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GRASSROOTS INPUT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEBATES

Proactive change at the grass-roots…

Early April 2004 over thirty members of the Kimberley pastoral community met at Larrawa Station to attend a “Low Stress Stockhandling School”. (Three days later another school was run at Liveringa Station and over forty people participated.)

“When knowledge ends, violence begins.”
New knowledge brings hope and releases creativity, ingenuity and enthusiasm…

Jim Lindsay who conducted the school has a vision: TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR PEOPLE AND THEIR ANIMALS. His message is primarily directed at a livestock industry facing new challenges… (Unprecedented cost-price squeezes, uneven playing fields, volatile international markets, animal liberation movements, environmental debates, etc.). However the “new knowledge” Jim teaches may well have ramifications that reach far beyond industry…

Kevin and Wendy Brockhurst who hosted the school invited Jim to the Kimberley. Those of us who were privileged to attend, extend our thanks to Brock and Wendy who did an inspiring job. The friendly and competent manner in which Jim helped us challenge our own attitudes and practices set the stage for a meaningful learning experience.

At three times the size of England and with a local population in the vicinity of 35’000, the Kimberley region can arguably pride itself to be one of the wealthiest regions on the planet. Not only do we harbour hardly tapped mineral wealth, but the vast quantities of good clean water which drop out of the sky each year ensure that per capita we receive a greater share of this precious resource than anybody else in the world.

Wealth attracts attention… It is easy to understand that the management of such vast resources is encumbered by much debate. The debate seems to cover most angles from mining resources for export out of the region to protecting resources by excluding humans and commerce in unmanaged tracts of wilderness that should be left to Nature.

Early 1997 a joint initiative of the local Department of Agriculture and the “Beef Team” introduced a breath of fresh air into this ongoing debate. At two locally conducted “Grazing for Profit Schools” Terry McCosker of RCS, Yeppoon confronted many key members of the local pastoral community with “new” information. By the time Holistic Management pioneer Allan Savory visited the Kimberley (Please click here for the report), ‘rejection’, ‘denial’ and ‘exploration’ of this information was in full swing…

Although debates rage on, something within the pastoral industry has changed forever...

The Cattle Industry remains a key-facet of the local economy and the timing of the school was ideal.

Across the full spectrum of our Kimberley community we now have a growing number of individuals who look at domesticated grazing animals very differently to merely a few years ago…

How do we best make use of these living pruning, mulching and fertilizing “machines”?

Lowering the costs of working with herding animals, improving the emotional and physical health of the animals involved, new jobs entailing meaningful and rewarding activity and an associated positive spin-off for the environment (in terms of more effective eco-system function and productivity) all adds up to good economic sense.

The two days of theory, practice and discussion, which took place at Larrawa, were very convincing to those present. One company had committed by putting a team of thirteen staff through the course. The local manager of another company is committed to do the same when the next such opportunity arises. One significant point that needs mentioning is about the mood that prevailed: Although very direct financial incentives exist to minimise the chances of accidents, injury or weight-loss in stock, it was the promise of greater job-satisfaction that comes from working with unstressed and cooperative animals that had the greatest appeal to all present.

As a former employee within the Australian livestock industry I highly recommend this course to anybody associated with the industry or to any energetic young person who is in search of a rewarding career on the land.

As a current land manager who has been associated with the practice of using herded livestock for land management purposes since the late nineteen-sixties I view the techniques that Jim Lindsay instructs to be the long awaited “breakthrough” we have been waiting for in both land-care as well as in land-restoration situations.

Skeptics and cynics may correctly argue that there have always been some very good horseman and stockmen around, and that we do not need to get any across from other states or countries… They may have a point insofar as ‘skills’ are learned and not taught…

However: It takes individuals like Monty Roberts, Bud Williams and Jim Lindsay who after decades of experience and learning have taken the time to ponder, to distill and then to formulate in simple words some of the practical principles that underlie animal behaviour and response to human interaction. Things that naturally talented people did intuitively or that they picked up over the years can now be understood in context. These principles and the knowledge behind them can now be taught. The acquisition of such skills is now so much more appealing and the learning is so much easier…

New knowledge spells new opportunities and hope…

(I hear, I forget… I see, I remember… I do, I understand…)

Information about the philosophy behind Low Stress Stockhandling can be found at: http://managingwholes.com/__lowstress.htm

Local training information can be found at: http://www.lss.net.au/

Chris Henggeler, 18.04.2004