Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bright as Buttons!

A lovely pair aren't they?
Just as for 99.999 % (recurring) of cattledogs, this pair did not live very long.
The one on the right I ran over, I forget what happened to the one on the left, I think he was found dead on the chain one morning.  Being found "dead" was reasonably commonplace.

They were fun to have around, cheerful (if dogs could be said to be cheerful) and were going to turn out quite good dogs.

The left hand one was rigid in some practices.  Would only hop in or out of a vehicle at the passenger side from the rear.  Wickedly I'd park the toyota with that part hard against a strainer post or something.  Turned out he couldn't/wouldn't jump in if that spot wasn't free.

If I was on horseback he'd follow so close he'd be nearly brushing the horse's hocks.  One "dog kicker" I used to ride laid him out properly.  At first it seemed he'd been brain damaged, as he ran around in a strange fashion.  Apart from a tiny sliver of skull missing from one eye socket, there seemed no lasting damage.

Here they are standing by the road near the house, in some nice green Rhodes grass.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Steak Dinner!

Quite a sight isn't it?
Removing the offal from a freshly shot Ox.
The carcass is hanging from theforks of a small farm tractor.
On the Karen Cheng "paleo" diet?  You'll be feeling really happy & healthy after reading this, and salivating, alla same longa pavlov's dogs!

Quite a few steak dinners in this photo actually!  Also lots of sausages, mince, roasts, meat for the dogs, and stuff left at the kill site, for wild animals to come along & hoe into!

The process of slaughter can make you feel a bit queasy.
The beast is shot in the very late afternoon.  Usually it is in the stockyards.  A large yard with a big gate is used, to enable machinery access to the dead body.

The beast is shot in the brain, through the stockyard rails, with a rifle.  Most people use a high calibre, for guaranteed penetration through the front of the skull.  I preferred a .22 calibre, and aimed at the butt of the ear.  This meant that someone would have to be at my 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock to distract the beast.

Immediately the beast falls, the crew go in as rapidly as possible.  The blood has to be let out fast, before it coagulates and flavours the meat.   An opening will be made in the front, below the throat, hacking up as close to the heart as possible.  Then someone will place their foot on the haunch/kidney region and rock the body, to pump out blood.  The rocking is assisted by pulling back on the tail, then pushing with your foot.  This continues until the flow of blood has slowed to negligible.

Then the body is dragged away by a tractor, usually with a pin through the back legs and hung on forklift forks.  Away from the stockyards the carcass is skinned, then slowly lifted up, with all the offal & unwanted parts being cut out.

By this time it is usually dark, and the operation is completed under vehicle headlights.  That is what is happening in the photo above.

When this is completed, the carcass is carried to the station buildings, then lifted up high to prevent dingos and other animals getting at it during the night.

The carcass is left hanging overnight, in the cool.

Early the  next morning, say 4am, we start cutting it up.  As parts are cut off, they will be designated and designated either as one of the prime cuts, or as "mince", or "for the dogs", or "soup bone" or whatever.

By breakfast time the entire beast is packed into the freezer, either as bulk prime cuts (cutting into portions will usually come later) bulk mince, or (already made into) sausages.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bang On!

This trench, dug for installation of a cross-country gas pipeline, turned out to be the perfect depth for me to be able to sight a rifle comfortably from a standing position.
One of my favourite possessions was this Springfield M1A.  To this day I can smell the gun oil, and the tang of Hoppe's solvent.  *sigh*.

There is nothing quite like the nice feeling of a rifle that is perfect for you.  I came to this one by chance.  As a youngster I used a US Army WW2 surplus M1 Garand.  That was a particularly heavy object for a teenager to lug around, and a touch on the cumbersome side to boot.  I didn't mind the 30.06 calibre, and grew to quite like it.

But it was a bit heavy.  In later years I kept it as a curiosity.  This because it was made by the tractor firm International Harvester and I enjoyed the novelty of seeing their stamp on a rifle.
By the 1960's the M1 Garand was rendered obsolete by the M14.  The M14 was essentially the M1 Garand chambered down to a .308 calibre and fed from below by a box magazine (the Garand uses an 8-round clip pushed in from above).  Also the M14 had fully automatic capability, an easier to service gas system, was much lighter etc.

I had a US Army surplus M14, which was very nice, and I'd use it in rougher going, so as to not risk scratching my baby, the M1A.  The M1A was a civilian copy of the M14, but with a slightly heavier barrel, and no rock'n'roll switch.  (The rock'n'roll switch was disabled on my army surplus M14, and though it is easy enough to fix that, I never gave in to the temptation to make it fully automatic).

The M1A is likely the most accurate self-loading rifle ever made.  The reason being the bolt had a locking head.  The dealer I bought this one from could hit a jam tin at 400 yards with just about every shot over open sights.

I couldn't even see the jam tin over open sights at 400 yards.

I carried that rifle in the picture for miles, hunting just about every feral animal known to mankind.  I wish I'd had it as a kid, we'd have been able to save dad lots of money by shooting plenty more pigs than we did.  (Pigs are not only particularly damaging to grain crops, they are very satisfying to shoot).

Over time I used plenty of other semi-automatics, but never found any of them near as good as the M1A.
This includes the SLR (for saying that I'll be branded an heretic in Australia).  I had a brand new Lithgow SLR.  It was a thing of beauty, but in the bush I found it a bit unwieldy, and despite it firing exactly the same .308 calibre pill as the M14 and M1A, I never got a feeling of satisfaction from using it.  (Translation:  I was never able to kill as many pigs with it.)

On the makeshift range I was always able to shoot much better with the M1A than with the SLR.

When looking for a wounded pig in lignum channels, with visibility of less than a few feet, I always preferred the M1A or M14 to the SLR.

Now these are all gone.  The federal government pressured each of the states into implementing very strict gun laws, which not only banned self-loaders, but pretty much prevented me from owning firearms.

I'd never before shot a human being.  But the passing of the gun laws, and adversarial and acrimonious manner of their implementation, meant plenty of people in my situation ceased jocular talk about shooting politicians (an ominous sign).
For as long as I live, I will never forgive any and every politican, and each and every advocate of gun control, for removing these tools of trade from me.  Every time I read the obituary of a politican who voted for gun control, I give a satisfied laugh, prompted by the knowledge that Australia just became a slightly better place.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Living Free

Scrub Bull - in the wild
This cleanskin scrubber bull photographed by pure chance as he drank from a billabong on Cape York Pensinsula.  I wish I'd had a better lens. The scene & subject deserve better justice than I've done it.

This bull has lived to mature age without ever being yarded, caught or anything else. He's sure to be a wily old fellow. Looking at the country behind him, he'd be very hard to catch in that country.

This is December, just before the onset of the monsoon.  Most bush water will have dried up after about 10 months of hot humid weather with no rain.  The open grassy foreground is simply dried swamp bed.  After the rainy season all that you see will be well under water.

The photo would look much better without that fence in it.  The fence encloses an area of about 2 acres.  I've a feeling it is the residue of an abandoned/failed trial of some sort.  The fence is supposed to kangaroo & other animal proof.  (This points to it being the handiwork of a university or other non-pragmatic government outfit, as no way in the world is that fence going to stop anything.)  Inside of the fence is eaten out from some pigs or something getting stuck in there, if I recall correctly.  The fence went into the water & some of those nice waterlilies were included in the enclosed area.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

White Billiard Table

Perfectly flat treeless plain.  The view is exactly the same in all directions.  The blacksoil plain of the Barkly Tableland is of sufficient size that several cattle stations, each a few thousand square miles in area, are exclusively of this topography/geology.

My previous post on the Barkly Tableland contained man-made infrastructure, so I was able to pinpoint where it is.

This landscape is perfectly flat.  A circumstance that is difficult to fathom unless you've experienced it.  Most land has an ever so slight fall to it, and water will run off - most of the Queensland Channel Country (for example) has a fall of 10 inches every mile.  This country is flatter.

It feels like being in the centre of a very large soup dish.  No matter which way you face, you feel as if you are looking slightly uphill.  It is quite odd when driving, you think you are going up an ever so slight rise, and after several miles look back to see how far you've climbed, only to discover the view behind is likewise, it looks and feels is if you've been driving down an ever so slight incline!

This photo could be anywhere.  All I know is that it is taken on Alexandria Station.  At the time 6,300 square miles in area (pretty much all of it looks much like the above) and running 4 stock camps of 10 men each.  Two of which were camped out all year.  (All stock camps did some camping out, though the lucky blokes in one camp reputedly did only about 6 weeks of it.)

The wind is endless, strong, cold and miserable.  Saddling one's horse is quite a knack, as the saddlecloth will blow off unless you get the horse standing at just the right angle to the wind.  (This is not as easy as it sounds, especially at 4am or somesuch, when you're wishing you were elsewhere, and the horse is not cooperating.)

The social isolation is such that we rarely saw anybody who wasn't from our camp, our outstation, or the supporting bore runners.

Almost (-actual number redacted-) years later, and without consulting written notes, I can still remember every person who had cause to drop in to the stock camp that year.
There was the DPI stock inspector and a vet (they arrived & left together, several times).
Each successive station pilot (they went through a few) from the head station.
The manager of another station in the group (he was the only person who neither greeted, acknowledged or spoke to us ringers, he didn't even have a mug of tea - I'll wager none of us have ever forgotten him.)
The station manager.
The 3-man crew of the "bore truck" (whose task was to pull any bores that required it, quite a task it seemed, though I never found out how deep any of them were).
A retired former manager of the station on a social visit with a friend to his old stamping ground (the reigning station outlaw was named after him.)
An electrician from Tennant Creek, who stayed for several days with us, I forget why he was there, but we spent what seemed like hours around the campfire talking to him every night as he was a most interesting fellow.
And two semi-trailer drivers from the main station, who came for one reason or another to pick up cattle (mostly weaners) to transport them to an unspecified destination (the blokes in the stock camp were never told where the cattle went - we were good enough to yard 'em, brand 'em, etc, but don't expect to be told anything), probably it was somewhere else on the station.

The year would be unchanged, except for two breaks in this routine, both of which contained more socialising than we could cope with, and were each of four days duration.  A race meeting on the adjoining station, and a rodeo in town.  Otherwise we were camped out except for a little bit at the start & finish of the year.  I chose to miss both of these "town" events - being a reclusive type has its compensations, as somebody has to remain at home, to ensure nothing goes wrong, and no interlopers take advantage of everybody being away from the station.

This routine was not uncommon for station in that area.  The roughest patch comes a month or two in, when the adjusting for each other's personalities hasn't quite been smoothed out.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Equestrian Event!

Here I am mounted for a much needed pre-lunch ride in the stockyards.
(Note the mid-morning angle of the mid-winter sun, all you readers from high numbered latitudes).

I'm not in this photo!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fat enough to play Billiards on!

A common expression to illustrate how fat are cattle is: "So fat you could play billards on their backs"
Actually I've ever really heard this said about cattle from the region of south-west Queensland known as: The Channel Country.
Many have scoffed at the authenticity of this statement, saying uninformed things such as "there's no such thing as a straight line in nature" or "Cattle's backs are lumpy & you couldn't stand a cup on them".
Here it is people:  Photographic proof positive.  Really fat cattle do have a flat back.

This photo was taken some years ago in the Channel Country.  The bullock is a 8yo Shorthorn, suffering from bloat or something, due to the excellent season.
You'd be unlikely to guess it from the background, but he really is a product of the natural feed that grows in this paddock.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tea Time

Roadside tea break.
A billy boils.  This one is made from a powdered milk tin, with a handle made of fencing wire.  I'm not sure I've ever seen any other construction.  Though at times I've seen flour drums used, when making tea for a large group.

Tea is made by boiling water in the tin can (billy), then adding tea leaves into the boiling water.  The resulting brew can slightly smoky in flavour (depending upon circumstances) which need not be a bad thing, given the preponderance of cheap tea leaves in the bush, and the  variation in mineral, sediment & other content of the water.

There is sufficient pictorial information in this photo to deduce where it is taken, for those who are familiar with Australia.  You should be able to get within 10-15% of the continental land mass, possibly much less.

The references in the photo are cultural, economic, and of course natural.

The cultural references are heavily nuanced, very specific, and won't be grasped by more than a very small percentage of the population.

I'll update with more information in a week or so.

Update:  Well that was much longer than a week!  The clue is in the type of soil, the type of vegetation, the amount of money that has been spent on the highway (note the highway is gravel only) and the man in the photo is wearing a combination of shearer's moccassins with the clothes (especially hat) of a stockman from large scale open range cattle country.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Unwilling Jockey

Uncles, mother & I in the yard of the homestead where they all grew up.
For the lamb to be allowed inside, (and to be tame enough to stand still like that)
it would certainly be an orphan.
Here I am at 8 months old.  Two of mum's brothers are holding me on a poddy lamb.  This would have been my first visit back to the deep south, where I was born, and possibly the first time the uncles had seen me.

That netting fence behind the grape trellis is the edge of the houseyard, and right behind that is the channel of one of Australia's biggest rivers.

And I mean right behind, there is only room for a slender footpath before the sudden descent into the river.  The channel is huge, and always had deep slow moving water in it.  It always seemed so sinister to me, the dark water.

Mother & I are the only ones remaining.  Both the uncles died too young, of the same worldwide cursed illness that claimed their father when he was too young, and which also claimed mum 10 years ago.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Little Neighbors

This photo is taken at the boundary gate of a northern cattle station.
You can see by the close cropped grass, the dung, and the obliterated wheel tracks, that there are plenty of cattle running on both sides of this fence.
Anthills are to be found seemingly everywhere in northern Australia.  They are hard as rock, as will be attested to by anyone who has ridden through them at speed on a motorbike - and hit their foot on one.
Kicking one, if you are uninitiated, has much the same outcome as the cartoon scenario where an unsuspecting character kicks a supposedly stray brown paper bag, one that is actually covering a rock or brick.
For some reason people who haven't seen them before seem to think they are soft, or crumbly.

They are actually more or less mud-brick plinths.
I've opened up on them with a .308 at times, and barely damaged them.
They are no match for a bulldozer or road grader though, hehehe.

The scene above is typical Australian, and any Australian who says the above isn't a familiar scene hasn't seen much of Australia.

The termites/ants apparently eat grass.  But there isn't much you can do about them.

 UPDATE:  Try as I do to anticipate and answer all questions from lay readers, Kay (as usual) has found a chink in the armour!

Do the ants bite?
Answer:  I've no idea.  I've never seen them.  For all I know the anthills could be creates by aliens using a magic wand!
Curiously, while we use the term "anthills", we call the occupants "termites".  Nobody I've ever met has for so much as one second confused the little creatures for garden ants.

I suppose they eat grass, invisibly.  It would be a problem for cattle only because they are competing for the same food.  (I suppose)
Anthills do not grow (yes, in another terminological twist we use the term "grow") in good country.  They seem to be restricted to infertile & unproductive areas.
For example:  How many cattle do you really think are supported by the densely timbered yet sparesly grassed landscape in the photo?  One to 60 acres?  One to  30 acres?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What Have We Come To? (or City Meets Country)

When a routine event such as crossing a creek on the highway...(er.. main road is probably a more apt term) is deemed worthy of being photographed/videoed by every motorist in sight, then the world has changed.
Nowdays the population is so "asphaltised" that a simple crossing of a running creek will cause a spectacle such as this.

This never happened when I was a kid.  Pre-the-digital age, photography was relatively expensive, prints of your photos were usually months away (most people would take only one or two rolls of photos per year) a household would own only one camera, and it wouldn't be carried around casually, but brought out only in anticipation of a very special event.

A camera was not something people carried in their car.  (On the other hand, a rifle in the car was almost universal, and likely also jumper leads, tow rope, axe, & so on).

Of course, when I was a kid, tourists were a rare event once you got off the end of the bitumen roads.

This scene is some hundred miles or more from the nearest sealed road.  It is the middle of winter.  The vehicle crossing is a rent-a-car, though I've no idea who is in it or where they are going.  The collection of photographers are tourists from urban regions, who are goggle-eyed at this part of the "highway".

My mother took this, though I've no idea what prompted her to.  She & my father would have crossed this countless times, & she hasn't ever taken a photo of their car crossing this creek, or any other creek.

As a youth I'd put my first car into far deeper water than this.  I've gone through waist deep water on occassions, with a passenger & camera, (so a photo could have been taken) & didn't for a second consider getting a photo of such a routine event.  I'll see if I've a photo anywhere of crossing a flooded creek.  (My first car?  I'm only now on my second car!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dancing Partner

Following on from the previous post, this photo shows a pair of hobbles in use.  The hobbles are around the horse's fetlocks.
This horse hasn't been ridden yet.  He's about to be as the saddle on his back is quite valuable.  For "saddle wearing" practice you'd use an old or broken saddle, one that it didn't matter if the horse rolled on it & things like that.

This is my favourite saddle, no way would I have put it on an unbroken horse unless I was going to be mounting it.  From recollection this horse put on a pretty good show for his first ride.  I was quite pleased with myself afterward.

He was one of those that didn't put his head down to buck.  It is rare, but does happen, & it is not easy to stay on such a horse.  As unpleasant as it is to be "looking down the well" it is surpassed only by the same performance being put on, but without the head being dropped.

Quite a shock the first time it happens, as you usually only find out afterward, from some old hand who was watching, that such a thing can happen.

Just as well the horse put his head above the horizon level of the hill in the background, it wouldn't be the same photo if he hadn't been captured at that moment.

The dust flying forward from his back feet is quite something too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sandshoes & Dinner Hobbles

Sandshoes & bullstraps
The day will be full of action!
Stirrups crossed over the saddle.  That means they are about to put the horses on a truck.  By the sandshoes on all three ringers, and the bullstrap around the waist of the middle one, these fellows are expecting trouble.

The day itself I forget, but these three men were a crack crew.  They'd have been going after pikers, as it was a dry year and we were getting lots of them.

Those are actually dinner hobbles around his waist, but they do the same job around a beast's ankles as around a horses knees.

Three men in the photo, but there were Nine in the stock camp.  We ran two stock camps that year, these fellows were named with the usual amount of Australian imagination:  "Number One Camp".

We don't use fancy names.  Results speak louder.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Road Train

170 cattle      
82 Tyres 
7 Decks   
4 Trailers
1 Bullbar
Loaded with cattle, those steel framed trailers would have a bit of weight in them.
I'm not sure where they were going, either the railhead or the local saleyards.
Pretty fair journey either way.

Note the water drums slung beneath the trailers?  You can't quite see the banks of spare tyres slung under there, but sometimes they have up to 8 spare tyres under each trailer.  The bullbar you can see (painted white on the front of the Prime Mover).

What is not so visible is the split windscreen.  I'd never given it a thought, but someone from the North American makers were stunned to see their nice single pane "windshield" removed, a central strut inserted in the middle & the windscreen in two parts. (Sometimes called the "Landrover look" by English jackeroos)  I thought all trucks came like that from the factory.  I've never seen any other configuration.

Apparently in areas where there is less liklihood of stone damage trucks operate with a single windscreen panel (just like cars & toyotas etc)

The fourth trailer is illegal.  They are only supposed to pull a maximum of three on public roads.  We'd caught some pikers, who were too tall to fit in a double-decker stock crate, so the carriers hooked a single deck trailer onto one truck to accommodate the tall old bullocks.

It is 30 miles out to the public road, then 140 miles to town from there.  But those last 140 miles are sealed.
We loaded at least 3 of these that morning.  They were waiting for us to load them in the morning, having arrived during the night, well after midnight.

I don't know how more of them don't get lost on their way to a remote set of stockyards (actually I've never heard of truckies getting lost.)  In the dark we sometimes get lost on our own station, driving something that is easily turned around.

You can see there two sets of wheel tracks, there is another set running forward from the truck.  Which track would you take in the dark?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Right Behind You!

On the northern plains again.  This photo illustrates a few unique effects.

Flat:  This country is as flat as a billiard table.
Black:  This is pure blacksoil.  Much of western & northern Qld, & eastern NT is blacksoil plain.  This is why the east coast of Qld never has the dust storms that occur further south.
Scattered Trees:  Those trees in the background are not along a watercourse, they are the rare & unique effect of very lightly timbered flat country.  There is a tree here & there, with the effect being that the horizon appears to be a line of trees.  It is as if you are in the middle of a huge circle of trees.  You can drive (or ride or whatever) toward them all day, you don't reach the "treeline" because it doesn't exist.
Bare:  Blacksoil plains are "feast or famine" country.  When dry, as it is here, there isn't even a sign that grass ever grew.  After a good wet season, the grass may be as much as 14 feet high.

We are moving a mob of cattle.  It is pretty easy going, hence I have the camera with me on horseback.  (a very rare event)  I have turned around & snapped this photo of the camp truck stopped.  The boss is talking to the driver

I think the truck was the horse tailer or cook, actually in a year this dry we didn't need a horse tailer, as we were having to hand feed the horse plant.  So the one man would have been doing "both" jobs.

It is the middle of winter, as you can see by how the Headstockman is rugged up in a parka.

You can see the change of colour where fresh earth is exposed after a beast has walked on it.  That is what you see on the fenceline to the right.  There is a change of colour at the fence only because the blacksoil on the other side hasn't been trampled by our mob.

We actually had quite a few old pikers in the mob, caught because of the dry year.  They didn't have the stamina to get away, nor the bush water to help them stay away.  With all the grass gone, they were easy to catch.

Here we are several miles away from our boundary, we are going to a nearer yards on another station, as we put the mob together 70  miles from our own homestead (though probably only 30 miles from our nearest set of stockyards) and the mob was mixed with strangers & our cattle.  The neighboring station had a set of yards about 12 miles away.

It was a very pleasant excursion for us, to be at different set of stockyards, on a different station.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Day Ahead

Just prior to mounting for the morning's work.
This is a derelict set of stockyards.  But not abandoned, as we used part of them for horse yards.  It is only 12 miles from the station homestead, so at times when there are only small jobs we don't even have to camp out to work from these yards.
Once we spent 3 months camped here, without once going back to the station.  It came to seem like home, and by the time we completed mustering & weaning in that part & had to move camp it was a feeling almost like at school, when the term ends and everybody goes on holiday.  (Except we moved camp 40 miles to the south, to muster all new - and more difficult - terrain!)

It was a good opportunity to get a snap of a Ringer with horse.  The hat & boots were traditional, and so often there isn't time or conditions to take a photo.  So I grabbed the opportunity!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

damper for two

He's just holding the damper over the ashes, to give me a "better photo"
The two of us were riding a fence.  The reason is lost in time.  Lunch had been dropped off for us at this spot, beside a cattle trough.  It was a long day, made bearable by the conversation as we rode.  The paddock was some 200,000 acres.  I forget how much of it we had to ride by horseback.  I think the reason was there wasn't a track along the fence, & it was over heavily tussocked Mitchell grass black soil.

Update:  Ooops, I forget the audience may be an eclectic worldwide one, unfamiliar with what is to me ordinary Australian tucker.

Damper is bread (for want of a better word) made from flour & water.  Nothing else.  It is made when yeast simply is not available.  Frozen yeast does not keep well, nor travel well.
In recent years, with the easy commercial availability of dried yeast (usually in small sachet form) there is no need for anybody to have to resort to making damper.  Thank heavens for that.

Anyone who has eaten a damper that "tasted nice" has almost certainly had one which (I guarantee) included eggs, butter, salt and/or just about anything else except yeast.

A "billy" is the term for a container that water is boiled in over a fire.  Tea leaves are thrown into the boiling water & thus tea is made.  If tea is not made inside the billy, then it isn't a billy.  There are two billys above.  One had the damper (wrapped in foil) a piece of corned meat and tea & sugar in it.  The other was fitted over it, so that in the unlikely event an animal came along, it couldn't get at our lunch.  The other things you see are Alf's quartpot, and the lid.  The quartpot is carried on the saddle, usually used for boiling tea in (for yourself) but on this day used merely to drink the tea that was made in the billy.

After lunch we bundled the two billys back together, put them back where they were stowed, and somebody picked them up later that afternoon or night.

Damper is, I believe, known in the rest of the world by the correct term: unleavened bread.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lonely Pair

Only two tufts of grass in sight, both are right at the front, at the waterline.
Perfectly flat blacksoil alluvial plains.  Gulf of Carpentaria.  No grass in sight (except the two tufts of Flinders Grass inside the Turkey's Nest).
This cow & calf were looking for water, heaven only knows how far they had to go to find grass, as there is none in sight.  The paddock was destocked, but these two obviously were missed (or had returned).
They are watching me.  I'm on a water run, checking bores, pumps & troughs.
The station was 1,100 sq miles, (700,000 acres) or so.  The whole place was pretty much like this.  Black soil & no grass.
It was a very dry year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ouch, that Hurts!


This is what superseded the broncho ramp.  The calf cradle.  This is a "Morrissey" brand.  I'll not say they are the most popular, but they certainly seemed it.  I've only ever seen one other type of calf-cradle, once.
Everything else I've ever seen or used has been a Morrissey!  They are fantastic.

Calves are forced up a narrow race, released into the cradle, which is closed on them and thrown down (it is mounted on a concrete slab & hinged.  It lands on a truck tyre.  You can't see the concrete slab above, it is camoflaged by dirt, grass & dung.

Once in the cradle & prone, the calf is all yours to brand, earmark, dehorn, castrate, & perhaps innoculate, and anything that needs doing to it. 

This one has a home-made modification to make it easier to use, and less likely that the calf will escape.
It is possible to put a lot of calves through this in a very short time.  The fastest I've ever timed was about 700 calves at the rate of one every 24 seconds.  The heifer calves were being done in about 15 seconds.
This was with a stock camp of 10 men.  We certainly knew we had done a day's work!  I ate 27 steaks that day (while working in the cattleyards we were being fed the same 5-meals-a-day that shearers get, we needed every bite of it).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Broncho Ramp

Used these days to hold cattle overnight during mustering.  You can see the grass is tramped.
This is a "Broncho Yard".  A square (in this case Two squares) made by 6' posts with a dozen or more plain wires pulled through them.  Big enough to fit a Thousand cows & calves into.

Broncho yards are (were) a feature of the large stations of the Australian inland.  If the station you're on didn't/doesn't have Broncho yards dotted accross it every Twenty miles or so, it isn't in the outback, or it is "very small".  Note: The definition of "large" may differ from what the layman is accustomed to, if a station isn't at least a Thousand square miles in area, it is a "smaller" station.  The station this yard is on is Six Thousand square miles in area.  (Actually it might be eight thousand, but what's a couple of thousand square miles of difference?)

The post & rail panels in the middle are the "Broncho Ramp". 

The now obselete Brocho Yard is a relic of the days when calves were branded by roping from horseback, pulled up to the Broncho panel, & then leg roped and tripped or pulled down onto their side to be branded & marked.

The calves were roped from special Broncho horses, chosen for their large size & even temprament.  The broncho horse was fitted with a special rig, as some of the "calves" may have been 18 months or older.
Australia is the only place in the world where branding was done in this fashion.  The entire world roped calves for branding, and some places where labour costs are low, or cattle prices high, still do.

But nobody else had developed it into an institutionalised & specialist form as Australia did.
The reason:  Australia had two things no other cattle producing nation did, (a) very large stations, on which only one "round" of cattle handling was done in a year, and as a consequence of this (b) some very large cattle to brand, as they can be up to a year old, & older if they were missed last year (no station ever got to every beast every year, ever)

Bronchoeing was gone before I was around.  Calf cradles are superior.  There isn't the need for the expertise, or the manpower, and certainly not the need to train & maintain broncho horses.  Branding is much faster with a calf cradle, and much more efficient.

If I ever find an authentic photo of Broncho Horses & branding, I'll post them.

Where did the term "Broncho" (often misspelt these days as "bronco") originate?  I'm not sure.  The similarity to the spanish word, in common use in North America (but very different meaning) is a possibility.  Perhaps it is a corruption of the spanish-via-north-american useage?