The dry season has started in the Northern Territory, and the stock-routes are filling with the bellowing mobs from the inland cattle stations.
Cue: After title (second shot)
LS cattle near trees
LS mob and drover
MS cattle & drover under trees
MS trees against sky
Man takes swag from horse
MS gum tree
Cattle and drovers
RV cattle to trucking yard
CS cattle into yards, train in b/g
MS cattle thru race
TRANSCRIPT: "Nine baker George to..."
"...next Tuesday if he likes."
"Sugar Charlie Nan to Able Tare..."
"...a seat on the plane next Wednesday."
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The dry season has started in the Northern Territory, and the stock-routes are filling with the bellowing mobs from the inland cattle stations.
This mob is moving from Garden Station, north-east of Alice Springs. The galahs come in for water, as Jim Turner sends a radio message from the homestead.....
The cattle are heading for the Adelaide market, and to get them to the railhead, Jim Turner called in a team of hard-bitten cattle experts -- the contract drovers. These men take delivery of the stock at the station, and hand them over at the stockyard. Their rate for the job varies with the distance to be travelled, but in this case the charge is about one pound a head. They'll be on the stock-route for a week, and breaks like this will be comparatively rare once they get the mob settled down.
The essence of a drover's job is to keep the cattle moving quietly, to keep them feeding, and to make sure they arrive in the best possible condition. Dick Palmer -- the toss drover is recognised as one of the best men in the game. His knowledge of horses and cattle makes him one of the first men to be taken on when the droving season begins.
Drought has struck in patches in the Centre, but these bullocks are in prime condition, and worth forty pounds a head. So the drovers can't afford to lose a single beast. The cattle walk up to ten miles a day, and the drover's know just how hard to drive them to make sure that they reach water before nightfall.
Droving in the old style is a dying art. These men are among the few contract droving teams still to use pack-horses. The modern drover usually carries his gear in a truck. And the big cattle-carrying road trains now being used more and more in the Territory may mean the end of the drover and his way of life.
The country on which cattle are bred in Central Australia averages about six inches of rain a year. This year the rains came to most of the stations just when it was needed, and Garden Station turned--off more than two hundred head in this batch. This year the turn-off from the district may be the best for ten years. The drovers are as much dependent on a good season as the station owners, because in drought years the cattle are too weak to face the big walks to the railheads. But in recent years, bad seasons have been less of a threat to the drovers than the new road trains.
The cattle business is booming in the Centre following the declaration of the Alice Springs district as an area free of pleuro-pneumonia. In the past, the prevalence of this disease meant that store cattle could not be taken to South Australia for fattening. Now the ban has been removed, large scale breeding is under way in the Centre. But the mob from the Garden Station will be sold as fat-stock. As they reach the last stages of the journey, and near the trucking yards, the drovers begin the job of cutting-out the cows and light-weight steers from the rest of the mob.
The dust hangs like a curtain in the air over the approaches to the trucking yards. The earth has been worn bare by thousands of trampling hooves moving slowly into the yards. This season up to eight thousand head of cattle will follow this mob to the rail-head.
Waiting at the trucking yards is the stock-agent -- Bill Clapin. He uses the Flying Doctor radio network to let Jim Turner know that his cattle have arrived safely.
The drover's job is finished as eight-thousand pounds' worth of beef on the hoof goes into the train. The cattle still face three days of train travel before they're offered for sale on the Adelaide market -- one thousand miles to the south. But for this mob, the big walk has ended.