Noel Cuffe is the manager of Australia’s first organic spelling and saleyards.

Story Kerry Sharp  Photos Shane Eecen

A Kimberley road train is unloading at the Bohning Cattle Yards outside Alice Springs and manager Noel Cuffe is on standby to scrutinise its precious cargo. His job dictates that every beast be meticulously checked in case any are unfit to continue their journey. 

“Animal welfare is our prime focus,” says the former New South Wales sheep musterer and now vital cog in upholding Australia’s rigorous, best-practice livestock welfare standards. “We spell the cattle here for the required hours, determined by how long they’ve been in transit, and their owners entrust us to ensure they’re well-fed and watered and sent off with a clean bill of health. Any animal found with an issue is kept aside and cared for until it’s fit to travel. The buck stops with me as yard manager and if a problem slips through the net and is picked up down the line, I haven’t done my job properly.” That job also involves scanning NLIS (National Livestock Identification System) ear-tags, which give lifetime traceability of cattle transiting through different zones.

Noel has inspected more than 200,000 head of cattle since arriving at Central Australia’s only livestock spelling yards in 2013. The crucial ‘rest stop’ owned by the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) sits between stations to the north and north-west, and the final 12–14-hour run into South Australia and beyond.

“We mainly spell cattle in winter,” Noel says. “We handle Top End cattle going to southern meatworks, southern cattle heading north for live export, and a good stream of weaners transferring from West Australian breeder stations to Western Queensland fattening properties all owned by the same companies.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #120

Outback Magazine: August/September 2018