STATION LIFE

No two days on any of our stations are the same. Every day is an adventure.

With our small workforce of around 50 people, you’ll have a personalised, immersive experience, whether you’re working with us as a first-year jackaroo, seasoned stockperson, helicopter pilot, mechanic or cook.

Depending on your role, a typical day on the station might see you: branding weaners in the yards; mustering cattle on horseback or bike; zipping about in a chopper; driving into town to collect supplies; repairing fences; driving around putting out lick for cattle or checking waters; or preparing “smoko” with a spread to rival the CWA (Country Women’s Association).

After hours, you might be: kicking back with mates at the Social Club; attending a local social event like the races or a rodeo; catching up with family back home with our free high-speed wi-fi; watching the footie on our free full-channel Foxtel; fishing for barra; or making the most of wood-fire pizza nights at the station.

 

A YEAR IN THE LIFE

Want to know a little more about life on the station? Here are some of the things you can expect to happen throughout the year and across the seasons.

DECEMBER – MARCH

  • The Wet Season, or “the Wet”.
  • High rainfall and daily tropical storm activity keep our stations cut off by road and we rely solely on choppers and planes to run pumps, inspect cattle, transport supplies (as well as people) on and off our stations.
  • Our Brahman cattle are out in their paddocks happily grazing on lush green pastures dotted by swamps and wetlands abundant in waterbirds and other wildlife.
  • While station life is about as relaxed as can be during “the Wet”, the threat of tropical cyclone and flood events are something we remain ever vigilant about during this time.

 

APRIL

  • Orientation Week is held at Van Rook Station (typically on the second or third week of the month, depending on when the Wet finishes). Starting on a Monday, the week covers all staff training, a full-day first aid course for all staff, horsemanship schools and practical instruction on low-stress stock handling techniques. It culminates with a cricket match and BBQ – our first big social event to get to know everyone and kick the year off with a bit of fun.
  • Some early mustering of sale cattle on Stirling Lotus Vale Station followed by mustering and drafting of our Brahman stud.
  • Contract mustering camps arrive on Van Rook.
  • Graders on Stirling and Van Rook are out grading roads wherever they can, and as quickly as they can, in order to stay ahead of the mustering.
  • Mustering camps are also usually out checking paddock fences ahead of the paddocks they are scheduled to muster, fixing breaks and repairing floodgates after the Wet.
  • The rainy days stop and the cloud disperses as the Wet ends. The days shorten as both the mercury and humidity drop.

 

MAY

  • The Dry Season.
  • At the beginning of May there is a real energy and excitement in the air as full-scale mustering generally starts with the First Round Muster commencing on Van Rook.
  • The pressure is on for the graders and it is a busy month for road trains and choppers.
  • Contract mustering camps at Van Rook are busy mustering paddocks and Van Rook and Stirling camps are busy branding weaners each day at their respective house yards – May is a BIG month for the weaner cradles!
  • The middle to end of May typically sees the commencement of the First Round Muster on Inkerman Station.
  • Dorunda sees some action throughout May and June with several large mobs of cattle spelling and/or passing through on their way between Inkerman and Van Rook – an incredible experience, all done on horseback, with the droving camps camping out with the cattle of an evening under the stars, the same way they did 100 years ago.
  • The Burke & Wills Campdraft is the main social event for May.

 

JUNE

  • All stations are now racing to complete getting all the weaners off the cows as early as possible and while the days are lovely and mild. The goal is always to have all the weaning completed by the end of the month.
  • With all the First Round branding of weaners mostly completed, attention on Van Rook turns to drafting and mustering breeder cattle into their correct paddocks.
  • On Stirling, the focus shifts back to mustering sale cattle as well as backing up mustering activities on Van Rook.
  • After May, June is typically our busiest month on all our stations.
  • The Normanton Rodeo, Burketown Campdraft and Saxby Round-Up are the highlights of the social calendar in June.
  • The cool still mornings and warm sunny days remind us of why the northern Gulf is our favourite place to be in winter.

 

JULY

  • On Inkerman and Van Rook, the remainder of the First Round, with drafting and mustering of cattle, continues and is generally completed by the end of the month.
  • On Stirling mustering of sale cattle continues.
  • Supplement feeding commences for selective paddocks.
  • The non-permanent natural waters start to dry up and there is an increased focus on maintaining permanent watering points for cattle.
  • Mustering of Dorunda Station usually occurs towards the end of the month.
  • July is also a busy month for social events with the Georgetown Rodeo, Mareeba Rodeo and Eureka Creek Campdraft/Rodeo/Races all on during weekends in July.

 

AUGUST

  • With the First Round muster now completed, the pace slows down just a little. Attention is now turned to capital expenditure works and improvements such as fencing, cattle yards and waters.
  • Cull for age cows and non-replacement heifers are spayed for sale the following season.
  • There is a heightened importance of ensuring our cattle are in excellent condition with the maintenance of waters and supplement feeding carried out across all stations.
  • Intensive wild dog baiting is carried out across all stations to protect the calves soon to be born.
  • The Walsh Office Races, held on nearby Wrotham Park Station, is without doubt one of our favourite social events of the year and one we rarely miss. The Normanton Shire Ball is also a fun night out – held in the historic Burns Philp building in Normanton, it’s a night of great food, live country music and a ceiling covered in thousands of fairy lights.

 

SEPTEMBER

  • Sometime toward the end of August and beginning of September, a selective Second Round Muster is usually carried out on Van Rook and Inkerman.
  • An exciting month as the baby calves start “hitting the ground”.
  • The days get longer and the temperature continues to rise – September is our driest month of the year.

 

OCTOBER

  • All cattle mustering has generally now well and truly been completed for the year. The only exception is bull catching for all our “Micky” bulls – an adrenalin-charged but much-loved tradition by stockman in the north and an essential part of ensuring the quality of the herd and protecting our biosecurity status.
  • Station Managers and staff are now normally racing to complete capital expenditure works on top of annual repair and maintenance tasks before the Wet arrives – which it can in October some years.
  • The most intensive round of our feral-pig control program also gets underway with a combined strategy of intense aerial baiting and aerial shooting carried out across all stations. Feral-pigs destroy the natural environment and are a biosecurity risk. Using these two control techniques has dramatically reduced feral-pig numbers across the stations in recent years.
  • The “build up” to the Wet usually starts with cloud cover increasing, temperatures and humidity rising.
  • With the build up come the dry storms of an afternoon and evening – spectacular lighting shows in the distance. The downside of these storms being the fires that can result which makes October a tense month with the constant threat of everyone having to immediately drop what they are doing to head out to fight fires.
  • Also known as “Mango season” (and the worst month of the year for the station gardeners with the fruit from the mango trees making a complete mess of the lawns and attracting every parrot within 100km). Of course the upside of all these mangos (especially on Van Rook and Dorunda), is the vast quantity of homemade mango chutneys that get made on the station – the perfect accompaniment for a packed lunch.
  • The highlight of the social calendar for October is our annual staff Christmas party – a weekend of fun, food, beer, games and where Santa arrives by chopper.
  • Sadly October marks the end of barra fishing season, and when we judge the winner of the Gulf Coast Agricultural Co Barra Competition (a much coveted title by staff on all our stations). Photography and Bush Poetry competitions are also judged and prizes given at the same time.

 

NOVEMBER

  • Inkerman is usually the first of our stations to be made inaccessible by road owing to earlier storms. Up until this point, the work focus for the station staff is ensuring cattle have a constant supply of feed supplement and clean fresh waters until the Wet sets in.
  • On Dorunda, Van Rook and Stirling the situation is similar – everything is about ensuring cattle are getting enough supplement feed and access to clean fresh water.
  • Any spare time is spent ensuring everything on the stations is cleaned and serviced (and where need be, stored) in preparation for the oncoming Wet and any potential cyclones or flooding that may occur.
  • Station supplies are topped up ready for that one storm that will cut off your road access and as the steel blue skies of the afternoon tropical storms spread across the horizon, they make way for spectacular thunderous light shows of an evening, before later at night you finally hear the deafening sound of rain hitting the tin roofs.
  • Melbourne Cup is generally the date on which the Wet is measured to either be early or late to arrive. Like the rest of Australia, the race that stops a Nation stops our stations. And Cup Day on our stations is usually celebrated in relaxed fashion with a big lunch either on station or in the nearby coastal town of Karumba.
  • The season ends and most staff go home when there has finally been enough rain to no longer be able to get around the stations by vehicle and the work stops. Each Station Manager “calls the Season” for their station.