The Muster

The Muster

The Muster at Riversdale Station

Handling cattle is a timeless experience. Think cowboys on the North American Prairies, gauchos on the South American Pampas, Australian outback ranchers, East African Masai herders, open-range herding on the Spanish Plains. Think of the different breeds of cattle around the world from all the different habitats. Here at Riversdale station we have our own way of doing it, we are a working cattle station running about 1500 Hereford, Angus, Shorthorn and Santa Gertrudis cattle at the seasonal peak.

The Muster



- Q. What is The Muster?


Riversdale Station is a cattle station. We have a herd of about 1000 beef cows from which we breed and sell the calves for other farmers to grow. Twice a year we muster the whole of Riversdale Station. This means gathering all the cattle from all of the 10500 acres of open pasture, bush, river country and hills of the station and herding them into the cattle yards.

-Q. What is the reason for mustering?


1.In December we muster for calf marking. There are a number of jobs carried out, but the main one is to identify the calves as belonging to Riversdale Station, so that there is no confusion with cattle from neighbouring stations. This is a very physical job and is best done when the calf is small. The cattle are mustered paddock by paddock to the yards, one paddock a day and afterwards they are returned to the same paddocks.

2.In March we muster for:

    Weaning, which means separating the calves from their mothers.

    Tuberculosis Testing, which is a statutory requirement. It is intended to eradicate Bovine TB from New Zealand.

    Selling those cattle which we will not be taking through the winter: Mostly these are the male calves and any female calves which we do not want to bring into the herd.

-Q. How do you muster?


The station musters in 8 blocks. the biggest block is over 2000 acres. The easier to muster blocks hunt down into the wide gravel riverbeds and then up or down river to the yards. The snow ball principle. The muster starts at the furthest points of the block. All the musterers are given a "beat" of their own. The method is to make a terrifying (to cattle) noise; roaring, yaahooing, yeehaaing, banging or rattling a drum, beating and bashing the bush, and drive all before you. There will also be lots of dogs. In theory the dogs should do the work and the boss tells them what to do. Just as simple as that... in theory. In practice the dogs have a huge amount of energy which is mostly wasted in pointless running around achieving little or negative results. All the same they are an essential part of the team. Some are really intelligent and awe inspiring to watch, most aren't, but what a bunch of characters.

-Q. Do you muster riding horses?


No. 25 years ago we rode horses for mustering. They were as much of a hindrance as a help. There is a place for horses, but they lack versatility and require skill (not quickly or easily acquired) to get the most from them. The horse age was superseded by the quad bike age. But 4 years ago we bought a Yamaha Rhino side-by-side. These machines have proved to be very successful, we now have 3 and they are a huge improvement on quad bikes. They are very easy to drive and more stable than a quad. A Rhino can carry a dozen dogs and 2 humans in “relative” comfort.

The Muster


-Q. What would I do on The Muster?


You become part of the team, fully participating in the paddock and the yards. Most days will start by mustering in a paddock in the morning followed by the yard work in the afternoon.

-Q. Do I need any previous experience?



-Q. Will I get any training?


Yes. On day one we will familiarise you with the safe practice of ATV Rhinos and cattle handling in the paddock and yards.

-Q. Is it dangerous?


There is an element of danger when dealing with stock in a natural environment and when confined in the yards. Also being in and around ATVs. However the purpose of The Muster is to get the job done, part of which is managing and minimising the risk factor. We will not deliberately put you in a dangerous situation.

-Q. How fit do I have to be?


    You should be able to walk 10 kms a day and then do it again the next day

    You need to be able to climb up and down the cattle yards rails.

-Q. Will I get dirty?


You may get wet feet from crossing rivers when mustering. The yards may be dusty or muddy depending on the weather. If you want to have a go in the race at calf marking you will get dirty.

-Q What should I expect from the weather?


Expect 4 seasons in a day and then you can't be caught out. The weather in December can still be changeable. It is likely to rain or blow a gale at some point while you are here, but that won't stop play unless really wild. The weather in March is usually more settled. The sun is really strong during the summer. It is necessary to protect against sun burn.

-Q. What do I need to bring?



    Clothes for work and afterwards
    sun cream
    hats: sun and beanie
    Good foot wear. Tramping boots are best.
    Light windproof/water proof jacket


    small back pack
    water bottle.

-Q. What type of clothes do I need for working?


Old clothes, loose and comfortable for walking (running) and climbing. You can wear shorts. I always wear long trousers to be better protected against things that scratch and scrape, sting or suck blood. If in the race marking calves you will get dirty.

-Q. Will I be able to wash my clothes?


Yes. The lodge has good laundry facilities.


-Q. Where will I be staying?


The Lodge. Bedding and towels will be provided.

-Q. Is food provided?


Yes. All food will be provided. The food will be home cooked. The Lodge has a fully functional kitchen, so Breakfast will be help/make yourself in the Lodge. Cereals, toast, bacon, eggs, fruit, fruit juice, tea, coffee

    Lunch will be at the house. freshly baked bread, salads, cold meat, cheese, mayo, perhaps quiche, fruit.

    End of working day cuppa

    Evening meal. Could be either at the house or the Lodge and fit for a musterer!

    Please let us know in advance if you have any special dietary requirements.


-Q. What is there to do on the long summer evenings?


1. We are 6 kms from the White Rock black sand beach

    surf casting

    snorkling for paua and cray


    beach BBQ or bonfire if allowed

    5kms of beach to yourself!

2. Horse riding. This would be a good opportunity to learn to ride a horse on one of our “Heavenly Horses”. Or if you can already ride choose one of dozens. Ride a different horse every day.

3. If you bring a mountain bike.

    Cape Palliser Lighthouse is 25 kms from the Lodge or 10 kms from the end of the road. It is a fairly easy ride, although you may have to carry your bike through parts of the desert.

    It is 12 kms from the Lodge over the top to the Tora Road and then a further 15 kms round the coast and back up the White Rock Road. Get a ride up to the top in a Rhino!

4. The Haurangi Forest Park is accessible up our Castle River. You can drive most of the way by Rhino.

5. If anyone is interested we could provide a close encounter with sheep. My personal preference is when they have been cooked first.

6. ...and afterwards relax with a beer or glass of wine.


-Q. Do I have to book?


Yes. Places are limited to 6 people at a time. Please book well in advance.

-Q. How long can I stay for?


    The minimum stay is for one week. Arrive late afternoon/ evening Sunday. Leave Friday afternoon..

    You can stay for the whole job (2 weeks in Dec, 3 weeks in March).

-Q. How do I make a booking?



    By arrangement. Contact us.

-Q. Do you have a cancellation policy?



    Booking online will be full payment at time of booking.

    25% will be non refundable once booked.

The balance will be refundable if notice of more than two weeks prior to arrival is given. Cancelations within two weeks of arrival are non refundable.

-Q. Do you have cellphone coverage?


There is no cellphone coverage at the Lodge. However there is at the top of hill behind the Lodge.

The Muster FAQs