Life in the saddle a joy for modern-day drovers
Cattleman Ben Hann, who is busy moving stock around Queensland’s Central Highlands, has a knack for capturing droving life on camera
THERE’S 1000 head of cattle on the move in the Central Highlands, looping their way around stock routes across the Springsure district in search of fodder.
Ben Hann is part of the droving team guiding the herd that has been moved off its home run in the drought-affected Central NSW Forbes-Hay area.
“They were up in Muttaburra on the road, and we’ve just trucked into Springsure here and they’ve got us going around in and out a few loops here for at the moment, and for the next month or two, just on the feed, and then it just depends from there where they want us to go,” Ben said.
“There’s plenty of feed here. It’s dried off a bit. We had a frost about a week or so ago, so it’s knocked that grass a bit, but it’s still good for the cattle.”
The team are also on the hunt for some extra hands with the cattle.
“Pretty much all the drovers around here are hunting for people. It’s hard to find people who want to work, and the camp’s got limited phone service,” he said
“You sorta live out of your swag and eat off a fire. It’s hard to find young people who want to do it, you know?”
That wasn’t the case for Ben who, at 28, already has 13 years’ experience working on cattle stations and along stock routes across Australia.
It’s an interesting parallel that Ben should currently be droving cattle originally from NSW, having grown up in the state’s southern highlands town of Robertson.
He left school young, at the age of 12, turning instead to rural work.
“I was never a fan of school, always did well but found it boring, so I left,” Ben said. “The bush educates you in a way no other classroom could.”
After two years of fencing and dairy farming, at 15 Ben boarded a plane for Darwin, and since then it – and its outlying cattle stations – has been the place he’s called home when he’s not out on the track.
“I’ve been travelling and working all over Australia ever since. Going and doing stuff I felt like doing; when I feel like going and doing it. Yeah… livin’ the life, really.”
Apart from completing an apprenticeship in agriculture, Ben has worked in the full range of rural occupations, from fencing and earthmoving to stock work.
“It’s been good for me. I’ve never left a job on a bad note. I’ve always come and gone and been offered work back any time I want, all over Australia,” he said.
“I’ve worked everywhere from abattoirs to quarries, in with the mining gear. I’ve worked with transport, driving cattle trucks and heavy haulage, earthmoving equipment. It does make life a lot easier for me when I’m travelling around. It doesn’t matter where I end up, I always find plenty of work.”
He’s also developed a strong connection with horse work, running his own horse-breaking and training business.
He finds the quiet of the droving track a great place to train young horses.
“I’ve got young horses out here with me that I get to spend a lot of time with, working them and it’s not a high-pressure situation a lot of the time, so it’s good to just get their minds right, and let little things set on them.”
The quiet also gives Ben a chance to take a swag of shots that are rich in colour and that tell the story of the life he has crafted for himself, and loves.
“I like being out in the bush and away from things; I like the back-to-basics life: horses, dogs, a campfire feed under the stars.
“Like Banjo said: ‘For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know’.”
ON THE ROAD: With his dog Mate, Top End ringer Ben Hann is droving cattle around Queensland’s Central Highlands Springsure district over the next month.