Cattle as Part of the Australian Landscape

 WHY do so many environmentalists consider cattle something to be excluded from the Australian landscape? 

According to Ian Mott, a third generation landholder, they modify parts of the landscape but they do not destroy it.  In the following note, Mr Mott suggests modifications to government advice on the management of livestock in riparian zones. 

 “PICTURES at a Catchment Management Authority website have been provided as “evidence” of the degraded condition of “our” environment due to grazing of stock in riparian zones. But in reality, the site provides a very good example of how a few pictures and sloppy captioning can tell a thousand lies.

The introductory text claims: “Inappropriate livestock grazing is one of the most significant causes of degradation to the land-water interface in Australia. Livestock have long been part of the Australian landscape. Cattle, sheep, horses, goats and pigs arrived with the first settlers in the 1780s and moved with them across NSW into the Central West. Settlements sprang up along river systems supported by clean water and fertile floodplain soils.  Since that time, livestock have caused damage to the most sensitive part of the landscape – our riparian lands.”

We see cattle by a creek and some exposed soil, in the above photograph from the website, which would lead most urban punters to conclude that this picture is representative of the entire length of the creek on that farm and representative of the situation on all grazed creek banks on all farms.

But we can be quite certain, given the proven MO of CMA’s and their staff, that the picture shows worse than average impacts?

A random inspection of the first, second and third  order farm streams that account for most of the riparian interface in the landscape is unlikely to provide a single example of conditions like those shown. It is also highly improbable that anything like those conditions would be replicated over the entire length of that particular stream. Indeed, there may be only one or two such examples on the entire property.

It is also quite certain that the conditions produced in the photo represent the sum of all cattle damage over a period of more than 100 years. Once the landform modification has been made by the stock to match their normal level of traffic, the rate of change (called degradation) will reduce to a minimum. Most of the modification shown in the photo would have been done in the first decade after settlement. 

Stock can produce physical modifications to a small portion of a riparian zone when they are first introduced to a landscape or when a major increase in animal traffic at a particular point takes place.  If the stocking rate has essentially remained the same and the number of access points is not reduced in a way that increases traffic on the remaining access points then there is minimal on-going impact. But the CMA text merely indicates that this “significant” damage has taken place “since that time” (ie on a continuous basis, in the past and in future).  It converts an historical event as evidence of a future threat.

And it begs the question, do we regard a road culvert as evidence of land degradation? Or do we regard it as a piece of infrastructure that is a normal and necessary part of the prevailing use of the land as a road?

Clearly, we view it as the latter.

So why do we regard customary tracks (roads) made by cattle for their own continuing use as anything different to our own road culverts?

Both involve an initial excavation that exposes soil and both then involve only minimal soil disturbance for many decades after.  And just like our road system, the more traffic cattle tracks have, the greater the visual impact.   Do we begrudge Elephants or Caribou their right to shape creek crossings? No, only domestic stock.
 
To its credit, the site does include some helpful tools for minimising on-going soil movement. And just as for our own road culverts, this involves paving the  most prone parts of the road with rock and concrete. The irony is that this simple, logical solution can only be carried out with the approval of DPI and the additional cost and effort that involves. And it is also fairly obvious that any approval for such works would only come with very significant and expensive conditions like fencing off the entire riparian zone and installing unnecessary watering points and piping.

Don’t get me wrong, additional watering points away from streams and dams make very good sense as they spread the grazing intensity more evenly over the entire area. But when faced with baseless, ideologically driven demands to render existing in-stream watering points redundant as a condition of approval for your voluntary good works, most farmers, justifiably, opt to let the authorities continue abusing themselves.

The second photo shows a fairly normal steep bank of a deep riverine cross section. Yes, there are sheep in the picture but one is left to wonder what, exactly, is the impact of those, or the past century of previous sheep, on the steepness of the river bank? 

Sure, they graze on the grass and may also graze on any tree seedlings that might germinate there. But the chances of such stems surviving the first flood event are quite low as they are more rigid than grass and much more likely to get tangled with passing debris.

Are we to seriously believe that without the sheep this river bank would be steeper?

No.

Is there any evidence that the bank is not maintaining its form?

No.

Would the bank structure be any different if there were trees atop the bank?

No

In fact, if trees were present we would probably observe exposed roots as evidence that additional erosion had taken place.  The area of exposed soil would be greater because the grasses would be competing for moisture with the trees and this would present a more erodible face to flood waters with greater potential for snags.  

The third photo is just as misleading.  
We are told that: “This creek was severely polluted with sediment and animal waste laden run-off.
The rapid increase in nutrient levels caused a massive toxic blue-green algae bloom, rendering the creek water unusable for stock or domestic consumption.”

But what they do not tell us is that this is a temporary condition that starts at the beginning of a dry season and will only last until the pool dries up later in the season. More importantly, they do not mention that most high faecal E. coli counts and algal blooms are the result of self reproduction in the warm stagnant water.  As was found to be the case with Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin,  most algae in a bloom is of a secondary or “regrowth” nature.

The severity of an algal bloom or the ultimate concentration of faecal E . coli, is not a function of the initial volume of coli being supplied to the pools in runoff. Rather, the longer the dry season, the warmer the temperature, the shallower the pools and the less frequent the intermittent runoff events take place, the greater the exponential rate of bacterial and algal growth becomes. 

Algae reproduce faster and more often in favourable conditions, get used to it, folks. 

So we need to add a few comments in italics to the official CMA summary in black, below, to give a true and fair view of the impacts of grazing on riparian zones:

Impacts of riparian grazing (Modified version)

On-site:
isolated, once-off loss of vegetation cover in the first few years of exposure to grazing
once-off soil compaction at a few specific points and initial erosion
once-off bank instability followed by long term stability of the modified landforms
isolated instances of reduced water quality
no evidence of reduced property values from the presence of stock modifications
enhanced germination of native tree species in hoof depressions etc

Off-site:
localised instances of poor water quality (increased turbidity, nutrients and salinity)
very localised loss of in-stream habitat
isolated, once-off changes to river channel shape of minor consequence
minor silting of rivers and creeks compared to that produced by unsealed roads
enhanced natural regeneration of native trees along previously cleared creek banks

Clearly, a picture can, indeed, tell a thousand lies. And government and green pictures seem to tell the most lies of all.

Ian Mott
Byron Hinterland, NSW, Australia

***********************

Notes and Links

Ian Mott is a third generation native forest owner, miller and regenerator from the Byron hinterland.  A former Sydney and Brisbane Executive Recruiter with his own agency, his interest in the family property has seen him evolve, over the past decade, into a property rights activist and consultant. He is secretary of the Landholders Institute Inc and has held a number of positions on national, state and regional level policy and planning bodies.

Mr Mott has a blog at http://ianmott.blogspot.com/

The offending website can be found at: http://www.cw.cma.nsw.gov.au/pdf/Information/BMPs/CWCMA_Information_BMP_0288_ripariansheet_livestockmanagement.pdf

67 Responses to Cattle as Part of the Australian Landscape

  1. janama June 25, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    What are you on about Ian – have you been to the countryside recently, if ever?

    Any one with an open mind and eyes to match can see the degradation of our river systems due to livestock being allowed access. Just yesterday I drove from Tabulam to Casino – the rivers were brown, huge slices of riverbanks were sinking into the river because there was NO vegetation to hold the banks together. I saw a farmer out in the rain retrieving some wire and fence posts before they were washed downstream and the banks were collapsing around him. I wished I’d had my camera so I could have shown you as you obviously walk around with your eyes closed or spend all your time in the city.

    On the weekend “Macca all over” had adventurer Keirin Kelly(??) who had just returned from lake Eyre where he had been noting the dramatic change in the flora on the de-stocked cattle stations. Even Janet Holmes A Court is changing the grazing practices on her huge central Australian cattle stations because she has realised the improved pastures and variety of new flora that eventuates.

    Mate get a life!! and get over your bitching about environmentally responsible farmers, in fact get back to your Prickle Farm and take responsibility for YOUR overgrown weed infestation of Crofton weed and Lantana that is clearly visible on Google Earth all along Motts Road, Main Arm, Mullumbimby. 3rd generation farmer my hat!

  2. Ian Mott June 25, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Gosh Janama, a dummy spit. So are you contesting the fact that most modifications to a landscape that are made by an introduced species will take place in the first decade after introduction?
    Are you contesting the fact that a stable and relatively constant population of animals will tend to use existing tracks rather than form new ones?
    And please do inform us how YOU, in your wisdom, distinguish between a 50 year old stock track that hasn’t changed much in half a century and one formed last year.
    You do accept, I hope, that one is an historical artifact while the other is evidence of current change?
    Are you contesting the relevance of exponential growth in the formation of algal blooms?
    Are you contesting the fact that grass cover is much less under established trees?

    All you have come up with is a single anecdote, a set of visual impressions from a single trip that tells us more about your own baggage than what you actually saw.

    And Janama, please tell us how you managed to distinguish between my weeds and lantana and that of the other 18 households that now inhabit our original family holdings. Surely you wouldn’t be inclined to jump to conclusions from limited information, or would you?

    And if you were to look back over my bio-data you might note that I am described as a “third generation native forest owner, miller and regenerator”. Yep, some of that weed infestation includes native forest regrowth. And we destock for a year or two to let it get established. But of course, ignorant flat-landers like you would only see ‘untidy’ pastures, wouldn’t you?

    And as for the inland “dramatic change in the flora”, well, yes, good soaking rain will do that, every time. And your point is?

  3. Pirate Pete June 25, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    There is another pertinent issue here.
    Almost all lands sold by governments, or gifted, to farmers, had conditions included in the sale.
    At the time that most of this was done, Australia was at the forefront of world’s best farming practice, championed by the CSIRO and state departments if primary industries.
    I am thinking of the soldier settlement blocks, the Brigalow scheme in Central Queensland, and many others.
    In most cases, these conditions required the clearing of the land at a set pace, usually to the fenceline. Every tree. This was often despite farmers saying that it is bad practice to clear stream banks. I have a letter from the Queensland Dept of Lands to a cattle producer in Central Queensland, dated 1991, telling him that if he did not speed up clearing, all of the growth on his land, his title would be revoked.
    Another producer in central Queensland, on a Brigalow block, asked that they be allowed to retain 5,000 acres of original vegetation for conservation purposes. The request was refused, but they persisted. In the end, a special act of parliament was passed to permit them to keep their conservation timber, about 10% of the total block.
    And remember, we were at worlds best practice. At the time, CSIRO and the Depts said that best practice was to remove all timber.
    So don’t get stuck into farmers for complying with the law

  4. janama June 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    Ian – you continually try to make out that I’m anti-farming so I’ll say it again – I’m anti cattle having access to rivers – that’s it! which is what your article was about. I have no problem with cattle – I love beef and I see no problem other that the damage they do to rivers – it’s not just where I live that I see it – I’m been all over Australia except the SW of WA. I’ve witnessed the destruction of our rivers everywhere.

    The point that Peter Andrews makes is that our rivers used to flow gradually, there were natural barriers in the flow and they would spread out and drop fresh topsoil during flood. Now when we get some rain the water races to the coast as the rivers are all eroded and there’s nothing to slow the water down. As the guys say in the article that once they fenced off the stream, planted the appropriate flora, the water slowed and when it came out the other end it was clear, not mud like all our rivers. Using vegetation to filter our rivers seems pretty sensible to me and cattle eat vegetation. Hell I live in the beef capital of Australia, I’m surrounded by them.

  5. spangled drongo June 25, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    We’re all part of this feral merry-go-round and it’s fine to see people being more ecologically responsible with farmland but often this is just a smokescreen for less human involvement which inevitably leads to more feral weeds and animals and more problems for neighbouring farmers.

    janama, huge infestations of weed into diverse ecosystems is always upsetting but it’s occuring more and worse now with “tree changers” on small holdings in their thousands introducing exotics that make crofton weed and lantana look absolutely benign.
    Even our oldest national parks that have never been cleared or farmed are out of control with these feral weeds [not to mention feral animals].
    The farms that surround these ungrazed eco-zones often [usually] look much more attractive and cared for.
    But to get back to Motty’s argument, I would love someone to come up with the correct manual on carbon accounting so we all know where we truly stand.
    I suspect that if this should happen even more of us would realise what a load of old shoes this carbon caper really is.

  6. janama June 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Oh I agree with you totally about the tree changers and weeds spangled. And I’m not actually anti – weeds as I believe they have their place in the system.

  7. wes george June 25, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    Look, I love Ian, but he’s picked the wrong horse to whip.

    I support Janama position. Cattle beat the soil and flora to mush in riparian zones. They are incredibly destructive if let run in numbers. To deny this fact of nature is disingenuous. Worse, it’s stupid. Farmers often try to make up loss of profit margin by running larger volume. Utterly self-defeating. And our creeks, dry and wet show the damage.

    I don’t have the time to get into 1,000-plus word counter-post exchanges. But I have been around cattle and stream beds since I was born. My advice: Keep your cattle out of the riparian zones if you want a healthy, diverse stream bed, a place to fish and swim and get household water. Build your dams and fence the rivers off to the platypus and possums.

    That said, Drongo’s got a point, as usual. If an area is so degraded by lantana and crofton that it’s impenetrable anyway, well then, cattle can be a civilizing factor. In such a case we are looking at a brave new ecosystem. Evolution cannot be denied. Often conservationists are like social conservatives, fighting a losing battle against evolution. Conservationists don’t recognize that human intervention in the environment however degrading is part of nature by definition, since humans aren’t supernatural beings from another dimension, but a native species to this planet. Not that we couldn’t behave better. Still we are part and parcel of the natural environment of this continent. Change (evolution) is inevitable.

    Nevertheless, in many places, such as New England or in the Pilliga invasive weeds are not the paradigm shift they are east of the ranges and cattle are a serious erosion problem if let run wild. To me it’s really a lifestyle issue, are you ignorant trash that pile rubbish and old machinery across your farm’s landscape, while the cattle free range the road and creek, or do you have a bit of pride in being a proper steward of your property for future generations?

    Don’t deny the relationship of nature with humanity. Embrace it. And then apply your bloody common sense.

  8. Hasbeen June 26, 2009 at 12:08 am #

    Janama, you have it all TOTALLY wrong. You are on a hobby horse of mine, where the “consensus ” wisdom is on a par with AGW, & that’s the rubbish about river erosion.

    If you think river erosion is a product of eurpoean settlement of Oz, you must think Stradbroke, Morton, & Fraser islands are recent developments, & not the products of “ratural” erosion. More than a little had to occur to build those islands.

    You see, before I became a farmer, I was a “yachty bum”, sailing around the ocean, picking up a quid where I could, & before that a piller of society, working hard, & racing my very deep drafted racing yacht around Sydney harbour, to prove how successful I was. So, when I went cruising it was in a deep yachy, often the deepest boat seen in an area.

    Now I have sailed that yacht up more rivers than you could name, on a wet sunday. Some of these, like the Fly, were natural rivers, with virtually no man made influences. To do this in a deep boat, you have to learn to understand rivers. If you don’t learn how a river scours its banks, & bottom, you will spend a fair bit of time on mud banks, but you won’t have your yacht for long.

    I kept my yacht 15 miles up the Burrum river for some years. Some sections of the Burrum are so shallow that you can not get a tinny through at low tide, but this was not a problem. My problem was that the trees, that pulled sections of bank into the river regularly, often drifted into the channel, & were lying on the bottom, in wait for a passing boat.

    Yes that’s right, it’s the trees. If the river you saw that farmer struggling with had had bl@@dy great top heavy trees along it, much more of it’s bank would have gone down stream.

    It is a bit disingenuous talking about a silty river, after the wettest autumn/winter in memory. This is the verry conditions when 6 or 8 feet deep wet soil, on the bank, over dry subsoil can not hold the trees. On my 20 metre high, steep river babk, I regularly loose very large chunks of bank, when large strangler figs, or casuarinas topple into the river. It is at least 20 years since this bank was grazed.

    My neighbour got sick of this, & battered 700M of bank to a 30 degree slope, which he planted to rhodes, & regularly grazed. He has not had a single wash out in 18 years. He has had the department of environment take him to court 3 times for doing such a dreadful thing, as stopping erosion of the bank, but so far he has won these cases.

    I don’t graze my bank, my horses are too valuable, & the bank too dangerous, but no amount of grazing could do the amount of damage those bl@@dy trees do.

  9. Ian Mott June 26, 2009 at 2:04 am #

    Don’t be defensive, Janama. If you go back over my post above I was asking which of my key points you were contesting. You still have not indicate any. The Richmond River between Tabulam and Casino is about a 6th or 7th order stream and is not representative of the major portion of riparian zones which are 1st, 2nd or 3rd order. And if you are so certain of the ubiquitousness of grazing damage then do us the courtesy of a proper transect that will show exactly what percentage of the bank, over what distance, is subject to current, not historical modification. My guess would be that you would be lucky to find even 10 metres of significant stock damage one every kilometre of creek.

    You also need to bone up on the real amount of tree cover that is on our rivers and creeks. Take a look at any satellite photo. Very little of that tree cover is old growth. Most is either native regrowth or, in NSW Nth Coast, Camphor Laurel, and it has all been re-established on unfenced creek banks.

    I have had a gutfull of people who drive past a single instance of stock modification and conclude that the entire river system is stuffed. The worst ones are the departmental boofheads who drive past the same example 50 times and then convince themselves that it is widespread.

    From my experience, and from comments of friends and relatives, most active damage, rather than historical modification, will take place when there is a change in owner, a complete change of herd, or a change in the style of the person mustering.

    An example would be when cattle have become used to the old fella who brings them in calmly so they amble across a creek in single file. But when a son, or a new owner takes over and they want them mustered quickly, they will send them across the creeks four or five wide and in so doing, cause a lot of damage as they widen the culvert to fit the new level of traffic congestion.

    Similarly, replace a calm herd with a bunch of wild “bush pigs” and the old single file tracks will no longer fit their transit patterns. The new stock will modify their pathways to fit their habits.

    And as for your little story about the guy with the wire, given the size of the recent nth coast floods, his fences would have been taken out by trapped debris in the overflow. Please explain how that could be blamed on the livestock.

  10. janama June 26, 2009 at 7:48 am #

    Hasbeen – Stradbroke, Morton, & Fraser islands are recent developments, & not the products of “ratural” erosion. More than a little had to occur to build those islands.

    Those sand islands were formed by the erosion of the sandstone cliffs of Sydney that creates sand that is washed up the coast by the natural currents and finishes at the end of Fraser Island where it drops quickly into deep water. It has nothing to do with the erosion of Shannon Brook that I’m referring to. (Ian the Richmond comes down from Kyogle)

    Ian – the farmers posts and wire were collapsing 20 feet down into the river because the banks were collapsing. The debris build up you refer to occurs in a totally different region of the river, i.e over the flood plains.

    I suggest that Hasbeen and Ian take a trip to Red Rock, a small coastal town just north of Coffs Harbour, where the Corindi River reaches the ocean. Even from google earth you can see the clear, pristine white sand that occurs when grazing animals are prevented from accessing the river banks. I think the Corindi is probably the last of the east coast rivers to still be in it’s original state. The Clarence, Richmond, Brunswick and Tweed rivers used to be the same.

    http://tinyurl.com/ksrbmq

  11. Luke June 26, 2009 at 8:55 am #

    Well I never thought I’d see the day when his own mob would wake up and denounce him for eco-wankery and indulgent boutique prickle farming.

    But … it occurred to me that you’re having problems with all the stream bank instability because – wait for it – ….. all that extra land clearing runoff – especially peak runoff from all that land clearing. What you’ve been banging on about. So bloody enviro-rapist land clearers are obviously rampant bank scourers. hahahahahahahahaha

    We’ve solved it.

    Anyway you’re slipping – while you’ve been having a bit of a nut-job about riparian-o-philic poddy dodged ferals, the WWF have done you like a dinner. Seems like land clearing bans are correlated with increased productivity. And you’ve let this go by on your watch while you’ve been having an eco-sook.

    You should turn-off the Foxtel – give the shopping malls the flick – and get down the Fortress of Soltitude to prepare the rebuttal.

    http://www.wwf.org.au/news/scare-campaign-on-regrowth-restrictions-baseless/

  12. Ian Mott June 26, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    Wes, the key phrase in your post was “They are incredibly destructive IF LET RUN IN NUMBERS”. What I have made very clear, it seems to everyone but you and Janama, that over a long history of normal stocking the paths and crossings formed by stock will reach an equilibrium point after which additional impacts are minimal.

    I also made it very clear, but apparently not clear enough for you and Janama, that good farm management includes monitoring stock pathways in the same way that one should monitor farm roads to prevent or remedy degradation. If, for some reason a large wash away is likely to develop on a farm road then it is always prudent to take preventative action, like adding rock fill etc.

    So why is it such a challenging concept to extend this same concept to stock paths and fords?

    No-one but the village idiot would use evidence of scouring on farm roads as a pretext to close the road altogether. Yet, you have the boorish gall to imply that my simple statement that the two are essentially the same is some sort of denial of a “fact of nature” which is “disingenuous” and “Worse, it’s stupid.” You then seek to imply that maintaining access to riparian water is akin to overstocking. And that is bollocks.

    Both of you are exhibiting a fairly major comprehension deficit. So sit down and actually read what I have said.

    If stock traffic over paths and fords have changed, and this has become a current problem, then an intelligent landowner has a number of options that are well short of blanket exclusion of stock from riparian zones.
    1. Widen a stock culvert and alter its slope and batter with machinery so damage to sides is reduced.
    2. Add a rock and fill roadbase at critical points.
    3. Add extra off-stream watering points so animal traffic in the riparian zone drops below historical norms and the need for modifications to path cross sections is reduced or eliminated.
    4. Make sure the stock are mustered by people with patience who avoid crowding and panic at choke points.
    5. Use an intelligent, well trained dog worth feeding (an excellent erosion control agent) rather than a stupid mut that will put the whole herd over a steep bank.
    6. Remember that reducing stock access in one place will increase traffic somewhere else.

    None of these options call for the blunt instrument of total stock exclusion. None of them operate in a way that constitutes an environmental tax levied on farm capital. None of them operate in a way that places a higher cost burden on the remaining land outside the exclusion zones. And consequently, none of them pose a direct threat to the viability of the farm enterprise in the way blanket exclusions do.

    Those who support the concept of excluding land from productive use are ignorant of the fact that the excluded land still has a value, and a return on that value, and the rates and costs etc on that portion of land, must be recovered from the diminished area that remains. And those who regard exclusion as the only option are either the enemies of good farming, or worse, foolish allies.

  13. Patrick B June 26, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Luke,

    Agree totally except for the Fortress of solitude bit, I think it’s an alternate reality they live in. Used to drive out east from Albany toward Ravnsthorpe past Jerramungup and Bremer Bay. Sometimes the sand was blown to the top of the fences. Feral weeds? F*ck me you can’t grow anything once the top soils gone. Fantastic land management skills these farmers. Of course they’ve got it pretty easy, I mean they f*ck it up and then stick their hand out for a “custodian/stewardship” handout (along with all the rest of their bloody taxpayer funded charity). And then there’s the Nats, talk about single issue parties with low constituency bases having too much influence, bloody farmers are the only group in the country who have a guaranteed seat in cabinet when the Tories are in. OK, I feel better now …

  14. Ian Mott June 26, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    Luke, what a piece of moronic WWF drivell. Your sleazy departmental minders must be very pleased with you.

    The national Beef cattle herd varies in number from 25.5 million in drought years to 29.0 million in a good season. That represents a 13.7% variation on the base population. And here we have these WWF bogans claiming that a 1.2% increase from the depths of 2006 to 2007 is evidence of vigorous recovery.

    We also know that in the southern states the drought held on for much longer, so the fact that catle numbers outside Queensland declined is no surprise. And gee wiz, production and jobs growth also made a modest recovery at the same time as stock numbers.

    Yet, we have the WWF abusing normal seasonal climatic variation as evidence that clearing bans have had no impact and implying that regrowth bans will also have no impact. It is venal deceptive conduct of the worst kind.

    So lets look at the numbers shall we? 60 million hectares of Qld rangelands supports approximately 12 million cattle at about 1 animal to 5 hectares. The clearing ban has prevented about 200,000ha of remnant clearing, of which more than half was mulga pulling for stock feed (mostly sheep) which did not involve actual tree removal. So that leaves less than 100,000ha of prevented remnant clearing each year. That 100,000ha would have suported 20,000 animals or 0.17 of 1% of the Queensland herd.

    The impact of this will only show up beyond 20 years when the cumulative effect will amount to 3.4% of the herd. But to then extend this to suggest that the impact of a regrowth ban will be similar is extremely dishonest. Regrowth clearing in existing paddocks has been in the order of 200,000ha a year and this has enable the continuing support of at least 40,000 animals each time.

    And the cumulative effect of this over 20 years is 800,000 or 7% of the base herd. More importantly, it would account for half of the normal seasonal variation in stock numbers. That is the fundamental problem with so-called ‘regulations’ that involve the capture of land. No business, and no industry, can endure a continuous erosion of the capital base in the way the regrowth bans will do.

    So get back under your rock, you squalid little piece of departmental pond life. The slime moulds are getting lonely.

  15. spangled drongo June 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    I can’t help but agree with Hasbeen re Stradbroke, Moreton and Fraser Is. They’ve been around for a mil or two in one form or another as a result of the erosion of the SE coast of Aust from the Tweed to Bass Str. Remember that the Tweed caldera was a huge volcano and that spoil has washed into the Tasman along with similar all the way down the coast and the Tasman, being a very wild and energetic coastline washed this spoil northwards until reaching the milder mannered Qld Coral Sea, it proceeded to settle. [Remind you of anything?]
    Some of these big river systems are so dynamic that cattle grazing wouldn’t make a scrap of difference but not necessarily with smaller ones.
    janama, I agree with you about Red Rock and I also love the Sandon and the bar at Plover Is.
    Still a Beach Stone Curlew or two there.

  16. Green Davey June 26, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    I don’t know a great deal about this subject, but I have read the eloquent contributions with interest. Ian Mott has raised an important matter of landscape ecology. Call me obsessive, but one thing I note is that the interaction between water bodies, vegetation, stock, and fire has not been raised.

    Just south of Perth is Forrestdale Lake, surrounded by bullrushes and swampy, paper bark country. Information from Aboriginal Elders is that it was, traditionally, burnt mildly and patchily, every 2-3 years, and was a ‘supermarket’ of plant and animal food. Amongst many food plants, they harvested bullrush roots, by burning the tops off, then wading and feeling with their toes.

    In the 1880s white settlers arrived, with cattle and sheep, which changed the vegetation around the lake, and from 1920 on rabbits probably played their part. Frequent burning of the remnant bush and bullrushes continued up to the 1930s or so. As fire frequency declined from then on, the fires got bigger and fiercer, although the grazed parts of the lake shore would not carry fire.

    In the 1980s, the politically established Dept of Conservation and Land Management (CALM now politically renamed DEC) took over, and all grazing and prescribed burning ceased. The bush grew back around the lake, with both native and exotic plants. Due to vast areas of unburnt bullrushes blocking the breeze, a severe mosquito and midge problem arose. Local residents persuaded the local council to spray. This had mixed success, despite an intensive study by a CALM entomologist. We may wonder what the effect of the spray was on other life forms.

    Over the past few decades, there have been two major bushfires around the lake, threatening properties. Due to heavy fuel, these have been so fierce that they have impoverished the sandy soil, by volatilizing nitrogen, and burning organic matter. I suspect many native seeds were incinerated, and native animals killed. The mosaic of future fires has been coarsened and simplified.

    So while grazing does affect native vegetation, removing stock from along, or around, a water body, can have results contrary to those expected by some ecologists, environmentalists, and government departments.

    Rather than following Karl Popper (1934), and trying to progress by linear dismissal of individual hypotheses, ecologists need to think more like Pierre Duhem (1906), and form coherent clusters of hypotheses. It ain’t easy, but it is more realistic. For example, historical hypotheses are essential to landscape ecology.

    Refs for those interested:
    Duhem, P.M.M. (1906) La Theorie physique, son objet et sa structure. Chevalier et Riviere. Translated from French by P. Wiener (1954) The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory. Princetown University Press.
    Popper, K.R. (1934) Logik der Forschung. Vienna. Translated from German (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Hutchinson, London.
    Giblett, R. (2006) Forrestdale: People and Place. Access Press, Perth.

  17. Ian Mott June 26, 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    You raise a very good point, Davey. I have never, ever, seen stock damage in a riparian zone that would be anywhere near as bad as that produced by the Canberra wildfires in 2003. The fire raced along this thickly vegetated corridor through a landscape of cleared pasture. The entire upper 7-10cm of soil, over many kilometres of creek bank, had been turned to powder which all went into the creek in the first decent rain. Every pool was filled with the stuff which formed a hard baked surface that would not yield to a Pick.

    The damage was by far the worst in the parts of the corridor where stock had been fenced out. The fuel loads were very high and tree stems more than 7cm thick were left as columns of ash that were held together by dew. Sheep that were more than 200 metres away were killed so any wildlife in the actual corridor had absolute “buckleys chance”.

    Damage to both vegetation and soil was nowhere near as bad in the places where stock still has access. Understorey vegetation was shorter and there was a clear gap between overstorey and ground cover. Powdered topsoil was generally less than 1cm and much of the root systems of grasses was still intact.

    More importantly, grass cover was restored much faster in the grazed sections and this meant a much shorter window in which the powdered upper soil layer was prone to erosion in the next downpour.

    And what all this makes clear is the fact that the much touted superior ecological values in stock excluded riparian zones are temporary in nature and masking an almost statistical certainty of much more severe degradation in a time frame between 5 and 25 years. Like so many of the green “sacred cows”, riparian stock exclusion is a purely visual issue that obscures high long term risks of substantial environmental degradation.

    The management of fuel loads is just as important in riparian zones as it is in woodlands and thickets. And the essentially damper nature of terrain in these zones means that cold hazard reduction burns will only be successful later in the year when it would pose a serious risk to vegetation outside the zone. These are the very locations where stock grazing is a superior option to hazard reduction burns.

    We need to dump this dreadful compartmentalising of problems that has characterised official policy to date. When we take a whole of farm, whole of year, and whole of risk approach to farm management we soon see that stock grazing in riparian zones has major benefits, few real risks and important economic and environmental cost savings.

  18. Jon at WA June 26, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    Luke wrote

    “Well I never thought I’d see the day when his own mob would wake up and denounce him for eco-wankery and indulgent boutique prickle farming.”

    Luke, I think you may be onto something, the green missive that you are confronted with a small group of lunatic right-wing dunces funded by “big oil” has, quite probably distorted your understanding of the forces questioning your system of beliefs. The Global Warming Scam has been so-absurd that many people of quite different experience and beliefs have united in blogs like Jennifers to stand against poor science and proposal for a disasterous tax.

    Please don’t be surprised when grown-ups have disagreements, this does occur in the non politically correct world with out the need to resort to counselling or a solicitor. Historically, your friends the caring sharing social engineers never argue, you don’t have the facts to support you, so your secret police / militia just visit the dissidents are little later and sort things out

    I can understand a point of Ian’s argument, how can farmers trust agencies who willingly distort impacts of farming practices using horror photos out of context. Find a photo of a bleached coral and declare white man’s farming practices are killing the reef, completely ignoring the entire ENCORE study into nutrient effects on the reef. Find an eroding river bank and bring in another ridiculous regulation with supporting fee to keep the inert product of the environmental industry employed.

  19. VG June 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Jennifer there is a huge story developing in the USA. The EPA has been found to be suppressing a CEPP report check out WUWT

  20. WJP June 26, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    Janama: That farmer you saw busting his bum trying to salvage his fence is no big deal. In my life, I’ve have 14 floodgates. They are that part of a fence that crosses a watercourse. They are so “designed” so as to yield in a time of high flow and to not damage the rest of the fence when force of water and debris rips through it. The rest of the time this same flood gate has to be stock proof. By their very nature flood gates are one of those “a cowboy’s work is never done” things.

    And you live in the beef capital of Australia? Sheesh.

    Another thing that seems to be lost in this, is cattle always seem figure out the best way getting around hillsides is by traversing the slope. They are definitely disinclined to go straight up a hill. One of the pleasures of life, though, is to see happy cows charging down a hill, kicking and bucking as they come, and come to a screeching halt, just to say moo. Do the economic models include this benefit?

  21. Ian Mott June 27, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    Good point WJP. I suspected that might have been the case. One riparian stock path comes to mind on my place where it makes a very gradual descent along the side of a steep bank into the watercourse. It gets grassed over and covered by lantana whenever we de-stock but when cattle return they soon find it and make a special effort to return it to full function.

    These efforts include hooking horns under offending lantana branches to break them off and stomping and twisting inconveniently located saplings but leaving others just off the path alone. Once they observe the start of an old track they will recognise its function and pay particular attention to any impediments that may occur further along the track.

    One can only conclude that they are consciously modifying their landscape, creating and augmenting infrastructure that improves access, safety and convenience.

    Australia’s livestock herd is comprised of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of migrant livestock. They did not invade this country, their ancestors were invited here and welcomed by all. They came from many parts of the world not knowing what lay ahead of them and all now call Australia home. And like the children of human migrants, they make their own way in the circumstances they find themselves in. We need to beware of the kinds of minds that would regard the presence of both as a crime against nature.

  22. spangled drongo June 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    WJP,
    Building and maintaining those floodgates is a work of art. The ones we built had to be dog-proof yet float up and release debris in times of flooding. The boundary fence flood gates were also electrified in a total circuit which ran for 137 miles. Some of these flood gates crossed flood plains up to a 1/4 mile wide. Just another job in the never ending list.

  23. Allan June 27, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    In 1988 the State Govt established the Tinderry Nature Reserve south of Queanbeyan partly to protect the Queanbeyan river catchment for Googong Dam.
    It had been lease country for cattle grazing for the previous 100 plus years and had a established open woodland landscape common on the limestone plains.
    With the removal of cattle grazing native woody weeds have established particularly tea tree.
    This now covers thousands of hectares of the eastern portion of the park and as you know nothing can grow under tea tree.
    So today, apart from 4 metre high tea tree, there is nothing holding the soil in place and as a result there is substantial soil erosion in the catchment.
    Since the tea tree is native the management of it is to leave it alone and hope that trees will eventually shade it out.
    Unfortunately saplings can not out compete the tea tree.
    So when a bush fire goes through this area, as it must, there will be thousands of hectares of cooked soil which will become even more mobile.
    So much for protecting the catchment by removing cattle.
    The unintended consequences of some land management decisions.

  24. Henry chance June 27, 2009 at 10:46 pm #

    We have 3 infestations going on. I will address the largest one first. City people. City people traveling roadways have an expectation the now agriculture is expected to meet. Cattle will be cattle as they are animals. They are fine and it was their land before humans came along. City people are totally unable to feed the planet much less their own families and have no clue. Citys are filled with the uggliest buildings, slums and garbage. Take care of your own mess. On Ians blog, there is a link to a brochure. It shows city chaps that seem to be nannies and want to dictact best farming practices. Ironic how people that do not work gather in gangs to give advice for risk takers that earn their crops and harvest. Consultants are epidemic in America also. In Texas they cross the fringe sometimes and are called all hat and no cattle cowboys.

    You could not afford protein if range management groomed the landscape like the degreed horticulturist grooms the grounds around my companies office buildings. He to my knowledge uses tons of pesticides, herbicides and unmentionable materials and gives the adjacent golf course a pristine and also natural look.

    The 3rd group is the liberals that want to engineer the planet. They want to destroy personal property rights and liberty. They are in environmental lawsuits, water suits and encroach all maner of lands that are not theirs. These do good engineers recommend over farmiong to drain every bit of nurture from the soil to create toxic ethanol for cars. They even desire stalks and straw be taken to make cellulosic ethanol. How bad a farming practice is that.

    It would take 50 years to recover from artificial practices promoted by city slickers. The cows are fine on the banks. It is the people that have shped their view of farms from picture books.

    Cities are bad for humanity and the planet. The buildings are a hazard, the schools are war zones and the minds become distorted and stale.
    City slum dwellers do not know how to work and be caretakers of the land. Laziness is their sin.. shuffling papers for insurance and government forms is not character building. Cube farms destroy the human spirit. As a psychologist, it is ironic how we see a medication epidemic in the cities. Do you believe if a city is such a bad human habitat that drug uses is required, they would have a clue regarding agriculture?

    I realize farmers and ranchers work very hard. Maybe when they take their annual 3 weeks vacation/holiday, they should visit the city and tell the slum rats how to clean up their mess and improve their areas.
    From what i observe, the city people are just now discovering conservation principles we have used for 200 years.

  25. eumong June 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    I think Ian has made some very good points.

    The only real need for riparian fencing is on farms that are over-grazed. On well managed farms (ie. where animals have plenty to eat), the livestock would cause minimal damage to the riparian zone and probably provide benefits.

    Fences also are a barrier to wildlife, very expensive, a waste of resources and ugly.

    I wonder how many Kangaroos have hung by their legs till they die thanks to government funded river barriers.

  26. janama June 28, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    I think eumong has hit the nail on the head. When farms and livestock are well managed environmental problems are reduced significantly.

    Q. So what do we do about those farmers that don’t manage their land and livestock properly?
    A. Well we try to apply rules and regulations and farmers bitch and scream.

    So who is responsible for the bad farmers? The city folk?

  27. janama June 28, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    “I wonder how many Kangaroos have hung by their legs till they die thanks to government funded river barriers”

    that’s just emotional claptrap. You know as well as I do that Roos are very good at getting through fences – that’s why they can’t be fenced!

  28. Craig Goodrich June 29, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    Being a Yank (sorry!) I have no dog in this fight, but I have to comment that

    a) whatever may be the problems of some of your rivers, at least nobody so far has mentioned the kind of horrific waste runoff we have here into some rivers near feedlots;

    b) I vividly remember (in my alas! lost youth) boating up the lower reaches of the Rideau system (near Kingston, Ontario, in some of God’s most beautiful country) watching charts consistently marked “stumps, deadheads, and foul” and hoping I wouldn’t mash the prop on such stuff. I hope you Aussies are notifying the authorities of menaces to navigation — not, of course, that they’d pay any attention…

    c) the regulations you decry are all based on the idea that some bureaucrat and his politician friends know better how to most efficiently and sustainably exploit your land, and care more about it, than you do. If you believe that, come to New Jersey and I’ll sell you some Florida swampland…

    We’ve all got the same major problem, friends…

  29. Ian Mott June 29, 2009 at 10:15 pm #

    I have been down on the farm for a few days so sorry so late thanking Henry for the wrap. I like the “all hat and no cattle cowboys” line, we have a lot of them here too.

    Janama, you have already demonstrated that you are hardly qualified to decide what a “well managed” farm is. We have just had a conversation about one of the things (riparian exclusion) that you regard as one of the key indicators of a “well managed” farm and you still have not given us anything more than anecdotes and prejudice.

    Whats more, there are parts of my farm that I would have no problem in “overgrazing” despite the fact that you and many others regard this as equivalent to original sin. During our main fire season a strategic heavy grazing is one of the most “sustainable” things a farmer can do. It may not only save the life of his herd, his family and his neighbours but it may save a hell of a lot of wildlife as well.

    Most farmers understand that a dry season rarely ends with a deluge. Rather, they usually involve a few smaller rainfall events that are sufficient to get grasses growing again so that groundcover is partially restored by the time heavy rains come. And this partial cover is able to prevent the kind of erosion events that most greens seem to think take place on every farm in every wet season.

    Indeed, the greens seem to only ever view and make comment on farms in the middle of a dry season when their emotional need to observe things that they can lament as “degradation” is best served. They don’t seem to hang around much when the grass is as high as the saddle and the ecological apocalypse has gone on a Prozac holiday.

    Janama, your answer, above, highlights the problem. You said, “A. Well we try to apply rules and regulations and farmers bitch and scream.” But in fact your “we” (as in people other than farmers) try to impose regulations that farmers know to be stupid, illconceived, ignorant, costly, counterproductive and unfair, and, yes, they bitch and scream. That is what most people do when confronted by arrogance and indifference. But somehow the greens and the boofocrats would have everyone else believe that it is actually the victims that are the problem.

    Thanks for the “stumps, deadheads and foul” Craig, it says it all really. And yes, it is a universal problem. It is like straight out of Ayn Rand where the only people who were allowed to shape policy in a particular field were people who had no interest in it and knew nothing about it.

  30. janama June 30, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Ian said:

    We have just had a conversation about one of the things (riparian exclusion) that you regard as one of the key indicators of a “well managed” farm and you still have not given us anything more than anecdotes and prejudice.

    But in fact your “we” (as in people other than farmers) try to impose regulations that farmers know to be stupid, illconceived, ignorant, costly, counterproductive and unfair, and, yes, they bitch and scream.

    so how come the article that you posted, and abused, on riparian management supports exactly what I have been saying and a “FARMER” established landcare group decided to do the following:

    ‘The project
    In 1992 John and some of his neighbours formed the Chifley Dam
    Backwaters Landcare Group and implemented a number of rehabilitation
    projects on their properties. However there was still work to be done.
    With assistance from Bathurst Regional Council the Owens were
    successfully funded by the CW CMA to improve water quality on the
    property and control livestock in these areas.
    Over 9.5 kilometres of riparian fencing was erected, excluding stock from
    5.7 kilometres of gullies. An alternative water system for stock composed
    of solar pumps, header tanks and concrete troughs was installed in
    adjacent paddocks.
    With stock restricted, revegetation could be conducted on the eroded
    sites. Over 8,600 native trees and shrubs were planted, creating a
    significant corridor down to the dam foreshores. Plants were watered
    by hand, giving them a good head start and boosting the survival rate
    through dry conditions.
    In total 40 hectares of riparian corridor have been managed for stock
    access, erosion and sediment control, providing positive outcomes for
    biodiversity on the land and in the aquatic environment.

    We are very happy with the works… we have been
    fortunate to use government funds to achieve so much and
    improve water quality. During a storm the fenced gully has
    nearly clean water running out the bottom of it. You need
    to see it to believe it!’ John Owens

    I only wish that the “farmers” in my area had similar foresight and would form a landcare group to fix the eroded silted up rivers I’ve been referring to.

  31. Ian Mott June 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Really Janama. And what was the cost of this little exercise? Lets see now, 9.5km of fence at $8/metre is $75,000 and the permanent loss of 40 hectares at $2000/ha is $80,000. Add the tree planting at $4000/ha for another $160,000 and all the pumps, pipes and watering points cost??? Not much change out of $400,000 in current dollars is my guess.

    It is nothing but a propaganda stunt, fully paid for by government. If the farmer had to borrow the $400,000 to carry out those works he would have annual repayments of $40,000 which would come right off his bottom line. In fact, it would actually cut right into his own wages. And once his bank got a look at his revised profit figure they may well call in his other loans or make him renegotiate them at a higher interest rate that matches his new risk profile.

    And for what? It obviously has not dawned on you yet but that 40ha of riparian vegetation will ensure that his creeks dry up faster each dry season. The longer period of no-flow will increase algal blooms in the water holes and seriously impair the health and viability of aquatic species in the creek.

    Furthermore, with 40ha of riparian zone the whole farm would only be between 200 and 1000 hectares, that is, 4% to 20% riparian. In much of the high rainfall NSW North Coast we have riparian zones that occupy more than 20% of the entire property. So you are essentially asking local farmers to spend a $hit load of money so they can pay an environmental tax of 20% of their land value on top of the 30% income tax and 10% GST that everyone else pays.

    The reality is that more silt will run off a kilometre of unpaved council road than will flow off more than 100 hectares of pasture. And if you really want to know where all the silt comes from in the northern rivers you should take a look at all the gravel access roads to all those new age property developers who perch their stately pleasure domes on the highest ridge they can find.

    The Byron Shire cattle herd, for example, has diminished by more than 15,000 animals (30%)since the 1950’s while the area of forested land, including Camphor, has increased to 40% of the shire from a minimum extent of about 10% of the shire. Over this period the length of private and public unpaved roadway has exploded while there has been only minimal extra bitumen. There has been no extra bitumen in Main Arm since 1970.

    Yet, here you are, Janama, with your head still full of urban myths and prejudices about stock related sediment loads after more than 30 years in residence. The problem is clearly not just related to what actually goes into your head but, also, what your head actually does with it once it is in there.

  32. janama June 30, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    well – if you’d read the article you posted you would have noticed that ‘Nanena’ is one of three properties run by the Owens family which total 2,460 hectares. 40 hectares is 1.63% of the property. Hardly something to compare to your prickle farm plus it’s designed for the western districts, in this case south of Bathurst, not your sub tropical climate which is another story all together.

    It was designed to improve the water quality of the Chiffley Dam which is a water source for Bathurst, the farmers being one of the beneficiaries of the scheme.

    The reality is that more silt will run off a kilometre of unpaved council road than will flow off more than 100 hectares of pasture.

    in your neck of the woods probably so, but not out west where its doesn’t rain much and every drop is precious, hence an improvement such as this will hold the water in the ground instead of it running out to sea immediately as it does at your place.

  33. Ian Mott June 30, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Not so fast, Janama, it seems all the work was done on the one property, so how big was it? And what percentage of that property was riparian. Or are you seriously suggesting that the other two properties had no riparian zones.

    And which government agency has a lazy $400,000 for every farmer?
    Or which bank will sit by and let their borrowers sink $400 large into a project that will deliver zero monetary return to the borrower.

    Get this into your head mate. It is just expensive, symbolic, green window dressing designed to make the CMA look like it is achieving something. It is nothing but imaginary, “virtual” ecology providing warm and fuzzies for deluded urban punters. Most farmers wouldn’t touch this crap with a barge pole, for very good reasons.

  34. janama June 30, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    Well they did state they fronted the Chiffley Dam – so here is the Chiffley Dam

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1//chiffley.jpg

    I reckon I can figure where they are. The gullies with the trees and the straight line paddocks up to them I assume is the property in question. On a street map it’s one major block title. Bottom right is probably indicative of what the gullies were like before. You can hardly say the farmer has lost precious grazing land because of it.

    Oh – today a cattleman told me it costs around $3 – $4/m for fencing today, well that’s what it cost him a couple of months ago. Oh course it’s cheaper if you have a team of landcarers reducing the labour cost.

  35. janama June 30, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    Here is the property close up.

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1//chiffley1.jpg

    Here is an adjacent property without the work.

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1//chiffley2.jpg

    It’s pretty clear to me the more sustainable property.

    I had a loverly cup of tea with an old farmer who was about to leave her farm and sell it to an MIS for trees as that was all it was capable of supporting. She said they’d lived off it for generations and never returned anything except tossing out Nauruan superphosphate. It’s a problem throughout this country.

    Now you say it’s going to cost $XXX and apart from your exageration you are right, it’s expensive and more than any farmer can afford.

    I believe it’s in this country’s interest to improve our land whatever it costs and we are talking billions if not trillions. I don’t expect the farmer to pay for it but I do expect our farmers to be assisted to do what these farmers did for the land.

  36. Ian Mott July 1, 2009 at 10:43 am #

    A Dairy farmer friend of mine on the Sunshine Coast recently paid $8/metre to a fencing contractor. Did your mate fully cost his own labour?

    And the photos still don’t tell us the area of the property, or even if the recent works were all included. And the problem with riparian revegetation is the fact that it would not matter how much forest one had on the rest of the property, the goons would still want all of your riparian zone as well.

    All these people getting wrapped up in Landcare crap are at the stage our farm was in 1955. We were planting wind breaks in 1959 from seedlings we grew from collected local seed because the only seedlings you could buy were Pine. What these people don’t understand, yet, is the fact that any seedling that grows anywhere else on the property from seeds of a planted tree is classed as native forest and is untouchable.

    They think they are giving just an inch but there is absolutely no doubt that a mile will eventually be taken. And the unfortunate but essential lesson for every landowner is to not give a single millimetre until the whole mile is guaranteed secure. They should not allow a single tree to grow, anywhere on their property, until they can be absolutely certain that they can cut it down later.

    And it follows that the very highest risk trees of all are the ones they want you to grow most. Trees that create corridors, that connect existing clumps, trees in riparian zones, rare trees, food trees for threatened species, trees that form hollows, are all at the very top of the MUST NOT DO LIST. They were all once a very admirable addition to the landscape but now they are a very serious threat to the survival of the farming entity.

    And the key to that certainty is absolute trust in the legal framework and the integrity of both the policy processes and the inputs to them. And in this respect a sane farmer could only respond with the words, “yeah, right, and pigs might fly”.

  37. spangled drongo July 2, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    You out there, Pikey? A couple of your mates farms just arrived this morning. I’d recognise that mallee soil anywhere. Travelling well too. Must be up here for the winter carnival. Might do alright if they dont end up in the Coral Sea before Saturday.
    Hopefully they’ll at least fertilise the plankton. Regards, sd.

  38. wjp July 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    So I picked up the phone and rang a fencing contactor, “How much per metre for a 4 strand bard wire fence?”
    Answer, “Ahhh, $10 to $12 per metre.”
    My quick calculation for materials only, comes to $2.50 per metre. Hmmmm.

  39. janama July 2, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    well there you go – last night at the club I checked with my guy as to whether he’d included his labour and he said he did and agreed for $4 he’d build any fence I wanted. I suppose it depends on the district.

    We also discussed cattle access to creeks and rivers and he suggested I go down to the Golf club and check the river there – one side is the golf club – fenced – the other side is accessed by cattle.

    a picture says a thousand words.

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1/Stuff/river2.jpg

  40. WJP July 2, 2009 at 4:23 pm #

    Checked out your picture Janama, there must have been some giant cows rolling around down there, unless of course 30 foot of water ripped through!
    And the fence? Is that what you get for $4/m?

  41. janama July 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    Oh come on mate – we’ve just had a flood – notice how the right side bank has held together yet the side accessed by the cattle for drinking is eroded back to bare sand.

  42. janama July 2, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    By the way – there used to be large deep swimming holes full of fish associated with this river, they’ve since been silted up by the erosion.

  43. Ian Mott July 2, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    As I thought, Janama, the problem is what your head is doing with the information once it is in there. Note that the left side is a great deal lower than the right side. And also note from the leaning of the trees that the picture is looking downstream over a low left turning bend. It is also obvious that there is a drop to a lower level in the creek bed at the start of the bend behind that low left bank.

    So the flood flow will go right over that left side and speed up as it drops into the lower level behind it and this will reduce the volume flowing past the right side. Scouring of the right side can be seen to begin at the start of the bend in the background but there is little scouring in the right foreground because it is in a sheltered part of the curve.

    Mate, this is the standard landform on the inside of a meander. The river is actually slowly cutting into the right side, as evidenced by the steep bank, while depositing sediment on the left hand side. If you look closely at the waterline you can see fresh deposition on that left side.

    You should also note that the trees are much thinner on that left side. We can assume that cattle did not eat the previous trees that were there so we can only conclude, as also evidenced by the photo, that they can only grow to a certain size before they become too rigid to survive regular flooding. If this so-called damage was of recent origin due to cattle grazing there should be evidence of large trees with exposed roots that testify to a change in conditions. But they are not there and this indicates that this feature has been there for a long time.

    The absence of grass cover on that side is due to the regular movement of that material. That is why geographers refer to it as part of the “active zone”. It has larger material that only moves a little with a fairly frequently renewed volume of finer material on which grass and weeds will grow during the longer intervals between floods.

    Janama, you have provided us with a very good example of how ideology can distort what one can see with one’s own eyes. So I must return to my theme. A picture, when viewed by the illinformed, and shaped by prejudice, can tell a thousand lies.

    I have no doubt at all that you might have observed this kind of feature all along the river from Tabulam to Casino. Meander is what rivers do and meandering rivers produce these features all over the planet and have done so for millions of years. The only way to stop them is to stop the earth from spinning.

  44. Henry chance July 2, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    Oh come on mate – we’ve just had a flood – notice how the right side bank has held together yet the side accessed by the cattle for drinking is eroded back to bare sand.

    Comment from: janama July 2nd, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    In clinical psychology we use a technique called “discovery of the presenting problem”
    It looks to me the erosion you are the most fearfull of is conducted by the movement of water. I started yacht racing in the 70’s and am familiar with currents. I love hiking in the mountains and see massive and huge rocks burnished to a smooth surface by water. The water carries sand which is the abrasive. Yes there was soil erosion before people and aninals visited a water way.
    Ideology is hindering your observations and seeking a source of the problem. Now further back in the food chain, the bovine drinks water as does Mr. Grass. The cow deposits biomass away from the waterway which is integrated with the soil and becomes the rich topsoil. Now work the math. Lets for example say the cow drinks 10 kilo of water, eats 10 kilo of grass which is mostly water coming from its root system. This cow manoo is deposited evenly from the water way all the way to the fence farthest from the water way. So we can see the cow actually moves dirt away from the stream but you are limited to seeing only the dirt disturbed by the cow’s hooves near the water.
    Now my summary which threatens your ideology is that dirt was originally manoo, poo and decayed vegetation deposited away from thw waterway and with water erosion, land levels and the topsoil washes to some extent toward the stream. This is part of the dilema for what Americans call the “City slicker” They only see parts of the picture and enthusiastically misinterpret what they can see from the road way. Actual erosion is many times more horrific in the cities but for the most part it is contained in storm sewer systems and you do not see it.

  45. janama July 3, 2009 at 7:40 am #

    sure Ian – it’s the flow of the river that has caused this erosion – mate I have this bridge for sale!

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1/Stuff/river3.jpg

  46. Ian Mott July 3, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    No, Janama. The problem is entirely related to you capacity to comprehend what you see.

    Go back to your first picture again at http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1/Stuff/river2.jpg
    and note that the fence is on the high bank on the right side of the picture. Note also how shallow the water is in the creek in mid-picture. The cattle clearly have access to the right side of the stream for the 99% of the year when there is no flood. So if the so-called damage on the left side is due to grazing then why is it not replicated on the other side of the creek?

    Your theory, no its not a theory, it is a bent perception, rests on the assumption that the creek itself is a barrier to stock. This is clearly not the case because there would be no need for a fence on top of the right bank if it was. So lets take this nice and slowly.

    Do you accept that it is the fence that forms the barrier to cattle, not the creek?
    And if the creek is not the barrier then why aren’t conditions the same on both sides?

    As conditions are not the same then some other variable must be at play. And the overwhelmingly dominant “other variables” are landform, stream shape and flood flow. All of them are entirely natural elements of riparian geography.

    Janama, you, and I suspect a huge number of illinformed daytrippers, need to take a long hard look at yourself and the way you have convinced yourself of the absolute certainty of something that is not there. This combination of ignorance, prejudice and certainty is really quite frightening. The fact that you are intelligent enough to critically examine other topics on this blog but are still capable of such “grande mall” misperception tells me we have a very, very serious problem. And for making me aware of the true nature and extent of this problem I am compelled to thank you.

  47. janama July 3, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    Do you accept that it is the fence that forms the barrier to cattle, not the creek?
    And if the creek is not the barrier then why aren’t conditions the same on both sides?

    exactly – one side is damaged by daily access for drinking – the other side is only accessed for grazing when there is feed there and because there has been a flood access has been restricted, hence the difference.

    Ian – I suspect you and I are at odds on this because you are putting forth a policy based on correct farming practices whereas I’m talking about actual reality.

    The paddock in question has been overgrazed and it’s apparent all the way along the river bank. A herd of cattle walking around in their shit. Sure, under ideal conditions the cattle would naturally have a couple of entry points to the river where they would regularly access the river, but, because of the overgrazing and holding excess cattle in one paddock for an extended period the river banks are now damaged and eroded. (I’m sure if you came and observed them you would agree)

    Which brings us back to my original question earlier on in this thread – who supervises the farmer and their farming practices? You appear to resent any effort to supervise farming practices yet I don’t know any profession that is not restricted by a set of practical/impractical regulations.

    If farmers, like the one in question, continue to overgraze and damage river banks what can one do about it other than introduce regulations?

  48. Ian Mott July 3, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    That is a breathtaking bit of casuistry on your part, Janama. The golf course is clearly on the right side of the creek so the cattle on the left side have free access to the right bank all the way up to the fence. Furthermore, floods in the NSW North Coast rarely last more than a week so your claim that it was flood waters that acted as a barrier to grazing for long enough to produce the difference in apparent ground cover is extraordinary, if not moronic.

    Your claim that the left side is damaged by repeated traffic as cattle go there to drink is almost plausible but for the fact that it would need to be the only access point for the whole farm to produce that sort of result on an undisturbed site. And even then it would need to be a very big herd indeed. You will not be allowed to toss in this kind of fatuous crap unchallenged, Janama.

    Before this conversation goes any further you have an obligation to advise us;
    1 how big is the property?
    2 how long is the creek bank?
    3 how many access points are there? and
    4 how many f@#$&g cattle are on the property.

    So we can estimate how many cattle are likely to actually spend any time in this location on any given day.

    I also note that you have conspicuously avoided comment on any of the other factors that I have pointed out. You have failed to recognise very important signals being sent to us by that landscape. Instead, you grasp at your last straw and try to morph it into anything else that might fit your prejudices. It is a really boorish display that is trashing your credibility.

    I do not oppose regulation per se. I wasted more than 15 years consulting on numerous regulatory measures. My submissions have repeatedly been shown to have been the most thorough, indepth and widely scoped. But when two Director Generals in two states refused to expose their own analysis to proper scrutiny, let alone submit to proper regulatory impact assessment, it became apparent that I had been dealing in good faith with people who were nothing more than venal scum on the make. And you seriously expect farmers to accept “regulations” devised by such ignorati? And based on such tenuous, illinformed crap as you have exhibited here?

  49. WJP July 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

    Janama: I hereby refer you to no less an authority than Wiki:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meander

    Ya get deposition on any inside edge and erosion on the outside edge of a watercourse. How many thousand years do you think it took for the creek to wear down to its current level?
    Sheeesh! Again!

    And look down the creek where there’s a pile up of debris, any bets if that’s not cleared, that an island might form or it might cut into the outside embankment and lo! it is no longer the creek you gazed upon in your “yoof”!

  50. janama July 3, 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    Ian – here’s the same river approx 1km further upstream where it’s running straight, no corners or meandering involved. It had the same flood go by.

    River without cattle access.

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1/Stuff/river4.jpg

    River with cattle access.

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1/Stuff/river5.jpg

  51. janama July 3, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

    and by the way – how come an ex dairy farmer from Main Arm who became an accountant thinks he knows more about cattle and rivers than anyone else?

    http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/resmgmt/publist/500series/590300-14.pdf

    http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=7201

    http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/manure/cattle/developosws.pdf

    and they are just the first results from a Google search for “cattle access to creeks and streams”

    no aussie greenies to have a go at there.

  52. Ian Mott July 3, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    So where did I say I knew more about cattle than anyone else, Janama?
    Surely you wouldn’t be trying to weasel out of a tight spot of your own making?
    And your two pickies are, once again, pure anecdotal stuff.

    What you were asked to do was advise us;

    1 how big is the property?
    2 how long is the creek bank?
    3 how many access points are there? and
    4 how many cattle are on the property.

    So we can estimate how many cattle are likely to actually spend any time in this location on any given day. You first claimed that the condition on the left bank of the photo was due to grazing pressure but when it was pointed out that cattle can obviously graze on both sides you tried to claim that it was all just trampling from frequent visits by stock for drinking.

    So we need the four items above to test the veracity of your latest claim.

    So forget the wide shot that you claim is ungrazed and the close up shot that you claim is grazed. We want the full picture with supporting information.

    And gee wiz, you googled up a whole lot more partial and fragmentary crap like the CMA web site. British Columbia riparian prescriptions, indeed. They know the entire provincial cattle herd by name. And have you ever seen what a f@#$%&g moose will do to a wetland or riparian zone?

    Just give us the numbers that you were asked for above so we can work out exactly how many (few) animals actually walk over the site you claim has been trampled to death.

  53. janama July 3, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

    Ian – your straw man about numbers doesn’t cut it – I’ve shown you the pics, you’ve seen the damage, I’ve linked to the various organisations that agree with me regarding cattle access to rivers and creeks.

    Now can you direct me to the organisations and research that agrees with you please?

  54. Ian Mott July 4, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    No Janama. You made a claim about damage from cattle hooves as part of your interpretation of a photo supplied by yourself. It is no straw man. You are obviously unwilling to supply the information that will clearly demonstrate that you have been talking through your ass.

    Busted, matey. You picked out a photo that you thought was the “killer app” but all you did was prove to us all how little you understand about basic geography and how rudimentary your landscape interpretation skills are.

    So you try to divert attention as far away as possible from your local river, hence the links to British Columbia. Pathetic.

    You ponce about the country side blaming livestock for every observed piece of naturally exposed river gravel. Its actually worse than pathetic, it is sicko stuff.

  55. janama July 4, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    Yes – and I showed the damge that they do, I didn’t divert away from the local river – I showed you more of it demonstrating the difference between the river with cattle access and without. Chalk and Cheese.

    If you put up your example of how cattle DON’T effect the river banks and I might listen but it appears that people the world over agree that cattle should NOT be allowed to access rivers and streams because they damage the banks, they increase e-coli, they silt up the water and generally make it uninhabitable for the various species that depend on it.

  56. Ian Mott July 4, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    No. You showed a photo of naturally caused exposed river aggregate. You first claimed it was caused by livestock grazing and ignored the detailed information that myself and others provided to you on the action of meandering stream flows. You then tried to claim that it was caused by stock trampling as they went for water, a much bigger ask for an area of that size, but then failed to substantiate your case.

    And you now maintain your reluctance to substantiate your case with a blatant “leaving of the field” and an appeal to conformity. It is no surprise to anyone that the same sort of people with the same sort of agenda are promoting the same sort of farmer/livestock demonisation all over the world.

    Readers will note how you have completely failed to rebut any of the points I made in the article. Even your anecdotal examples didn’t hold up under close scrutiny.

    So for the record;

    Actual livestock damage to river banks are usually historical modifications that, once in place, will actually reduce on-going modification unless other actions on farm increase the volume, pace or frequency of stock traffic.

    Excluding stock from riparian zones in fire prone areas is a proven recipe for far greater degradation and poses a serious risk to wildlife, livestock, humans and infrastructure.

    Off-stream watering points are justified on both economic and ecological grounds but they are best used as part of a properly distributed system of in-stream and off-stream sources. They reduce both the volume of traffic in riparian zones and the duration of time spent in those zones.

    Excluding stock from riparian zones reduces the total area of contributive land in a way that increases the cost burden on remaining land and spreads overheads over a smaller land base in a way that directly impairs farm viability.

    The resulting dense regeneration of trees in stock exclusion zones will substantially reduce stream flows between flood events. Research from South Africa indicates up to 40% loss of volume which has far greater implications for dependent aquatic species and other wildlife.

    Reduced stream flows play a far greater role in extreme algal blooms than stock wastes in grazed landscapes.

    Ironically, the cleared and semi-cleared landscapes that have been modified for livestock farming have actually produced increased run-off into riparian zones and this increased run-off plays an important part in reducing the impact of the small proportion of their wastes that find their way into the creeks.

    But I must thank you, Janama, for so aptly demonstrating the full extent of public ignorance and misperception on this issue.

  57. janama July 4, 2009 at 4:45 pm #

    I leave it for the readers to judge. Take the pictures I posted where they adequately demonstrate the damage cattle inflict on river banks and the accompaning articles from aussie research and from around the world that highlight the problems associated with cattle interaction with river systems

    or

    take the word of Ian Mott, ex dairy farmer/accountant/employment agent from Main Arm/Brisbane, who runs a prickle farm on the weekends.

  58. Ian Mott July 4, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Gosh, Janama, when all else fails, try an appeal to credentialism, eh?

    The problem for you is that a good many readers do actually have a reasonable grasp of riverine geography. Perhaps your lack of it is a failing of the NZ education system, or maybe it is just your own failing. Readers can certainly contrast the simplistic interpretation you put on your own photo with the detailed, specific and verifiable interpretation provided by myself.

    They can also observe the way you changed your position when you were shown to be wrong. First it was grazing pressure but then you retreated to a claim of direct hoof damage on a scale that would require regular traffic by a few hundred cattle at this single point along more than a kilometre of easily accessible river bank.

    But you never substantiated your claim because even you could figure out that such an easily accessed river bank was no cause for cattle to concentrate on only one access point, as your theory demanded. You and your so-called experts forget that cattle will only be at a density of 1 animal/hectare. And that means that a square kilometre of land will only have 100 head. And if those 100 head have access to one kilometre of creek bank then, on the balance of probability only 5 animals will front up to each 50 metres of creek bank for a drink.

    You showed us a photo of more than 100 metres of creek bank and expect us to believe that the hooves of 10 calm, unhurried animals made that much difference.

    It was Aldous Huxley who said,

    “to believe some things one must be an intellectual, ordinary men would never be so silly”.

    Ordinary men and women have no trouble seeing right through your specious arguments, Janama. They don’t need google to find them a download of common sense.

  59. janama July 5, 2009 at 6:00 am #

    Ian – it is clear that the left hand side of the river in the first photo is covered with cattle hoof imprints. That is because the associated paddock had around 50 head of cattle in it. I went to photograph them but the farmer had moved them on to another paddock, regardless the damage done to the river bank was clearly due to cattle.

    I also went 1km further upstream to show you a section of the same river where cattle didn’t access the creek, on either side of the bank.

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1/Stuff/river4.jpg

    yet this section of river was impacted by the same flood. Note how the banks are still holding together and there is NO indication of erosion. Even the trees have remained rooted in the ground.

    whereas where cattle did have access to the river

    http://users.tpg.com.au/johnsay1/Stuff/river5.jpg

    the bank was badly damaged and eroded and the trees had been either washed away or had been removed.

    I also pointed out that, on a grander scale, all rivers benefit by having NO cattle access

    http://tinyurl.com/ksrbmq

    you have replied to none of the latter points and just reverted to your typical abuse.

    Now – I admit that I am not a farmer but then again neither are you. The difference is I live near to the river I photographed and reside in the country where on a daily basis I observe the actions of cattle on the environment. You on the other hand live in the the city and only spend the occasional weekend in an area overgrown with weeds that doesn’t run cattle any more.

  60. Ian Mott July 6, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    So why have you not given us the google earth co-ords for the farm in the first photo, Janama? Why are you reluctant to show us the whole story? You finally tell us that you thought the herd was 50 head and you want us to believe that they were all down at the creek at the same time. Funny, I went back to the picture and couldn’t find any hoof prints.

    Lets face it, Janama, you are doing a standard shonk job. You take photos in the immediate aftermath of a one in twenty year flood. That flood has washed away a lot of the sediment that has built up over many years of smaller floods. As such larger events have done for millions of years.

    So how about some google co-ords?

  61. paul nichols July 7, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    You’re on a looser here Ian. Please provide the scienitifc evidence that cattle do not damage riparian zones, pollute rivers and impact upon water qulity. I am am a farmer and have a large riparian frontage. It hasn’t been grazed for nearly a decade and is one of the best riparian zones in the distict. The fishing has improved, so has the birdlife.

    Perhaps you should start a thread about something a little more credible, such as the existence or otherwise of fairies at the bottom of the garden

  62. Ian Mott July 8, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    Another 24 hours and no sign of google coordinates for Janama’s site. Can’t be too hard.

    Gee wiz, Paul, part of my riparian zone hasn’t been grazed since 1942 but when the pools in that part turn bright yellow/brown after rain it has nothing to do with what the stock have been doing elsewhere. It has everything to do with the run off of poor quality road base from the unpaved council road which now discharges directly into the creek.

    I did not claim that cattle did zero harm to riparian zones. What I clearly said was that most modification by livestock is in the first decade of them being introduced. So when people like Janama go around playing “spot the cattle damage” they are usually looking at an historical modification which has been maintained by subsequent generations.

    And as for your fenced riparian zones, perhaps you could tell us what area of land is involved and what area your farm is. And then you could also tell us how much native forest you have so we can work out the total ecological contribution you actually make.

    What I usually find is that the folks who big note their riparian contributions are the ones with riparian zones comprising less than 5% of their property and hardly a stick anywhere else on the place. They then have the gall to suggest that folks with 30% to 70% forest cover should also be fencing off riparian zones that account for another 25% of their farm.

    So how about some hard numbers, Paul?

  63. Ian Mott July 10, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    Still no word from Janama on the google earth coords. So why not just tell us which golf course is adjacent to the photo so we can look it up for ourselves? Oh Jannaaaammmaaa?

  64. John January 27, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Ian, You are a pratt. I own 500 acres with one of the most beautiful creek lines in the country. Some dickhead has just put his cattle on it and we are at a point where the rains are over and the creeks lowering and algaeing up. I followed the creek for ks before discovering this and the whole way up stream and on there was the presence of Algae and silt but when I came upon where the cattle were drinking, the ground was trampled, smelled like shit and contaminated the water with an un-godly stentch that prevented me from continuing my journey. I couldn’t use that water. I wouldn’t get into that water. The native animals wouldn’t appreciate that business. You’d have to see this. I’m in an area where there hasn’t been alot of human settlement and is compared with other areas very little damage done by humans…and therefore the little impact we do out there stands out like dogs balls. If your creeks already so so you wont see much impact but if you are fortunate enough to be exposed to a creek in pristine condition like myself, the defilement is repugnant.
    In conclusion, you are a douche

  65. Andrew Knop January 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    Lets forget for one moments what we think & take a look at what Thomas Mitchell impartially OBSERVED and reported on his last expedition. Enjoy!

    Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia In Search of a Route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria (1848) by Lt. Col. Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell Kt. D.C.L. (1792-1855)
    Surveyor-General of New South Wales

    20th December, Goobang Creek Alectown NSW: ‘Reaching a hill laid down on my former survey, and from which I recognised Mount Laidley, I returned directly to the camp. We had encamped near those very springs mentioned as seen on my former journey, but instead of being limpid and surrounded by verdant grass, as they had been then, they were now trodden by cattle into muddy holes, where the poor natives had been endeavouring to protect a small portion from the cattle’s feet, and keep it pure, by laying over it trees they had cut down for the purpose. The change produced in the aspect of this formerly happy secluded valley, by the intrusion of cattle and the white man, was by no means favourable, and I could easily conceive how I, had I been an aboriginal native, should have felt and regretted that change.’

    Mitchell proceeds down the river & finds to hard to find sufficent, unfouled, water holes.

    4th January, Lower Bogan River: ‘We had crossed the neutral ground between the savage and the squatter. The advanced posts of an army are not better kept, and humiliating proofs that the white man had given way, were visible in the remains of dairies burnt down, stockyards in ruins, untrodden roads. We hoped to find within the territory of the native, ponds of clear water, unsoiled by cattle, and a surface on which we might track our own stray animals, without their being confused by the traces of others.’

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