2019,  Living on a kettle station

#5 Working with cattle

It’s hard work.
When you buy meat in the supermarket this is not what you think about.  

Once a year -which take a couple of months- it’s time to move some cattle (cows) to the other properties (in this case Melbourne). This process is divided in different steps. 

First catch the cattle – load them in the trucks – unload – brandmark and castrate them – bath them – let them dry over night – load them in the truck again and drive off. This process takes at least three days, with a number of around 80 cows at a time. 

I’ll let you do the maths, but -with an amount of around 80.000 cows on your property- it takes some time. 

Not all the cows on the property get caught though, but at least 1/3 of it.

Three days, I helped with loading the cattle into the truck. Well.. two times I was just watching, one time I really participated. 

One of the reasons for this is, because it could be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. These animals are huge, so you have to keep your eyes in your back to make sure a cow is not running towards you from behind.

All around the property there are small areas with fences to lock up the cows. This area has little areas inside to divide the cows in small groups, which makes it saver to load them into the truck. By walking, running and making noises behind the cattle, you guide them where to go. From one area to the other.. by ending up in a truck of two floor high. 

Once, there was a cow running towards me after he escaped from his his line. All of a sudden, I saw a big black thing in the corner of my eye coming closer into my direction. Fast reaction; I dropped everything. 

Phone; cigarettes; water bottle and jumped as high as I could against the fence! So quickly as possible I climbed higher. 

Just on time. 
That could have gone terrible wrong.. 

But it didn’t.
Such an adrenaline kick afterwards though.

Some people have less luck. During my stay, I say one guys hand got broken, another one his knee, a leg, shoulder and neck. If you do this work every day -like these guys- something has to go wrong at one point.

But these guys are working from 6AM to 6 PM, sometimes nine in the evening. Six days a week. 

A day of running in the middle of the heat (over 40 degrees) and barely shade. They run on sand, so you’re creating and breathing sand clouds all day. You have to make sure you bring enough water with you otherwise.. you’re fucked. 

At the end of the day, they look brown from the dirt. 

We don’t know these kind of hard work back home. Seriously

Two other days I left my kitchen duties to help bathing the cows.

It looks funny. One by one, they let the cows jump in a long hole of water. The cow have to swim to the other side; get out of the water and then dry it’s fur in the sun. Easy you would think.. 

But it doesn’t always goes at it should be. 
Animals eh.

Some cows feel the urge to walk backwards in line (so they get stuck in a fence), some cows don’t want to jump (so you have to push them a little), some cows don’t want to swim (and try to swim back), some cows jump back into the water and have a big chance of drowning. 

If I compare these cows with back home; they’re almost dubbel size! So the fact that a lot of things can go wrong -and the animals are massive- you have to pay attention, every step of the way. Animals can be unpredictable.

My role was avoiding that the cows were jumping back into the water (by using sounds and movements), and change de fences between the wet and dry cows after the swimming part.

It was intens and unreal. 

A lot of times when I was at the station, I felt like I was in a movie; this was one of those moments. 

Another day, the boss’ wife took me a couple of hours with her in the buggy (open little car) to bring some cattle from one field to the other. 

With two people on a motorbike; two on a quad; and us in the buggy; we drove slowly behind the cattle -step by step- to make sure they all followed and walking the right way. 

You have to imagine; more then 60 cows walking over a sandy road. It’s hot and the sun is going down. Because of all the movement on the ground, the sand floats up which gives a dramatic effect while the sun is ending the day. 

It was like an orgasm for the soul and eyes.

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