GREG'S LEGACY

Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Flogging a dead horse called "Rainfall"

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This is conventional drought management in Australia. This is what is called ‘flogging the land’.

If there was an RSPCA for soils, this farmer would be prosecuted for cruelty. Cruelty to the biological communities that live in it. Cruelty to the poor plants that try to grow to feed his sheep. Cruelty to his sheep for depriving them of nutritious pasture. Crulety to his financial position. And cruelty to the public image of farming.When you hear the words ‘sustainable’ used in agriculture, know that what you see here is unsustainable because there is only one place this operation is headed: down the chute.

Many farmers hang on to their stock for as long as they can… until their soil is bare and even the roots of the plants have been consumed by starving stock… until their stock are so weakened they can barely walk onto the truck to go to market… where their presence under the public eye is an embarrassment to those concerned with the industry’s image. Why do they do it? These words came out of the mouth of one of our neighbours last week: “You try to hold on to your stock as long as possible because if it rains that’s when you can make some money.”*

These are the bare hills on the Sofala Road to Bathurst. Flogged bare. The day before, during a heavy rainstorm, we saw whole hillsides of powdered topsoil slipping in sheets down towards the gullies where it will be carried away.

Farmers are the biggest gamblers in the world. They bet on the weather. In Australia. They ‘bet the farm’ on ‘an Autumn break’ to get a crop or to give them some fodder to go into the Winter non-growing season. They have heard about ‘risk management’ – some of them have been to government-funded 2-day seminars. Our neighbour said the government had offered them $3000 to learn about farming. “But what could they teach me?” our neighbour said, without a hint of irony.. Nothing to learn. Been doing it so long… the same way. Flogging out the land during the regular droughts.

I am in awe of the knowledge of many conventional farmers. They can tell when it’s going to rain. They can turn a piece of wire into any impliment they need. They can work like navvies. And they listen to new information and take it or leave it. They husband the land, looking after it as best they can. They also husband their animals, looking after them. I can think of 5 or 6 farmers in our district who fit this description. Then there are the others. Greenpeace uses them as targets to damage the entire industry. Some industry politicians will openly support these people while privately they bemoan the damage they do.

I can feel a song coming on. (Orchestra rises in background…

It’s what their fathers’ taught them.
It’s what their neighbours do.
They wont read what you send them.
They don’t want nothin’ new.
Not from wankers like you.

You grow more grass than they can
They blame in on the rain
F’you ran the stock that they ran
You’re understocked, it’s plain
N’ you’re new to the farmin’ game

*Just a glimpse of country life: We were speaking to this neighbour because their cattle were coming onto our place and eating our pastures because they’d eaten out their owner’s place and even eaten out the next door neighbour’s place (it is currently not being used by its owners). Now they were coming across the river and eating our paddocks out. “Well, if they’re coming across the river there’s not much we can do,” said our neighbour. Uamby has traditionally been used as a ‘Common’ by neighbours who can’t understand why time controlled graziers like us go ballistic if we move our sheep into the next paddock in the cell only to find it full of cow shit and empty of feed. They get a look of ‘whaddaya complaining about?’ when we see them about it.

This photo shows how 30 cattle cleared out a small paddock in less than a day before moving on to attack other paddocks. Here in the country, it’s not cool to complain about the theft of your pasture in a drought. It reinforces the old saying: “Good fences do good neighbours make.”

# posted by Michael Kiely @ 6:04 PM on the BLOG, “Diary of a Carbon Farmer”

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Written by Greg Naylor

20 January 2007 at 9:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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