Horseback mustering in northern Australia: the physiological and cognitive effects
The hottest months encountered on northern Australian cattle stations are from September to November, where the climate is both hot and dry, and it is during these months that horseback cattle mustering occurs. Stockmen wear clothing that restricts heat loss (collared shirts and long trousers), yet protective helmets have recently been introduced into the cattle industry (AS/NZS 3838:2006), as part of the increasing occupational health and safety responsibilities of pastoral companies. Anecdotal evidence points to the possibility that protective helmets may increase the probability of stockmen developing heat illness, or experiencing reduced workplace performance. Herein, we describe the working and thermal environment on these cattle stations, and provide an overview of the metabolic demands, and the concurrent physiological and cognitive strain encountered during horseback mustering in a hot-dry environment, whilst stockmen wore an equestrian helmet (Taylor and Caldwell, 2007). In subsequent investigations, we evaluated heat penetration through various forms of headwear (Caldwell and Taylor, 2007), and completed laboratory-based trials in which the physiological impact of an equestrian helmet, relative to the traditional felt hat, was evaluated (Caldwell et al., 2007).