There was no movement at the station when the word had got around that three steers from the feedlot mob had escaped the Gympie saleyards. “She’ll be right mate” retorted the boss of the trucking company ” M’driver, Dougie’s got the best dogs in the district” During the week of waiting for Dougie’s dogs to step up I had a quick look on Google Earth to see a stretch of country about 120 hectares, 5 kms around ranging from thick wattle scrub to riparian vegetation along swampy gullies. Railway lines bordered the eastern and western edges whilst north and south had roads and dwellings. It looked a good place for a few steers to rest up and settle after their escape.
After a week of no cattle retrieved by Doug and his dogs we loaded up the Polaris, Chief, Suki and Moss. Rang Bob the saleyard manager, who, kindly, unlocked a couple of gates. He did look a bit skeptical. With GPS in hand we started our reconnaissance run. Generally, the roads were in good order and we found cattle sign mostly on the north-eastern end of the park. The centre featured a well presented shotgun and small bore range whilst the southern section hosts a series of mountain bike tracks and obstacles. After traveling 15kms over 2 hours we had a good feel for the terrain, had seen fresh tracks in the wet gullies and were short on day light so we packed up and prepared for the full assault the next morning.
On day two we hit the ground running, drove the 5K boundary and then all of the roads marked by blue on the map. No new sign was evident so Knox and Suk started the emu parade through the areas we thought they may be camped up. On the second run Knox found 1 steer with a bad leg lying in shelter while Suki searching wider picked up 2 more mobile steers. She has clever way of calming livestock in thick wattle but giving a short bark to let Knox know where she is. I was back on the perimeter heading towards the rendezvous point when I got the phone call from Knox, so I turned around and sent Chief and Moss to help Suk hold her steers while we assessed the cripple. He was in no condition to travel, one of the other steers was limping obviously and the other steer was severely “tucked up” making us wonder if all three had suffered a fall from the top deck of the double, rather than just “got out a gate” in the initial report.
The decision was made to take the two healthier steers back to the saleyards and leave the cripple to “recover”. With a mob of two the best option is to allow the dogs to give them relief as they walk towards the Buggy. These three dogs are exceptionally clever at anticipating when livestock intend to deviate into someones garden, or an especially thick wattle patch. After 2 Kms we reached the railway line, skirted around the bottom of the yards and into the open gateway.
Without dogs with a blind search, finding cattle with the mindset of these stressed steers, in these conditions would be very difficult.
Dogs with a bark on command is necessary when visibility drops to 10 to 20 metres.
Dogs ability to dominate livestock, but then give relief and anticipate deviations allowed these cattle to decide to walk out of very trying terrain.
Having good off-balance commands was necessary for negotiating some very tricky obstacles along the railway stretch.
Having a 4X4 buggy with good ground clearance and awesome tyres as well as great carrying capacity allowed us to escape some very sticky mud.( Sorry no photos)
Knox’s GPS app for his phone saved us a lot of time learning the lay of the land.
The third steer will need monitoring and perhaps some quiet coacher cattle to muster steadily once he is more mobile.