TYPES OF JOBS AT RANCHES
Hours Of Work
Working hours are varied and often they will be irregular. At all times stock must have water and feed. Windmills break down or there may be a wind drought at inconvenient times. These events happen on weekends and after usual knockoff, as well as during working hours. They still need to be fixed as soon as possible, so you will find yourself working on weekends and after your usual knock off time occassionally. Stock don’t travel well in the heat of the day so it is usual to start very early, let them have a camp in the middle of the day and finish the job in the cool of the evening. You will find, if you can cope with the busy times, there are quieter times which will balance things out. You may also get extra time off to compensate for particularly busy periods.
You will be sent on water runs once you know your way around the station. Water is the lifeblood of a station and to ensure that the stock have access to water at all times is one of the most important jobs on the run. When you do a water run, you have to check if tanks and troughs are full and clean and if windmills and pump-jacks are working. Dams must be checked and any stock that might be bogged must be removed and helped to walk away. Be observant! See if there are any leaks – what water level is in the tank and trough? Jot down the details of tank levels, stock at the water and any problems that need to be fixed. Strange rattles or loose parts should be reported at once.
Some stations use trap yards in which the stock can get in to the water but not out. This is good but after a big rain the stock may not come into water and the paddock will have to be mustered conventionally. Fixed-wing aircraft are used on many of our stations to spot sheep when mustering and helicopters assist in the mustering of cattle.
Once you have mustered the stock you may have to drove them to a set of yards, the homestead yards or another paddock. Remember that you can only travel as fast as the slowest animal and the leaders may have to be turned back or blocked regularly.
Promotion & Wages
Your wage will be advised before you start and can be found on your employment agreement. If you’re employed full time you will be entitled to four weeks annual leave, sick pay and all staff are paid superannuation. Keep is set by the award and this includes all of your meals on the station as well as the costs of your accommodation and living expenses such as water, power etc. This allows you to bank the remainder of your wage, as you don’t have the usual living expenses, such as fuel or fares to and from work, electricity, gas, water, rent, food etc. If you have lived out of home you are aware these all add up and can be quite expensive! Wages are reviewed regularly and once you have proven your worth as a first year station hand/jackaroo or stockman, the path is open for promotion.
YOUR BEHAVIOUR TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR DAY…
- Ask Questions
Make sure you understand your instructions for the day. If you aren’t sure how a job is done ask how to do it. You are there to learn and the quickest way to find out is to ask.
- Establish Priorities
Learn to work out which jobs are the important ones and need to be done first. If you are faced with a job which overwhelms you then break it down into more manageable parts. This will make it easier to cope with as you tackle it one stage at a time.
- Good Habits
Be neat and tidy. Learning to be observant is a skill that is essential to develop in the bush. Look down in gateways when opening a gate and observe any tracks. Learn to recognise the tracks of sheep, cattle, dogs, foxes, camels etc. Which way were they going? Were they walking to water or rushing, or being chased by a dog, perhaps? Recognise tyre and boot tracks – you will soon be able to tell whose vehicle went through the gate last. After a while you will learn to tell how fresh the tracks are. This skill added to your bush sense will be invaluable, as you will be able to follow stragglers when mustering or tell when someone you were meeting in the paddock has taken a wrong turn. Importantly, you will be known to be reliable, as you can find your way around. In scrub, once you have found the tracks of stock you are looking for, you should have no trouble mustering them. Being observant and interested also includes watching how others fix fences, put sheep/cattle through the draft, clean up flyblown sheep, and castrate a bull, calf, etc.
Look after your vehicle, motorbike or horse. They are your transport and your well-being is dependent on them being in good condition. The day’s work is not finished until your vehicle is refuelled, any punctures mended and puncture kits and the like replenished. Similarly with your horse, wash them down and give them a feed and a drink before you finish for the day.
- You owe it to yourself to work through the initial stages of uncertainty and understand it will take some time to acclimatise and get used to the outback lifestyle. If you go into your new role with a sense of adventure, you will be rewarded with fantastic skills, a sense of achievement and make some real mates for life. Understand it will be challenging but aim to give your best shot at it and be patient with yourself.
Give yourself at least a month to find your feet, but give yourself a good six to 12 months to be really comfortable and getting the most out of your new role.