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Removal of feral cattle to protect wetlands on Violet Vale Station

In October last year, excitement was high on the morning of our first day mustering feral cattle out of Saltwater Paddock, a 22,000 acre area which has been fenced off (thanks to previous kind assistance from Cape York NRM) to protect the major wetlands on Violet Vale Station. 

After a couple of weeks work pushing in access tracks and putting up mobile yards, we were keen to see how many cattle we would catch. In 2015 we mustered around 100 head and we were hopeful of getting the same number this time round. 

Removing feral cattle not only helps protect the wetlands but also offers animal welfare and biosecurity benefits. The muster was done in collaboration with our neighbours from Lilyvale and Artemis Stations and with nancial assistance from Cape York NRM. 

Over two days, we managed to catch 100 head. Unfortunately, we didn’t get them all – a few were just too smart for us including one wily old bull who sat down in the middle of the swamp and wouldn’t get up even with the chopper strut urging him. 

After the fun of mustering came the hard work of getting the cattle back to the yards at Violet Vale. I quickly learnt that feral cattle do not like getting into cattle trucks and bulls really do not like getting into the bull trailer – it is hot and very dangerous work. Back at Violet Vale, drafting the cattle was a breeze in our new yards but feeding out hay to 100 head was hot and itchy work for the couple of days rest they had before being transported to Mareeba. 

Susan Shepard (Lilyvale) won the ‘Who can get the dirtiest award’ after getting covered from head to toe in black dust thrown up by rampaging cattle, while her brother Robert Raymond (Pinnacle) won the ‘work till you drop award’ by finishing o the new yards at Violet Vale just the night before the cattle were due.

My nephew Andrew got his first ride in a chopper, Brandon Shepard (Lilyvale) and Trevor Shepard (Artemis) battled it out to see who could tie up the most bulls (they both claim victory) and Glen Shephard (Lilyvale) rode like a madman through the bush on his 4-wheeler chasing cattle all the while directing the chopper by radio. The kids had a ball by missing out on a week of school. 

The wetlands seem quiet and deserted now that most of the cattle are gone – next task – feral pigs! 

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