Corey having a quick cuddle with his dad on the horse while the cattle where mothering up, (mum cows finding their babies)
Corey having a quick cuddle with his dad on the horse while the cattle where mothering up, (mum cows finding their babies) Danielle Butcher

Drought didn't set the Butcher family back

TRUCKING their last six decks of cows and calves off their agistment, Nathan and Danielle Butcher didn't talk.

After shifting cattle from one paddock to the next and trucking cattle hundreds of kilometres to keep them alive, it still wasn't enough.

The drought had hit the young 30-something couple hard in Prairie and they had no choice but to sell up.

Cattle prices were low but they sold what they could.

It was better than watching their herd starve to death or having to go out into the paddock, look them in the eye and shoot the animals themselves.

The only relief brought from selling the last six decks was knowing they were going to grass. They were going to breed again and do someone else good.

With the cattle gone, it was with heavy hearts the pair admitted defeat to the dry and dusty paddocks they hoped would offer so much more.

Machinery was sold from their name to pay back loans and the couple was left with little, trying to figure out "where to next” after the only way of life they had known was taken from them.

With a young son, Corey, having just made an arrival on the scene, the family knew they had to make ends meet, with Nathan picking up any and every job he could.

From contract mustering to fencing and roadworks, Nathan was trying his hardest to hold the family together.

Although their intent was to keep the family together, the fact Nathan had to spend so many weeks away from home was difficult.

Bringing another little one into the equation, a girl named Katelyn this time, and things became even more challenging.

With their family growing, Nathan and Danielle took a step back and re-evaluated their situation.

In a move some would call crazy and daring, Danielle packed up the children to join husband Nathan on the road.

Setting up their own contract mustering business, Butcher Contracting, the family now travels with a trailer, towed by a prime mover that carries their horses and their home.

Working as a team, the family has mustered as far south as Clermont and as far north as Einasleigh, all while welcoming another baby into the mix.

With Maddision - now almost one - adding to the family, Danielle hired a nanny four months ago to lend a hand while she was out mustering.

While Danielle says life on the road isn't exactly what she pictured she would be doing, she wouldn't change it for the world.

She says it's even helped her cystic fibrosis, with the dry air in the bush giving her immune system a break from chest infections.

"Every day is never the same, but that's the best thing about it. I'm not a routine sort of a person,” Danielle said.

"It's get up early, run the horses in and head out to the paddock to get the cows in.

"In the bigger places it's two or three days processing (cattle) through the yards, and then the kids come out to the yards and play in the dirt and the troughs.

"The kids just take every day in their stride, but you know when they have had enough because they do get tired. So you just spend the day around the camp and they make their own fun with sandpits and whatever they can find.”

Danielle said before they had their third child, she and Nathan bought a little house back home in Prairie, where they could base themselves when they weren't mustering.

"We bought a house and a trailer as well to go around to each property to muster,” Danielle said.

"The generator runs the power and we hop under a poly pipe for a shower. We hook the water up to it and there is a washing machine and a sink, as well as a double bed up the top of the trailer and four bunk beds.

"We used to just tow around a gooseneck with a crate on it. There was nowhere really to camp so we just used to roll out our swags underneath it and we thought we needed something better.

"Our trailer now is quite comfortable compared to what we were living in before - a swag in the prickles,” she laughed.

Danielle says travelling from muster to muster was a guaranteed four-hour drive at least wherever they went and whoever worked for them ended up becoming part of the family.

"It's a very family-orientated atmosphere,” she said.

"We have a few blokes working for us and when the kids and I come down, they take the kids out to the paddock and take them under their wing and teach them a few things.”

Even the nanny has become part of the family, taking on different roles during the season.

"I organised the nanny to help with the children so I can go chase cows with Nathan, because it's something I love doing, but the nanny comes mustering too if need be and the kids come as well and jump on a bike or a horse.

"We wouldn't have it any other way. We get to do the stuff we love and have a change of scenery nearly every month.”

The family will be busy mustering right through until December, until it starts raining.

"We're not home much but there's not much home to be home for at the moment.

"The kids aren't at school yet but once Corey is at school we will be a bit more tied down,” Danielle explained.

"I will find it hard to settle back down into normal life I think when the kids are ready to head to school, but my mum is just half an hour down the road and from 9.30am to 2.30pm I'll be working for her, hopefully out of town.

Our mustering crew. Butcher Contracting
The Butcher mustering crew ready for work. Danielle Butcher

"The most important thing is the kids' education, so we will find a way to work it in.”

Danielle said being on the road had equipped her family with life experiences and skills a lot of people wouldn't get the chance to gain.

"I think this lifestyle has made our kids very social kids, they deal with different people all the time,” she said.

"They probably miss out on a few things like routine, gymnastics or swimming and things like that, but they do give everything a go and are easily adaptable. They are so easy-going.

"For Nathan and I, running our own business keeps our personality and view of things wide open. It's things you don't get to see on a nine to five job.”

In the Butchers' five-year plan, they hope to have some cattle to their name again and Danielle hopes Nathan will be able to slow down a bit.

"He really is non-stop. He has been going all year and if we have a few good blokes working under us, hopefully he can have a week or two off to spend at home and be with the kids and do some camdrafting - he loves that,” she said.

"It'd be good to own some cattle again. I don't know if we'd be able to afford dirt, but definitely cattle.”