Written by Anna Nunn
As the sun makes its way over the ranges the stockman’s day has well and truly already begun. A cuppa or two and a hearty breakfast while discussing plans for the day around the table, waiting for just enough light to get going.
The fellas ride out to their designated starting point as the two-way radio crackles into life, the pilot signing in for the morning sending everyone off in all directions after the cattle on their motorbikes. The day is spent gathering the cattle that spread themselves out over the hundreds of square kilometre paddocks and walked to the ‘closest’ yards for processing.
Two rounds of mustering are undertaken every year at Wertaloona & Wooltana Station. The two places are run as one and span a combined total of just over 5000 square kilometres.
The stations are set in the foothills of the Flinders & Gammon Ranges and run all the way out to the edge of Lake Frome.
The landscape varies from very scrubby, vast open rocky plains to sand dune country providing different levels of difficulty when trying to locate and move cattle.
Mustering is generally undertaken between March & June and August & November. The timing of the musters is dependent on the season and rainfall that has occurred since the previous muster. A staff of 5 to 7 staff are employed during this busy time to ensure that not only mustering is taken care of but waters are run and general maintenance takes place when needed.
A plane is also used when required in large paddocks or low lying scrubby areas where it is harder to locate the cattle with just a ground crew.
Mustering takes place to not only mark and tag the calves born since the previous muster. The cattle are also processed in the yards for things such as moving stock on for sales, feedlot, culling, moving stock out of paddocks for land rehabilitation and in the case of the most recent muster that has just been completed cattle are been sent away to be fed so they can be returned when the rain finally falls as in the 12 months until July a mere 38mls has fallen over the station.
Mustering is one of the most exciting times at the station, there is a buzz about the staff and although it is exhausting work there is always a laugh to be had around the dinner table each evening as stories are told about the day’s mustering or who ran and jumped up the yards the fastest when cattle with a little too much temper are yarded.
As the staff move on after mustering and things quieten down we know it’s not for long as the months between musters fly by and it won’t be long again before the smoko baking begins and the staff quarters fill up.