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