The next stop on our outback adventure was at ‘Balmacarra’, 26,000 acres of cattle country, about 100km North West of Charleville.
The drive out was once again on dirt road, this time black soil, which was a lovely contrast to the copious amount of red soil we already had from our trip to Mungallala.
The conditions were starting to change. The land was very flat, dry and dusty, and the grass on the planes also starting to dry out.
Parked up at ‘Balmacarra’
Our hosts at this farm were Graham & Suzi, 30 year farming veterans in these parts. After being welcomed with the traditional farm house cuppa we got to know them a bit better before heading off for a tour of the farm.
The kids stayed behind with Suzi and enjoyed collecting eggs and learning how to care for the chickens. There were plenty of farm animals to interact with including homing pigeons, chickens, dogs, the cat, geese and even a wild scrub turkey.
It was then off to check the waterholes. This farm unlike some did not have the luxury of bore water, relying solely on run-off to its dams. Graham recalls 2010 and 2013 being two of the worst years they have experienced on the farm. It resulted in them drastically reducing stock numbers and working around the clock just to keep the water up to the cattle. Graham also said, that whilst it was tough during this time he feels they were some of the lucky ones and there were many worse off.
Our arrival at ‘Balmacarra’ saw us just in time to help out with a Muster. Four of us headed out early the next morning in search of the first herd of cattle. Searching for 200 head of cows in thousands of acres of property is not as easy as it seems. Driving over 8km, just to get to the paddock, we started looking and were soon rewarded with a few stragglers, and a very slow Bull that was not in a hurry to get anywhere.
Helping Out with the Muster
We eventually found more of the herd, spread out as far as possible and trying to hide in scrub land. For the most part, they all meandered quietly back towards the dams, ready to make the trip back home to the cattle yards. There was a break out every now and again which added to the excitement, but eventually, 4 hours later we headed back to the yards with about 150 head of cattle. Although not as grand, it felt like the scene from the movie ‘Australia’ as we led the cattle in. (Well, at least it did in my imagination.) The kids were with us on the home stretch and fascinated as to how it all worked.
Into the yards, the cattle started mooing. Loudly. Letting us know they weren’t happy. They probably knew what was about to happen. Tagged, branded and in some cases de-knackered. It was enough to send my man parts retreating to the safety of my rib cage. Once done the weaners, about 12 month old calves, were separated from their mothers, who were then led off back to the paddocks. The weaners then remain in the holding pen and are hand fed for a few days so they get over the separation anxiety, but that night, they bellowed around the clock.
The cattle are sorted, branded and tagged.
A mothers instincts are very powerful, and cattle are no different. This was evident the next morning when we saw about a dozen of the mothers beside the weaners pen. They had walked over 8km, through fences, to make it back to their calves.
Mothers find their way back home to their calves.
We really enjoyed our experience at ‘Balmacarra’, it gave us all a chance to see first hand the workings of a large cattle station. For the kids it was a priceless piece of education and has given them a great appreciation and respect for life on the land.
We were overwhelmed by the hospitality of our hosts and how they welcomed us into their home. The experience was one of the most rewarding we have had in our travels to date. Camping out on a large property, and getting involved in the workings of the property is something we would highly recommend to anyone who wants to experience something different.
Sitting in a caravan park for a few weeks at a time can be OK, but this is something you will not forget.
To find out more about how to Help Out someone in need, head on over to our Help Out section where you will find a selection of listings for people that need help all over Australia, and will offer you a place to stay in return.