Zorro, Pat Garrett and the Jack of Harts

View 2Last week, while mustering a paddock that borders the National Park, I noticed cattle tracks in the Park. I mentioned my plan to send some dogs to search for them to Rodney Garrett and he reckoned I would have a better chance if he and his Kelpie, Spy came along.

At 4:00 pm, when the heat had dissipated from the day we Dogs and vehiclejumped 2 teams of 3 Kelpies each into the Ranger and set off to where I reckoned they may be camped. Of course there were no cattle at that spot but enough scent for the dogs to follow. We drove around to get a better vantage point, always a temptation but can confuse the dogs as they tend to bring cattle back to where they initiated their cast.

A crescendo of speaking dogs showed us that the cattle were found and that they were some 500 ft below us in some very inhospitable country. A couple of whip cracks re-oriented our position to the pack. As it was too steep and thickly vegetated to drive the Ranger closer, Rodney suggested we walk down and make sure that the cattle had a relatively clear path back to the ridge top. I think he really wanted to make sure Spy was assisting the flow and direction rather than hindering it. As it turned out the idea was sound as the dogs had located a small mob of 4 cows 4 calves and Zorro, a mature wild bull. He had been seen rarely, but discussed plenty over a beer around a campfire. By the time we were able to see the mob the dogs had cleverly applied force when they tried to run down into the depths of the valley and, more importantly, given relief when they moved upwards. There was a small spring at the base of a rock wall so we moved across the slope  keeping the dogs off-balance to move the cattle around the rocks and upwards once again. Well done Rodney. As Zorro was understandably man-shy we kept our distance behind the cattle and allowed the dogs to drive them up to where we had parked the Ranger.

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The Saleyard Quest

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.

IMG_7106After 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. Saleyard GPSGenerally, 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.

Critical comments:

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.

Bank 1

Suki heads off a break

Suk

Suki, happy with the result

Railway

Chief and Suki guiding their livestock

Cattle and dogs

Moss and Chief, drive and hold.

The Mary Valley Stockmans Contest

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Riana Glide

I was talking to Rodney Garrett about running a stock-handling event at the Imbil Show grounds in the beautiful Mary Valley in S.E. Queensland. (Rodney says it has a great bar on a Saturday night.) A school or clinic perhaps? No let’s have a fairdinkum contest for all comers. A trial, yes, but not a demonstration of a persons control over a dog, but an honest attempt to exhibit the teamwork displayed between human, dog/s and livestock so essential for an efficient and profitable pastoral industry in Australia. As this region is sub-tropical , sheep are in the minority,  so, the livestock will be cattle.

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Mustering cattle and moving them through the Yards

Since posting the  “Mustering with clever dogs” post last year I have had quite a few requests for the complete footage from which that post was taken. At over 14 minutes this video demonstrates how well bred, herding dogs with natural instinct  take up positions around a mob of cattle to guide them, mostly at a walk,  from a paddock to a set of yards where normal husbandry procedures can be conducted. Although this is filmed handling cattle the principles are the same for all types of livestock. If you have any questions please comment at the bottom of this post.

Music

Dirt Rhodes, Hustle, Matts Blues, Porch Blues, Slow Burn, Whiskey on the Mississippi.

Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Mustering Cattle with Clever dogs

To watch this video in HD (recommended) use the Youtube button in the lower right corner, then select HD from the options, again in the lower right corner. Remember to come back and add your comments.

I was just talking to Mitchell Grambauer and he said that watching this video in HD “beat the hell out of watching television”. He added that he was impressed about the calmness in the cattle and the dogs. “How far have you got to travel to see dogs able to guide livestock, even cows and calves, with both dominance and fairness?”

The initial cast from the young Milburn Bitch, Moss is perfect in my terrain. You can see that she cruises around the flight zone of the mob and stops at the weight point represented by a single cow who tests her mettle. As the cow yields from the correct amount of pressure, Moss continues her outrun to affect the lift on the mob. Tracker the Chief, and his daughter, Tracker Suki, assist her with some fairdinkum walk up, without violence but with intent.

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Gin Gin Stock Handling School

The Gin Gin district was originally settled in 1847 when Gregory Blaxland and William Forster moved into the area with sheep and cattle. The site where the town now stands was once part of the sprawling Gin Gin Station owned by Sir Thomas McIlwraith, who was Premier of Queensland three times between 1879 and 1893.

The Gin Gin district is nicknamed Wild Scotsman Country due to the capture of one of Queensland’s few bushrangers, James Alpin McPherson, in the area on 30 March 1866. McPherson, who went by the same nickname, was captured at Monduran Station, 13 km north of town. The Wild Scotsman Festival is held in Gin Gin on the third week of March each year to commemorate this event.

The name Gin Gin was derived from the original station name, which used a local Aboriginal word indicating “red soil thick scrub”. (Wikipedia)

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Wyoming/Utah USA

Behold, it came to pass that Sean and I visited with our fantastic host family, The Taylors. This is no ordinary family as the patriarch, Dr Robert, or Bob or just Doc to his friends is none other than the star of the Animal Planet’s “Emergency Vets” show, now “retired” to a fully functioning commercial cattle ranch in South West Wyoming called Lonetree.

As you can plainly see he wasn’t chosen for his good looks, but, for his skill and dedication as an Orthopedic Veterinary surgeon.

Animal Planets Meet Dr Bob

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