Pride in Australia's Agriculture
Agri-Phoenix Feature: Hayley Piggott
Name: Hayley Piggott
Place: Carnarvon Ranges & Acadia Valley
On my family cattle property as a general station hand, I muster cattle on horseback, handle foals, process and treat cattle, test for pregnancies, check fences, waterpoints, lick runs and do weed control. A commercial and stud cattle operation; our key focus is breeding quality Droughtmaster bulls, and quality Droughtmaster fat cattle that are fertile and quiet. Working for family, contrary to some beliefs, is one of the hardest things - expectations often exceed what you think is reasonable. Character building.
For me the most special thing in agriculture is the space: unlimited views unique to the Carnarvon Ranges and fresh air. But looking after our land often presents challenges to manage, particularly as the policies and rules governing regrowth management continue to change. I love and admire the old majestic trees on our places. Running a business, however, I also have to value regrowth management that increases the carrying capacity of the land, which in turn adds value. It is about trying to find the balance. All plants produce oxygen and sequester carbon dioxide to some degree. Lots of trees also do not always mean better soils and less erosion. On my home block, where trees are abundant there is little other growth, but with management we see a variety of grasses and native legumes. Our scrub block is slightly different and does not get the volume of regrowth, but I see it too becomes overgrown and useless if not managed from time to time.
The hardest thing for us, on the forestry block is controlling weeds and woody weeds due to the difficulty of the terrain. Our major weeds are parthenium and mimosa. Then there’s the increase of Leucaena. The plant was introduced as cattle fodder, and is fantastic for that purpose and can see weight gains of up to 1.7kg per day, while reducing methane emissions. However, as time goes on, more and more trees ‘escape’ self-seeding, and spreading to waterways, where we are not supposed to use chemicals. We would love some clever scientist to develop a chemical in the form of pellets, that is Leucaena specific -a chemical ‘magic wand’ we could airdrop over troublesome areas.
I refuse to wear rose coloured glasses when talking about working in agriculture…it is not all about riding horses and chasing cattle. The work is sometimes hard and challenging, both physically and emotionally. The work is not always kind, and you can’t expect your co-workers or boss to always be looking out for your emotional state when they have plenty of other things on their mind. They may have responsibilities weighing them down! Working in agriculture definitely builds grit and resilience! In my experience, as long as you do your best and try your hardest, you will get by. It is also important, especially if you have more responsibility, to be able to mentally knock off from work, and to leave grievances from the day in the shed. Every day is a new day, and you can’t let yesterday’s challenges hold you back from potential growth.
The other thing I value about living in the bush is the community: you can become involved as much or as little as you like. Not everyone will float your boat, nor you theirs. But when we need to come together, we will! I love getting to know the people in my area, through events or sports like Tennis Fixtures! I never thought I would drive a 100km round trip to just play tennis, but it is seriously the best part of my week.
I often see arguments floating around on social media that agriculture, and animal production in particular, is not sustainable. I have never really worked out how it is not sustainable when I observe the environment surrounding us. Every day while at work I see a huge variety of flora and fauna. We don’t have many barren bits of land on our property, and the areas near waters that are bare due to the cattle making their way to water readily grow plants after rain if we take the stock away. I am yet to see another industry create a product that feeds so many, is such a reliable source of protein, drives away hunger, and sustains such a variety of flora and fauna. I’m not pulling hairs against cropping folks either. I know they try to keep as much natural habitat where they can. At the end of the day, is there anything that we do as a species that is truly sustainable when we look at all the non-food ‘stuff’ that we also consume? Farmers can only do our best. Others need to do their bit.
I am proud of our industry and the enormous responsibility we have providing some of the world’s cleanest and greenest food to Australia and the globe. We are charged with trying to keep our land as healthy as possible so that it may see us through a variety of seasons and a challenging future. There are some great people in Agriculture and through the food we eat whether carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, everyone is connected. We supply the fuel, other professions like doctors, scientists, engineers and shopkeepers keep us running.
Without them, without you, we could not do what we do.