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Macy Hammermeister is a pen rider and hospital supervisor at the Brindley Park feedlot in Euthulla, Qld.
STORY LOUISA HARVEY | PHOTOS ALLIE LEE | OUTBACK MAGAZINE
The sun is still rising and it’s a chilly –2°C when 20-year-old Macy Hammermeister prepares for the day ahead. Her morning routine of tacking up the horses has become a flowing ritual. The accompanying clinking of the bit and stirrups is pronounced in the quiet stables, and elicits a moment of contemplation before the hectic day as a feedlot pen rider begins.
Macy goes straight into the Australian Country Choice feedlot at Brindley Park, Euthulla, Qld, looking very much at home and confident. Wearing an Akubra, work shirt and jeans, she works quietly and calmly, strategically moving around the feedlot while looking for outward signs of distress in the animals around her. If sick cattle are identified, they are segregated and driven to the hospital pen that she supervises.
The job requires teamwork, and Macy has been able to learn a great deal from the many young women who ride the pen together. “They are a great bunch of girls, and we all love sharing a laugh every day while we work,” Macy says. “Girls in the pen tend to be quieter, and some people say that they are more natural in this role than men. Even though I’m still starting out, it is not about trying to get one up for me – it’s not in my nature. But I like to get the job done and that takes a certain level of determination.”
Macy was born and raised in Chinchilla, Qld. “I lived in town my whole life and never had the thought to become a woman in agriculture,” she says. After leaving school, she took an office job in a nearby feedlot, and even though Macy soon realised this was not a position she wanted in the long term, it gave her a window into a career in pen riding and feedlot work. “It didn’t take me long to realise I was an outdoors person and that a job in an office was not going to be a good fit,” she says. “But I wouldn’t change anything, as it gave me the opportunity to see a whole new world and gave me a taste of the life I now live.”
Macy attributes her determination and willingness to learn to years of playing team sport, particularly playing women’s rugby for the Condamine Cods. “I’ve always been heavily involved in sport, so I know what it means to train hard and work well with a team,” she says. “But I think it also helped me pick up most physical things pretty quickly.”
When Macy arrived at Brindley Park two years ago she had never ridden a horse. “I knew horse-riding was something I wanted to have a go at, so started riding around the yard whenever I got the chance.” Macy’s tenacity stood out to livestock manager Randall Ferguson, who saw beyond his new employee’s inexperience.
“When I interview people, I am looking for their willingness to learn. I think you can teach anyone to do anything if they are willing,” Randall says. “That’s an easy one for Macy. She’s not the first person I’ve taught to ride a horse from scratch in my career, but Macy’s eagerness to learn has meant the rest has come pretty easily. Macy loves riding, so I push her to succeed by getting her to question the process, and she learns something new every week. We are always polishing up on the little bits here and there – making sure she understands when she’s on a horse what she’s looking for, how to rate a cow, the mechanics of riding and how to ride safely.”
Currently, Macy is stepping into a probationary role as a leading hand, sharing both Randall’s and ACC’s commitment to continual learning and constant improvement. She is eager to meet Randall’s high expectations. “I see Randall as a mentor more than a boss,” she says. “It feels good to know he thinks I have potential not only as a pen rider, but also in a leadership role like a supervisor.”
Most afternoons Macy works on her horsemanship and trains for campdrafts. “After a day of work, I either work on training the young horses in the round yard or practise cutting out cows in the arena.” Macy’s parents were certainly impressed with her skills when they drove two hours from Chinchilla to Roma to see their daughter compete at a campdraft last year. Next year, Macy is thinking of undertaking online studies in agricultural science. “I’m keen to gain more knowledge in an industry I want to be in long term,” Macy says. “And I can see that this would give me additional prerequisite skills for leadership roles down the track.”
Before taking up pen riding, Macy had considered heading north to work on a cattle station. But her deep satisfaction with where she is today means she’ll stay put for now. “I’ve come to realise that feedlotting is my thing. It makes me happy,