Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 11:31 UK

Cattle farms lure Australia women

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

A New South Wales farmer walks through a dusty field after its barley crop failed, 26 October, 2006
Australian ranches have had trouble attracting sufficient workers

A record number of young Australian women are signing up for jobs as cattle hands on vast outback farms.

Ranch owners are facing acute recruitment problems because so many young men are being lured into the booming mining industry.

Farmers are now reporting a surge of interest from women in their late teens and early 20s.

They are willing to give up jobs in the city for life in Australia's dusty interior - many motivated by a TV show.

One of Australia's largest pastoral operators, S Kidman & Company, said that almost two-thirds of its job applicants were women.


Many have been inspired by a popular television series called McLeod's Daughters, which tells the story of women running a remote outback farm.

It's active, it's fun, you learn lots and lots of things that you're never going to forget
Sarah Amy
Farm hand, 25

Female cattle station workers are known as jillaroos, while their male counterparts are jackaroos.

Life in the outback can be tough. Prospective recruits are warned about the hot, dusty conditions and the swarms of flies and mosquitoes.

But 25-year-old Sarah Amy, who works on Anna Creek Station in South Australia - the biggest cattle property in the world - says that so far she has enjoyed every minute.

"It's just a really good environment - it's active, it's fun, you learn lots and lots of things that you're never going to forget. So why wouldn't you want to do it really?" she asked.

'World is changing'

In typically blunt Australian fashion, the manager of Anna Creek Station, Randall Crozier, says his female workers are doing a great job.

"The hormones are not playing up with them and they're more gentle and steady with cattle and look after your machinery and motorbikes and stuff and generally are much better than fellas.

"And I'm not knocking the fellas, they do a great job too. The world's changing, the women are getting tougher than blokes, mate, hey?"

Australian farming - like many other industries - is facing a severe shortage of workers.

Unemployment is at a 30-year low and the government is allowing more migrants into the country to fill the gaps in the labour market.

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