Issue 10, July - August 1999

Clearing Trees

Clearing Trees 1 | Clearing Trees 2 |

Clearing Trees 1

PLEASE ALLOW me some space in your magazine to reply to the concerns that have been raised by Fiona Fraser, regarding the article about part of our family's enterprise.

First of all, the title in Savanna Links, Issue 9, article was not correct ( How one producer broke the bush cycle of debt ). Our business is not free of debt, but the rest of the article is accurate. As a businessman my main interests, other than sharing the management of the family cattle station, is developing a new organic beef export market. As chemicals and supplementary feeding play no part in the production steps of this product, the only way it can be produced is by sustainable management practices. In business, unless we carefully nurture our resources, our future will be bleak. Unfortunately, cattle eat few of our native trees, so to provide pastures, the trees must be removed. In this environment, with tree basal densities of 7 to 12 square metres per hectare and tree canopy areas of in excess of 75 per cent, grass growth is suppressed to 100 to 250 kilograms of grass per hectare.

Land clearing is producing 4200 kilograms per hectare. These new grasslands are returning our lands back to the state they appeared in when white settlement selected this country in the 1860s. Proof of this is found in early Land Department survey records, as well as recent soil analysing work (delta 13 carbon measuring) by Dr Bill Burrows.

In all forms of enterprise, some items or resources must be sacrificed for others to prosper. Clearing trees for cattle is no different from clearing trees to build universities, houses, roads, etc.

Our enterprise is presently undertaking a feasibility study to see if a further 8000 hectares of tree clearing will be of benefit. In view of your concerns Fiona, we are willing to offer a joint venture project to investors to purchase shares in the remaining forest country on the station. The reality of this project would be a privately owned National Park. In exchange for the proposed development, destocking, the removal of all man-made waters and fences and providing open access to shareholders/investors at all times, our business would require an annual reimbursement of our lost income from this area of land.

In a developed state, that would include tree clearing and improved pasture seeding with introduced species like buffel grass and verano stylo, this area would support 1800 breeders. They will annually produce $460,000 worth of yearling Wagyu feeder cattle. If the numbers of concerned citizens are an indication of the likely shareholders, investors wishing to purchase a portion of the unique environment portfolio would be advised to contact Keen-Gea immediately.

Dennis Fahey, Keen-Gea Station, Torrens Creek

SL: We do apologise for the inaccurate title.

Clearing Trees 2

I WISH to reply to the letter from the PhD student, Fiona Fraser, who wrote to your last issue concerning the clearing of native vegetation ( Savanna Links Issue 9, March-April, Letter to the Editor ).

I wish to tell you the stories of two of our close neighbours. One cleared and introduced buffel grass to approx. 1200 ha of Gidyea country, less than 10 per cent of their holding. They are now able to run their entire cattle herd on this area from December, or soon after the first rains, for approximately six months.

Sometimes, in a good La Nina year, for the whole year. This means they rest their remaining country, which is all native vegetation, for at least six months every year, and especially during the valuable wet period from December to March. As a result their native vegetation is in an extremely healthy state. There is so much growth they are able to carry out a regular burning regime which further enhances the health of native trees and grasses. Our second neighbour has done things a little differently. They have very little Gidyea country, mostly Iron Bark and Box country. They chose to clear or partially clear and sow buffel and Stylos to a portion of each paddock. As a result the cattle concentrate almost entirely and almost all of the time in the "developed" areas, only moving to the timbered native areas when it is raining, or during periods of severe drought when the introduced species are eaten out. Again, their native vegetation, and in particular the native grasses, which are still in a majority even in the "cleared" areas, are in a wonderfully healthy and sustainable state. You can observe where the buffel grasses are definitely grazed while the native species which intermingle with the clumps of buffel are untouched, tall and lush.

These neighbours, too, have had a yearly burning regime.

In our own case, however, we have cleared less than 2 per cent of our property, and have very few introduced grasses. As a result our cattle graze the native grasses and edible native shrubs and trees most of the time. We rest one paddock each year, which means each paddock , and its native vegetation, is spelled approx. once every 10 to 12 years. Unfortunately not nearly enough. Prior to last year we experienced, like our neighbours, seven years of drought. Unlike them we didn't have enough fuel to burn, as our native pastures, although not "flogged", didn't provide enough fuel until last year for burning. We have Grass

Check sites and photo sites which we regularly monitor. We run less stock than our objectively estimated "carrying capacity". Yet, overall, our native vegetation isn't nearly as robust, plentiful and healthy as that of our neighbours' . . . except in those two paddocks in which we have done some clearing, and introduced buffel grass and Stylos in recent years.

Perhaps, by clearing sensibly, we can enhance sustainability, especially on smaller and less viable properties by improving the viability of the landholders, and the condition of the native vegetation. It is important we all keep very open minds on the subject; take a holistic view; and take a look at as many "on-ground" results as possible. Please, Fiona, come and see for yourself!

Margaret House, "Fortuna", Aramac, Queensland

For original article and letters see web links below.