Contract pilot Danny Hayes and his team use choppers like cattle dogs to muster mobs on some of Australia’s largest stations.

Story & photos by Fiona Lake

Pilot and mustering contractor Danny Hayes hovers the helicopter carefully and scrutinises the mob below. The lead cow continues walking; head high, not even glancing up. Danny patiently edges the chopper closer, easing off as soon as she looks up. The cow stops and so do the cattle behind her, in a ripple that eventually reaches the tail of the mob.
Danny spins the machine abruptly and peels off to the side to hunt up a couple of stragglers. The mob is still waiting patiently when he returns, the lead cow watching intently. The chopper moves forward slowly and, without hesitation, she starts striding out again, bringing the rest of the mob along behind her.
When the tail lags because the lead is stepping out too briskly, Danny hovers to block the mob again, then lands a couple of hundred metres away. The cattle calmly watch the noisy machine land and some are unable to resist the urge to creep up closer for a better look. It is a rare sight to see a chopper being used like a good cattle dog.

This story excerpt is from Issue #50

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2007