Dairy

Saving paddock trees

By Country News

An alarming decline in the number of paddock trees across the Goulburn Murray region has prompted a campaign to protect as many of the scattered trees as possible.

Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and Greater Shepparton City Council have collaborated on a project to retain the region’s old paddock trees.

The campaign includes declaring 2019 as the official ‘Year of the Paddock Tree’.

Greater Shepparton chief executive officer Peter Harriott said the Goulburn Valley had lost more than 97 per cent of the native vegetation that was in the region before European settlement.

‘‘It’s now up to us to protect what’s left,’’ Mr Harriott said.

He said it was essential to consult with farmers during the initial planning phases of farm upgrades or changes.

‘‘The region’s land use is rapidly changing.

‘‘The earlier we can have the conversation with landowners the more chance we have of protecting native vegetation.’’

Council and Goulburn Broken CMA have committed to a forum where actions to protect scattered paddock trees and other native vegetation will be high on the agenda.

Organic dairy farmer Roisin Powell said it made commercial sense to retain the paddock trees on her family’s Undera farm.

The trees provided crucial shade for her herd, especially in searing heat conditions like the region has seen in recent weeks.

‘‘Having shade scattered through the farm is critical because the cows can continue to move and graze,’’ Ms Powell said.

‘‘If there’s not enough trees they will find shade wherever they can and camp there all day, which ultimately leads to a loss in production.’’

Goulburn Broken CMA municipal catchment co-ordinator Rebecca Caldwell said the forum, planned for March, would be an opportunity to bring key players together.

‘‘New landholders and industries are coming into the region and we need to constantly communicate with farmers about the value of native vegetation on their properties,’’ Ms Caldwell said.

‘‘By working together we can protect and enhance native vegetation in the landscape.’’