Knockout in the yards


April 17, 2020

Working in outback Queensland is one of the most rewarding and challenging things I have ever done. The remoteness of living and working on the station was something I got used to eventually, like being 3.5 hours from the closest proper supermarket or hospital. For 2 months I was stationed on a property near a little town called Julia Creek, which has a population of about 500 and is fortunate to have a pub, a school, a general store, small doctors’ clinic and petrol station (and not much else).

There are countless occasions on station that truly make you appreciate having everything on your doorstep, when you live in a larger town or city (or at least sent by overnight courier). This particular story sticks out in my mind.

We had been working in the yards for about 2 weeks during second round* doing some really long days. I should point out, the cows we were processing didn’t have the best temperament and only come through the yards once or twice a year.

Anyway, considering myself a bit of an old hand at ear tagging, I didn’t think twice before grabbing the ear taggers and stepping in front of the head bail to tag this one particular old girl who had lost her tag.

The next thing I remember, everything is completely black and I could feel myself flying backwards. I don’t think I was knocked out cold, but the girls had to half pick me up off the ground and made me sit down while I got my vision straight and my breath back. The cow must have had her head down, but lurched forward in the crush as I tagged her…. smacking me under the chin and head butting me, knocking me flying.

As I sat there trying to shake off the foggy feeling, I felt the blood in my mouth and immediately started panicking that I had bitten off my tongue. I’m laughing now, remembering how I asked Em at the time “is my tongue still there?! Are you SURE it’s still there?!” I had split my lip and chewed a few chunks out of my tongue, but it was most definitely still in-tact. The worst damage was breaking the wire on the back of my teeth from when I used to have braces. By some miracle I hadn’t broken or knocked out any teeth.

The closest decent dentist (and orthodontist) was 8 hours away in Townsville. So lucky me scored the weekend off to make the journey to the ‘big smoke’ to get everything put back in place. It was a huge treat to see a Woolworths and McDonald’s again and made the whole drama well worth it!

Moral of the story, always tag cranky cows at a safe arms distance and if you can still talk, your tongue is probably still there!


* There are generally two rounds of mustering per year on big stations; and the purpose of each one will depend on the season and station. But generally first round is to draft cows and wean calves, pull out bulls and vaccinate everything. Second round is a good opportunity to pick up any cattle that may have been missed during the first round and pregnancy test the cows. Calves may also be weaned if they were too young during the first round.