Time to bring pastoral act into modern era

Time to bring pastoral act into modern era

Opinion
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The pastoral act review gives us a long-overdue chance to modernise the regulatory framework governing the state's pastoral areas.

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The pastoral act review gives us a long-overdue chance to modernise the regulatory framework governing the state's pastoral areas.

One way to modernise the regulations may be to move away from setting maximum stocking rates, and instead move to a more flexible system that better responds to seasonal fluctuations.

Giving pastoralists a predetermined number of sheep or cattle they are allowed to run year-in, year-out isn't always going to achieve the best outcomes.

In a tough year, running at the maximum stocking rate might be perfectly legal, but might result in poor animal welfare or widespread degradation of huge areas of land.

This review presents an opportunity to make sure it's our stations that are historic, not the laws that govern them.

Having a maximum stocking rate also means pastoralists are missing out on opportunities to capitalise on the good years, with kangaroos enjoying the fresh feed on offer rather than cattle.

Perhaps this is also an opportunity to have a discussion about allowing rangeland goats to be grazed in pastoral country. At the moment, pastoralists are only able to muster and sell feral goats, which is vastly different to rules interstate.

Earlier this year, goat prices surged above $10 a kilogram as the dry hit and supply tightened, making goats a profitable prospect for anyone who had numbers to sell.

Goats are adept at handling tough conditions, and could help pastoralists diversify their operations.

Related reading:Longer pastoral leases sought in act review

But - and it's a big but - it remains to be seen if there is widespread support from pastoral leaseholders to change goat management rules, as opinions on the matter have previously been divided.

But, when we're in the middle of a review of the pastoral act - which says only sheep and cattle can be grazed without approval of the Pastoral Board - why not at least make grazing goats part of the discussion?

Something that did make it into the discussion paper is a proposal to combine the Dog Fence and Pastoral boards. I think it's important to remember that the Dog Fence doesn't just benefit pastoralists, and the Pastoral Board doesn't just serve sheep producers. While there may be many synergies between the two boards, there are also potential conflicting interests in some areas.

Many of our pastoral families have proud histories tracing back several generations. This review presents an opportunity to make sure it's our stations that are historic, not the laws that govern them.

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