21st April 2010
Part Two – Stocking the west
When the explorers fortunate enough to survive both the deserts and the mosquitos returned to the civilised parts of early Australia they initially lamented the lack of the inland sea. However their reports of potential grazing lands were well received and so began the journey westwards to settle and stock the inland. In 2010 inland NSW and QLD has an abundance of feed and landowners are crying out for stock.
Did I mention Brian had a plan? Mmmm. Well apparently it was quite simple: we would sell some of our cows and replace them with weaner calves. The calves would be sent to Brewarrina in north-western NSW where they could eat all the fresh feed and grow fat quickly.
Friends of ours live north of Brewarrina and we were going to agist on their brother’s place, “Carcool”. There was a chance that the truck carting the calves would not make it to Carcool due to the wet conditions but not to worry because there was a holding paddock we could overnight them in before walking them down the road to the station the next day. So was the plan.
On Saturday morning we loaded 150 weaner calves onto a truck at Rocky Springs and took off in the ute which was packed with, among other things, three dogs, one quad bike and a mobile cattle-ramp.
I had been having a major stress the night before but as with most things, once you are in the thick of the adventure it doesn’t seem so bad. After six hours of travelling we all arrived at the holding paddock – all 1000 acres of it. Let me put that in perspective: Rocky Springs is 2000 acres so this holding paddock was the equivalent of half our farm.
The truckie took one look at all the water and was not going to take his truck off the bitumen for love or money. With no other options the truck pulled up in the middle of the main road, we backed the loading ramp up to it and 150 dazed and hungry animals tottered off. At least we didn’t have to worry about them getting a drink.
After a night enjoying Brewarrina hospitality we met Bill at the holding paddock the next morning. Before leaving home we were told that there were about six cows in this holding paddock and all we had to do was cut them out of our mob and everything would be sweet. Well the six cows turned into 66 feral cattle of all description with one thought in their horrible little heads – run like buggery everywhere.
It was then that Brian chose to share with me that the walk into Carcool was 18kms.
18kms! I nearly choked. That is like driving to the Coolatai pub and back. Twice.
After two and a half hours Brian and Bill had mustered the holding paddock on the quads (quad bikes are the only vehicles that can move on the water logged ground – motorbikes and 4WDs only get bogged) and had set off along a fence line with what I hoped were 150 of ours and maybe another 50 feral cattle.
The calves moved through water up to their bellies, the quads aqua-planed, the ferals caused much colourful language from Bill and Brian and I followed along the dirt road with the ute – Bo and I were the back-up team.
During that long day the boys were constantly cutting out the ferals and dropping them off along the way (most of the country we went through was owned by the same guy so he will find them eventually). Everyone was covered in mud and was wet – even me – I had to do some work amongst taking photos. Wag, Spy and Bo alternated between the cattle and the ute and by 5pm we were finally at the gate to Carcool.
Then two of the blasted ferals did the bolt with one of ours in tow and it was action stations again. Bill put his quad up on to its side and required the help of my feminine strength to drop it onto four wheels so he could head off again. But finally all were through the gate. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
The reason Bill and Carcool have been isolated for so long then became abundantly clear. Most of the day I had had the ute on relatively dry dirt road, but now with two kilometres to go until the homestead the road turned to a lake and I gunned the ute through mud and slush. The three dogs were on the back and Brian was following on the quad. He reckoned Wag and Spy were scared witless but that Bo looked quite comfortable with my driving. He wasn’t so comfortable with the clouds of mozzies that assaulted him on dusk, but half a bottle of insect repellent fixed the huntaway.
Monday morning we all awoke feeling refreshed and relaxed and Brian and I said our goodbyes to Bill and his son and headed out the gate. We had gone about five kilometres when my nightmares were realised.
Overnight the feral cattle that were still with ours had jumped the Carcool grid and headed back to the holding paddock – taking our weaners with them. The nightmare got worse.
The ferals had got as far as a 10,000 acre paddock that we had passed through yesterday and were about to join up with about 500 other steers. We had no way of getting the quad off the back of the ute, however Brian liberated the border collie Spy who halted the main charge. Brian sent an SOS to Carcool via the mobile phone and then did the cardinal sin – he left the dirt road and headed onto the saturated paddocks in the ute.
Well the wheels dug in, we raced around chasing cattle, the windscreen became covered in mud and so we were leaning out windows, we did donuts in order to keep moving and for once, paddock language was more than appropriate.
Just when I thought all was lost, as ours and several ferals where about to join the main herd, Bill and his son came flying around the corner on the quads. Brian barked directions out the window and the game was on again. Through the water, cutting off ferals, dogs holding the main mob – what an adventure.
If nothing else, the experience gave me a lot of confidence in Bill. He sent us on our way after the first grid with promises to take everything to his yards and do a full count. This he did and when nine were missing he and his son put in over 200km to find and return the last few. We are in good hands at Carcool.
And so we returned home – stuffed. A week later I still feel stuffed and there is another load to go to Carcool in a few days time. I always wanted an adventurous life. I have received it in spades.