One of Australia’s most cherished poets is A B (Banjo) Paterson and his 1889 poem “Clancy of the Overflow” is one of his best remembered works. It tells the story of Clancy who has gone to Queensland droving ….
Today I wonder if the general population gives much thought to droving and drovers. I suspect for most it is a profession lost in the romanticism of Banjo’s words.
Yet drovers are still a part of the rural landscape. Throughout the country there are designated stock routes, owned by the government and preserved, in theory, for the use of travelling stock. In reality many of these stock routes are permanently leased to landowners, or have fenced paddocks such as the one we are currently using a few kilometres from Rocky Springs.
But on occasion the big travelling mobs still come through and so was the case this summer when there were more cows than cars on our roads.
The big mobs provide for much heated discussion on the use of stock routes. Some people hate the drovers, describing them as immoral opportunists who have no respect for boundary fences, who chew out grass that should be retained for locals and who treat their cattle poorly.
I sit on the other side of the fence. Maybe Banjo is resonating through the years but I love the sight of a big mob on the road. I see stock routes under utilised for many seasons where the grass has grown old and rank and useless, and when these mobs move through they eat and trample that grass, providing light and room for regenerative feed to grow once more. The paddock we are currently agisting has benefitted from having a big mob through and the small number of cattle we have there now are growing fat from the fresh grass.
Until a couple of months ago I had not had much to do with the droving mobs, other than to wait patiently as the animals moved out of my way as I drove to town. I’d not really put much thought into the logistics of the operation. How do you train a mob to the road? How do you stop them from going where they want? How do you deal with the traffic? Is the job a cross between dead boring and sheer panic?
Then Brian got a phone call …………………