The Trangie Drover
Just on daylight an hour or so north west of Dubbo, NSW, in the tiny town of Trangie, Paul Milgate and his immaculate T909 Kenworth with two trailers was slowly heading off to collect a double roadtrain load of sheep.
Paul told us the plan was to head along the Mitchell Highway to Nyngan, a decent hour or so drive to the west then take a right at the T-intersection in town and head up the Mundarro Road for another hour so before veering left onto a dirt track where he assured us there’d be plenty of dust.
Half an hour up the Mundarro Road Paul crossed a rickety old bridge and eased off the throttle and the Big Kenworth T909 slowed down for the left hand turn onto the dirt road.
And Paul’s heads-up about there being plenty of dust along the dirt track was spot on as it bellowed out behind of the roadtrain in a spectacular plume.
Before too long Paul eased off the throttle once more, swung the big Kenworth T909 wide and guided it through the wobbly old gate and into the paddock.
He pulled the roadtrain out straight right in front of the loading ramp, then he began reversing it slowly back.
The station owner was on hand to guide Paul on to the ramp and he slid the rear door open just before the trailer touched the ramp.
Much like a cattle roadtrain, Paul also has a through loader system on his sheep trailers and he quickly opens the doors that form a walkway into the front trailer.
Then he opened the doors to the dog-boxes under the lead trailer and his two working dogs bound out, headed straight to the yards filled with sheep and lept the rails.
Paul told us that his dogs are Kelpie’s and that they were originally bred as a cheap and efficient worker that can save farmers and graziers the cost of several hands when mustering livestock.
“The good working Kelpies are heading dogs that will prevent stock from moving away from the stockman”, Paul explained. “This natural instinct is crucial when mustering stock in isolated gorge country, where a good dog will silently move ahead of the stockman and block up the stock until the rider appears. They’re the preferred dogs for cattle work. They will drive a mob of livestock for long distances in extremes of climates and conditions.”
“Kelpies have natural instincts for managing livestock”, He added. “They will work sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry, and other domestic livestock. The Kelpie's signature move is to jump on the backs of sheep and walk across the tops of the sheep to reach the other side and break up the jam.”
It sure is a great sight to see these working dogs in action, they certainly don’t waste any time rounding up the sheep and herding them into the trailers.
With help from Bever and Jock the front trailer was quickly loaded, and Paul wasted little time folding up the through loader doors, Meantime the young jackaroo and Station owner waited patiently with a yard full of sheep for Paul to lower the ramp to the top deck.
An hour or so later Paul, Jock and Beaver had the double roadtrain loaded with 950 merino sheep. He filled up an old 20 litre plastic container with water so the two dogs could have a well-earned drink.
Then it was time to hit the road again, Paul had to use the entire road and then some to get the roadtrain out of the narrow paddock gate. As you can see there was a lot of ground water still lying alongside the road from the heavy deluge a few days before which made it a delicate task getting out the gate.
Back in 1894 the famous Australian poet Banjo Patterson wrote the tail of the legendary sheep drover “Saltbush Bill”,
which reads something like this;
“Now this is the law of the Overland that all in the West must obey,
A man must cover with travelling sheep a six-mile stage a day…”
I wonder what Banjo and old Saltbush Bill would say if they could see this impressive Kenworth T909 of Paul’s thundering along with 1000 head sheep on what was once known as one the Great Stock Routes.
Eventually Paul and his Kenworth T909 made it back onto the bitumen road.
There had been plenty of spring rain this year and the feed along the side of the road was thick. This years harvest had produced another bumper crop and the nearby silos where overflowing with grain, but more on that another day because Paul had to press onward.
The run along the narrow bitumen road passes large broad acre farms most of which had harvesters busily working hoping to strip the crops before the forecast rains arrived in few days time. Eventually up around another corner Paul headed across the road so he could swing into the farm’s driveway where he had to unload the sheep. After the gates were duly opened Paul headed up the driveway all the while the big Cummins under the hood stirred up the dust.
Near the end of the driveway he brought the Kenworth T909 to a gentle stop and dropped the rear trailers ramp and the sheep steadily ran out the trailer.
Judging by the way the sheep skipped and jumped into their new paddock they were more than content with their new home.
Another hour or so later Paul was pulling back into his driveway… Another load of sheep successfully delivered. Paul told us that he has a B-double lead trailer that he uses when he travels further south where he can’t take the roadtrain.
Also he connects up the B-Double with the Roadtrain dolly and trailer when he heads further north where triple-roadtrains are allowed to run. That’s the advantage of the Kenworth T909 Paul told us because it gives him plenty of flexibility with his combinations.
Words & Photography by Howard Shanks
April 29, 2014
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