Philip Thomson runs some of the only commercially viable bullock teams in the country.
Story Jade Toomey Photo Fiona Lake
Driving a bullock team is like trying to coach a football team. At least that’s what Philip Thomson, one of Queensland’s three remaining bullockies, will tell you. He has 16–20 bullocks on his Numinbah Valley property at any one time, but only 10–12 make the cut for each job he does. Bullocks put ‘on the bench’ might not be suitable for hauling timber, running demonstrations or appearing in a film.
“You’ve got to evaluate how they’re going to stand up to the pressure,” Philip says. “Some play better in different positions. But the secret to driving bullocks is giving them time, more time, and time again.
“I’ve got an Ayrshire in the mix; he gets a little bit frizzy around people, but he’s a very good bullock on the pole.”
Philip says that with the exception of the Wauchope Timbertown team, he is probably the only commercially viable bullocky left in the country. He generates about a third of his income from the bullocks – the rest comes from carting livestock, cutting firewood, a sawmill and about 130 cattle. He says looking after bullocks is a full-time job, in that they need to be constantly trained and working, but he can incorporate the bullocks in his sawmill operations as part of their training. Philip says it would be unfair to keep bullocks unless you’ve got something for them to do.
This story excerpt is from Issue #130
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2020