INVESTIGATIONS into the cattle deaths on two Aboriginal stations in the north of WA are ongoing with “approximately 1170” head being euthanised on Yandeyarra Reserve alone.
The staggering figure released by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) reveals that about 33.4 per cent of the cattle on Yandeyarra have perished or been culled due to mismanagement of water resources and a lack of animal husbandry on the station in the past two months.
Yandeyarra is reported to have run about 5000 head of cattle - with about 1670 cattle put down or found dead out of that total.
DPIRD had originally reported in January that 500 cattle had perished on the station due to a lack of water availability with a further 1000 head at risk - but the new numbers released show that the situation was worse than previously stated.
The losses equate to about $1.67 million if each head of cattle was worth $1000 - which is a staggering loss of income from one station in one season.
DPIRD has confirmed the cull of cattle on Yandeyarra Reserve was undertaken by the Livestock Compliance Unit with sharp shooters from helicopters, as well as on-ground personnel.
“This has been in liaison with the community council,” a DPIRD statement said.
“DPIRD is continuing its animal welfare response at Yandeyarra with on-ground and aerial monitoring to assess the welfare of cattle on the property and implement required measures.
“Short-term management arrangements are focused on immediate cattle welfare and include re-establishing water supplies in target areas and moving stock to areas with water where practical.”
The Nationals WA Agriculture spokesperson Colin de Grussa said he was part of a briefing WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan on the Yandeyarra situation and said the manager had resigned in January 2018 and since then nothing had been done on the property to maintain watering points.
He said when DPIRD inspectors arrived at the station a few weeks ago they found all the watering points were dysfunctional and cattle had nothing to drink other than from puddles left over from rains, which when they dried up offered nothing for the animals.
“The response by the department has been strong,” Mr de Grussa said.
“Staff from all over the State have been relocated up there, with some very senior people moved for this.
“There’s been a strong reaction internally to get to the bottom of it and we are told that the consequences could include jail term for those involved.
“And you’ve got to throw the book at people here.
“It’s horrible, absolutely dreadful, what has happened.
“It’s a huge, huge number of animal deaths that should never have happened.”
Mr de Grussa said with DPIRD having to “stretch” its resources to investigate the cattle deaths, it showed that cutting resources and merging departments to save money wasn’t the best move.
“There’s a good argument here that we should be bolstering the department not culling,” he said.
“We can’t cover the vast State unless we have the staff to do the job.”
Mr de Grussa also mentioned that the Pastures From Space program, which had its funding cut, could be revisited in an effort to monitor remotely via satellite the grasslands in the pastoral regions as an early warning tool.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said a lot of people had not understood the significance of the cattle losses on these stations.
He believed other pastoralists would have gone to the aid of the stations if they were aware of the situation.
“The losses are equivalent to 11,000 sheep - which puts into perspective the losses on a live export ship,” Mr Seabrook said.
“The blatant neglect is just outrageous.
“I’ve heard the neighbours to the Noonkanbah station were willing to offer assistance to the station ‘if only they had known’.
“It’s really appalling, but it has happened before and until you break the cycle incidents will probably continue.”
DPIRD said the Noonkanbah station investigation was ongoing.
Since the announcement of the investigations into the cattle deaths about eight weeks ago DPIRD has been tight-lipped about the numbers of cattle involved, while Ms MacTiernan has been focused on finding a solution to the governance issues that some Aboriginal