May 30, 2013

Stealing Babies

As I’ve often mentioned, there are lots of emotional challenges running a cattle grazing property. One thing I don’t really look forward to is … weaning time!
Each year, just before winter, we have to take the calves away from their

Its very noisy

Its very noisy


Going into winter, our dry season, is tough on all the stock but particularly lactating mothers. Mums need to eat a lot of grass to sustain themselves as well as feed a 250kg calf. Cows can quickly lose condition when the protein store in the grass depletes.

Calves in the yards

Calves in the yards

It’s better for cow and calf to be separated so we can provide the best care.
Having said all that … they don’t like it all!!!!

It’s very noisy…
The mothers stand around calling and calling to their calves and their calves call back night and day.

The cows glare whenever you come near, their eyes pleading “Please give me back my calf!”

And the poor things … their udders are bursting.

Please give me back my baby

Please give me back my baby

But after three days and three nights, it’s all over. The mums give up and we muster them to their winter paddock. The calves stay in the yards for a bit longer to make sure they are quite calm. Then they are released into a paddock near the house so we can keep a watchful eye on them.

All in all, it’s a rather traumatic experience for all concerned and I’m always glad

Bursting Udder

Bursting Udder

when it’s over. It’s hard to sleep with all that racket. At last it’s done … until next year. Sigh!

May 19, 2013

Rikki our Poddy

It’s tragic when you come across one of your cows struggling to stay alive. Such was Rikki’s mother when we found her – too late, her afterbirth not released had become septic. There was nothing merciful to do but shoot her. She could barely stand.

Trying to get in

Trying to get in

But what of her little calf – just a few days old? We managed to run her down, catch her, take her home and name her. She was terrified the poor little thing.

Though she was depressed for about a week, she adapted quickly and learned to suckle the bottle the first day. She bonded with us too and was most upset when we retreated inside the house. She would stand at the back door, trying to get in.

Being empty-nesters, both Chris and I embraced the opportunity to look after someone again. We’re quite pathetic really, LOVING having someone dependent once more. The twice daily feeding regime was no burden at all.

But we couldn’t maintain her emotional dependence on us … tempting as it was. So we relegated her to one of the paddocks near the house holding some of last year’s offspring. She could make some new friends.

Each morning, Rikki would stand at the gate bleating, calling for her bottle. But it was never enough. She always wanted more, her sucking reflex so strong, driving her. Also, you had to be ready for her reflex to nudge the udder (which normally would release her mother’s milk). A sharp, sudden head butt could catch you off guard in awkward places (particularly for Christopher!).

Though it’s probably socially improper to share this with you, some of her new friends liked to take advantage of her sucking reflex. Some quickly switched on steers, would stand close by waiting for the end of her feed whereby she would happily oblige them by finding something else to suck … I’ll leave it to your imagination! These are the realities of living at close quarters with wild beasts who exhibit none of our social constraints!

Though Rikki is more independent now, we still love her. It’s nice to give her a hug and she loves having her belly rubbed. I’m glad she wasn’t a young bull as we will be able to integrate her into our breeding herd eventually. Young bulls (once turned into steers) go off to market at the appropriate weight. That would have been a sad day.

But then 4-Waiting at the gateI always feel a little sad when the young steers and heifers go off to market. Life as a grazier is full of emotional challenges but, I guess, saying goodbye to your well-cared-for stock, is a minor one when all things are considered.

At least I won’t have goodbye to Rikki … not for a long time anyway.

May 6, 2013

Black Sabbath

A fan of heavy metal? Me neither. In fact I hate it so much I usually want to turn it off within a few minutes. But Chris has been a dedicated fanatic, following Ozzie Osborne’s career forever. It’s interesting that after all the years of listening to Black Sabbath blaring in the CD player while working in the paddock, the kids and I have actually developed a deep affection for them!

Exploding Performance

Exploding Performance

That’s why it was so exciting when we heard that Black Sabbath was coming to Brisbane! The kids chipped in and the tickets made a great Chrissie present. Chris would get to see his idol, Ozzie Osborne, LIVE.

He was a bit nervous though, I have to say. $160.00 a ticket hurts on any account but it wasn’t just the price; he was concerned about the band. Let’s face it, like us, they aren’t getting any younger! And the band members have been hard on their bodies and abused themselves severely over the years with drugs and excesses. Ozzie is an old man. Would he and the guys really be up to it? Would they give us our money’s worth?

Sold Out

Sold Out

Well, on Anzac day we went to find out.

What a night! It’s hard to describe in words our experience. We sat at the back of the Boondall Entertainment centre, amongst the black t-shirts and dread locks, looking down on the mosh pit and the press of fans (it was sold out).

The band took stage. I couldn’t help but marvel at how two guitarists, a drummer and one singer could manage to create such an explosion of music and sound and, well … life, which filled the massive auditorium. It even made my tummy vibrate.

As well as the sound, the stage was electric with light works, video projections and enigmatic performances by each member of the band. We were in the presence of majestic talent and we were absolutely enthralled by every living precious moment of it. There was something magical and mesmerising about watching the performance of so many songs you have listened to over the years, unfolding before you … LIVE.

We didn’t want it to end.

We watched Ozzie worshipped by his fans and he gave his all back. He commanded the stage as he always has. His pitch may have been off slightly in one or two songs with a register now too low for his aging voice box, but he nailed it just the same.

Savouring the Memory

Savouring the Memory

Did Chris enjoy it? Well he’s got the tickets stuck to the wall next to his desk in the office, wanting to keep the memory fresh for as long as possible.
But there is something about the visceral, ephemeral nature of a live performance that is captured for that moment, then lost. Though, I can say that even today, the memory lives within me. I don’t want to forget it. I won’t let it go.

For a few hours I was young again and I LOVED it.

April 25, 2013

A Motley Crew

When we first came to the Traprock, one experience I looked forward to was … the cattle sales yards! It was a new market and we had to learn how it worked. The first one we attended was in Goondiwindi and I have to say, what struck me most was … what a motley crew!

I was used to boardrooms, meeting rooms, white shirts, ties, suits and black polished shoes. Well the fashion code indulged by graziers, particularly at the sale yards … was rather hard to follow! Yes, there were the obvious blue jeans, checked shirt and boots but there was a whole range of other delights that made me wonder how on earth you could learn to conform, and, did I want to?

There were shorts and long pants, boots of all kinds. There were akubras and ten gallon hats of all colours. There were t-shirts, work shirts and flannels. There were beards, moustaches, grey hair, crazy hair … I even saw plaits! I didn’t really know what to make of it all.

I remember what I wore that day. My fashion choice had been quite deliberate, though no doubt many didn’t know what to make of me. I wore my work boots but with a short skirt. On reflection I don’t think it was quite the right environment to be showing off my legs, even if my sock protectors did match my skirt!

Thank God I wore the boots at least – so much mud, poo and wee!!!

2-Probably not the best look2

After many sales and many auctions both buying and selling, we’ve come a long way. Overall the experience was a little overwhelming and I could not imagine myself ever having the courage to raise a finger in an auction to actually make a bid for some stock.  The auctioneers talk so fast and things move along before you’ve had time to think. But we needed stock to get our enterprise off the ground so it was just as well that Chris was able to adapt more quickly than me.

Attending the Stanthorpe sale yards last week, we felt right at home – though now I’m sure to wear a pair of jeans with my boots, just to look a little less conspicuous.

Picked out our pen

They are all settled in now, tagged, drenched and loose in the paddock. I’m sure they are feeling right at home, just as we are these days … even if I haven’t completely conformed to the grazier’s sense of fashion!! We came home the proud owners of 34 beautiful Angus heifers, ready to see the bull. We have so much grass at the moment; it was time to take advantage and grow our breeding herd some more.

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