A day in the life of a stockwoman

Hi, my name is Chloe Grant and I work in the Northern Territory. I am a member of the Young Livestock Exporters Network and proud to be considered a livestock leader.

I grew up in a small country town, a population of no more than 3500 in north western New South Wales. I have an older brother and a twin sister.  I had a dream as a kid to go north and work on a cattle station in the Territory so in 2010, after I completed Year 12 I packed my bags and followed that dream. 

I have since worked on many cattle stations across northern Australia with many incredibly talented, patient and very knowledgeable people and I’m grateful for the knowledge and insights they’ve shared with me.  Something I endeavour to invest back into the industry.

This is me, Chloe

Today I work in the live export industry. When working in the operations and logistical section of live export, my day can start at any time.  The tides and shipping departure times determine what time I start work.  When I don’t have to set an alarm, I usually wake at about 0500 to start my day.  In this line of work, there are endless opportunities to watch the sun rise and set, as cattle are loaded onto purpose-built livestock vessels. 

The cool, crisp, dry season mornings across northern Australia provide the ultimate sunrises and sunsets. They are simply stunning.  Even more warming is watching the sun rise while loading cattle onto livestock vessels. Typically, I would drive to the load out wharf, swing by the servo for a bacon and egg roll and a takeaway coffee, greet the vessel, the Master and his crew, and ensure the stockpeople  are set and ready for loading to begin.

Onboard MV Finola, departing Darwin at sunset enroute to Jakarta, Indonesia

As I am sure you could understand, the logistical challenges and cost of shipping is phenomenal. It is a huge factor into what time my day starts, and on many occasions, has been the reason a 20 minute cat nap in the car is required to recharge the batteries.  

Logistics simply means ‘what, where, when and how’ in terms of organising and coordinating everything that needs to happen in order to get the cattle safely loaded onto the boat and all their needs for the trip ahead are met.  This includes making sure the onboard stocky is well equipped with whatever he or she needs for the days ahead.  That means that if the stocky wants 20 chocolate bars for the voyage, then that’s what the stocky gets!

East Arm Wharf, Darwin NT, a road train unloading cattle onto to the Maysora

No two days are the same and no two load-outs are the same.  The term ‘load-out’ means co-ordinating the cattle to be trucked to the wharf on road trains, and then loaded onto livestock vessels. It is quite a simple process but it can take anywhere between 8 to 48 continuous hours to load a vessel.  There are many factors to consider when preparing a load-out, including meeting pre-export quarantine requirements of the cattle, biosecurity measures, tides, trucks, fodder loading and the wharf personnel required to load the livestock onto the vessel. 

The whole loading process can come to a complete halt if at any point of one these components in the supply chain experience an unforeseen mishap. You must be well prepared, keep cool, calm and collected, and be prepared for whatever is chucked at you.  A network of people you can rely on for help and advice is always handy too!

A handful of the crew and I post-load on the Shorthorn Express, always happy and smiling even at 2am

The pre-export quarantine yards can begin loading trucks anywhere between 15 minutes and 5 hours prior to the time I need them at the vessel.  The determining factor on this is where they are located, and how long it will take the loaded trucks with cattle to reach the port.  The cattle must be drafted into their ‘lines’ as determined by their sex, weight and class and loaded onto the vessel accordingly. 

Bridge Creek Station Export Depot, a pre-export quarantine facility south of Darwin, NT.
Cattle are required by regulations managed by the Australian Government to be held in quarantine for a minimum of two clear days prior to loading onto a livestock vessel

The Bos Indicus breed of cattle, better known as Brahman cattle, are typically the most exported cattle out of Northern Australia. They are resilient, inquisitive, smart and settle in very quickly to their life onboard the vessel. They are well suited to the north and find the temperatures in Vietnam and Indonesia similar to our northern climate.

Cattle in pre-export quarantine. They must meet all regulations set out in Australian Standards of Exporting Livestock (ASEL)

Once the vessel departs from the load port, I liaise multiple times a day with the onboard stockperson  to ensure everything onboard is running well and there are no issues.  My phone is never silent when I have stockmen and women on the water caring for cattle. Onboard the livestock vessels cattle are fed 3 to 4 times a day. They are offered an Australian made pellet, manufactured and loaded on the vessel in Australia.  The companies who supply pellets to export, also must meet critical regulations to ensure the best feed is on offer.

Also loaded in Australia, is sawdust and chaff.  This is to help create a more relaxed environment for the animals, especially those identified by the stocky as needing a little extra comfort to adjust to onboard life. 

Once cattle and fodder have completed loading, a ‘sign-off’ is completed. Together, the exporter, the Shipping Agent and the Master of the Vessel, gather, sign, and exchange all relevant documentation. It is here we bid farewell to the crew and stocky. A few hours after sign-off, the vessel will be departing with the help of a tugboat or two and enroute to its destination.

Fodder being loaded onto a vessel. The pellet is generally “blown” on by huge blowers, through flexible steel pipe and into fodder tanks onboard the ship. The vessel must routinely clean silos when on ballast voyages.

Determined by the hour of the day, and how long the loading process took, a few hours in the office to finalise paperwork is compulsory.  At the same time, either a coffee or beer will be thoroughly enjoyed as well!

It is a challenging career but I love what I do, working with great people in an industry that has been an essential part of not only the Northern Territories’ history but also its future.

 

Browney (a very experienced stockman) & I onboard enroute to Hon La, Vietnam. In front of Browney is the daily feed board keeping tally of the daily feeding. This is reported back to the Exporter and the Australian Government everyday.