Working at Weaner Camp

Host: Newcastle Waters Station
Written by Steph Coombes.

Weaner camp. Sounds a bit weird doesn’t it, and I can only imagine what people would think if they weren’t involved in the cattle industry . . . !

On cattle stations, when there are a large number of cattle and/or people, the cattle work is divided up into different areas otherwise known as different camps. As you’ve probably gathered from our previous blogs – Newcastle Waters has a lot of cattle – around 66,000! The commercial side of the operation works to breed and fatten cattle. NCW has great fattening country and not only grows out and fattens its own progeny, but those of other nearby company stations such as Dungowan, Ucharonidge, and Humbert River.

The stock camp are responsible for mustering the commercial cattle into the yards, and then processing them. This means drafting off wet and dry cows, mothering up calves and pulling off the young cattle that are old enough to be weaned from their mothers. After the cattle are drafted and processed they either need to be walked back out to their paddock, trucked to a new paddock, or trucked to an export yard or the abattoir. Then it’s time to get back on the horses and bikes and muster the next part of the station.

Because there is so much cattle work to be done NCW has a second camp, the Weaner Camp, just to work with the weaners. It’s their job to process the weaners which means branding, dehorning, castrating, vaccinating, ear marking, and implanting the steers with Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs).

5.1Cheeky weaners eating the hay before the jackeroos have had a chance to unwrap it.

5.2Feeding out hay at the end of the day.

Because weaners are young cattle they are relatively uneducated. When they are first mustered into the yards there are adult cattle in the mob who know what is going on and what to do. When they are let out into their new paddock they don’t have those older cattle there to show them what to do, so it becomes an education exercise for the weaner camp called “weaner breaking” or “weaner tailing”.  The crew spend time with the weaners in the yards on horseback getting the weaners used to the presence of horses and moving where they want them to go, and staying in one place when they want them to. Then when the weaners are behaving well in the yards it’s time to open the gates and walk them to their new paddock, stopping every now and then again to get them used to following a lead horse, responding to pressure, and holding up in one spot when required.

5.4A yard full of processed weaners waiting to be walked out into their new paddock.

5.5One very curious weaner.

5.6Weaners getting used to the presence of a horse in the yards.

5.7Well behaved weaners playing ‘follow the leader’.

5.8We were very impressed at how well the weaners walked through two gateways at once including making a right hand turn!

5.9At last, after a 10km walk we have reached the watering point in the new paddock!

5.10The boys debriefing at the end of the day.