High country cattlemen

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 20:56
ThreadID: 29388 Views:2963 Replies:12 FollowUps:9
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did you see that goose from the vic govement carring on about the cattle in the high country and how there going to fix it and up grade the 4WD tracks ( come roads ) and walking tracks now the cattle have gone .There will be more people in there than cattle , you wont be able to walk for the over grown country OK thats my winge but I will back the cattlemen
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Reply By: Vivid Adventures - Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 23:58

Thursday, Jan 05, 2006 at 23:58
issue has been ongoing for quite a while - in about May last year there was a big cattlemen's protest in Spring Street about just this issue.

Ciao for now
AnswerID: 146709

Follow Up By: geocacher (djcache) - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 00:29

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 00:29
Thanks for responding Andrew. You did so while I was typing... and justified part of my argument.

Ecotourism is part of the future for this area.

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Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 00:26

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 00:26
May I ask where you live Parthy?

You may surprise me and it may turn out that you aren't from the city. If you aren't I'll apologise, but as a former high country local, whose parents are still there, and who didn't grow up on a farm I'm a bit sick of all the cityslickers and would be drizabone wearers who have a romantic notion about cows and cattlemen. I laughed when I saw them all bring their horses in from their agisted paddocks in Werribee and on the Yarra Flats to join the real high country horsemen protesting against the loss of their taxpayer farm subsidy program.

The scientific evidence is there to justify removal of cattle from the high country & it is difficult to contest. Study areas where cattle were fenced out for many many years have demonstrated that plant species and wildflower species which are not evident in areas grazed by cattle will grow back quite quickly if the cattle are kept off. The sphagnum moss beds that regulate and filter the flow of water off the high country when the snow melts and rain falls will take much much longer & some will never recover. The cattle love the sphagnum beds and make an absolute bog of them - particularly after the fires when they were the only greenery left in some of the damper cooler gullies.

The cattle are selective grazers too, and don't reduce bushfire fuel loads as alleged by the bumper sticker. They don't eat the dry fuel undergrowth choosing instead the greener grasses as first preference. Of the 250,000 hectares or so that burnt in the 2003 Alpine Fire Complex can you tell me how much of that country is grazed? Probably not. Not very much is the answer. You may have even seen the cattleman on the front page of the Border Morning Mail standing next to a cattle pad where in a cooler moment the fire had burnt up to the edge on one side and the other side only a foot or so away was untouched - the cattleman stating that the cattle pad had saved the country on the other side from destruction. Pity they used the close up - but they had to - if they'd zoomed out at that very spot you would have seen that that small cool spot was saved but within 20' either side the fire had jumped the cattle pad and kept on burning. That didn't suit the argument though did it? Where's Media Watch when you need them?

The high country in Victoria could have a wildflower tourism business to rival the Western Australian and Western Victorian equivalents. Ecotourism, like it or not, is the future for the high country - and if people want to get up and see it then they need tracks and access and that's good for us. I'm no greeny. The greenies have been wanting us out for years and many in the city wouldn't have the faintest just how far out they want us - have a look here at the Snowy-Pilot Area Report for the Colong Wilderness Foundation - go and do a text search for "threats" or "4wd"..

I'm just interested in a sustainable high country for all who want to travel and visit, they can spend their money in the fuel stations. Stock up in the shops and stay in the parks and other accommodation if they don't want to be camped near me.

The families and businesses in the North East in towns like Mount Beauty need it. First the SEC shut down, the banks started to pull out, the timbermill closed and the town started to go backwards. There's more money in the high country, and a more equitable spread of money in those communities in ecotourism than cattle.

The existing system of high country cattle leases supports a very select few with cheap leases on government land, providing them with the ability to run more cattle than their farms can support. Not to mention it's also a system providing a very cheap agistment program to grow farm wealth sponsored by you and I the tax payer. The weed eradication programs required as a result of the trafficking of seed of things like English Broom up on to the high plains, cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to try and stop infestations before they are out of control. Aerial photography shows yellow trails of flowers when in season of the English Broom marching up the muster routes, and in large patches where herds rest overnight on the muster. It's hard to dispute.

So what's it to be. Tourism that benefits whole communities? Or cattle leases that benefit a few at taxpayers expense? Or the worst alternative of all. No access for anyone except the backpackers. If the cattle stay eventually the lock us all out brigade may get their way!

I grew up with, schooled with and live amongst high country cattle families in Mansfield and Mount Beauty. I have seen them riding through the snowgums, dogs at the ready, oilskins, chaps and Akubra on and I tell you it near brings tears to my eyes. It's a fantastic piece of Australian History and culture, not to mention folklore. But it needs to change. I will be very sorry for the kids of the ones I went to school with that their family history is changed, but it's not lost. The fact that their families were there and did it can never be taken away, and there will always be the history of places like the Wonnangatta, the huts and the high country cattlemen. One would hope the huts would remain protected by their heritage listings and maintained as they are by the bushwalking & 4wd clubs that already do this in many cases. To lose them would be to lose a link with what is being phased out.

I remember growing up on the Prom with cattle agisted on the Airstrip, many of the Proms vistors now wouldn't ever have known they were there not even so long ago. I don't see anyone asking to bring them back. In the 1980's the National Parks service even had an agistment ranger down there to manage it all. I'll bet the cattle families involved weren't paying his wages.

I don't see anyone crying out that we should bring back horse farming in Wilpena Pound in South Australia - it was quite successful for many years on Wilpena Station, more successful than the 12 years they spent trying to grow wheat. Would South Australia's equivalent of Wilsons Promontory be a multi million dollar tourist industry in it's own right if it was still full of cattle and horses? Even the stations over there now can see the future and the dollars is in tourism - Willow Springs Skytrek, Rawnsley Park Campgrounds and walking complex, Arkaba 4wd Treks as prime examples.

Not many people remember that NSW destocked their high plains around Kosciusko State Park in about 1950 - most people travelling that area wouldn't even know there had been high country grazing there apart from that which they can see on farms on the Monaro Hwy. (It's not often the New South Welsh are smarter than Victorians but they definately got the jump on us this time.)

I don't see anyone crying about it now. I don't see federal polly's trying to heritage list it there and bring it back - Ian Campbell's not that brave! Though it's interesting that the Liberal/National coalition is usually big on user pays in almost every other policy - just not in this case.

The story most of the country knows about the High Country and cattle grazing is one emotionalised in the Australian psyche by the 80's movie "The Man from Snowy River". It's easy to play on that emotion. Don't be fooled. The only bit you see on TV is the story that sells the papers or gets you to watch the 6pm news. 30 second sound bites and grabs of footage designed to tug at the heart strings.

Graham Stoney and his mob are excelent at spinning it. Don't tell me that the only reason he is in state parliament is community spirit or to protect the heritage of his and the other high country cattlemen. It's more like protecting the bottom line of the family business and the taxpayer subsidised high country paddocks. Losing them will cost him a packet.

I'm glad his family had their run at it, and we have Bluff Hut as a result - and some genuine article extras in the muster scenes in the movie. But it's time that we heritage listed the hut, remember why it was built and who by, and said no to their cattle ever again grazing around it.

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Follow Up By: Vivid Adventures - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 00:32

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 00:32
nice post Dave.
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Follow Up By: madcow - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 09:02

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 09:02
Good post Dave, Tom Groggin have had to sell off half their herd to sustain whatever they can now they cannot get into the hills.
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Follow Up By: Pajman Pete (SA) - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 10:01

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 10:01
Nicely put Dave. We have just been up there and loved the area.

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Follow Up By: cuffs - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 10:39

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 10:39
Wow! have I been told to shut up and learn the facts before forming an opinion. Great educational post.
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Follow Up By: parthy - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 12:00

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 12:00
I am from yarrawonga northen victoria and spent the first 25 years of my life on the edge of the barmah forest at times helping out with the cattel muster so i do know a bit of what i am talking obout
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Follow Up By: Member - Bradley- Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 12:49

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 12:49
fantastic response there Dave, very reasonable and well thought out arguments. Yes our "european ways" have to change urgently in australia, not just this issue but most environmental aspects. - irrigation overuse, rice, cotton, population densities and locations etc etc.
We all have to agree that we've managed to bugger this place up pretty well in only a couple of hundred years, its gotta change.

Parthy - barmah forest eh?, you ever come across Jack Kilmister and his shorthorn cattle back then?
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Follow Up By: Pterosaur - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 21:44

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 21:44
Goodonyer Dave, for a well reasoned and factual argument - sorely lacking in previous threads on this (emotive) topic, seems that the hysteria about the "tradition" has affected a lot of people.

Parthy, I know change is often difficult, but what would we be if we could not learn to modify our behaviour in response to past mistakes ?

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Reply By: MikeEgan - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 08:59

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 08:59
The cattle should have been removed from the High Country a long time ago. The cattleman were wrecking everything in site, grazing all outside the permit areas and overall were disrespectful to the country and happy to carry on trashing the environment. Thankfully the Bracks Victorian Govt is not like the weak non existent Liberal party who only do popular things and have no policy except pander to minorities or squeaky wheels.
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Reply By: Jack2000 - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 10:02

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 10:02
That's one of the most reasoned posts I've read on this issue. Well done.
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Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 13:59

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 13:59
Hi Parthy,

I said you may surprise me.

I stand by everything I said.

I have no comment to make on the Barmah State Forest cattle issue. I have done no research on it and have no informed opinion to give.

I could easily take the approach that what applies in the High Country applies equally in Barmah but that would be foolish.

The issues however are probably vastly different. Barmah wouldn't have the slow growth rates you get in the Alpine areas and doesn't have areas like sphagnum moss beds.

That said the weed issues are probably the same and there would be other issues in common.

Which ever way I do or don't stand on it I don't think cattle will remain in the Barmah Forest for long from what I'm reading in the Country News section of the local rag. (Barmah is about 70km from here & the issue is widely reported here.)

I still don't make the connection between you not living in the city and having an informed opinion on the High Country. I merely suggested you were probably from the city because most of those protesting about it are. I have seen Mountain Cattlemens Assoc bumperstickers on so many cars in Melbourne it's almost ridiculous. If you have an informed view to offer I am open and ready to listen.

Referring to government gooses and increased maintenance to areas in the same sentence seems odd. I'm quite happy to see these areas cared for so that I can keep using them.

Would you rather have the "government goose" saying that due to a lack of funds tracks were unable to be maintained and therefore will be closed? That's the alternative. If Parks fail to maintain tracks and they degrade to the point where someone is injured or killed because a dangerous track was left open they (ie. us the tax payer) will eventually be sued. Then the tracks will really start closing.

You should be well aware of this if you are in Yarrawonga, where your rates along with many other shires along the Murray are about to rise because that idiot that jumped of a log in a park into the Murray and became a quadraplegic sued and got $5.6 million in compensation off the Berrigan council. (Actually he got something like $8 million but was aportioned about 30% of the blame and it was reduced. I would have thought if I dive into a shallow river without checking the water I was 100% to blame but there you go.)

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Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 23:14

Friday, Jan 06, 2006 at 23:14
I was going to try and find some photo's of Dad's of Mt Fainter from the air, that he had in the 1990's but I was able to find some online.

Cattle don't climb up and down hills well so tend to follow contours & traverse the slope to climb gradually.

The photos I was thinking of were from nearly directly overhead and showed cattlepads like a topographic map where the cattle paths cut rings into the hill side.

This shows Mt Fainter in 1992 and is taken from an angle but the effect is still well illustrated.

And this one shows the same near Mount Jim with a degraded snow patch (place where the snow melts last which remains very green & lush well into summer.)

A moss bed near Cope which is unprotected.

A moss bed near Rocky Valley that was bare peat bed when fenced in 1945 & protected from grazing.

A Pretty Valley trial plot showing dense growth on the left and very little on the right demonstrates the potential for Alpine tourism and wildflower ecotourism.

And an alpine floral display near Kosciusko in an area undisturbed by grazing since the 50's.

Now I'm no member of the VNPA, nor at times am I their fan. I have agreed with them on several occasions such as the proposed development of the Prom.

They have a well written and concise summary of Philip Ingamells Alpine Grazing report with the above photos and more at this link.

If you are remotely interested in more information on the above photos and what they demonstrate a visit would be worthwhile.

AnswerID: 146908

Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 00:23

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 00:23
Speaking of emotion and subsidising lease holders:

In October Ian Cambbell announced he'd pledge $15 million of your hard earned to put systems in place so that the lease holders could continue to run cattle on the high plains using GPS receivers on cows to beep at them when they were in an area they shouldn't be - virtual fencing he called it.

Today the Mountain Cattlemens Association of Victoria announced the commencement of an illegal cattle muster along certain stock routes in defiance of the recent legislative changes.

The contacts for the MCAV Charlie Lovick and one of the Treasure family announced (that in order to get the selective media, sound bites and vision grabs that stir up emotional support,) they would release the details of locations on days that media could access the sites to get photos, footage & quotes to put to the news of the day.

If you or I defied a management vehicle only sign (even if it was in protest at the restricted access to the track) or a seasonal closure sign and called in the media to get footage to publicise track access for 4wd owners, what do you think would happen?

We'd be accused of environmental vandalism, summonsed to appear in court to explain our actions to a magistrate and fined big $$$.

There'd be no positive press for the VFWDA that's for sure.


AnswerID: 146918

Reply By: Member Steve & Lorraine Mc - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 15:59

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 15:59
Hi Dave
I wonder who pays your wages, or which Dept you work for ? Coming from the high country you should be well aware of the struggles that the cattlemen face on a day to day basis. Let alone the long drawn out battle with the Victorian Govt which has been ongoing for fifty years or more. If you are born into this lifestyle and all you know & have been taught, from your father,grandfather, great grandfather is grazing cattle. What would do ? Think about it for a minute you know nothing else & love doing it. You dont just say Oh well we'll sell up & move on, pastoral leases are a important part to their grazing strategies, these men have there backs to the wall, and are resorting to the tactics which are all so well used by the Govt & their Departments themselves, politicians just love the media? Brumbies are selective eaters, birds & the wind carry seeds for miles , some years are worse for some varieties of weeds than others ,same goes for the moss the feral dog problem is beyond a joke ,legalised accreditated public shooters should be allowed, within five years a major difference would be seen. Yes just as any other industry there are the minority that spoil it for the majority & wreak havoc like overgrazing running cattle in prohibited areas & the list goes on. There is enough land in the Alpine NP for everyone to use & to be grazed upon correctly keeping the cattlemen happy & their business viable, plus letting the small country town prosper + keeping the 4x4 community happy & even the ecotourism section. How many NPs do we need locked up in this country full of feral animals & blackberries , bracken fern etc, etc. I suppose Govt Depts have to justify themselves somehow, its a problem thats quite easily fixed with good COMMON SENSE DISSCUSION between the parties, with strict guide lines in place, instead of a Govt hell bent on removing a wonderful section of the Australian Rural Community.

Cheers Steve McNamara.
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Follow Up By: geocacher (djcache) - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 18:02

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 18:02
If they have their backs to the wall with double to three times the cattle they can run on lowland properties and they can't manage with a subsidised lease. They should already be reconsidering their future.

A further $15million proposed subsidy/heritage program from Ian Campbell to allow it's continuation is a joke.

There's no way a struggling handfull of wheat farmers would get anywhere near that total spread between so few.

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Reply By: geocacher (djcache) - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 17:58

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 17:58
Hi Steve,

I am not a member of any organisation apart from the LHMU (AEA-V) Branch.

That would be related to the work that I do for the Government - that's true.

My employer is Rural Ambulance Victoria so I suppose indirectly the Department of Human Services.

Just because the wrong thing has been done for 150 years doesn't justify it's continuation.

There are many things that were thought to have little or no impact 150 years ago, but as we've moved on and learned their impacts we've changed.

Commercial fishing on the Murray and in some of the estuaries would be a prime example. There were few Cod left in the river until the fishing licenses were bought out, and stocking began. Now Cod numbers are on the increase. Carp in some areas on the decrease and the river health is improving.

We used not to wear seatbelts or have speed limits. No one argues now that we should go back to killing 1000 people a year.

They removed the cattle in NSW 50 years ago and are now reaping the benefits. I feel for the farmers but short term pain, long term gain for the remainder of the community is far greater in it's level of importance.

It's really no a lot different to a factory worker finding out their company is going off shore, or a factory is closing. Companies merge and people lose jobs. Airlines go broke etc.

Nothing in life is certain. They'll deal with it the way that we all deal with hardship.

They'll either modify their practices, learn to live with what they get, claim hardship or go broke.

Life is tough, it really sucks sometimes for some people but this is one thing we have to do.

The long term benefits for the whole of the alpine communities is huge.

Interestingly my predictions of media hype were fulfilled last night on our local news, and in a full page article in the Herald Sun today.

The "spin" begins.....


PS Still don't recon we'd get a full page 3 or 5 in the HS of positive feedback if we defied a ban on 4wds in the Wombat or Toolangi forests.
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Reply By: Member Steve & Lorraine Mc - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 19:32

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 19:32
Hi Dave

For the sake of a healthy debate, who says the wrong thing has been done for 150yrs, there were no Gov Depts at the start of the century recording what was going on up in the high country, as for NSW that country around Mt Kozi is on the high altitude snowline which wouldn't feed a flea & is overpopulated with roos brumbies & more wild dogs than you can throw a stick at. Farming these days is not the profitable venture it once was, but if you love droughts, floods, & being reamed up the backend with low commodity prices go for it. Think about when you tuck into your next steak, making ends meet is the only reason why the cattlemen run more cattle, as the costs of fuel, insurances, OHS (thats another story) & general day to day running keep rising. Same reason why you might work overtime, to have the little extras in life. As for the 15mill thats a drop & wont go half way fixing things 800 mill was allocated to drought stricken farmers in 05 & believe me the amount the Gov hand out goes nowhere. And yes life is tough these days & change is hard but if something works why change it on the word of a few in the Vic parliment house, where my great, great, grandfather used the site to graze his cattle (better used Id say) than what they use it for now. And when you drive or walk past the cattle on the leases who are they really annoying up there. if the high country was locked up for no-one to enjoy what the use of its existance. Anyway thanks for your views Dave, we both have different realitys & contexts to life. Have a good weekend Cheers Dave
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Reply By: Member Steve & Lorraine Mc - Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 19:36

Saturday, Jan 07, 2006 at 19:36
Cheers Steve
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Reply By: Member - Luxoluk - Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 21:33

Sunday, Jan 08, 2006 at 21:33
For a moment there I thought I had forgotten to take my medication??
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