Bob McFarland

Q: Bob, You have been enterprenerial and experimental in your time. Can you tell us about some of your ventures and ideas?
Bob: Well there is the Charlie carp Fish fertilizer business which has reduced carp numbers in some parts of the rivers  and provides a natural fertilizer, for landholders.  Another one is the soft rolling skin (SRS) venture where we are breeding our merino sheep towards softer handling fleeces for producing higher quality fabric.
We have done a bit of water ponding to help water infiltrate on harder, compacted soils, grown a substantial area of Oldman saltbush to have a fodder reserve of high protein as part of our overall plant species mix, and we use a planned/pulse grazing process for managing the livestock grazing.

Q: How long have you been using planned / pulse grazing?
Bob: Since about 1996. We have 24,000 acres which we run over 6,000 grown sheep on plus lambs plus 150 cattle. And we mainly use a two wire electric fence which does a good job.

Q: What sort of response have you had with your planned grazing?
Bob: It`s been very good. A lot of native saltbush, Kangaroo grass and several other grasses  have come back. The carrying capacity has increased, we can keep the weaners in good condition all year now rather than them losing condition for part of the year, and several of our weeds are being reduced, such as bassias and glass swartz. It`s all to do with grazing the plants in such a way to stimulate the plants you want more of, but to not stimulate the plants (weeds) you want less of. Simply not grazing land does not get processes such as the water cycle improving nor does it stimultate the grasses you want

Q: Have you tried any animal impact to repair land?
Bob: Yes we have. There was a scald with an area of 4.2ha which we fenced off and put in 183 cattle and fed them hay on it for 6 weeks.  As you can imagine there was a lot of dung and urine and hoof disturbance stirring up that top soil and the result was brilliant. Several years later it`s hardly noticable. Animal Impact certainly is an under utilised tool that could regenerate vast areas of Australia.

Q. What is your thoughts on Government policies environmental restraints
Bob: My concern with Government initiatives in NRM is basically two fold,
they are firstly too caught up with technical and scientific rigour to ever
develop any practical ourtcomes and secondly although they allow community
representation on most of their many committees, a lot of practical
information and experiences are freely given by community members, but very
little if any is ever used in the final deliberations of the development of
the plan or strategy, in other words in most cases they do what their
Departments wants them to do anyway. A huge amount of so called NRM money
has gone into wages and salaries of so called experts to set up all these
studies, monitoring, evaluating, feasibiliting,etc., They will not accept
community views as they claim it is an assumption and unless put through all
the scientific rigour of researching and monitoring and replicating. For
example the National Carp Task Force was formed in the mid 90's and they are
still trying to ascertain if European Carp are a Victim or a Villian,
They fail to realize a lot of landholders treat their properties like a
university, learning from work on it , managing it carefully and improving
it both ecologically and economically, I know there are some exceptions to
that statement, mainly big Corporates that are answerable to their
shareholders and greedy directors, really only interested in one thing -$$$

Q. We can't ignore legislation completely can we?
Bob: No, but it has to be workable and legislation that has been agreed
upon by the community concerned, it has to have practical outcomes, most of
what is coming out of Governments to-day is practically unworkable, for
example we have first year uni students with a whole lot of letters after
their name coming out into the Community as Environmental Scientists,
Natural Resource Managers with no practical experience what so ever, trying
to tell the local community in how to manage their Rangelands, it is a joke.
Trying to implement strategies and plans that have been developed in some
university Computer Model program.