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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Mustered, Pickles and Jams

So a fair bit has happened in the last few months. We got to meet the (former) Minister for Agriculture. We saw the (former) Prime Minister in the flesh. And it looks like we might be the former owners of a once thriving export depot, which while is not what we had planned, it is what it is and we move on.


Meanwhile, some serious work has been done to get our type of sheep in to local processors. Now I could write a thousand words on this, but here is the short version. Yes, the ones that make the grade are worthwhile, but the eighty per cent that don’t still need a home to go to. It is a lot of work for less return overall and no matter what we are still stuck with the older sheep. So this is where this particular story starts.


After an initial trial into processors, much discussion and more to the point, no ship orders for damaras, we arranged a booking for light ram lambs to an abattoir for mid-August.  To be frank, the price was shit, as a light lamb weighs not much (the clue is in the name) and when you’re paid by the kilo, there is not much you can do about it. But cashflow is king in any business, and things need to keep ticking along. So three weeks ago we started to muster.


I haven’t yet explained how the muster process works out here at Gabyon.  That’s a tale for another day, but it involves an aeroplane, four motorbikes, two sheep dogs, portable sheep yards, a semi-trailer and some (cough) swearing. It’s not easy, but if you’re working towards something, its good fun. We see the mob of sheep in a paddock we haven’t seen since last muster, we see the lambs, and we see the weaners. It makes a nice change from driving around not seeing a bloody thing for six months or more.


So we mustered. Then we get a phone call a week into it. There’s a ship order out. They’re taking all the things, including damara’s. AND they can take the older rams. Hallelujah, about bloody time, pull out all the stops people we need to get some sheep rounded up and get them gone NOW. Needless to say we felt heartened, after 18 months of nearly nothing we had a good order to work towards.


However, this put us in a pickle. We’d arranged a delivery of light lambs to an abattoir, which coincidently was roughly the same delivery date as the ship order. There wasn’t much to think about though. The ship would take all ram lambs, and all rams up to white tag, whereas the abattoir would only take light lambs. Bugger the meatworks, we need to move sheep off the place and money into the account ASAP.


A week and a half later, which was yesterday, with some five hundred rams lambs and rams in the yards, on VERY expensive feed, we get a call. “Job’s off. They’ve cancelled the order. My guess is they can’t get ESCAS approval.”  Now it’s probably a good thing we live so far from Perth, otherwise one or two of us would be up on murder charges and I’d be writing this from a holding cell somewhere.  


So now we are in a jam. We have a holding paddock full of sheep too old for  the domestic processors, with no idea if any ship order is going to be forthcoming for them, and last I heard the next available kill space is Christmas, with this year’s new drop of lambs about to be ready for sale. Sheep need to eat, and either we let them go again into the main paddocks, after three weeks of work and expense, and hope they stay away from the ewes which we don’t want mated to them, or we try to find some way of feeding them, which will be nigh on impossible with the dry season in the Northern Ag zone all but exhausting any spare hay supplies.


You all may or may not be aware we’ve started a station stay. Perhaps a few of the do gooding brigade who so adamantly campaigned against our trade would like to come visit and witness firsthand the mess they have made. Hell, they can even take a ram home with them. Strangely, that’s only not allowed if you’re an Arab in the Middle East. Try explaining that one to the two French backpackers helping. They think we’re nuts enough with vegemite, giant jumping rats and running birds who don’t fly. When we explain we now have to control what another country does with an animal we’ve sold them, they think we’re mad. Strangely enough, so did the two German girls, the Taiwanese girl, the German guy and the Austrian girl who have all graced us with their presence. There’s a lesson there somewhere. I hope whoever is in charge in the near future wakes up to this, or it’s going to be a bloody mess.

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