The Drover

 G’Day Mob,

A few weeks ago Brian took a phone call. Mick from Wallangra was putting together a herd of weaners (young cattle) for the route but the stock contractor would be a week late. Could Brian take the mob on the road each day and return them to the yards at night? Would Brian be the drover?

The Drover and Manu

The Drover and Manu

Brian arrived at Wallangra, about 30kms from Rocky Springs, in the ute loaded with working dogs: Bo, Spy, Manu and two of Manu’s pups, Panda and Biggun, who are both just learning the cattle game.

The stock trucks arrived at Wallangra with hundreds of weaners – young calves removed from their mothers – who went through the yards to be vaccinated, drenched and ear-tagged before being turned into the capable hands of the drover and his canines.

Freshly weaned calves usually want to do one thing – find Mum; so off they trotted and off raced Spy and Manu to block and turn them back; Brian giving whistles from the ute to direct and instruct the dogs. The second thing freshly weaned calves want to do is eat, so the primary role of the drover in the first few days is to block the walkers and settle the mob into grazing. Then weaners, drover and dogs establish a routine.

weaners strung out along the road

Weaners strung out along the road

“It might not look like I’m doing much when you drive by and see me having a cuppa,” Brian says, “but I’m always watching and getting to know the cattle, getting to know which ones are going to cause problems or drift off,

the mob

The mob

“and then I’m watching for traffic, trying to keep dogs and cattle safe. Some of the stock trucks are the worst – going too fast through the mob –but the farmer’s wives are the biggest offenders. Both truck drivers and wives should know better. One driver was even blowing his horn – I felt like throwing rocks at him.”

Beware! Stock on the road.

Beware! Stock on the road.

Brian was particularly worried about the young dogs as they haven’t got any cattle sense yet, let alone any road sense.

"Who are you calling senseless?" Panda asks

“Who are you calling senseless?” Panda asks

Brian was also worried about Bo; not because he thinks of Bo as a such a good working dog, but because Bo is my dog and Brian would be afraid to come home without him.

Brian and Bo in action

Brian and Bo in action

Being only 30km from home the droving crew returned on dark each evening, but the dogs were so keen for the work they would bound onto the ute in the dark each morning; except for one day when Brian had to tell Bo twice to get out of bed.

During quiet moments during the day, with the weaners camped under trees chewing their cud, the dogs would be flat out snoozing on the back of the ute, but when the action was on there was a different story. Spy or Manu would race to get to the front of the mob, Bo would let out his mighty bark and Biggun, in a fit of unbridled enthusiasm, hit the ground running and ran straight into a tree stump.

Biggun prior to head-butting a stump

Biggun prior to head-butting a stump

Each dog wanted to work. Bo, miffed at missing some of the excitement, clambered onto the roof of the ute, slid down the windscreen and was off after cattle. Manu just went over the top of the cage. Brian ended up chaining them when they weren’t required.

all aboard

All aboard

At the end of each day drover and dogs walked 655 weaners into the yards with help from Big Steve,

Brian, Tricky Dicky and Big Steve

Brian, Tricky Dicky and Big Steve

or Mick. Even Mick’s young fella (aged 10ish) did his bit, all wide-eyed interest as he acted as Brian’s offsider for a day.

Bringing in the mob

Bringing in the mob

and yarding them for the night

and yarding them for the night

And what did the drover’s wife do while he was away? Well she took delivery of 72 cows, tagged, weighed, drenched, mouthed and bang-tailed them, worked them through the yards and settled them in their new paddock. She moved the mobs at Rocky Springs, checked waters and changed trough floats. She cooked and cleaned, did bookwork and wrote a blog post.

Friday evening the droving job was over but no-one told the dogs. Saturday morning, much to the confusion and consternation of the working dogs, Bonnie and Clyde were loaded onto the back of the ute. There was a tractor pull in Coolatai and the foxies had high-jump records to defend.

Clyde on his way to winning another title

Clyde on his way to winning another title

 

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4 responses to “The Drover

  1. Thanks for the detailed view into your lives as drovers. That is some daily routine with the cows and dogs.

    • To be fair we (Brian) were only drovers for one week, but it is something we would consider in the future for a longer time span.

  2. Thankfully you left time to write a blog post. Fascinating glimpse of another world. Running into a tree stump is quite enthusiastic.

    • Poor Biggun – his head blew up like a balloon and it took some bush vet skills to fix him. He wasn’t happy with the remedy but is as good as gold now.

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