Returning from two weeks in the outback, Year 12 student, Charlize Renner, recounts her recent experience of life on the land, working on Nappa Merrie Station alongside former Faith student and alumni member, Hope McKay.
“Experience is the teacher of all things”
– Julius Caesar
Recently, I was able to experience two weeks of life and work on the land, an opportunity that was arranged through former Faith student, Hope McKay, who works on Nappa Merrie Station.
Nappa Merrie Station is located in the Queensland Channel Country, close to the Queensland-South Australia border, which makes it a long 14-hour drive from Plainland, through almost desert-like landscapes. Just getting there was an experience in itself!
The first Monday I was at the station involved gardening and cleaning up around the homestead, a nice way to get to know the other workers and gently ease myself into this way of life. Come Tuesday though, it was all systems go. We headed out to Baryulah yards, which is about an hour drive from the homestead, where we would be camping in our swags for the next five days. After setting up camp, we spent the first day settling in and getting our horses ready for the muster the next day.
Wednesday was exciting! We rose at 3.15am to spend the day mustering cattle, which continued through the heat of the day. Mustering consisted of a helicopter, two motorbikes and six horses. Our day ended around 5.00pm, once we brought in the herd of approximately 1200 cattle back to the Baryulah yards. The other days weren’t quite so early, with the workers rising at 4.45am (almost a sleep in!).
Thursday, we spent a hot day in the yards drafting the cattle, as well as branding, tagging, castrating, and dehorning 300 calves. The big bullocks (over 670kg) were separated into a different yard so they were ready for weighing, which was the main task for the next day.
We spent the next two days waiting for the trucks to come. To pass the time, we did some fencing, but also got a chance to swim and catch some yabbies. Once the trucks arrived, the 240 bullocks were the first to go, loaded on Saturday morning at sunrise. These bullocks went straight to the Beenleigh abattoir.
After loading the trucks, we went back to the homestead for the rest of the weekend, before heading back out to Baryulah camp on Monday to prepare for another muster. After another early start (3.45am) on Tuesday morning, we set off to find the cattle. This time, we mustered them to a different set of yards called Yantabulla, which were a 40-minute drive from our camp site at Baryulah. We didn’t finish mustering in the 40-degree heat until 7.00pm that night.
Wednesday, the cattle were drafted into yards and separated into cows and calves, big bullocks, little bullocks, and weaners. The big bullocks were weighed, with around 120 of them weighing in at over 580kg each. This was the hottest day yet, and it was very hard work, with our work day not finishing until 6.00pm, with only a short break for lunch. We drank a lot of water each day to stay hydrated. After the weighing and separating, the weaners were trucked back to the homestead for tagging and branding, which would happen in a few weeks’ time.
On Thursday, we encountered some rain, which made continuing work at the Yantabulla yards difficult, as the trucks weren’t able to access the yards like they had the previous day. As a result, on Friday, we mounted up on horseback, and had to walk the bullocks across 18km of land to a different set of yards (called ‘Chalkies’) so that they could be loaded up. Saturday morning, we loaded the bullocks onto the trucks, before spending the rest of the day doing general jobs around the station.
Both Sundays at the station were much-needed ‘rest’ days and we went to the closest town, Innamincka, in South Australia (about a 45-minute drive) and we had lunch there.