October 5, 2008

Collecting Poo Samples

Collecting Poo Samples

Remember the old Combantrin Mum used to give you when you had worms as a kid? Well cows are at risk of getting those worms plus other parasites as well.

We have to protect our 106 weaners (calves about 6-12 months old) very carefully as they are our wages. They seemed to have lost some weight lately and we were concerned about parasites such as threadworms etc. We ordered a “Poo testing kit” to find out for sure. (Faecal samples are tested in the laboratory for eggs which provide an indication of the severity of any parasite infestation.)

The testing kit arrived in the mail. Chris thought it was a good Sunday afternoon job, so we set out together on the quad bike with the poo collecting kit under my arm.

“The samples have to be fresh. REALLY fresh,” announced Chris. (I love how he shares this level of detail at the last minute!) Yes, you guessed it! That meant we had to stand around in the paddock waiting for one of them to do a poo. I was about to become more intimately acquainted with the bowel movements of a cow than I rather fancied.

As soon as we spotted a tail going up and a back arching, we zoomed over to inspect the steaming prize. We used a stick to scoop it up and squash it into the little plastic bottle – rather like a urine testing bottle. You could feel the heat from the bottle in your hand. A little disconcerting but … they had to be “fresh, REALLY fresh.” At least the flimsy rubber glove provided a meager sense of protection.

But, it wasn’t over. We had to collect 10 samples of course!! Those calves must have thought we were nuts –so intent on their bowel habits.

The next day we popped the samples in the mail back to the lab for testing. The postman delivers some pretty interesting things, but it had never occurred to me that he might be carrying so much shit around day-to-day!


September 2, 2008

Day in the Life of …


Time for mustering again… Unfortunately we were lacking a key tool for this muster – the hand held radios. One had been missing since our last camping trip. We needed to move some stock that had been hiding during a previous muster. Though the spring season had just begun you could still feel the winter chill in the air, especially when at full speed on the bike (which isn’t that fast really).

We knew the lack of radio contact during the muster would be annoying but thought we could manage. Once in Terrica Hill (the paddocks all have names) we set off in different directions and agreed to meet at the dam with any stock we found. Many of our paddocks are as big as 3 or 4 city suburbs. I had, rather tentatively, agreed to check the hill. This was brave as Chris usually takes the difficult work. It was time to tackle the more challenging terrain if I’m ever going to pull my weight in this mustering farming game. Terrica Hill is quite steep and riddled with fallen timber and of course the inevitable stones and rocks that characterise trap rock country. Courageously, I set off to conquer that hill!

I found a few cows scattered grazing on the edge and pushed them along the ridge. The ridge followed the fence line to the gate into Sheehan’s paddock. This seemed an easier option than pushing them down the hill towards the dam. Well, the truth is, they decided to follow a cow trail and I felt brave enough to follow them and anyway, it was sort of in the right direction. As I pushed them along I could hear Chris beeping his horn along the flats below. We use the horns to get the stock moving. I felt a bit nervous because I knew I was getting further and further away from our agreed rendezvous point plus the cow trail was growing less and less traversable on the quad bike.

No radio!

There was no easy way down that hill – at least that I was willing to tackle! So I decided to turn around and go back the way I had come to get down to help Chris. I was tearing along retracing my tracks when trouble struck! I was nearly thrown off the bike when it unexpectedly whacked into a stump and stopped in its tracks – stalled. The impact caused the right front wheel to “pop out” and point in a rather abnormal direction at right angles to the bike, a bit like a broken arm with a compound fracture. You find yourself in these predicaments from time-to-time in the bush – you get yourself into trouble and you have to learn to get yourself out. That is, if you don’t want to be seen as a … mere female. I am learning to be resourceful in a whole new context!

No radio!

Though I tried and tried, I could not budge that wheel for love nor money! I tried with both hands. I tried to lift the front of the bike with one hand and pull on the wheel with the other. I tried lying on the ground and pushing the wheel with both legs bracing my butt against the rocks. It would not budge. Sigh. After numerous fierce, determined attempts, a very red face and a sore shoulder I had to admit it was just not going to happen.

No Radio!!

The only option was to set off on foot to find Chris. It was steamy work scrambling down the hill trying to find the tracks. I finally found him not far from the gate on the opposite side of the paddock (about 2 kms). He was pretty mad, as usual, and grumbled such questions as “What have you done now?” and “Where is it?” I bit my tongue but did feel a bit worried that this was going to turn out to be one of those mere female episodes. He doubled me back to the injured bike.

Well, he pushed, pulled, swore and kicked at that wheel to try to get it back in place but he couldn’t do it. I have to admit secretly I was a bit pleased. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say …mere male … he did need my help! Together on 1, 2, 3…we managed to pop it back into the right position. No mere female today! Yay!

But that is definitely the last time we go mustering with No Bloody Radio!!!

June 13, 2008

Feeding Out

Week 17 – Mustering and Weaning

This week Spring Creek undertook a serious muster. We needed to round up ALL the cows and separate the larger calves (i.e. over 90 kg). This meant we had to sweep every paddock to ensure we had found them ALL – long hard days mustering in difficult terrain.  By the end I had such a sore butt I really wanted to get off my mechanical horse for a few weeks!

Aubrey and his family were visiting with us this week and helped put the calves through the yards – drenching, inoculating, weighing and checking the sex. We also needed to castrate the young bulls. Aubrey was quite interested to check this out. We had a friend, Neil, come and assist. He used a very sharp knife and threw the testicles into a bucket – a bucket full of balls! Yuk! Though, I must admit, now that I’ve been through the process a few times it doesn’t seem so gross. I’ve even touched them! Picked them up when Neil missed the bucket. I guess he was intent on withdrawing the next testicle. He took the bucket home for his dogs to eat. They will take a couple of weeks to heal.

Week 18 & 19 – Calf Feeding

Over these weeks we concentrated on getting our calf feeding setup complete. This meant design and construction of feeders for the calf crumbles and the sorghum stubble.

We also need to train the calves – get them used to a regular feeding process. This also helps them to adjust to being around humans. We call them in the morning “C’Mon” when we feed them. In the future we hope to be able to muster them by calling them. That’s the plan…

We now have our calf-feeding setup fully operational. Every morning we get up and feed them calf crumbles (which they scoff down very quickly).

We have over 100 claves in the house paddock who wake us up every morning around 6:30. I pat them while they are feeding and while they don’t particularly like it, they suffer it. Sometimes they sniff or lick my hand.

May 23, 2008

Virgin Blue Sales team experiences rural life

Week 14 – Irrigation problems

My adventure for this week was assisting in the re-attachment of the irrigation line to the star pickets in the middle of the dam. The pipe had been damaged by the stock trampling on it close to the waters edge and it needed to be re-seated. A bit different to capturing learnings when closing projects!

Week 15 – Warwick Picnic Races

Week 15 was highlighted by an exciting social event – the annual Warwick Picnic races. We were invited to attend in a marquee in the members’ area. I managed to win $35.00, which made my day. It was fascinating to witness the party spirit of regional Australia – the dance floor was full from the moment the band started playing until the last item and even then they managed to persuade the band to do a few more. I think they could drink any city person under the table. Some keen partygoers were still drinking at 2:00 am in the morning – and they weren’t making any sense at 10:00 pm!!!! Only company in a similar inebriated state would have been able to suffer the conversation. They definitely make the most of social opportunities.

Week 16 – VB Sales Management Team Workshop

Spring Creek was descended upon by a storm: a Nissan Patrol, two large Apollo camper vans, Mathias Friess and 8 members of the Sales management team. The lounge room was taken over as conference facilities, the deck became the centre point for food and catering, every bed was occupied and the quiet country residence came alive.

After arriving 2.5 hours late, the conference commenced after a yummy lunch on the veranda (at least for those not too car sick from the bumpy last leg of the ride while sitting in the back of the camper vans). After 3 hours of stimulating workshop activities, we set off for a serious 4-wheel drive to witness the sunset. Kay bravely took the wheel of the hired Nissan and followed Chris up the mountain. I think he did okay despite some minor damage to the car and his ability to ignore the fact that Mathias made sure he was in Chris’s vehicle on the way down. The sunset was magnificent in the west and the full moon rising in the east combined with champagne, beer and nibbles made the evening quite magical. Even the smell of Mathias’ cigars only seemed to enhance the experience.

Back down the mountain for a wood-fire BBQ. The cold set in quite quickly so after a good feed we were playing games in front of the log fire sipping numerous glasses of wine. We played charades, celebrity heads but the hit of the night was definitely “Catch a Phrase”. And despite the fact that Vanessa didn’t know what a piranha was and Pete thought expanding on the word “foot” meant it must be muddy we did have quite a few laughs and a pleasant evening. All survived the cold evening and the challenges of sleeping with colleagues in close proximity.

After a huge breakfast and more workshop activities the team watched the stock being fed Molafos (a molasses mix). Time for lunch and then the convoy hit the road back to luxury. I enjoyed your visit, and hope you will come back again soon.