STAY­ING IN THE SAD­DLE

Mans­field’s High Countr y Cat­tle­men pass­ing the reins from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - Words Rhyll Mccor­mack pho­tos Me­lanie Faith Dove, Rhyll Mccor­mack

from one gen­er­a­tion

of High Coun­try Cat­tle­men to the next

IT’S 5.30 in the morn­ing, and Bruce Mccor­mack is kick­ing the coals from last night’s camp­fire, urg­ing it to spark so he can put the billy on.

The sun is not yet up, but al­ready swags are be­ing rolled and over in the camp kitchen, the first piece of ba­con is siz­zling in a pan.

It is the an­nual Mccor­mack muster, held in De­cem­ber, and three gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily are present.

Bruce, as pa­tri­arch, takes a re­laxed ap­proach - pre­fer­ring to let his 34 year old son, Adam – known as Jack - set the pace of the week­end.

“I’ve had my time at the front,” Bruce ex­plained. “It’s Jack’s turn now to or­gan­ise tak­ing the cat­tle to the bush, and bring­ing them home. He is never go­ing to learn where they hide, which rivers they like or where each gully leads if he isn’t out there amongst it all.”

Bruce and Jack are part of a small mi­nor­ity, one of the few re­main­ing cat­tle­men fam­i­lies who still have a graz­ing lease in Vic­to­ria’s High Coun­try.

The prac­tice it­self, graz­ing cat­tle in the moun­tains, has long faced stiff op­po­si­tion - from those who claim it is dam­ag­ing to the bush ecosys­tem, to those who think it is cheap, exclusive ag­ist­ment.

But for Bruce, the an­nual muster to and from is more about fam­ily than any­thing else.

“There is noth­ing like it,” he said. “For our last muster, when we took the cat­tle to the King (River), I was there not only with my kids, but seven of my grand­kids as well. There are kids on horses, on foot, hang­ing out of the car win­dow – and all of them are just stoked to be there and be a part of it.”

At al­most 60 years of age, Bruce has be­gun to hand over the reins to Jack.

The graz­ing lease is in joint names, and Bruce is happy to spend the muster in the cab of his ute.

“When you get to 50, in this fam­ily, you get moved onto Nis­san – he isn’t the most re­li­able horse, but he is the most com­fort­able,” he joked.

Although they are a long way off be­ing lease­hold­ers, Jack’s four chil­dren are also in­volved in ev­ery as­pect of the cat­tle drive.

The youngest Mccor­mack, at three, snug­gles into Nan and Pa’s swag each night of the muster.

The old­est, at eight, is the first one up – kick­ing Pa Bruce awake so that she can be­gin feed­ing the horses, us­ing a head­lamp to see as she scoops feed into nose­bags.

“We cop a lot of flak for hav­ing cat­tle in the bush. But this is some­thing my fore­bears started do­ing in the mid 19th cen­tury,” Bruce said.

“The peo­ple around us have changed, the ar­gu­ments back and forth about cat­tle ver­sus no cat­tle, the dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ments and politi­cians, but we are still here, each year, and still grate­ful for that priv­i­lege.

“I just hope that these lit­tle tack­ers, my grand­kids, get a chance – each year that they come out with me they learn a lit­tle more, they ap­pre­ci­ate what they have a lit­tle more and they learn the best way to treat the High Coun­try.

“Af­ter all,” Bruce ex­plained, “look­ing af­ter the High Coun­try is some­thing we have been do­ing for 150 years.”

Across the river and Char­lie and Glenda Lovick are pre­par­ing for re­tire­ment.

Their fore­bears have been run­ning cat­tle in the High Coun­try for as long as any, and now the Lovick’s take a small herd into the Up­per Jamieson each year.

Char­lie’s daugh­ter, Kel­lie, is cur­rently in the process of tak­ing over the fam­ily’s renowned trail ride busi­ness.

She is also one of the driv­ing forces be­hind the Lovick fam­ily farm’s suc­cess.

“Kelly knows the bush just as well as I do,” Char­lie proudly points out. >>

‘ WE COP A LOT OF FLAK FOR HAV­ING CAT­TLE IN THE BUSH. BUT THIS IS SOME­THING MY FORE­BEARS

STARTED DO­ING IN THE MID 19TH CEN­TURY’-

“She will prob­a­bly know it bet­ter by the time she is done. You can’t spend 30 odd years of your life out there and not have it in your blood.”

Kel­lie’s two young boys, Jake and Corey, also rep­re­sent the next gen­er­a­tion of Lovicks that will even­tu­ally take to the High Coun­try.

“I’ve got no doubt they’ll have a con­nec­tion to the bush,” Char­lie said, speak­ing of his grand­sons.

“Kel­lie and I spend a lot of time with them, and they know how lucky they are to be a part of some­thing big­ger.”

Char­lie likens his fam­ily’s as­so­ci­a­tion to the High Coun­try as be­ing “in­trin­si­cally linked”.

“We don’t own the bush, we take care of it – and that is what Kel­lie and the boys will need to do af­ter I’m gone. We all know how lucky we are to have our time in it.”

Like it or not, graz­ing cat­tle in the High Coun­try is about more than just grass.

For the Mccor­mack and Lovick fam­i­lies, it is about con­tin­u­ing a tra­di­tion started 150 years ear­lier – and help­ing to en­sure the next gen­er­a­tion gets it right.

IN THE BLOOD \ Young Co­bie Mccor­mack, pic­tured here with dad Adam, looks for­ward to the an­nual Mccor­mack muster in De­cem­ber, and learns more about the fam­ily his­tory with each pass­ing year.

ALL ABOUT FAM­ILY \ Bruce Mccor­mack with grand­son, Darby. SAD­DLING UP \ Jaxon Mccor­mack is the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion of his fam­ily to graze cat­tle. WATCH­ING THEM PASS \ The cat­tle take their time, wind­ing through green val­leys and across rivers when they ma

READY TO RIDE \ Adam Mccor­mack rep­re­sents the next gen­er­a­tion of Mccor­ma­cks.

THE NEXT GEN­ER­A­TION Kel­lie Lovick has not only of­fi­cially taken over her fam­ily’s trail ride busi­ness, but is also an in­te­gral part of the farm’s

op­er­a­tion. She is pic­tured with dad, Char­lie.

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