When we first hit the road it was a long term goal of mine to find work on a Cattle Station. I’ve seen several programs on TV about the outback. Along with hearing several stories of people working on large outback properties.
As this was something I haven’t done yet we were keen to give it a try during our travels. In my head WA was going to be the destination where I’d start looking for cattle station work.
There was no real theory behind choosing WA. Other than when I think remote outback, it’s either up the centre of Australia or in WA.
This of course is not true as there are many remote stations all over Australia. However in my head at the time, that was the focus.
Finding Station work
As we made our way from South Australia across the NullarborI started to scan local websites for Agricultural jobs and or Cattle station jobs.
I applied for one I found on Gumtree and also a couple more found on The job shop website. Shortly after applying I got a call from the Minderoo group.
They are one of the largest land holders in Australia and own several stations and other properties around Australia.
The position I applied for was for a “Water Technician”.
I wasn’t too sure what was involved when signing up as a station bore runner.
I was excited about the opportunity to give something new a go. Not only was it another occasion offocusing on a goal and achieving it but it was a chance to learn new skills.
Each Cattle station have their own way of looking after water supply to the cattle.
Some still use windmills, some use bore pumps and turkeys nests. Others such as the station we were on use diesel powered generators to operate bore pumps and fill tanks.
The boreman’s job is to drive around the massive cattle station and keep the water supplies up to the Cattle.
To achieve this the boreman’s responsibility is to:
Repair any leaks that prevent the supply of water to the cattle.
They also report on what is happening out on the property
Repair fences if broken
Remove dead animals from drinking areas
Report back on anything that is not usual out in the field to the management.
Living on a cattle station
All stations operate differently due to the size and what stock they have. For us the station we worked on was 880,000 acres and only had three permanent employees, myself the manager and his wife.
The closest place to us was a roadhouse 10km away. Apart from that you had to travel 130km to the nearest town for supplies.
Coming from one direction it was 30km from the start of the property to the 7km driveway into the station.
At almost 900,000 acres it’s a fairly small station compared to some which far exceed 1 million acres. For us however it was huge when you’re used to 20 – 60 acre properties.
Stations often offer free accommodation, food, WIFI and water as part of the employment package. The accommodation we were offered was a 3 bedroom house.
It had AC and all the amenities but was shared accommodation with any contractors or other staff that often come and go.
We chose to stay in our caravan permanently so we had some personal space and separation from living and working in the same spot.
They also had a few donga’s for excess contractors and a original build homestead, but that was currently decommissioned.
As it was a cattle station with over 10,000 head of cattle the freezer was always full of fresh meat. This provided what seemed like endless amount of mince and fresh cut steaks.
The station also had pigs, chickens, horses, goats, sheep and several goanna’s that wandered past you when least expecting it.
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I take my hat off to people in the country ( although not for long as the sun is blazing hot around here ). Out of all the people that came and left again from Jakaroo’s or Jillaroo’s to the management they all had the ability to do a multitude of tasks.
It was common to see one person be able to jump on a dozer then a grader, then round up cattle in a chopper, build a shed, trench a ditch, fix a water leak and weld up something mechanical all in one or two days.
I once seen the managers wife cook bacon and eggs in the morning, shift hay around on the telehandler, muster up 1000 cows and be elbow deep up the rear of a cow all in one day and she didn’t think twice about it.
When I used to often see people who choose not to do a small task because they say ” that’s not my job” it’s refreshing to see the attitudes and friendliness of the country folk.
I admire what they do and has given me a new appreciation towards what these people do all day every day.
Some highlights (or not so highlighted) of our months on a station
During my rounds I once had to spend 20 minutes digging the older landcruiser out of being bogged.
Sometimes you also have to get inventive when the bolts snap from the front suspension. Strapping the front suspension so the diff wouldn’t fall out, I was able to travel slowly to a reception area then call for help.
Some times you’d come across dead animals near tanks and troughs which could cause bacteria issues if left. Often you’d have to remove dead roo’s, ferrel cats, dead calves and even a 600kg cow.
Green swarms of birds would often put on a show for me when tanks overflowed.
The solo, all day trip around the station would often give you too much time to think. I ended up entertaining myself by talking to the cows, attracting emu’s or making friends with “Stick lizard” ( this was my version of Tom Hanks “Wilson”
The sunsets and Sunrises, the nightly stars and the tranquility were all fantastic
Due to driving the same dirt roads almost every day the bore runner gets to keep a eye on what’s happening out in the field. It’s the bore runners job to report back to management anything that seems odd or not normal.
Between that , water leaks, dead animals and broken fences the bore runner keeps busy each trip.
For me unfortunately it got a little repetitive after fixing everything up. My brain requires problem solving and stimulation to stay awake (working on a factory production line wouldn’t be my thing).
As a result i’m not certain I could sustain being just a bore runner for much more than a few months at a time. However, when not doing the bore run i’d help out at the homestead which involves a large variety of jobs to do though.
You could expect to do all and any sort of jobs when working around the homestead. Examples of what I used to do are :
Dig trenches with a bobcat
Lay poly pipelines
Repair water leaks
Service station vehicles
Travel long distances to refuel graders and dozers or pick up bikes from other stations
Diagnose water leaks around the place and repair
Install and setup additional bores
Fabrication jobs like build ladders, modify yard equipment, fix and build stuff
Along with plenty of other random jobs like assisting in mustering it’s never boring on the in between days. The bore runner job itself is not particularly hard.
But… when you have 6 months off work to go travelling and then do a physical job in the heat it gets pretty draining on the body until you get used to it. I think every muscle in my body ached for the first two months. Even muscles I didn’t think I had.
The Lifestyle on a cattle station
If you’re like us and don’t mind the peace and tranquility of nature then a cattle station is a good place to be. The people we came across are hard working and friendly with good work ethics.
In many aspects things are simpler than the city life and it just makes for a good environment, providing you don’t mind a bit of hard work.
Would I suggest others give it a go ? Bloody oath.
The country community do it pretty tough. They rarely have a chance to have days off and often find themselves shorthanded.
Any extra hands I’d suspect are always welcome. It’s not always a paying job. Sometimes farmers look for helping hands in return for food and accommodation. Even still that’s worth doing purely to assist these hard working people and let them have some form of work/life balance.
Since writing this – Another traveling couple had a read and felt they could give station work a go. Frannie, Crispy and not forgetting Bella the dog (AKA – Not Grey Nomads) Wrote about there experience finding work on a station. Have a read of there post here.
Added: 2021 Larry has been working on a sheep station and Broadacer farm in NSW. We’ll write about our time in locations in the months to come.