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Ben Reardon is the head stockman at Kamilaroi Station, one of Stanbroke’s seven stations in far north Queensland, comprising more than 1.2 million hectares of prime grazing country.
Each year, prior to the new season commencing, Ben sends his new charges a few words of wisdom which he has developed over the years from his experiences on cattle stations. He owes much of this advice to lessons learned and knowledge gained from previous managers and staff that have worked for him. Here are his collected thoughts …
It’s that time of year when our young leave home to work on stations, those in the north head south and south up north…
All of your actions will dictate what jobs you get, how you will advance within the business and ultimately how much you are going to enjoy your experience.
Always roll your swag tight and neat. A tight swag takes up less space on the cart, stack it with fold down so it doesn’t fill with dirt.
Always sleep with your boots and whip in your swag so the dingoes don’t steal them at night.
Always have a jumper and clean socks in your swag in case of a sudden cold night.
Never cut in front of the boss with stock. Watch and learn.
Keep a small travel bag to house 2 pair jeans, 3 shirts, 3 socks, 3 jocks.
Wash socks and jocks every night, change jeans every 3-4 days, shirts 2-3 days.
Always have a clean shirt in case you need to visit a neighbour or return to the house for supplies, neither wish to see a dirty smelly ringer.
Maintain a clean and tidy appearance, deodorant and toothbrush. Use your cup to clean your teeth with… well away from the camp site.
You can perform a full body wash with a cup of water, face, ears, neck, armpits groin and feet.
Drink from all cups with your bottom lip in the cup not on the outer.
Maintain cleanliness in a camp. Always wash your hands – boils and diarrhoea go through a camp quickly.
At least one piece of fruit per day is recommended to maintain bowel movement. Bowel movement may not occur for the first 2-3 days as your body will use everything.
If without paper for bowel movement… wash with water and dry with back tail of shirt. NOTE: buy shirts with long back tails.
Black tea will not clog your system like coffee and milk, so learn to drink black sugarless tea.
Cold tea will taste colder than plain water.
Teach your body to evacuate once a day, morning or night, not all camp horses are great to mount while out mustering.
Talcum powder if you are prone to chafing.
Remove your hat when indoors.
Refrain from idle gossip, those who gossip with you will gossip also against you.
Be polite and mindful to those you venture by.
Always be grateful to the cook and offer assistance when you can, this will place you well for any potential surpluses.
Never stand idle, grab a broom and sweep the shed, rake leaves, stack tyres, whatever to show initiative as this action will keep you on the books when many are moved on.
Always check your horse for ailments, grease their mouth everyday.
Rub them down with your fingers each time the saddle is removed.
Always greet your horse in the morning and thank it of an evening.
Check your saddle cloth and girth for burrs every time prior to installing.
Always check girth again before mounting.
Ride with your legs forward and heels down. Heels up, and your bum bone rubs and you won’t last a day.
You know nothing about horses until the head stockman tells you.
Show your horse that you are someone who matters and they will give their all.
Most companies insist on you supplying a handheld UHF. You will require a lightweight shoulder harness. Must be light in weight and have a strap to prevent radio falling out. Some harnesses keep falling off the shoulder, extremely annoying.
Don’t go with something that generates a lot of heat… it will be hot enough.
If you can, drink from the waterhole or dams before the cattle do… first thing they do is lift tail and drain. After a few thousand cattle do this the water becomes very ‘salty’.
Remember your parents, though they may state they are happy you are leaving home, they are really yearning for you, so be kind and thoughtful of their situation.
Be happy in all situations, be generous with assistance, be forthcoming with praise, be diligent with work, be kind and thoughtful to the livestock, be everything you can for your horse as it is the horse that will make or break your venture.
About Ben Reardon…
Ben Reardon, 21, grew up in the small farming town of Kyogle in northern NSW. The school system wasn’t for Ben and he left at 15. Northern Australia seemed to have a better classroom… an outdoor one.
His first opportunity was suggested by Jack Robinson, introducing him to Robin and Robbie White who ran a contact mustering and fencing business, where he worked in 2016 in their 2nd camp for Matt and Alyce Clarke. Throughout that year Ben did contracting work on 10 cattle stations.
It was while doing contract mustering at Stanbroke’s Glenore Station that he approached Clint and Wendy Wockner for a full time position the following year. Ben was successful and worked the 2017 season with Clint and Wendy. In 2018 Ben continued to work for Stanbroke under James and Brooke Telford.
Ben now leads the team at Kamilaroi in 2022 as the Head Stockman under Managers Michael and Rachael Chaplain.