Petite Ann-Maree has big NLIS job

Monday, May 30, 2011

If height was a problem, 157cm Ann-Maree Howland and her 152cm sister Eileen wouldn't be in the job they have chosen - contracting the management of the arrival, penning, NLIS reading, recording, updating, and dispatch of the cattle at the Sarina and Bowen Cattle Sales for Landmark and Elders.

Ann-Maree was brought up on a cattle property at Ilbilbie, south of Sarina, and has always had an affinity with cattle, although she admits cattle respect people who are taller than the sisters.  She cut her teeth in the commercial world of cattle-handling while working in the yards at Thomas Borthwick and Sons, Bakers Creek, in the mid-1990s. She then worked for Tim Paton who managed the cattle handling at Sarina  working the sales for the local agents.

Once the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) came in,  she took over the job herself.  As well as her sister, she now employs two other handlers to ensure the job is done professionally.  Ann-Maree operates two properties in the district, covering 172 hectares on which she runs 60 Droughtmaster breeders but has just changed the sire to a Brangus.

The day before the sales, Ann-Maree's NLIS service is there to receive the cattle and pen them. The following morning, after they have quieted down from the trauma of the relocation, the staff use a long-handled Aleis NLIS reader to register the cattle that have been received.

"That enables us to find the ones that are non-readers or have lost their NLIS tags, and after the sale we are able to put a saleyard NLIS tag on them," Ann-Maree said. "If there was a race reader, we'd have to run them through the race a number of times to find the ones that either had a faulty ear tag or had lost it, so it's better for the cattle if we find them individually. Then we can run them into the crush after the sale and apply a saleyard NLIS tag before sending them off to their destination."

NLIS Services' work at the saleyards has increased opportunities for the sisters. They are now asked to help with mustering, branding, and NLIS recording on properties where reading labour for those jobs is difficult. It has opened up a whole new world for Ann-Maree, who loves meeting new people and seeing the way their country of origin run their cattle breeding operations.

"I now get calls from properties which have sold cattle and they pay me to do the NLIS work to ensure it's all correct," she said.  "And there are also people who only have a few cattle and need someone to help with the branding. I have a mobile furnace and dehorners and can help them to do the work on as few as one beast."

If you attend the Sarina or Bowen cattle sales in the near future, you won't miss Ann-Maree, as she has a presence of someone twice her size.

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