Bumpy year for the State's pastoralists

Bumpy year for the State's pastoralists


Agribusiness
KIMBERLEY pastoralist Jim Motter, pictured with his wife Joy, said there was positive news for the pastoral industry going into 2011, despite the difficult times some cattle producers had endured this year.

KIMBERLEY pastoralist Jim Motter, pictured with his wife Joy, said there was positive news for the pastoral industry going into 2011, despite the difficult times some cattle producers had endured this year.

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WA pastoralists have had a bumpy ride this year, adjusting to the live cattle weight restrictions imposed by Indonesia and partnered with one of the worst droughts on record.

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WA pastoralists have had a bumpy ride this year, adjusting to the live cattle weight restrictions imposed by Indonesia and partnered with one of the worst droughts on record.

Australia's biggest live cattle importer is seeking to become a self-sufficient cattle producer by 2014 and has imposed 350kg weight limits on live cattle entering the country.

This has forced many pastoralists to send stock south and over east, with the lack of rain hampering any possibility of keeping their over 350kg stock.

But Wellard Rural Exports managing director Steve Meerwald believed Indonesia's live cattle weight restrictions have presented a range of other export opportunities for Australian beef producers.

Mr Meerwald said Indonesia will eventually just be one of many markets in South East Asia and opportunities will continue to grow for producers in northern Australia.

It hasn't been all bad news for northern cattle producers though, as millions of dollars were pumped into the pastoral region to curb the wild camel numbers, aid in diversification and invest in the Ord-East Kimberley Expansion Project.

Many pastoralists have been battling to keep wild horses and camels off their properties as the situation escalated throughout this year.

Feral camels reached unmanageable numbers earlier this year, with pastoralists calling for a long term solution.

The State Government responded with the Feral Camel Management Project which will provide $19 million over four years to assist with the problem.

But station owners said unless a long-term solution was found, the camel numbers would continue to rise and the situation would get out of hand.

Wild horse numbers have also skyrocketed, with reports suggesting numbers had reached up to 9000 around Lake Gregory, causing concern for pastoralists in the area.

The Department of Regional Development and Lands (RDL) said the number of feral horses in the region were causing significant environmental damage and had to be removed.

Options included aerial culling, trucking the horses to Margaret River and trucking the horses to an Eastern States abattoir for human consumption.

Animal activists desperately tried to stop the removal of the horses under the grounds that it was inhumane but the latest report confirmed a muster will take place next year to control the thousands of horses.

Many will be retained in the Kimberley to be trained by the indigenous community and those which aren't suitable for training, due to age, injury or in-breeding, will be transported to abattoirs to be humanely destroyed.

Pastoralists welcomed a new $2.25 million project that will give them greater flexibility to diversify.

The government announced this month it will invest $2.25 million in Royalties for Regions funding to support the Rangelands Reform Program, which is designed to give pastoralists more flexibility and freedom in how they can earn a living.

Currently, pastoralists are restricted to running stock but this program will encourage pastoralists to consider tourism, conservation, horticulture, abattoirs or livestock feed-on opportunities.

The reform program will also include the creation of a 'one-stop-shop' to reduce red tape and streamline the process for approving pastoral lease diversification.

It will build on the work of the Southern Rangelands and Pastoral Diversification Reviews instigated last year by Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman.

In conjunction with other government agencies and the Pastoral Lands Board, the RDL will begin work in 2011 towards drafting changes to the Lands Administration Act 1997 to allow leaseholders increased capacity to diversify operations.

"A number of recommendations came from those reviews, including broader reforms and potential legislative changes to allow for a greater level of flexibility throughout the rangeland areas," Mr Redman said.

"This will allow a greater level of flexibility for industry to be able to do things on pastoral leases that they haven't normally been able to do."

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) came under fire this year after numerous reports found it had mismanaged its pastoral leases.

In 1999, the DEC purchased about six billion hectares with the aim of expanding conservation and regenerating some of the more degraded properties.

But an inquiry found the DEC responsible for the deaths of hundreds of animals on its pastoral leases.

The inquiry, conducted by the economics and industry standing committee, began five months ago after numerous complaints from pastoralists about DEC's lack of management and communication on their pastoral leases.

Chairman Mike Nahan also said there were various reports by the media about the inhumane treatment of animals of the properties.

Earlier this year, another step was taken to increase production in the agricultural region as part of the Ord-East Kimberley Expansion Project.

Work commenced in May to build 22 new agricultural lots, which will increase the Ord irrigation area from 14,000 hectares to 22,000ha.

The first phase of works on the Weaber Plains area involved construction of 19km of irrigation channel, 14km road extension and irrigation control structures.

The project is being funded by the State Government through the Royalties for Regions program and is being complemented by a $195m East Kimberley Development Package of community infrastructure and services works funded by the Federal Government.

RDL Minister Brendon Grylls, who along with Premier Colin Barnett was in Kununarra to mark the event, said the project would diversify the economic base of the region and provide long term benefits.

After pastoralists raised concerns about handgun restrictions while mustering, Police Minister Rob Johnson announced the existing firearms legislation would be amended.

Under the new legislation, pastoralists engaged in the mustering of wild cattle can apply for a Category H, or handgun, licence.

The announcement followed ongoing concern from the industry over risks pastoralists faced from livestock, feral animals, camels and wild dogs without access to appropriate tools.

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