Push to open roadside grazing for drought-stricken farmers

By Dairy News

A SOUTH-WEST Victorian council wants red tape eased, so local roadsides can be grazed by drought-stricken cows from other parts of the country.

Moyne Shire Mayor Daniel Meade has called on the federal and state governments to do more to encourage droving.

Cr Meade, a local dairy farmer, says “red and green tape” needs to be eased to encourage drovers to return to the region, which has had excellent local growth while most of the country is in drought or battling fires.

Cr Meade said encouraging droving had dual benefits of reducing fire hazards and feeding stock.

“We had a drover here for about five weeks last year, but it got thwarted by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and VicRoads and their red and green tape,” he said.

“It’s especially important in this time of drought and bushfire risk.

“We’ve got six-foot high feed on the side of our roads that’s just a causing fire risk and going to waste.

“It’s common sense to have cattle graze it when they need it desperately.”

Cr Meade said using cattle was more practical and more effective than cutting roadsides.

“Some people suggest we cut it, but a lot of the roadsides have drains, little trees, posts and big stones, which aren’t conducive to cutting.

“However, cows can graze it; they can go in under trees and around stones and culverts.”

Moyne Shire Council plans to ramp up the campaign.

“We’re going to be persistent with our lobbying efforts to the relevant ministers, Victoria’s Regional Roads Minister Jaala Pulford and Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley and local MP Dan Tehan,” Cr Meade said.

He said the main concerns about roadside grazing centred on protecting small patches of native grasses.

“They don’t want them damaged and we understand that, but we want to target the phalaris pasture, which is the biggest fire risk.”

The community response has been overwhelmingly positive and Moyne Shire Council is encouraging people who support roadside grazing to have their say to the Federal Government’s inquiry into the impact of vegetation management policy on bushfires.

When first aired by ABC South West, the suggestion prompted a huge response with more than 1700 replies on Facebook, mostly supporting the idea.

One farmer said Moyne was leading by example while others said it was a win-win for everyone.

One person said they had tried to get a roadside grazing permit but VicRoads “had way too many requirements”.

“So much red tape for something we have done many times before without hassles,” they said.

Many writers raised concerns about the high level of roadside growth in the region creating a potential fire risk, but said they did not want it to be wasted when it could be fed to cattle.

“That grass is only going to turn into a fire hazard; by all means have it for feed for hungry cattle,” said one person.

However, some of those responding had concerns.

One respondent worried about drivers hitting stock grazing near roadsides and others raised concerns about the impact on remnant grasslands.