By Lucy Ziesemer
I once saw a girl with a tattoo that read “I like cows.” I laughed it off and thought it would probably turn out to be something she would come to regret. But I’ve never forgotten it.
I’m not big on tattoos myself, but if I was to name some of the things I derive most enjoyment from in life, I would say “I like the outdoors, Summer storms and the way the air smells when Spring is coming. I also like cows.”
My name is Lucy. Most of my life’s lessons have had something to do with agriculture. It makes sense, seeing as I’ve spent as many hours as I humanly could immersed in it. My parents own a 13,000 acre Charbray beef cattle operation at Taroom in Central Queensland. It was there that I cut my teeth with most things that come to mind when you think of working on a cattle property. I learned very quickly that barbed wire doesn’t mess around and neither does a mother cow with a newborn calf. I learned to treat old Toyotas with as much care and respect as you would your elderly Grandmother, even if you only just changed the oil yesterday.
Side note: has anyone else noticed old tillys are ALWAYS female?.. “Don’t push her too hard on the hills, she’ll get hot.” Surely we’re not that temperamental?
"I learned patience (with people, animals and machines) and I’m still learning."
But most of all, I learned to love.
Now hang on a second- please don’t exit! I’m not going to get all soppy with this blog, that’s not my intention at all. I am however feverishly passionate about agriculture and that will become abundantly clear in my writing no doubt.
What I do aim to do is share my day to day life and all the thoughts and experiences it conjures in the hope that it might spread a deeper level of understanding between those involved in agriculture and those outside it. It’s so, so true. Every family really does need a farmer.
As it happens, I consider myself to be just that- a farmer. If you want to get into the nitty gritty, I’m really a grazier. We don’t farm and plough paddocks to grow crops, we graze cattle in them. Either way, my job is to produce beef that is then distributed to domestic and international consumers. The people are hungry, which is great because it means I get to keep doing what I love every day. And we do LOVE it! Long days in the saddle or digging fence post holes under the summer sun remove the need for a gym membership- what’s not to love! On a serious note though, I can’t see myself in any other profession. I’ve tried- I worked as a journalist for an agricultural masthead and thoroughly enjoyed it. I met great people, heard really inspiring stories and got to share them far and wide. But I found myself wishing I could be doing the things these farmers and graziers were doing, so I jumped ship and here I am back chasing cows* for a living.
It’s my favourite time of year here at the moment. The cows are calving and the air has that Spring time feel I mentioned earlier. You can’t beat new life in nature, it’s pretty special. Through the typically dry winter months until the weather breaks we feed a vitamin and mineral supplement in both a dry meal based form and a molasses form to keep all stock, not just breeding cows, healthy and strong when the grass is dry and lacks protein. This winter we have been very fortunate to receive a couple of decent downpours that have encouraged fresh green shoots in our dominant feed- buffel grass. We’ve also seen more herbage such as clover than ever before. Herbages like clover, lamb’s tongue and crow’s foot (named for the way they look) are very high in protein so we are excited to see some of these little beauties sneaking in!
Weekly lick runs and water checks are the perfect excuse to spend smoko near the newborns. I love seeing the small changes from week to week as they grow and develop. Each week brings a new element of confidence and curiosity among the babies- they’re starting to become boisterous little characters!
Like humans as they grow up I imagine!
Today, I fixed the same 4-barb fence twice. It’s a strong fence- fairly new with no weak points, so why did it break and why twice? We seasonally mate our cattle, which means the bulls are pulled out of the females in early March each year and put back to work their magic with the girls in late September. This allows us control over our calving window meaning all calves are born in a certain time frame and will be close in age. At the moment, the bulls are kept away from the cows, but the weather is warming up and they can smell Spring in the air too. Spring time means one thing for bulls- women! They’re like teenage boys. They can’t get what they want yet so they start being destructive and fighting among each other for something to do. Barbed wire is no match for a 900kg bull with his blood up. Yet they are absolutely TERRIFIED of a 7-in-1 injection to prevent disease.. go figure. Obviously I repaired the damage too early and the boys went at it for round two after lunch. Nothing like practice with pliers!
My days are ever changing. We rarely ever do the same thing two days in a row, which is another reason to love working on the land- zero monotony!
Hopefully these snippets of my life will bring some form of enjoyment to yours.
Yours in agriculture,
*This is just another Aussie slang term. We don’t actually “chase” cows around all day! It just means someone who works on the land or is involved in the industry more broadly.
Lucy is a former journalist and has returned to her family grazing property in Central Queensland. As a lover for Australian agriculture, she's sharing her story to increase the understanding of grazing cattle in Australia.