STORIES FROM THE BUSH

Lynn Takayama
Retired

WARNING: This article contains mention of meat and related matters. Some readers might be offended.

At our place we’ve got an abundance of feral goats. They roam freely over our 4000 acres and at any one time there might be several hundred goats making themselves at home here. I’ve written about this before. Feral goats, the same as any feral animal, are pests. They eat voraciously, food that would otherwise be eaten by native animals or by farmers’ assets: cattle, sheep, horses, etc.

Keeping feral animals and their numbers under control is the responsibility of farmers, and it is a perennial problem for them. City people should be aware of this problem and should also be concerned about it, because feral animals and indeed feral flora are a) detrimental to the natural environment, and b) affect a farmer’s productivity which in turn affects prices and availability of food on the shelves in city supermarkets and shops.

We’ve also got four border collies here. I’ve written about this before, too. The health and welfare of our dogs is important to us, and as one of the means of achieving positive dog health and welfare outcomes we try to feed them appropriately.

It’s wonderful then, isn’t it, when we can turn a negative into a positive and at the same time take care of our dogs? So, we turn the negative feral goats into the positive dog food. Once, a long time ago, I considered the possibility of turning our dogs into vegetarians but the thought was fantastical and, therefore, fleeting. So, carnivores they remain and feeding them meat every day is part of our routine.

It’s an event here when our supply of dog food (i.e. goat meat) is getting low. An hour or so before dusk on a chosen day the Cowboy straps his trusty weapon (rifle) to his back, slings his binoculars around his neck, mounts his steed — in this case a mechanised steed, our farm cruiser — and heads off into the wilds to rid the world of one more feral goat.

He returns two or three hours later with a slain, skinned and quartered animal. During the past couple of years he’s honed the process of achieving this outcome so that he has now got it down pat.

Before these large pieces of reconstituted pest can be cut up into meal-sized packages for our dogs they must be rested overnight. In a perfect world the meat would be hung in a cool room, but perfect as our world here already is we do not, as yet, have a cool room. What we have instead is a large esky in which we store what has magically turned from being a destructive pest — feral goat — into a valuable resource: large pieces of dog meat. When I say “magically” I mean by the magical efforts of the Cowboy.

The meat has now rested overnight and there’s a hive of activity around our place in the morning. We have a dedicated butchering area on the veranda and after much experience the Cowboy and I know what’s to be done. The Cowboy renders all the large chunks down into meal-sized portions of meat and/or bone, and I place each of the portions in a freezer bag ready to be deposited into our much-loved freezer. This freezer is much-loved because it’s the one that is solely dedicated to our supply of nutritious and delicious (in dog terms) food for our appreciative doggies.

The job takes us about two hours from the beginning of set-up to the end of clean-up. I count the individual portions as I put them into the freezer, total them up and then work out how many weeks of meals we have for our dogs. This allows us to forward-plan (as opposed to backward-map, doncha just love the jargon!) for the next foray into the elusive world of feral goats.

The weather is turning cool here, and we’re so enjoying it. Autumn is such a lovely season and this year it seems even lovelier after the brutal summer we’ve had. I’m sitting here on our deck in the early morning breeze, enjoying the sunshine, listening to the natural world and watching the king parrots as they lumber past. They have taken a liking to the fruit of the cactus tree, which is about 30m from our deck. While they are gorging themselves they have to be on the watch-out for the noisy miners. These birds are territorial and aggressive. We thank them for it though, because we think that they have (so far, and touch wood) kept the detestable Indian mynahs away from our world.

Autumn weather means more work for the Cowboy — it’s time to restock our woodpile.

Oh, I must go — there’s that pesky calf again, trying to climb into the chook house to get at the chook food.