestead 2008, Photo by Alex Fraser.

After four years on a family run property, I headed out for a new adventure . . .

This life on the road all started in 2008 when I joined the R & R White Contract Mustering team picking my way through rubber vine on one of North Queensland’s largest cattle properties “Wrotham Park”.  Owned at the time by the Great Southern Group and running around 39,000 head of cattle, we were yarding and processing thousands of cattle at a time which made for some tired little ringers.

Tipping Mickeys in the panel yard to they couldn’t horn other animals when they were being transported by truck, Photo by Alex Fraser.

But the love for the lifestyle of contracting far outweighed the tiredness, soreness, and challenges that the job entailed. Fourteen hour days had you saddling up at 4am and often unsaddling in the dark. Days off consisted of fixing anything you had buggered that week and shoeing horses . . . any ringer will tell you they weren’t there for the pay check . . . the crew become some of your closest mates and the smell of your swag with three week old dirty sheets become the scent of home.

Picking up day work around the Dalby area.

Twenty years old and three months into my first year contracting settling down was the last thing on my mind, however a small fling with Nat (one of our crew) had me walking down the aisle two years later in front of 100 of our closest family and friends.

The years that followed the wedding were filled travelling and working side by side. After a quick honeymoon in America with a couple of mates, we headed to Dalby while we waited for the northern wet season to end and the roads to dry out. For five months of the year, generally from November to March, north Queensland gets the majority of their annual rainfall forcing rivers to rise and spreading cattle making it impossible to muster. Although this rain revitalizes the country country and tops up dams, it meant we had to head south every year to find other work.

Mustering into panel yards on the Kendall River.

After pulling at the bit to get back north and into work we loaded our truck full of horses, dogs, and cheap Dalby hay and headed further north than we had ever been before –Cape York.  As we wound down the bone-jarring gravel road that led to Kendall River Station in western Cape York the scrub grew thicker and thicker. Too thick for helicopters to muster, we would sit on horseback around lick tubs waiting for the brindle and red Brahmans to walk in for water. It was long hard miles for not many cattle and everyday was a lucky dip of what we may get but it was nice to get back to basics and sharpen your senses.

Nat and I heading out mustering for the day.

At the end of the 40 days on Kendall River the dogs were stuffed, the horses poor (as much as we poured food into them), and despite our best efforts we had not caught any barra. But this was just the start of a new beginning which led us to where we are today . . . running our own crew in the Pilbara.

Branding calves without a cradle.