Bullers stress less on Merinos

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Low-stress stock handling is a key part of sheep management for the Buller family, near Darkan.

With 11,000 Merino ewes, Danny and Karyn Buller do the majority of the sheep work themselves.

So when time permits and their four children are at home, moving sheep by horseback is a great chance to go for a ride, catch up and enjoy the serenity of the countryside.

Over the Easter break, the Bullers moved 700 Merino ewes from one farm to another, a distance of 6km.

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“We don’t normally do a lot of the sheep shifting on horseback, but we had a bit more time to do it, which is a nicer and calmer for the sheep,” Karyn said.

“Normally, I do most of it on my own using the ute and dogs. I don’t use motorbikes, because it stirs the stock up and I like to keep them as calm as possible.”

While Karyn is moving stock, it frees up time for Danny to focus on other farm jobs.

Karyn’s passion for working with livestock started at a young age, with lessons passed on by her father.

A few years ago, Karyn also took a course in low-stress handling with Sean Barrett from Black Dog Livestock Education.

It’s a course she believed was invaluable and should be taught to students at agricultural colleges.

“When I do stock work, I don’t like to upset the sheep. I like to keep everything calm,” Karyn said.

“I can’t lift sheep on the back of the ute, so I have to take them nice and quietly. If you don’t rush them and don’t stir up the sheep, they are happy to just wander along.

“It makes working the sheep on the farm a lot better as well, because I find they go through gateways and sheep yards, which is bit of an art that has sort of gone.”

Karyn also trains the sheepdogs — two border collies and three kelpies that compete in sheepdog trials. “It’s helped them become better farm dogs,” she said.

“To me, life in the sheep yards doesn’t have to be hard. But a lot of us make it hard.

“Danny and I do a lot of the sheep work on our own in the yards. Danny will be at the draft gate and, at weaning, the sheep just flow through the yards.”

The key to yard work for Karyn is to get the sheep to run past and let the dogs do the work.

After last year’s dry winter, the Bullers are happy to see a green tinge back on their paddocks.

In January, they recorded a 70mm downpour that caused damage and 36mm was recorded last month 36mm.

“We are still hand-feeding,” Karyn said. “The sheep have come through the season well and have been fed barley straw and oats to keep them going.”

Lambs will start to drop in a staggered lambing for management ease from the start of June to the end of July and will include 4000 crossbred lambs.

The Bullers run two properties and shear on one in December and the other in early January.

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