11 Clean green beef the importance of free-flowing rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin 115 channels and floodplains along the way and providing nutrients. If this river’s flow was diverted or changed, then the river would not reach all the places in the catchment it flows to now. Livestock production The famous Australian stockman, Sir Sidney Kidman, recognised the productivity of the rivers for cattle in the early 20th century and established a chain of stations along the mid to lower floodplains of these rivers where the country is most fertile. These rivers sustain Indigenous Australians (see Chapters 8 and 9) and the animals and plants they have relied on for tens of thousands of years (see Chapter 1). My family and many others have followed this productive path in the footsteps of Kidman. I was brought up on one of these properties. Following the early explorers, small settlements and livestock production were established along these rivers. The next wave arrived when access roads were opened up and visitors began to experience the outback. In the early 1990s, Prime Minister Paul Keating declared an intention by the federal government to nominate the Lake Eyre Basin of South Australia as a World Heritage site (see Chapter 7) and we were advised that grazing would not be permitted. An intense period of political lobbying followed, finally defeating the initiative. This galvanised the community. We needed to demonstrate that we were good stewards of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers, receiving benefits from this amazing environment but also managing for sustainability (see Chapter 7). Food and water are among the most important issues of today and we rely on both. We produce high-quality beef from our cattle, relying on the floods that produce a ‘boom’ in the pasture. Our production faces challenges, particularly the ‘boom and bust’ nature of our country and the long distances to our markets. In 1995, a group of cattle producers formed the Organic Beef Export Company and focused on marketing our sustainable production as ‘clean and green’. We began production in 1998, producing ~10 000 kg a week, and today we have increased eightfold, producing 80 000 kg per week, from 15 properties covering 6–8 million ha, mostly in the Lake Eyre Basin. We focus strongly on sustainable cattle production (Fig. 11.2). We have no need for and do not use growth promotants, drenches for parasites, fertilisers or supplementary feeding. We are officially certified as organic. We also look after our cattle on the way to their markets, feeding them organic hay during resting stops. We avoid overgrazing of our country by shifting our cattle away during the dry times so that vegetation can recover quickly after rains. This continues to pay dividends. Our organic product commands an extra 50 cents a kilogram in the markets, generally 15–20% but sometimes as much as 50% above the market price. We have regular visits from our buyers, inspecting the sustainability of our operations. Certified organic beef is now an established line in supermarkets and hamburger chains in Australia and around the world. We export to Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Middle East, North America, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan. Demand is far outstripping supply. In Australia, organic beef production has nearly tripled between 2004 and 2012 (Monk et al. 2012), increasing by 127% between 2011 and 2014, more than doubling to be worth $198 million (Australian Organic Ltd 2014). I believe that in the future Australia will be the
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