A Cattleman's Blog, Groat Style.

During the weekend just gone, a handful of mates headed to “Elvanbrook” - near St George - to lend a hand to Ben Groat and co; who usually run a pretty hectic schedule (and normally do so minus any assistance).

So with about 500 calves to muster and mark, a handful of us got together to make a weekend of it. 

There was, of course the resident Groat family (Ben, Tan, Immy and Fin), the Whannies (x2) plus Chicken Hawk, and PG - both from the coast.

Aside from moi, every single one of these ”ringers” were mates from back in their Gatton College days - so it’s a really welcome excuse for these lads (and ladettes) to share some quality time in the yards.

Speaking personally - I felt like a dog let off the chain after too long! I had energy to burn and couldn’t WAIT to get bruised, exhausted, and grubby.

I think that the other boys felt a bit the same? They just have more composure!

I will get right out there and say, that I believe there is nothing better than escaping mobile phone service / technology / and a generally too-hectic life for just a few days. To be in the sun and the elements. To do a truly honest day’s work and be so tired at the end of it that you’ve no room left in your head for trivial pondering or worry. 

(The only drawback of a weekend like this is the mild depression that follows when you return to the real world and the crazy demands of all the aforementioned things!) 

Anyhow - we all loved it.

Having said that, I am quite sure about 80% of my ”townie” girlfriends would rather go without food for a week than even think about this as being a ”fun” job, or as a breath of fresh air! I guess that’s the tomboy in me.

So yep, events went something like this:

Timbo and I arrived late Friday arvo and we set about bringing in the first mob to draft with Groat - which was about 200 or more cows and calves. Mixed breeds - and mostly well behaved gals with their young various-sized calves in tow.

We pretty much just drafted-up in preparation for a 4 am start the next morning.

It was a spectacular evening with storms about, and dramatic skies for photos. Naturally there was pretty limited opportunity to get the camera out for some of the most amazing images I have seen in recent times - because the demands in the yards were pretty hectic. However I still managed to snap a handful that I hope will be memory enough! And Timbo even managed to get me in some. Ta!

So anyhow, late that same Friday, PG and ChickenHawk arrived after a trip from their home town of Noosa - and shared a few beers before an early start.

The next morning, four am rolled around all too soon, and we were on the back of the ute and off to crank up for the day.

The first morning was the toughest, with the biggest mob of calves (250 odd) to get through. We all agreed at around noon that stopping was not an option (we feared we’d never be able to start again if we did!) - and so we slogged it out until we were done.

A break for a feed around mid afternoon gave us a re-charge, and then we headed back to muster out the cows and calves who were pretty keen for a drink and a feed by then.

After this, of course, there were more to bring in.

And so the procedure went - several times in a row. Muster in, draft up, mark, and muster out. Repeat x 3!

In amongst all this there were some pretty funny moments. PG might have branded himself a tiny bit. Shan put a four wheeler up on a dam wall that turned out to be mighty narrow - and might nearly have rolled it. Whannie tore a few new holes in his jeans and felt his age a little bit. (I have never known him to sleep on a road trip. But he crashed on the way home, while I drove). Chicken Hawk was like an agile wallaby in the yards and spent a bucket load of time pushing up and wearing himself to the bone I’d reckon! 

All the while, our master and commander, Groatie, was patiently directing proceedings. I actually reckon he did a sterling job of keeping calm and casual the entire time. Not to mention the fact that he took the most archaic bike from his oldest shed while we tourists got to enjoy the luxury of later models! Oh - and Tan (Mrs Groat) needs to be mentioned - as she seriously toiled away and kept the home fires and tucker burning for us. And there is not much that compares to an appetite after a day in the yards. Thanks Tanie - you’re a legend!

Amongst other things, we predictably had the odd drama with moving the mobs, and lost the odd calf for a miunute along the way. But thanks to some mad bike skills the boys got a few (particularly determined) young beasts back onto track after some spinning and weaving. A hungry calf is a pretty stubborn kind of creature - and takes some convincing.

Old rugby knee injuries flared up (or in my case, water skiing injuries) and muscles were worked and pulled. And none of us minded one little bit.

There is nothing in this world like reaching the end of daylight and thinking ”yep - that’ll do now” …. 

All in all - we were a weary but contented lot, come Monday morning.

So thank you to the Groats for a fantastic weekend. We’ll see you back there in January for the next lot!

PHOTO TIME:

Here I am, Friday arvo, waiting to start pushing the mob up for drafting.

 Timbo in black and white and looking right at home.

 The cattle look on with their typical curiosity.

 Timbo takes five while we wait for Groat to get to the yards.

(So there is now a gap here because I had to put the camera down and work for the evening.)

The next morning we quickly fanged around the shearing sheds. Here is Chicken Hawk ”shearing” a sheep. There is a long story behind this one, hey Hawk?!

 Chicken Hawk and PG - a Tim Whan shot.

Back to the yards. 

Morning two now.

Drafted up and ready to get to work.  First job is to put up a tarp to give some protection from the ruthless south QLD sun. Dang, it’s a long hot day in that.

 Chicken Hawk dealing with flies.

PG in his wild gear of rugby skins and his wiggles shirt. As much as we gave him hell for wearing this - I secretly reckon he was onto it !! He has by far the best sun protection of all !

The tarp is up now - and we set to work.

Between all of us we have our separate tasks. From ear-tagging to branding, and everything in between - it’s a refined process and a mix of efficiency and muscles. The team was on!

PG’s hat has started to disintegrate as he works the crush !

 PG is here, on the ”head” while I drench, and Groat mans the crush / deals with horns, etc.

Myself and Groat taking on the head end again. These calves are as tough as nails and can handle the twenty / forty odd seconds they are in the crush.

 Hawky is ”anchorman” in this shot.

 Myself and Hawky on the branding.

 Quick spell on day two. L-R are Hawk, Groat, Whannie, and PG.

 Whannie steps out and nabs a quick shot of wifey with the boys. Wifey is exactly where she’s happiest. 

 Groaty in B&W.

 PG - candid shot. 

 BobSled in the yellow joins in as our tag man on day two.

 Quick two second rest.

 End of day two. Shan does the black and white minstrel look. More red dirt than skin. Happy as.

 Day three, half - time. Whannie is out.

 PG gives a quick thumbs up before taking five himself.

We are waiting for the worst heat of the day to dissapate before we start in on the third mob of 150 or so head.

 Groat and his baby girl, resting up.

 Immy, little cutie she is!

 Whannie and PG, again.

 Final draft, day 3.

 PG looking for the next job … 

 And Hawk, also looking for the next job.

 Sun is starting to sink as we near our last twenty or so head. Groat backs in (background) with supplies.

 Replenishing tag supplies!

 Chasing one that we forgot to NLIS tag. 

 Doesn’t take long for Groat and Whannie to sort it.

 Bang. back on the job.

 By day three the boys were humming, with footy captain Tim Whan encouraging team time improvements …. 

 Groat ready to tag.

 Chalk’s now on the needle.

 Four in a row …. starting to look a little rugged.

 Groat, Whannie, and PG as Anchorman.

 and PG off and racing for the next brand.

 Just like that.

 Pushing up the last handful is Groat and Hawk.

 My only chance to get a sunset shot - here is Hawky heading off the cows and calves before we send them home.

Whannie - a hour later - it’s dark. Doing a bushie’s blow while Chalky laughs at him. Hard earned beer. 

And we are done.

 THE END :-)

About

''Shanna K Whan is a Narrabri-based photographer, and the pioneer behind documentary-styled imagery who's been telling stories through her lens and her heart for a decade. Her passion is for rural people, their children, and their pets. Her work has been published internationally and nationally. Long ago she established herself as the industry leader and marker for this natural style, and her business thrives on word-of-mouth and reputation alone for her ability to immerse herself into the lives of those she photographs and falls in love with along the way.'' - for more about Shan, visit www.shannakwhan.com

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