From Dawn to Dusk: Life on an Australian Organic Outback Cattle Station (Part 1)

Have you ever wondered what it takes for your OBE Organic Rib Eye to make its way onto your dinner plate?

We got the inside scoop from Janet Brook, manager of organic property Cordillo Downs, on what a day looks like on an Australian outback cattle station, with particular focus on the process of mustering (also known as ‘roundup’ to our US friends).

Janet Brook, Cordillo Downs Station Manager
Janet Brook, Cordillo Downs Station Manager

Whilst “mustering” is defined as “to assemble or collect”, there is actually a whole lot more to it than that…

To produce OBE Organic grass-fed beef, there is a significant amount of know-how needed. Producers are responsible for everything from business management, natural resource management, water resource management, human resource management, infrastructure management as well as equipment maintenance and the list goes on.

Whilst this blog outlines what a day of mustering looks like on Cordillo Downs Station, in reality, there is no such thing as typical day!

Before we leave the homestead:

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Due to the sheer size of the property, we don’t come home every night – we ‘camp out’ in the ‘stock camp’. So, before we head out, decisions need to be made on where we will muster next.

Once that decision is made, the gear needs to be organised.

☑Motor bikes checked
☑ Fuelled up and loaded
☑ Food – perishable and non-perishable (don’t forget the biscuits!).
☑ Av gas
☑ Diesel
☑ Unleaded
☑ Fencing materials
☑ UHF radios
☑ Hay
☑ Branding gear
☑ Swags* and bags

This gear is loaded onto various utes, trailers and our camp truck. With that organised, we are now self-sufficient for the week.

The day before mustering – out to camp:

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Our stock camps are located at our trucking yards. We have 13 sets of trucking yards and the yards are the end goal for each muster. These yards can be anything from ½ an hour or 2 hours from the homestead, so we usually head out the night before.

When we arrive to the chosen location, the swags are popped up, the camp truck is arranged, the bikes are unloaded, and dinner is organised. Once we’re set up, my husband Anthony flies out to camp in his Cessna and lands nearby – he has air strips at most of the yards.

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For dinner we have a few stock standard recipes that we alternate with. Tonight, the group are having Steak and Gravy. If there are any leftovers, they will be stored with the rest of the pre-cooked meals and unprepared meat in the camp fridge run by generators.

After dinner, we all sit by the fire to swap stories under the stars before settling down ready to hit the hay in our swags. And with that, the first day is done.

*What is a swag?
A swag is a waterproof canvas sleeping compartment that is sometimes insect-proof. Swags can come with a foam mattress and can comfortably be slept in with the addition of a pillow. They are sturdy, easy to erect and packing up can be done quickly.

From Dawn to Dusk: Life on an Australian Organic Cattle Property (Part 2)

Morning (6.00am ish – before the sun comes up at least)  
The morning of the muster, someone is nominated to do the breakfast each day. They start a half hour earlier to warm the food up and boil the billies. The day begins with a breakfast of last night’s leftovers heated up on the fire in the camp oven. It’s important that we start with a [...]