What's in the news right now about environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef value chain.


Executive Director's Message

The world is seeing continuing El Niño conditions though it seems they have peaked. For those of you who attended the cattle convention in New Orleans two weeks ago, know that this means continental weather patterns for much of the year are likely to follow some broadly predictable patterns.

We heard from Dr. Art Douglas that this means a mild spring in the Northern parts of North America, above average moisture on the West coast and a drier spring throughout much of the corn belt with some potential for drought there in the summer.

Drought continues to affect other regions including parts of South and Southern Africa and there have been significant stock losses in Namibia. The continuing drought across much of Australia is causing severe suffering in some regions of the country. Most of the country is experiencing a deficit in lower soil moisture, while severe rainfall deficiencies are widespread.

To add insult to injury, some parts of Queensland have seen record breaking floods over the past two weeks with stock losses into the hundreds of thousands as the stock were already weakened by the drought.

I'd like to express my admiration for the producers in Australia who are donating hay to send to the regions hit by both drought and floods, and to the companies and individuals organising transport by truck, plane and helicopter to get it to the desired location. With conditions this tough, many would like to be able to help directly or indirectly; there are a number of organisations that are providing support. You can find some listed in this article.

On the other hand there are certainly those in the Australian industry who maintain that droughts and floods are all part of the natural cycle and find the level of attention that it is drawing inappropriate (to be fair, before the flooding that has claimed so many cattle in Queensland). See this article for the counterpoint from Tim Burrow, CEO of Agribusiness Australia.

Thank you!

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Queensland Graziers Face 300,000 Lost Cattle, $300 Million Flood Losses
SBS News | February 8, 2019
A crisis is unfolding in western Queensland where graziers are discovering the full scale of damage caused by floodwaters, with their losses expected to worsen. Floodwaters have killed up to 300,000 head of cattle in western Queensland, with losses so far put at a staggering $300 million. But the number is expected to rise as the floodwaters reach the big breeder herds in the northern shires of Carpentaria and Burke.

The story below concerns one property, and though drought has clearly been part of the issue, there has also been a catastrophic failure in management as well. Disturbing images in this story.
Yandeyarra Reserve Cattle Deaths Could Double To 2,000, Industry Warns, As Earlier Incident Identified
ABC News, AU | February 11, 2019
The number of dead cattle on a remote Western Australia property is expected to double to 2,000, a peak industry group warned today, as evidence surfaced of an earlier incident at the same site.

WA Government officers have destroyed more than 300 head of cattle on the Yandeyarra Reserve, 100 kilometres south of Port Hedland, and have warned the number might exceed 1,000 after their condition deteriorated following a lack of food and water. Pastoralists and Graziers' Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said he had been briefed on the worsening situation at the Pilbara property this morning, and the situation was totally unacceptable.

"It appears as though it's going to get to be a whole lot worse than it currently is," Mr Seabrook said. "The figures the minister has been putting forward are very conservative.

Drought Reality: Birds Dropping Out Of Trees; (Radio Interview)
Alan Jones, 2GB | February 9, 2019
As North Queensland reels from devastating floods, farmers further south are continuing to suffer through one of the worst droughts on record. Livestock are starving to death without a blade of grass on properties in parts of New South Wales. Some haven't received a drop of rain in 12 months.

Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan tells Alan Jones the situation is dire in the state's west, where entire townships are fighting for survival. "When you see birds dropping out of the trees dead, you know there's a big, big problem.

'Drought, Climate Change and Mismanagement': What Experts Think Caused the Death of a Million Menindee Fish
Nick Kilvert, ABC News, AU | January 15, 2019
The sight of more than a million fish floating belly up on the Darling River at Menindee has thrown doubt over the management of the Murray–Darling Basin. Experts say irrigators are taking too much water from the system, and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority has mismanaged water flows. But New South Wales Water Minister Niall Blair says drought is to blame. With more fish likely to die, here's what we know about the mass deaths and what some independent experts have had to say.

"To manage a river you've got to be able to manage it through a drought without killing all the fish," Professor Williams said. "We didn't put enough environmental water aside, and then we've continually eroded the little we did allocate with the recent amendments both in the north and to the south."

Free State Declared a Drought Disaster Area
Sabrina Dean, Farmer's Weekly | February 8, 2019
Free State Agriculture (FSA) has welcomed the news that the province has been declared a drought disaster area. This follows a notice issued by the provincial department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) in the Free State to all municipal managers last week to inform them of the declaration.

In response to this notice, all municipalities were tasked with convening special council meetings declaring the drought a disaster at municipal level through formal council resolutions. They were then required to submit their disaster declarations to CoGTA's Disaster Management Unit, along with the necessary "business plans" for assistance in three areas, including disaster mitigation plans such as the drilling of boreholes; funding to mitigate the disaster by providing fodder or protein pellets to farmers; and water restriction measures.

Francois Wilken, FSA president, said the association's representatives had already started gathering information from their members, including applications that would be submitted for assistance.

Namibia: Drought Eats Deeper Into Omaheke Flesh
Kuzeeko Tjitemisa, All Africa | February 8, 2019
The El Niño–induced drought that ravaged the entire Sadc region in recent years has killed an unspecified number livestock in the Omaheke Region, estimated to be worth millions of dollars. This is according to Otjinene Constituency Councillor Erwin Katjizeu. The region, popularly known as the 'cattle country' due to is impressive farming record, is home to the majority of commercial farming activities in the country. However, farmers in the region have in recent years been feeling the full wrath of lack of rain – leaving huge populations of cattle, goats and sheep dead.

All of the above are alarming stories, and underline the importance of creating resilience in our soils and our production systems. One of the ways we can do that is to increase soil organic carbon, as this can increase soil moisture retention – both increasing its capacity to absorb moisture in heavy rainfall events, and retaining moisture longer into a dry season. We need for this to become a policy priority around the world; a policy that we know would benefit producers. The first article below is old, (from 2015) but still relevant today:
Farmers Talk Drought: Preparation, Climate Change and Ideal Government Policy
Warwick Long, ABC News, AU | March 22, 2015
Angus Whyte: "The ideal government drought policy would be one that encourages landholders to manage their production system in harmony with the natural landscape, that way we can improve the landscape and decrease the severity of droughts, leaving farmers in control of their own destiny. So I would like to see a dollar value placed on the health of the landscape, whether this is soil carbon, biodiversity, ground cover or better still a mix of all of the above."

CO2 Soil Sequestration Plan Aims to Relieve Atmospheric Warming
Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Chronicle | January 23, 2019
Carbon dioxide is polluting Earth's atmosphere at an alarming rate, pushing the atmosphere's average temperature ever higher. But an international group of scientists co–led by a Cornell professor reports that solutions for sequestering that carbon might literally be right under our feet – but the time to act is now.

"The window of opportunity to sequester atmospheric carbon into the soil is rapidly closing. Scientists are breaking out of the academic box, and we are translating science into action," said Johannes Lehmann, Cornell professor of soil science and a lead author on a commentary published Jan. 19 in Nature Sustainability that suggests a global plan for implementation.

While policymakers and business investors may believe that impounding soil carbon is a difficult task, global warming stakeholders who met in 2018 at London's Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, created a road map for making carbon sequestration politically and economically viable. The meeting was funded by Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and The Nature Conservancy. The meeting was co–led by Lehmann, an Atkinson fellow, and soil scientist Deborah Bossio of The Nature Conservancy.

Drought and Regenerative Agriculture
The Environmental Cowboy, Channel 9 News (You Tube Video) | August 18, 2018
I recently travelled through New South Wales to experience some of the hardest hit areas of the drought. I looked into ways that we can move the agricultural industry forward as these droughts get worse into the future…and what I learnt blew my mind. Regenerative agriculture and holistic farming can do done successfully as not only a way to 'drought proof' your business, but to help mitigate the impacts of climate change as well. Watch 1:23 video HERE.

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