Bogarella – cattle muster

Continuing on with our volunteering stint with Outback Links at Bogarella, we get the wonderful opportunity to see a cattle muster. Mustering can only take place in the dry season and this is still relatively early in the dry season. I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of us being there during a cattle muster, but to find out that even a small one was going to occur during our stay was thrilling for me. So you can imagine my disappointment when I had ruptured my ear drum the day before and I was in too much pain (and scared of permanent deafness being a real possibility) that I had to say that I couldn’t go. My imagination fired away and images of the wild outback stretched out before me with scenes from the Australia movie flashing before my eyes; thundering hooves, dog whistles and cracking whips and of course all the bulls and bulldust. To see the men & women like Stuart and Kira who carve their lives from the bush in action. Though there are horses on the property, I hadn’t seen anyone on horseback, so I imagined that Stuart and his guys were rounding them up on these 4 wheeled motor bikes that I see Stuart come home on. Maybe that is the way it is done now a days.

Grassy paddock at Bogarella
Bogarella is 60,000 acres and it is one of the largest stations in this area. The area is suffused with lots of long grass though of a pale yellow hue and this is not that long after the wet season has officially finished and already to my inexperienced eyes it looks quite dry. A lot of the native grown trees have been cut out generations ago to make more land suitable for grazing. Bogarella is fortunate enough to have the Warrego River running right through the property. This river floods almost every year to the point that the station is cut off for probably 4-5 weeks each year.

Real Aussie cowboy - Stuart

After lunch I am feeling a little better and I have been told that Rob can drive me over to the sorting yard. My only consolation is that while "mustering" can be fast and furious, rounding cattle into a yard is something I can quietly watch from the sidelines. So off we go. The sorting yards are about 2 kilometres away. Stuart and Kira are already busy at work.

The bulls didn't like to come near - fine by me!
I climb up and stand on one of the galvanized fences wondering if the cattle can smell my excitement touched with a little fear. I'm doing my best look cool, calm and collected and thus to hide it under my hat. I enjoy watching it all going on. Stuart is in amongst the cattle ‘guiding’ the various beasts to get them into the sorting section hopefully just one at a time or a small group of similar beasts. Kira is up on some sort of platform about 10 feet above all the gates. She is the gate controller using long levers that open and close the gates to the various sorting pens underneath her. Sometimes she has to move quite fast. Standing above the gates allows the cattle to move down the alley more easily, the cattle seem to be very reluctant to approach anywhere where there is a human. Sometimes Bob’s or my presence seemed to be enough to stop them from entering the section they had been allocated, so I would drop down and step away a bit until the beast had gone through.

some of the bulls in the pens

I found out later that the beasts were basically being sorted into types and/or sizes. There were a few ‘weird’ ones that were for the slaughterhouse, one poor beast had one of it’s horns curled right round and growing back into his head...he literally had a pain in the head. Others were being culled as they were at the premium size. Apparently once a beast exceeds a certain size then they actually get less money for the beast. Some were kept aside for their own breeding program and yet others were to be castrated.
A bull in the head lock ready for tagging
Towards the end, we also go to see some of the cattle get tagged, which is where the beast is led into a lane where they basically have nowhere to go other than forward into some sort of head locking contraption. The manoeuvring required to get the beast in just the right place and the ‘jaws’ closed on the beast into a head lock takes a fair bit of skill and experience. The tagging is relatively quick and simple using a hand held tool not unlike a one handed hole punch. Many of the beasts are terrified or annoyed at being held thus and it can take several goes to get the head lock done correctly. One time a horn broke off at the skull... I have no idea if it hurt the beast, there was no blood nor any other indicators. Looking at the ground later, I noticed a few more discarded horns, so it must happen from time to time.

 Kira is on the 4 wheeled bike

As we left to go back to the homestead, we see Kira racing around the cattle on the 4 wheeled bike and Stuart walking behind her with this long pole. He says that he does use horses for mustering, it depends on where they are and the condition of the ground.

As I write this I'm reminded of another of the quotes from the Stockman's Hall of Fame which we later visit when we get to Longreach.

"Banjo the poet got a bit of it - 'and he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended' - except he left out the flies and the bulldust and the empty bellies and the rain that can soak your bones to a chill. Apart from that it's pretty good then."

Well thankfully we didn’t get too much of the flies and none of the rain and our bellies were soon amply filled by Kira at dinner time.


  1. Wonderful stuff! Sorry to hear about your ruptured ear drum, but you seem to have bounced back ok. Congratulations on having the smarts in positioning yourself to get an experience like that. A lot of these fancy bus tours wouldn't be able to offer you a look at a working cattle station where you could ask all the questions you wanted.

  2. What a great trip you are having! Hope your ear drum is recovering well. I am really enjoying following you in your travels.



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