Monday, November 28, 2011

Country Blokes

One thing I love about country blokes is their ability to take on just about any task.  In the city, if you need some plumbing done, you call a plumber.  If you need a limb removed from a tree, you call someone in.  Many people don't even mow their own lawns anymore.  Not out here.  Country blokes are tree surgeons, plumbers, mechanics, fencing contractors and windmill greasers. They can drive a truck, fix a toilet, operate a chainsaw, build a shed, ride a horse and take on a bull in close quarters.  Let me tell you, these men are amazing.  It's easy to fall in love with a farmer/grazier.  There's really nothing that makes a woman feel so uniquely feminine as having a bloke around who is so completely masculine.

So you marry the guy, knowing that any problem that arises, he can handle.  Any work that needs doing is done.  But these men are not supermen.  They look it, they act like it, and by crikey you feel it, but sooner or later it all catches up.  You can't flog your body for years and years without there being some consequences.  You notice little things.  When he drives, he holds onto the handbrake to take the load of his back.  If we walk for any distance, he starts to limp.  And he's only in his mid-thirties.

We've just applied for some grants to fence off water sources and land type and if we get them, my husband will have to cut nearly a thousand fence posts, dig a thousand holes, lift a thousand posts into those holes, bore four thousand holes into those posts and pull  forty kilometers of wire through those holes.  He has not mentioned what this will do to his back, I don't know that he's even thought of it.  If he has, it hasn't registered that it might be a problem.  The work just needs to be done and the budget does not allow for assistance.  All this has to be done by next May.  I just hope his body holds out until my new unborn baby has a chance to grow up and take the load off a little one day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How farmers really treat their animals

As I often do, I was surfing the net this morning and found myself checking out the news on Twitter.  PETA had posted a link to an article about pigs.  The idea was that if pigs were dogs then we wouldn't eat them.  Fair point. If we had a pet pig, I don't know how quick I'd be to serve it up for Christmas dinner either.  What annoyed me about the article was that they outlined the way (they want people to think) pigs are raised to back up their point.  I didn't know any different so I emailed a friend of mine who is a pig farmer to get the facts.

Here's the statement from PETA: "Pigs raised for food have their tails and testicles cut off without anesthesia, and these naturally clean animals are forced to live in such crowded and filthy conditions that they must be fed massive amounts of antibiotics just to survive. Mother pigs are continuously impregnated and confined to crates in which they cannot even turn around or nuzzle their piglets. At slaughter, pigs have their throats cut and are dumped into a tank of scalding-hot water to remove their hair, sometimes while they are still conscious and able to feel pain."

My friend was good enough to email me back with this statement:

*Most male pigs are not castrated these days, those that are are made sterile by giving them an injection.This eliminates any chance of an infection.

*There is an approved stocking density that must be adhered to, audits are done on piggeries to check on matters such as these. Most piggeries have plastic slatted floors where any waste matter slips through the slats into a drain and flushed away. These pigs always look lovely and clean. Shed temperatures are also monitored and when they get hot evaporative air conditioners are automatically started. Other types of pig housing are called eco shelters. These are big open barn type structures with sawdust  or straw (deep litter) flooring which allows  the pigs to move around freely and root around in the deep litter
*Pigs are not fed "massive amounts of antibiotics" as this would put your cost of production through the roof and make your business unviable. Procedures are put into place to eliminate the use of such drugs.

*It is illegal to keep sows in single pens. All sows must be group housed giving them space to socialise and move about.

*When being slaughtered pigs are exposed to a gas which basically puts them to sleep. Then they are bled, at this stage the animal is dead. They are then placed into hot water which allows for the easy removal of their hair.

*As I mention  above audits are regularly carried out on piggeries. These check on things such as:animal health, medication and chemical use, stocking density, maintenance and repairs, feed and water quality, staff training and competency, vermin control and husbandry.

*Don't forget that there are also organically grown pigs and free range pigs. Basically there is a pig for everybody!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So people, my thoughts are these.  If PETA are really the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, then their job is done and pigs are treated ethically.  I could be happy joining a group that made these regulations possible.  But I distrust a group who use blatant lies to get into the hearts of people to turn them against raising animals at all.  If that is their agenda then they should not hide behind the word Ethical and advertise what it is they are really about: People for the Eradication of Tame Animals.  There would still be plenty of people to support their cause.  I have Vegan friends who don't eat meat purely because they dislike the idea of killing animals.  And I can respect that.  I hope that they can respect that I disagree.  PETA apparently do not, and will do whatever they can to undermine our meat producing industries.

Greening Up

It's been a pretty hectic couple of months.  With such a wet season over Christmas last year, there was plenty of feed and our creek which typically runs for about one week per year, was flowing for about ten months straight.  As the dry season kicked in, we had a lot of very dry grass around and whilst we feed our cattle supplements, they always lose a little condition over the winter months.  Then the calves start to hit the deck and our heifers need all the love and attention they can get.  We drive around the property every couple of days and the cows all come to greet us, show us their babies and have a bit of a feed of some hay.
With so much dry grass around though, it's difficult for new green shoots to get up so we have to do a bit of mowing.  I don't know how big your back yard is but it's a bit of a mission trying to mow a few thousand acres.  The only way to do it is with fire. It's not only necessary to get the grass to green up, it's also imperative to remove the fuel which could lead to massive bushfires in the the summer months.  Each paddock has a track graded around the fenceline and we watch the weather and wait for a day which is hot enough to consume the grass, not too hot that it will kill the trees and will follow closely with rain to keep the fires contained.  Permits are acquired, a firefighting unit is slipped onto the back of the ute and away we go.  Then we do it all again in another paddock later on. The cattle are used to this and with such a slow controlled burn, they are able to get out of the way very easily.  They also know that after a week or so, some really yummy green shoots will be appearing in that same place and that's where we find them.
We've finished with the burn now and have had a few spots of rain.  The grass is looking pretty green again and the cattle are all picking up.  We still go around the waters every couple of days, checking dams, starting pumps and feeding out hay.  It really gives me a lift to see all of this new life on the farm.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Live Export

I wrote this submission for the independent review into Australia's livestock export trade.  It wasn't meant as a blog post but people are reading it and responding positively so I thought I'd include it in here now.

Here's my take on live export - written in July of this year.

It is unfortunate that the people of this country have become so aggressive about this issue.  Ultimately everyone agrees that animals should be treated humanely but there are a too many people out there who are determined to take ‘sides’ and put live export in a box labelled “against animal welfare”.

We live in a very fortunate environment in which the majority of people can go to a supermarket and buy their meat without having to think about the process it took to get there.  It is a luxury that many other people of the world do not have.  We also have the luxury of being able to voice an opinion based on our experiences without retribution.  We have comprehensive media networks on which we rely to bring us information about what is happening in our country and around the world.  These networks are very good at inciting an emotional response in their viewers/readers.  By their very nature, they cannot tell the whole story.

When I was at university, I learned how to critically analyse media sources to avoid getting caught up in emotional hype.  I also learned the techniques to find more information and the necessity of getting a balanced view of important issues.  I understand that many people have not had the benefit of this vital education.  Otherwise how could one media program cause so much drama and damage.

I live on a beef cattle property.  Each animal is special to us.  We care for them as we would our own children.  We are there when they are born, and get excited about each new baby on the farm.  We support the mothers with nutritional supplements.  We regularly check that our children have enough to eat and drink, that they are safe and happy.  We vaccinate our kids and protect them from parasites and predators.  They have a good life.

The reality of it is, for you to have your steak on any random Tuesday, one of these beasts has to die.  Systems are set in place to do this as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Wherever it is found that this is not happening, there are dozens of people working to change this.  This occurs in Australia and overseas, including Indonesia and was in place well before Four Corners single-handedly incited pandemonium.

Farming practices are improving all of the time.  We are far more humane to animals than we ever have been in the past. But we have to also be sensible and realistic.  Northern Australia floods for more than a third of each year.  It is rude to ask a business such as a meatworks to start up in this part of the country and then ask it to only operate for seven months of the year.  What of the staff?  How will it maintain economic viability? 

Indonesia has no refrigeration.  How can you offer them a continuous supply of fresh meat if it is not alive when it arrives there?  And even if this was possible, would they be able to afford meat processed here?  Have people forgotten so quickly that it is only in the last century that power and refrigeration have existed anyway.  Is our history already lost to us?

There is more at stake here than the welfare of animals.  We need to also consider the welfare of our food providers.  Without them there would be no food.  They need to be able to have the ability to do their jobs in the safest, most ethical and most economically viable fashion.  If you don’t believe that farmers and graziers are the first and most passionate environmentalists and animal welfare activists then don’t get your information from the media.  Get in your car and drive to the country.  See for yourself what really goes on out here.  Talk to the people who are responsible for putting food on your plate before you take away their livelihoods.

Lastly, if we take away live export, we take away the farmers ability to raise cattle.  That means there is no reason for the cattle to be there at all.  Is it better to let these animals have a good life and a quick death to provide protein for the masses?  Or is it better for them to never have lived at all?

Thank you for considering this submission.

Michelle Croner

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fat Tax Joke

I was flicking channels on the TV to see if there was anything worth watching (unfortunately no) and I happened to catch the poll on Today Tonight.  "Should Australia implement a tax on fatty foods?" is the question. I nearly choked.  In fact I went straight to my computer to look up Today Tonight to see what this complete rubbish was about.  I read their article and a blog that was attached unfortunately sounded reasonable, completely wrong, but it sounded reasonable.

Apparently Denmark has just started taxing fatty foods.  Why on earth would you do that?  It has been scientifically and comprehensively proven that the consumption of fat does not make you fat.  David Gillespie's books "Sweet Poison" and "The sweet poison quit plan" outlines this in great detail if anyone wants to read it.  Here's a summary:

It's not fat that makes you fat, it's sugar.  To be more specific, fructose, (which is found in sugar and all foods which are made with sugar including supposed fat-free products).  It does this in a number of ways, the most significant being that it turns into fatty acids immediately upon consumption and it also inhibits your ability to feel full, thus allowing you to overeat.  Here's a simple solution to obesity - stop eating sugar, nothing else - you don't have to exercise or anything, just stop eating foods and drinks which contain sugar.

Taxing fatty foods is ridiculous on a number of levels for this reason and here's some more.  The GST didn't encourage people to drop convenience food for healthy eating so why would another tax?  Fat-free foods are higher in sugar than the full fat versions so you'd be encouraging further consumption instead of lower levels.  I could probably think of some more but I'm too cranky about this to think straight. Leave a comment for me at the end of this post if you can think of some yourself.

Honestly people, if fat makes you fat, wouldn't the obesity epidemic be decreasing by now with all of the fat-free products on the market?  The weight loss market has never been more affluent.  There's a Gym on every corner and diet companies everywhere.  It's not working. Why not?  Nobody wants to be fat, so why are we?  Misinformation.  We're being mislead guys.  Not intentionally I don't think, but too many people are on the bandwagon that fat makes you fat and it's just not true.  

Talk to David Gillespie, he's on twitter as @gillespi or read his books.  Let's stop this madness.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Milk Wars

I've just been reading Francis Whiting's article about Queensland's milk industry in last weekends Q magazine (Courier Mail). Its pretty upsetting. Please have a read of it if you get a chance. You can find it at I couldn't possibly do it justice in this blog but I'll try to summarise. She talks about the life of a dairy farmer. The 4:30am starts, work all day, finish at about 8pm. She discusses the price of milk from farm gate to consumer and the role our retail giants Coles and Woolworths have had in this. She also discusses the consumer perspective, how one man makes a decision as to which milk to buy. Here's my two cents. It's not just about milk. And it's not just now. The agriculture industry has been getting a raw deal for decades. The cost of living has increased, and continues to do so. Twenty years ago, I would not fill my car with fuel if the price was over 60c/L. Now I'm paying $1.60 for that same litre. I'm sure you've all noticed a nice increase in your power bills recently. Freight charges have increased and therefore cost of goods everywhere. So why are farmers still getting the same money for their produce that their grandparents were earning? Less even?
Are you earning a wage? Have you ever been to a stop-work meeting because the company was balking at your right to a 3% increase in wages per year. That only barely covers inflation at that. Think about your hourly rate. Would you get out of bed and work all day for $20 an hour? What about $10, $5? Would you put in 100 hours a week for $2000. Doesn't sound too bad right. You could survive your mortgage payments, a vehicle loan or two, groceries etc. on that. But what about feeding half a dozen good working dogs, and keeping up with vaccinations for 1000 head of cattle, keeping them parasite free, and fed during the winter months when there's barely a green blade of grass in the paddock. Then there's cost of freight, and loans on farming machinery.  After business costs, our farmers would be lucky to be getting a wage of $5 an hour.  Many of them don't even take a wage.  The current return on investment for a business in agriculture is 2%. It's not viable. From a purely intellectual perspective it's a bad investment. So why do we even have farmers in Queensland? Because it's what they know and love. But just because you love your job, does that mean you should have to work for free or $5 an hour? Even people looking for work are paid better than that in this country.
So back to the milk issue. We've been told that food has to be affordable for the masses. That's fine, but $1 per litre for milk is cheaper than water. According to this article I was reading, farmers get a higher price for the brand name milk and a lower price for the Home Brand stuff. That's ridiculous if you ask me, but let's run with it for now. I know nothing about the bottled water industry, but I'm pretty sure that if people were that skint that they have to have their milk price reduced, there wouldn't be a market for bottled water at all. So until you go to a tap to get a drink instead of reaching for a soft drink or water at your corner store, perhaps you'd consider picking up the brand name milk from your supermarket fridge and give a small contribution to support the people who feed you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Save our National Parks #green #agchat #agchatoz #ag #agvocate

State Forests and National Parks need to be preserved. Save the Koalas. Give our native flora and fauna a chance to thrive. City and country folk alike are pursuing these interests. I'm all for it. So are my neighbours and friends. The people in this district have been the guardians of our State Forests ever since they have been declared as such. We own the surrounding freehold land and lease the grazing rights to the forestry. Our job includes managing pests, fire, and grazing pressure. We clear away debris and small trees to allow the bigger trees to thrive, preserving habitats for our native fauna. This has a knockon effect of reducing fuel for bushfires so that if one does flare up it does not consume all of the forest and surrounding farmland. WE DO THIS FOR FREE.

But we're about to be sacked from our job. The Queensland State Government has decided that they will not be renewing forestry leases in the future. There will not be anyone employed or otherwise to manage these forests. It sounds like a good plan. Shut up the forests and let them go back to nature. Images come into my head including more koalas in the trees, possums playing on the ground. Kangaroos hopping around and eating grass underneath a canopy of ultra-tall, green leafy trees. Sounds good hey.

Let's get a reality check though. We have to consider that these State Forests border farmland in which people and grazing animals live. There are trees there too. And how is government going to shut up the Forests? They won't be erecting a twenty feet high chain link fence, let me tell you. If anything, there will be a starpicket fence with three rows of barbed wire, but I doubt that too. Likely, they'll just not renew the lease and tell farmers not to go in there. Okay, but who's going to tell the cattle?

This is what will happen. The cute little fluffy animals that live there now will have to go elsewhere because the dams that they were watering at will at best not be maintained, at worst, be filled in by the government because they aren't natural. That leaves the feral animals such as wild dogs and pigs to have the run of the place. They'll wander in and out of our farmland and clean up our young cattle and sheep. Cattle will get in there too, as will horses, and these too will go feral. Debris from trees and shrubs will mount up, providing a large amount of fuel. It may not be for a couple of years but I guarantee, there'll be a scorching hot summer one year and a bushfire will rage through the place, the likes of which have not been seen in one hundred years. What's left of our cute and fluffy native fauna (if they haven't been eaten by wild dogs) will be decimated, as will their homes and habitat. They won't be back for a generation. The fire won't respect the boundaries of the forest either. It'll sweep right across our farmland and clean up our feed, our cattle and our houses.

I put it to you that the cost to our State Forests and indeed our community will be far greater if the government goes ahead with its plan not to renew forestry leases. We don't want payment. We don't need acknowledgement. Just let us continue doing the job we've been doing. There is already legislation in place to prevent overclearing of land. This policy is just another method of purchasing votes with no consideration of the real consequences.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can you help? #ruralmh #mentalhealth

Last night on Twitter, a community of people interested in Mental Health, were discussing issues relating to farmers and others in rural areas.  There were some very interesting discussions pertaining to what issues rural people have to deal with and how this can affect their mental health.  It then evolved to a discussion on how we can all help each other and what the signs might be that indicate someone is not coping. 

I don’t profess to be an authority on mental health but I do know what happened to me and I have seen others in similar situations.  From what I have seen, people respond differently to pressure and react differently when it all gets too much. I know that seems obvious but I wanted to put it out there because we do tend to put people in categories.

Some of the revelations that came out of last nights discussion are that rural people are affected by many things including money worries, natural disasters, media barrage, workload and isolation.  We find it difficult to take time out for family and social activities.  When the pressure is on, we often work harder instead of taking a much needed break.

How can we tell if someone we know is not coping?  It’s different for everyone.  There’s no hard and fast rule, but one thing that people were saying was to keep the communication line open.  Listen to what your mates are telling you and see if there is something you can do to help.  Some people just stop talking altogether and go into a kind of automation mode.  Think about whether there is someone who has fallen off the radar an been out of touch with everyone for a while.  Is there someone you know who is difficult to be around because they are cranky the whole time? Does someone you know seem to be drinking more than usual?

So what do we do if we think someone’s having trouble?  Well the tweets last night were saying talk to them.  Ask if they’re ok?  Sometimes just that person to bounce ideas off is enough. I’d like to put my own two cents in here and say  - see if you can get them out for a social endeavour.  Leaving the house can have therapeutic benefits.  Especially if someone’s spiralling downwards.  Interrupting that negative flow can really help.

And what if it’s you that’s not coping.  Again, talk.  If you find that difficult, my own advice is to write.  Get down on paper (or computer screen) what’s really bothering you.  I found this extremely helpful. I also knew that I was on the road to recovery when I could read certain sections of my book without crying.  You don’t have to write a book though.  Start with a letter, or just a few notes.  Have a look at what other people have written.  Sometimes it helps just to know that you’re not the only one going through this.  There are many people’s stories on the Beyond Blue website.

But if talking sounds easier and you don’t know who to call, there are heaps of help lines ready to be the listener.

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Lifeline 12 11 14

Mensline Australia 1300 789 978

Suicide callback service 1800 659 467

Parentline 1300 30 1300

It’s because of people like you that I managed to get through my own depression. I didn’t even know there was a problem until someone pointed it out.  I was really happy with my life.  I would just burst into tears without warning and for no apparent reason.  It didn’t occur to me that I might be unwell.

So if there is someone that you know (could be an almost stranger) who you think might be unwell and you’re wondering if you can help.  I say the answer is yes, you can.  See if you can start a conversation.  Or maybe email them this post, or a link.

Thank you

Friday, August 5, 2011

The amazing adventures of Dinky and The Cat

Dinky is my dog. One of them anyway.  She’s a border collie, kelpie cross with a bit of mongrel thrown in for good measure.  She was born the same week as my own daughter, Jessica so we will always know how old she is.  She’s six months now.  Or as Jim says, she’s point five.  We picked her up when she was two months old and she came with the name “Inky” because she is mostly black.  She answered to Inky but we didn’t like the name and after throwing around dozens of choices, we settled on shoving a D in front to make “Dinky”.  Real creative huh.

The cat has a similar story.  He was born a couple of months later and came without a name.  I had asked for a girl but my family had conspired against me and got me a boy cat because they are easier to desex.  Many names were considered.  These included Minty, Beaver, George, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Julius, Augustus, Arthur, Astro Boy and Dog.  For some reason none of these names seemed to stick.  Now we just call it Cat.

It was a tentative friendship at first.  The Cat had six other dogs to contend with and had to fight for its place in this family when it was only a kitten.  It managed to get a good few swipes into each dog and now unless they are ganging up on it, the dogs pretty much leave The Cat alone.

But Dinky is always hanging around.  She kept her distance for a good while and as The Cat got used to her, he started to relax his guard a bit.  Now they are thick as thieves.  Where you see one, the other is not far behind and they are both intrigued by the new month-old puppies who have recently emerged from their birthplace under the shed.

Today, they managed to wreak a little havoc in the farmyard.  All of the dogs had been for a walk and were tucked back in bed in their kennels.  Dinky included, so I let the chooks out for a run.  One of our chooks was not feeling well.  It had a bung wing and for some reason had decided to rest in the water dish.  I thought a nice walk in the grass might make it feel better.

Half an hour later I decided to let Dinky back out.  Only a couple of days ago, one of Jim’s boots went missing and Dinky has a history of boot thievery.  It probably wasn’t her, one of the new pups is more likely the culprit.  But Dinky usually retrieved lost items within a couple of days and put them out in the yard.  I gave her the job of boot retrieval and left her out for the day.

I forgot about the chooks.

Sometime around lunch, Jessie and I were out on the veranda and we noticed a few feathers out on the lawn.  Investigations found Dinky looking very proud of herself and tucking into a chicken dinner.  The poor little crook chook had met its maker.  Dinky went straight to bed.  The boot remained missing.

After locking her up, I grabbed Jedda (our old house dog) and tied her up too.  The only animals left out were the two puppies and The Cat.  Not sure how to dispose of the fateful chook, I ended up leaving it where it was in the yard.  I figured it would end up being eaten whether I put it in a plastic bag and chucked it up the dump or disposed of it in the paddock.  I figured Jim might have an idea what to do so I would wait until he got home. 

Jessie and I had a lovely afternoon snooze and when we awoke, the chook had disappeared.  Either the puppies had cleaned it up or The Cat had.  My money was on The Cat.  I had a feeling that would happen.  I didn’t want to reward Dinky for hunting Chooks but the puppies are due to be weaned and could use the meat.  The Cat also gets only dry food and since it wasn’t the one who killed the chook, I saw no great harm.

Unless… perhaps Dinky and The Cat were working together.  Hmm. Maybe I was played here.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Last weekend we were Mustering up at Jim’s Dad’s place.  He’s got some good irrigated country on which he grows lucerne hay and sometimes oats.  Most of the paddocks are grass though and we run cattle there. 

The block is split in two by the Burnett river. It doesn’t usually run at this time of year in this area and is mostly used as another paddock in its own right.  With the recent (6 months ago) floods however, there is a healthy amount of water in the river.

I hadn’t been down there since before Christmas last year.  Boy has the landscape changed.  But let me tell you, riding on a confident horse through that beautiful landscape gave me warm fuzzies all over.  A day like that makes you really pay attention to how lucky we really are out here. 

Our mission (and we chose to accept it) was to cross the river, gather about sixty bullocks and bring them back across the river to the yards and from there to another paddock closer to the homestead.

Three of us mounted our steeds and casually walked them down into the riverbed.  The sun was out and it was a warm winters day so we didn’t need our jumpers.  We had to trek a different way than usual because the river had moved many logs and  debris down to block our path along the usual dirt track.  The river was running also and we needed to cross at a shallow point.

It was so beautiful in the river.  The sun glistening in the foliage, the water running and the sandy islets looked a picture.  Had I thought about it before I would have taken my camera but alas, you will have to picture it in your own head.

Once across the river, we found all bullocks in a smallish paddock and started to approach.  These boys hadn’t seen men on horses for about a year so were a little skittish.  They headed for the fence and then got themselves stuck in a corner.  The three of us parked ourselves out from the corner a little way and blocked them as they tried to make a break for open country.  Jim’s dogs gave them some pressure to keep in the mob as well.  There was a bit of tooing and froing like this for about fifteen minutes with one overexcited dog pushing a bullock through the fence.  Jim gave one of his usual commands which brought the dog back to heal. We were all a bit scared.

Eventually the cattle settled down and we took them around the fence, the one we blew making his way back into the mob through an open gate.  As soon as we got back into the river the hard riding started.  The cattle which couldn’t break in the paddock now found themselves without a fence to bounce off and with a little confidence to make their own way.  The trees in the river proved difficult obstacles and Jim managed to stake himself in the leg with a broken branch.  Without the dogs, we would never have kept the mob together. 

It was a real picture though.  The cattle crashing through the trees then into the water with the horses and dogs on all sides.  We got the boys back up the bank then into a holding paddock with no other dramas.  The short adrenaline rush heightened the experience and we were all pretty excited by the successful muster.

Great day. If you get the opportunity to be part of something like this, take it.  This life is awesome.

For more in this writing style look for "Tissues in My Pocket" on

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mustering #amwriting

I want to write about the fabulous weekend I just had out at Jim's dad's place.  I was riding Smoko who is an absolutely fabulous horse.  He does get excited though and I have to be on the reins a bit or I'll end up either on my arse or halfway up the paddock before I know it.  Unfortunately, I don't have time right now so here's another old journal entry from last year about another mustering experience.


"Starlight is my horse.  She’s one of two that I ride.  When I first came here, I had barely been on a horse except for the odd trail ride when we were teenagers.  Jim was afraid that I’d fall off or hurt myself or something so for the first couple of years I rode Foreman.  Foreman is bombproof.  He’s an old horse who is now more of a danger because he stumbles a lot, but he’s slow.  He doesn’t get excited about anything.  He has a very slow first gear and then ten different speeds of trot.  He rarely canters.

But yesterday I was riding Starlight.  Starlight has bad steering.  She pulls to the left but has more accurate gears.  She has a fast walk, a decent paced trot and will canter if she needs to go faster.  Unfortunately sometimes the accelerator sticks and you can start cantering relatively slowly but end up out of control in no time if you don’t apply a little break now and then.

Mustering isn’t an exact science.  Cattle, like any other animal, can be conditioned but you’ll always get a few that want to think for themselves.  Even the good ones can have a bad day, be feeling sick or have simply not had enough to eat and want to do in a different direction to the one you are steering towards.  When they’re feeling well, they are worse.  This is especially true for young cattle.

We were mustering the weaners yesterday for a couple of reasons.  The conditioning/training process needed to be started, but we also hadn’t had them in the yards for a couple of weeks and Jim wanted to count them so that we knew if any had gotten out of their allocated paddock.

Me on Starlight and Jim on Spinna (an appropriate name as it turns out), we set out from the yards heading towards the back corner of the Cow Paddock.  We had all six of our dogs.  The five working dogs all followed Jim and I had my loyal house dog, Jedda.  Jedda is a Border Collie cross Blue Healer, a true Aussie cattle dog.  Unfortunately she spent the first nine years of her life in the city and has proved completely useless in the paddock.  She likes to come for the walk though.

The cattle were not all in one clump so we gathered up a few then I followed them along a fence line and Jim did some creative sweeps through the trees to collect some more.  It went better than expected.  The cattle that I had were happy enough to follow the fence and I had to do little to keep them there. 

When Jim and I met up again we crossed a creek with our little group and followed the back fence.  The idea here was to follow the fences around until we were back at the yards.  Normally at this point, Jim would go and sweep the paddock again and I would follow the cattle with the creek on one side and the fence on the other, but these were weaners.  If any of them decided to cross the creek again, I would not be able to get around them to push them back onto the fence. So Jim stayed with me and followed on the other side of the creek, gathering weaners that were in his words “close-handy”.  As it turned out, this worked well because my little mob split in two and I couldn’t follow both.

We mustered the paddock like this twice and got most of the cattle in.  I even managed to convince our oldest Kelpie dog to come with me for a short time and help keep the cattle on the fence.

Jim doesn’t use commands much when instructing his dogs.  They tend to know what he wants by the tone of his voice.  He has a whistle to get the dogs to the front of the herd to slow them down or “pull them up”.  This I can replicate but his other commands such as “Over” which instructs the dog to push the cattle in from the sides, is more of a low gutteral growl in the back of his throat.  The dogs don’t recognise when I say “over” what it is that I’m asking for.  Then there is the command to stop.  This is anything from a half heated “Kick your arse” to a very loud and scary “FORFUCKSAKEGETOUTOFTHEREYOUFUCKINGCUNTZORILLFUCKINGKILLYA” I can’t seem to replicate this command either for some reason.  It was nice of Smoko to come with me but he didn’t really know what I wanted him to do.  He kept looking back at me to say “is that okay?”  Good dog.

It’s probably best that I don’t have my own dogs yet.  It’s hard enough trying to get the horse to do what I want.  But I’m getting better.  As Jim keeps telling me, I don’t need lessons, I just need “Miles”."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When to tell the kids

I was listening to a program on ABC local radio yesterday and the announcer posed the question “When should city kids be introduced to the realities of where their meat comes from” or something to that effect.  She told a story about how her kids witnessed branding and ear tagging for the first time.  Apparently, they kept saying “oh the poor cows” for days after, and refused to eat meat when they realised it came from a beast.

I don’t know how common this occurrence is but we have a staff member with us who is vegetarian because she stopped eating meat at age five when she learned where it came from.  She has no problem doing any of the work on this property including cutting up a beast but she refuses to even try a taste of beef after all this time.

I want to respond to the question of “when is the right time” with a concept, not of time but of “what is the right way.”  Perhaps witnessing branding should not be their first experience, but if it is, how you respond might be important.

When kids fall over, they look to you for a reaction.  If you make a big fuss they will often start to cry.  If you laugh and say “up you get” lightheartedly, chances are, they will laugh too and get up and continue playing.  I’d like to propose that the same principle is employed when dealing with issues of where meat comes from.

I’m not saying that you should make light of killing animals or anything like that but lets put it in perspective.  If your child witnesses the branding process (and it is heartwrenching), we can tell the kids that it is the same as when they go to the doctor to get a needle.  It only hurts for a minute and by tomorrow they will have forgotten about it.  It makes sure that the cattle don’t get lost and don’t get sick.  Isn’t that a good thing?

As for not eating meat because it means cattle have to die.  You can explain that everything dies eventually.  Also, if nobody ate meat then there would be no reason for graziers to raise cattle.  They wouldn’t get to live at all.  All grazing land would need to be converted to farming land for crops and any animal that came near would be destroyed to save the crops.  I personally would prefer to have cattle in the world.  That’s why I eat beef.  Plus it tastes good and keeps me strong.

So when is the right time?  I reckon as soon as possible.  Jessica saw a beast cut up for dog meat yesterday and at nearly 6 months old, it didn’t phase her.  But if your kids are older perhaps wait until they can understand the concepts outlined above.  That’s just my opinion though.  I welcome discussion on this issue.  Please respond if you agree or disagree.


For more by the author look for Tissues in My Pocket on

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Old Journal Entry 2010

I started a journal last year, thinking that it would make for a good book later on down the track.  I only got three entries in before packing it in it seems.  I've decided that I should write a blog but nothing significant happened today so here's one of the old ones.  This is my entry for 13/5/2010.

I hate getting lost.  The feeling of helplessness and having to continually change your decisions are almost too much for me.  But I wasn’t lost today.  I knew exactly where I was.  I just didn’t know where the road was or the creek crossing I was trying to find.

Jim wasn’t home today.  He’s in town watering the grass on the Polocrosse fields for this weekend’s tournament.  He left me a list of jobs to do while he was away.  Nothing major.  He just wanted me to take some hay out into the cow paddock.  You’d think that would be easy wouldn’t you? 

The calves have recently been weaned.  Their mothers have been sent back to their respective home paddocks and we’ve kept the weaners around the house to keep an eye on them.  Also to keep them relatively quiet (tame) we should be giving them feed every day or so.  They then learn not to fear you or the vehicle and don’t run away.  That’s the theory.

In practice, it’s not so easy.  Especially if Jim spends most of his days in town preparing for the polocrosse carnival and isn’t home to work the cattle.  I managed to get the hay into the trailer on the back of the bike and to get out into the cow paddock, but I couldn’t see very many cattle.  I decided to go across the creek but I couldn’t find the crossing or the road leading to it and spent a good hour driving around an empty paddock.  This is tricky in itself because the paddock has been cleared but not raked.  There are an enormous amount of logs all over the ground and you don’t see them until you’re on top of them because the dry strawlike grass is four feet tall.  I’ll tell you what, the sooner I put up some street signs in this place the better.  It’s hard enough finding the roads out here when you’re on them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Author Page #amwriting

Hi Everyone, 

Check out my new Author Profile at  It's getting pretty exciting here in cyberspace.  I've sold 3 books so far.  No guesses as to who bought them (Thanks guys).  I almost feel like a true professional in the industry now. When I get some time between doing cattle work and looking after the little one, I'll put up some of my children's books.  Stay Tuned!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My new book - Tissues in My Pocket

Hi everyone, I just published my book Tissues in My Pocket online with
Here's the link Or you can just search for the title.  Cool huh. If you've read it or one of my drafts, you could help out by posting a review.  Thanks, Shell

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finding a voice

Hi everyone,With all of the bad publicity that beef farming has received in the media, it's time to get some perspective. It is unfortunate that many people believe that what they see in the media is typical of farming practices everywhere. What you see is meant to upset you. Please do not fixate on the negative but realise that people on the land are as passionate as anyone about animal welfare and sustainable land management. We wouldn't be here otherwise. One final thought. When live trade to Indonesia was abruptly halted, without warning, who put their livelihoods on the line to make sure the cattle stranded on the docks did not have a slow and painful death due to starvation?