Karen and Peter (‘Jed’) O’Brien and their four young children call Liveringa Station, WA, home. They have lived at Liveringa since 2010, when Jed took up the role of livestock manager.
Liveringa comprises about 265,000 hectares of pastoral cattle lease – that’s larger than the ACT, to put it into perspective.
The station is situated 120km south-east of Derby and the mighty Fitzroy River forms almost 100km of its southern boundary.
While the main focus is beef cattle production (22,000 head, of which 14,000 are breeding cows). Liveringa is a little bit different to most stations in the area as it also has three 90ha centre pivot irrigators, to grow fodder for livestock and tropical grain crops. Most of this fodder goes through the Liveringa feedlot and to cattle waiting to be transferred to abattoirs or agistment in the southwest
Liveringa’s Red Brangus cross-breeding program opens the gate to different markets, which helps spread risk.
The station employs five permanent staff (Jed and Karen, a cropping manager, a head stockman and a mechanic) but acquires around twenty casual staff during the mustering season plus several live-in contractors throughout the year, such as a chopper pilot.
This creates a really interesting mix of people from all walks of life. Maintaining a happy and harmonious life on the station depends a lot on the people who live and work there.
Station hands are called ‘ringers’ in the north, and each year Jed invests a lot of time looking for the suitable employees for the mustering season. He looks for people who can ride a horse, have good references and preferably some livestock experience, and prefers applicants who are committed to the industry. Good character and a sense of humor too are important prerequisites.
Inducting new staff is vital, to look after the wellbeing of people and livestock as working on a cattle station is isolated and dangerous. Jed and the management team teach the new ringers the realities of the job, such as working with unpredictable cows and horses, driving 4WD vehicles on bush roads, operating heavy machinery, and even working around helicopters.
Watching the new staff grow in confidence and ability is a rewarding aspect of Jed’s job. He reckons he is one of the ‘lucky ones’ and can’t imagine working in another industry.
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