An all-female team from the Pilbara has taken out the 2021 Livestock Handling Cup — a competition like no other in the world showcasing animal welfare best practice in the northern pastoral industry.

The event, hosted by the Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association, drew more than 40 ringers to Sandfire Roadhouse south of Broome, with one team travelling more than 2,000 kilometres to attend from the Northern Territory.

The course puts competitors’ stockmanship to the test with a series of challenges, with each team having to settle cattle in a yard, draft them into groups and guide them through an obstacle course within 30 minutes.

“It’s an event that’s one of a kind. There are not really any other competitions that showcase livestock handling,” stockwoman Tara Shiels said.

“It’s a really fun event where you go out and get to do what we do every day but in a bit of a different environment … with stuff we as stock people aren’t used to taking cattle through, but it challenges us to do it in a low-stress manner as well. 

Low-stress stock handling on display

Now in its fifth year, the event was first conceived on Yarrie Station by pastoralist Annabelle Coppin and livestock handling educator Boyd Holden.

Ms Shiels has been learning low-stress handling over the past three seasons on the East Pilbara station, 73 kilometres north east of Marble Bar.

An obstacle course set up on red dirt in cattle yards

A team from Yarrie Station guiding cattle over an obstacle on the course at Sandfire Roadhouse, 320 kilometres south of Broome.(

Supplied: Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association

)

Her team, the Jinacarlie Gems, was crowned this year’s Livestock Handling champions after demonstrating exceptional teamwork on the obstacle course.

“Basically, we just kind of stuck with what we know. We do a lot of weaner tailing which is influenced heavily by Boyd Holden’s methods,” Ms Shiels said.

“A big thing we established early on with our mob was pressure and release. We made sure they knew we’ll put the pressure on but that we’d release it when [the cattle] are where we would like them to be.

“We got a beautiful mob, and my team was amazing. We all really worked quite well together … having heaps of fun while we’re at it.”

A group of stockwomen holding a trophy surrounded by judges

The Jinacarlie Gems from Yarrie Station were crowned this year’s Livestock Handling champions.(

Supplied: Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association

)

Competitors travel from far and wide

The event attracted 14 teams from across the northwest, with second place awarded to Yarrie Station’s other entry — The Coongan Country.

KPCA CEO Mick Sheehy said it was pleasing to see the event return to the northwest after going on hiatus during the pandemic last year, as well as attracting its first interstate team from Gunbalanya Station in West Arnhemland.

“It was a great effort on their part to come across such a long way [and] everybody who participated demonstrated really good levels of stock handling,” he said.

“That beautiful symbiosis of the stockwomen. In the case of the winning team, that gentleness and empathy with the animals was really good to watch.”

Three indigenous stockmen wearing green shirts and yellow sashes

The crew from Gunbalanya Station, Northern Territory.(

Supplied: Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association

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From little things, big things grow

Mr Sheehy hoped the KPCA Livestock Handling Cup would continue to grow and eventually attract overseas teams from livestock trading partners in Indonesia and Vietnam.

He said it was vital for industry bodies to promote events like the Livestock Handling Cup to boost the reputation of animal welfare practices in the northern cattle industry.

“We need to get that message out there because there are perceptions that people have about what we do in the industry. But the perception and reality are not always the same thing,” Mr Sheehy said.

“To have the opportunity to showcase these wonderful stock handling skills is something that we definitely are looking to build on that for sure.”

Livestock handling competition shines a light on low-stress stockmanship
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