Jillaroo / Jackaroo / Stationhand
A Stationhand’s job involves anything that assists with the running of a station, this usually includes but is not limited to the following;
- Assist in the duties required to manage and develop the livestock herd, using horses, dogs, motorbikes, helicopters and planes as required.
- Maintain, develop and improve facilities, equipment, machinery and infrastructure on the property.
- General livestock husbandry and herd management
- Ensure all livestock are handled in a quiet and sensible manner and ensure the welfare of all livestock at all times.
- Maintain, develop and continually improve facilities on the property.
- Strictly adhere to all policies and procedures, including Workplace Heath and Safety legislation, policies and procedures.
- Operation, service and general repairs and maintenance of associated vehicles plant, machinery, equipment and infrastructure.
- General property maintenance including but not limited to fencing, water systems, yard maintenance and weed control.
- Feral pest control.
- Follow and adhere to any documentation and reporting requirements as required by the business.
Carrying out these duties can be very tough, there are hot summers, sometimes freezing cold winters and in many years, drought or flood. There is no easy way to get used to these extremes and in the beginning it will test you, but like any big challenge it is all the more rewarding for the difficulties you endure.
There will probably be times when you think it is all too hard and life was easier at home, at these times try and remember that you’ve taken on this challenge for a reason and seeing it through could be the start of a wonderfully rewarding career or simply the year you will always look back on with pride.
Essential Skills and Habits to Develop
There are many varied skills and personal attributes that you will need to develop or learn in order to be good at your job, also be aware that in the beginning you will make mistakes, everyone does, just remember to learn from your mistakes and never make the same one twice. The following are the most important skills and habits you need to develop in order to be good at your job.
Honesty and Reliability
- These are two of the most important personal attributes you can have and will quickly make you a respected part of any team. Honesty is important because there are instances when you need to trust others and they need to trust you, without honesty there can be no trust. Being on time is very important and having yourself and your gear ready to begin on time, every time will ensure a reputation for reliability.
Be Neat and Tidy
- Being neat and tidy are simple but very important habits, at work you should always put tools back where you got them from, in the same condition you found them and that extends to any gear you work with regularly, motor vehicle, motorbike or horse, refuel them, repair any damage and particularly with your horse, wash them down, feed and water them before you even think about looking after yourself. Being neat and tidy at home are equally important, keep your personal belongings in your room and always tidy up after yourself in public spaces.
- Being observant is essential to performing your job well, however it’s not something that is easily taught, rather something you need to take upon to develop yourself. For example if you come across a fence that’s over, are there stock tracks heading across the downed fence? If so in which direction are they going? Are there hundreds or just a couple? Noticing this sort of thing can mean the difference between having to re-muster a paddock or not. When going through gates noticing vehicle tracks and shoeprints and how old they are is essential and will help you maintain a sense of what is going on around you. Being observant can also help you in unfamiliar places, if you begin a day in a paddock and don’t know your orientation ie; where North, South, East and West are, or where your fence runs, then you will probably get lost, end up mustering the same ground as someone else or end up back where you started.
Carry a Notebook
- There will be occasions every day when you need to write something down, either for your own records or to inform someone else later and carrying a notebook is essential. The day you forget it will be the day you need it the most.
Ask Sensible Questions
- If you don’t understand an instruction ensure you get clarification before taking off for the day as misunderstanding an instruction could have wider ramifications. On the other hand there is a fine line between clarification and questioning the boss or their methods and crossing that line will get you in trouble, so knowing when to sit back and absorb information and when to pipe up and ask is another invaluable skill.
- The final important habit is to be enthusiastic, whether your task is a good one or the last thing you want to do, showing enthusiasm will make you a valuable employee.
If you choose to fly or catch a bus to your destination, you will need to check what the baggage allowance is and how far outside them your gear will be. Horse gear, motorbike gear and particularly swags will be either too heavy or too bulky to fit within airline size guidelines and may attract an expensive charge at the airport, purchasing extra luggage allowance when you book your ticket can save you a lot of money.
If you have your own vehicle, be aware that most stations will have diesel fuel available for you to purchase but unleaded may be in shorter supply and gas will not be available.
Your health is important, and on many properties you are a long way from medical attention, if you have any pre existing conditions ensure you make the OH&S representative and your boss aware of them and any medications you may be on. If you do not have Private Health Insurance then it is strongly recommended, at the very least you should have Ambulance Cover particularly if you are working in a state other than Queensland as you are not automatically covered.
You are covered by WorkCover if you injure yourself at work but on your own time you are not and unfortunately young people, time off and horses, vehicles or motorbikes tend to go hand in hand with injuries.
If you are planning on taking valuable items like laptops or jewellery make sure that you are either prepared to lose them, break them, have them stolen or INSURE them.
Mobile phones will not work on many stations, it is a good idea to check before you go whether there is coverage, and then sort out your phone plan etc. before you go.
There are many different ways to muster a paddock and how it is done depends on a number of factors, including how big the paddock is, how much water is in the paddock, the time available or even whether low stress stock handling is preferred.
These days many properties muster on 2 or 4 wheel motorbikes as they are quicker than horses and require less staff. There are however still many properties where horses are used either because the terrain is too difficult on bikes or because the property owners prefer to handle the stock quietly, whether you are on a property which uses bikes or horses, musters will often be done in conjunction with a helicopter or plane.
Learning to communicate effectively on UHF Radio is a valuable skill and particularly important when mustering, remember to speak clearly and concisely, keep the message short and to the point.
After a muster is complete you will usually process the stock, this usually involves some or all of the following processes; drafting, marking, weaning, inoculating, drenching, jetting, dipping, pregnancy testing, spaying or assessing for sale. Once the relevant processes are completed and sometimes prior to processing you may have to relocate some stock, walking stock can be a challenging task and at times it can be tedious.
If you are moving young flighty weaners you must be alert at all times to where they might try to run away to and always stay in the position around the mob allocated to you, on the other hand, a mob of older stock and their young offspring on a hot day will be extremely slow and nothing will speed them up, managing to stay alert even when plodding along can be difficult but is the difference between a good employee and a lazy one.
Most big properties have a recreation club or room with TV, Internet and other activities such as billiard table, dart board etc. You are also encouraged to go to local social events like rodeos and camp drafts, picnic races and agricultural shows, horse races and country dances or to go fishing, swimming or to the local pub. Maintaining a social life helps you settle in to a different environment, make new friends and fully see the local area.
Start and Finish Times
Your working day will start according to the weather, time of year and what needs to be done, there are no set hours of work in this industry. Sometimes unforseen events can mean instead of a weekend off, there’s a windmill to pull, a trough to fix or some livestock to move, this is a big part of life in the outback, as things like stock running out of water mean the failure or success of the business and more importantly life and death for the livestock.
Many properties will have a plan for the year, often with two rounds of mustering, drafting, marking and selling of stock with quieter periods in between, this means that there will be times in the year when things are not so hectic and you may get to sleep in a bit more and finish a little earlier, remembering this can help get you through the busy times.
Many stations have a small supply of essential items, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, laundry powder etc. however not everything you require will be there so it is wise to take a good supply with you.
Your wages will be paid into your bank account either fortnightly or monthly, you will need to take your tax file number, bank account numbers and any superannuation details with you.
One of the most important jobs on a station is the water run, this job entails going around to all water points and checking that both the tank and trough are full, you will usually have to clean the trough, you will also need to check pumpjacks, windmills or more modern solar pumps depending on the system in use.
You will also need to check dams to ensure there are no stock bogged or dead animals in the water. If there is a problem it is important to check the system from the trough back through the tank to the mill or pump system until you can isolate the issue.