They Used to Pay Me to Do That

This post has no pictures of the other day but just a few from the NT and plenty of memories.
Last Tuesday was one of the best days that I’ve had since leaving “Humbert River Station” in the Northern Territory to go to university.

While I work on a cotton farm there are cattle that run wide and live in the flood country, the farm doesn’t really do anything with except for about once a year when they try and muster them to cut out anything that might make a decent return. Recently the dry weather has brought them out of the flood country and into cotton where they graze in between the plants for the weed Nut Grass, they knock off a lot of the squares and bolls in the process.

We were just about to head home when the manager called us up and said to get the quad or the Yamaha Viking ATV, instead of taking one of the work vehicles I opted to use my Postie bike. I’ve been riding the Postie to work lately to cut down on my fuel bill as I’m able to reduce a $70 a week bill for the ute to $16 for the Postie, despite it having road tires and being servilely underpowered I thought it would be the better choice as it would be more manoeuvrable as well as easier to weave in and out of the scrub in the flood country.

And then I was back there my mind was in the NT, flying through the scrub chasing and turning the scrub bulls, micky’s and feral cows back to where they needed to be, the only differences were the distance was a lot shorter and there was no helicopter hovering above my head. Even the Postie’s lack of power didn’t kill the mood, in fact the only time it struggled was when the cattle ran up the wall and into a dry dam.

After we had pushed them back into the floodway, I said to the manager “You know they used to pay me to do that” he then said “I thought you enjoyed that”. With any luck we may end up mustering them between rounds of irrigation so they’ll no longer cause a problem in our cotton.

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Intercollegiate Meat Judging Part 1

The morning frost numbed my fingers as I try’d to open the torno cover on the back my of my ute to get the gumboots out that I would need to be able to enter the Cargill Teys Wagga abattoir later in week. By 6am on this frosty Armidale Monday morning everyone had gathered in the car park between the colleges, the bags were packed into the trailer, the  bus was loaded and we were off for the 2013 Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) competition in Wagga Wagga.

The ICMJ is held each year and draws people from all over Australian and the world and while its primary purpose is a competition to see how well students are judging carcasses on there eating quality, profitability and pricing. There are also a series of talks during the week covering the different area’s of the Australian meat industry such as Pork, Lamb, Beef and the retailers perspective.

We arrived Monday night had a good dinner at the pub then went back to Charles Sturt University (CSU) where we were staying. The next morning we had a quick breakfast at Maccas before heading out to the abattoir for a tour of the boning room and to practice judging on the carcasses in the chillers. We were lucky enough to have the “Young Farming Champion” Jasmine Nixon give us the tour of the plant and the sheer size of boning room just blew us all away.

After touring the boning room and the chillers we went to have a look at the a their water treatment plant behind the abattoir where we were able to see the various stages of how the water was processed. The first stage of the process was the anaerobic ponds where bacteria helped to break down minerals and waste in the water while tarps covering the top  of the ponds collected the methane that was emitted, this was then burnt of to cut emissions. However they do have a plan to either turn it into put in place a electrical generator or use it to heat their boiler. The next stage of the process was the aerobic pond where the water was aerated to help to further break down wastes and purify the water, after this the water is either used to wash down holding yards, used in irrigation or discharged to the council facility for further treatment. This process also creates a lot of sludge that needs to be dealt with so it is extracted from the ponds and is dried by having the water forced out of it by a press before being collected by a person who turns it into compost for there own private use.

After visiting the abattoir we went to Knight’s Butchery in Wagga where we were shown around their shop and were able to learn how they operated as well as the importance of value adding. Knights meats has a range of product lines including their “wholesale” meats which were like the packaged meat that you buy off the shelf at Woolworths, there was also their value added section and their deli. This was a great part of trip and we all learned a great deal from it.

Later that night we had the meet and greet dinner at CSU and were able to meet the wide range people of people that were at the ICMJ. People had come from all over Australia, their were two teams from the USA and teams from South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan as well as person from Zambia who was with the Adelaide University team. These were a great bunch people and it was great to get to know them better as the week went on. We were soon in bed eager for the following days lectures.

As it was a long week and much was done this is just part one of a two part post, I’ll hopefully have the second part up by Sunday.

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Third Round Over And Out

Third round is over with the last of the mustering finishing up today, all we have to do is hope that the rain holds off for tonight so the truck can get through tomorrow. The desilter arrived the other day to clean out two of the turkey’s nests (small dams that supply water to the troughs) only to hampered by rain that stopped him in his tracks leaving a nest drained and unable to be worked on, as well the problem that it had no compacted earth at the bottom making it impossible to desilt. So the construction of a new nest is underway, which will be a good thing in the long run as it will be much bigger and better than old one with a compacted base and walls allowing it to hold more water for longer. The rain is also causing other issues washing out creeks making it difficult for a ute to get through and nearly impossible in the station truck, we lost nine 100kg lick blocks going through one creek today making for a difficult clean up. Hopefully the new turkey nest should be done tomorrow and the truck will finally arrive so we can get the cattle out. 

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We’ve spent the last week out at camp mustering, with reinforcements from others stations sent to give us a hand, two paddocks and five days later we’re back at the homestead and not a day too late, with it pouring down rain all over the station on the first night back. Camp was a great time with early breakfasts in time to see the sunrise and make an early start to cattle work while it was still cool instead of the 50 degrees it was in the middle of the day, during these  times of extreme heat and humidity its important to rest the cattle the men during the middle of the day so nothing or any body gets to hot or stressed leaving us with early mornings and late nights. The cattle are mustered with a chopper and a bike to either the cattle yards or a collection point from which they are walked to yards with a team of horsemen and bikes before being sorted and walked back to their paddocks, it can be a long and stressful but the rewards are worth it. 

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Gearing Up

Third round is starting tomorrow so the last few days we’ve running gear out to camp, ute load after ute load has had to go out from the gear for cattle handling to all the basics for living out on camp. We took the horses out yesterday only to end up in a race against mother nature herself, winning only by a nose I made it back to the station before the skies opened up and the rain came down. So for the next week it will be all go go go until third round is over.

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Cattle Dip and Cattle Lick

We’ve been busy dipping all the cattle we’ll trucking tomorrow, the cattle dip removes any ticks that may be living on the cattle so we can truck them below the tick line into the tick free area. With the cattle feeder running out of lick we’ve had to refill it, taking the 1 ton bags of lick down to the feeder on the ute and shovel them into the feeder. There is still smoke haze around from nearby fires making for some great sunsets.

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Trucking Cattle and Other Things

Yesterday was another full day at Humbert with  a road train loaded full of cattle first up in the morning followed by some more fencing and cleaning out some paddocks of  fence jumpers, with the loader still broken feeding out is still difficult with the bales still needing to be rolled onto the ute. With the final muster of the round starting today station life should be back to normal soon. The weather is still crazy with jumpers needed in the morning and it being 40 degrees by midday with hotter weather still to come.

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With the contractors down a couple of blokes I’ve been back in the paddock and in the yards  helping with the mustering. But other jobs still have to be done with plenty of fences in need of repair and bores and pumps in need of checking. We’ve also gotten another potty calf bringing the total up to six, at least they won’t get lonely.

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Cattle and Trucks

Things are starting starting to heat up on the station with the temperature starting to rise and second round in full swing. Yesterday was spent  branding and drafting cattle so they could to be trucked today to market today, unfortunately when returning some cattle to VRD we blew a tire and had to limp the truck the 50km back to the station.

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