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Jan 21, 2011

Andrew Bradey, former Snowy Mountain stockman, farmer and president of the Environmental Farmers’ Network, writes: Last week the newly elected coalition government paid back the mountain cattlemen for helping them reclaim the state seat of East Gippsland, where returning cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park was a key election issue.

Desperate for a fig-leaf of credibility, the current government has grabbed the tired old bumper sticker which proclaims “Alpine grazing reduces blazing”.

Taking a leaf out of the Japanese whale industry’s book, they are using “scientific research” into bushfire prevention as an excuse for an otherwise inexcusable activity.

Cattle have certainly demonstrated that they can decimate native vegetation and create some very impressive erosion – any farmer could tell you that. Perhaps denuded, eroded hills and gullies are less likely to burn that those with some top-soil and vegetation.

Apparently the carefully chosen sites for this “cattle grazing and fuel management research trial” are close to park boundaries and don’t have (many) federally protected species present. These sites also happen to be away from pesky sight-seers with cameras who would be offended by seeing and smelling what cattle grazing does to the national park.

But if cattle are just being moved through a fence into the adjoining national park, what is the scientific justification for not carrying out these trials outside the park in existing grazed areas? How will the cattle be kept inside the designated research areas? Apparently the answer is: “It is a condition of the contract that cattle be contained in designated areas”.

Now I too am a cattleman with a couple of hundred cattle and I confess that using a legal document to keep my cattle in “designated areas” had never occurred to me.

I have always naively believed that robust, well maintained fences were how it was done, but it would cost a fortune to fence the entire 26,000 hectare ‘research’ area, and forests would need to be bulldozed to make way for them.

For years, the government has been telling farmers like me to fence sensitive wetlands and waterways, and keep cattle out of any high-conservation value areas within my property. State and Federal Governments even provide incentives to encourage this best practice.

Ted Baillieu wants us to believe he supports responsible farming practices — promising $12 million in extra funding for Victoria’s Landcare movement.

But it’s clearly a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ as Mr Baillieu allows cattle to trample and pollute some of the most sensitive and precious habitats on a property for which he is responsible, the Alpine National Park. Surely that sends all the wrong messages to private landholders?

Finally, the state government has described the six lucky mountain cattlemen involved in the exercise as “fuel reduction service providers”.

If they are “service providers” who will be invoicing whom for this activity?

If cattlemen are being paid to take their herds and their horses for an annual summer holiday in the mountains, where do I sign up?

I have cattle, horses, a big hat, whip, tatty oilskins, but oops…. no National Party membership.

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6 thoughts on “Cattle in the high country not caring for the land

  1. Frank Campbell

    Incidentally, I’ve had cattle on my mountain property too- briefly, to aid a neighbour who lost leased land when it was sold. The damage the cattle did in a year to the Wimmera headwaters was appalling. Never again.

  2. Frank Campbell

    At least this act of environmental barbarism got a mention on Crikey. But the attention of Greens is still distracted by climate millenarianism (Rooted being a classic example).

    The handful of cultural poseurs who benefit from high country cattle grazing are used as a symbol by the Right. The cynical “research” deal is mainly a political payoff to the Country Alliance, a redneck-extractive group.

    We need the Feds to intervene. I’m sure Baillieu would be relieved. It must be sickening for Ted to defend this indefensible sleaze.

  3. heavylambs

    What the? This is being set up for just six individuals? The press should be all over this like a rash.

  4. roger

    Don’t blame the 600 kg hard hoofed cattle with mindless destruction of the Parks , blame those native grass eaters or the “greenies “. Its only 26,000 Ha. farmers are just animal murderers and land f#ckers and dole bludgers in the bush. Don’t hear Abbott telling farmers to ” move to the city to get a job “

  5. Fred

    Wondering when these cattlepeople will realise that their so-called traditions and heritage is based upon mindless destruction of the environment and is a contributing factor to increasingly intense fires and floods.

  6. Lj

    Why shouldn’t the National Party squatocracy keep buggering the land? Apart from bludging on the public purse via perennial “drought assistance”, it is all they know how to do.