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(generated from captions) and leaves of the bridal creeper. especially for the young shoots a ferocious appetite, The 'leaf beetle' has a tiny South African beetle. with the help of can be controlled the weed 'bridal creeper', that one of its worst pests, And in Victoria there's hope which just seems incredible. two kilometres a night and they move a kilometre, in a straight line They're just going they move incredibly quickly. At ground level, are driving others on. recent wet-season rains some toads stay put for weeks, Ecologist Greg Brown says while they are moving. to track how far and how fast to toads are attaching radio transmitters Scientists in the northern territory than previously feared. at a much faster rate northern Australia that cane toads are invading Today we start with a warning with the news summary. but, as usual, we get under way That's to come, by MLA. to virtually anything put forward a body traditionally opposed the Australian Beef Association, and we'll also hear the views of for the increase Today we'll hear the case from $3.50 to $5. on whether the levy will go $to five dollars. on whether the levy will go from There's to be an industry vote the beef transaction levy. the move to lift Also on the program - Welcome to another Landline. Hello. I'm Joanne Shoebridge. if not weeks, in the saddle. for these drovers it was days, a matter of hours - Today it takes a road train of northern Victoria. with drovers from the high country memory lane We'll also take a trip down or go for the mass market? at the premium end does Margaret River stay But now the battle is on - through the years. and the reputation has grown quality rather than quantity The original winemakers went for region of Western Australia. Today we'll visit the Margaret River This program is captioned live.

it would be absolutely perfect This vintage, it was looking like and each vintage is different. what is going to happen you don't know exactly know There's this sense of, you know, bit of magic about a vintage. I always think there's a little CLASSIC MUSIC PLAYS because they can't find the markets. to let their fruit rot some growers are being forced and for a second vintage in a row, Now, there are almost 130 out of Margaret River. there were about 40 wine brands Five years ago, of some big changes looming. But there are signs emerging 'Premium' wine region. to a capital P, from a depressed rural area the south west of WA has grown In just over 30 years, is a relative newcomer. Margaret River in Western Australia with a century or so of production, or McLaren Vale such as the Barossa Valley Compared to established wine regions for further study around the state. is now being sought More research money by Tasmanian liquid seaweed. apples have been enhanced by saying that the Tasmanian-grown a marketing edge we may even in fact have and they eat seaweed a lot, because they use seaweed a lot for the Japanese market, We think that after six weeks in cooked storage. in fruit firmness We had, look, about a 12% increase and the results are positive. a short shelf-life, which usually have on Gravenstein apples, A trial was carried out their shelf life and crunchiness. has significantly extended sprayed on apples Tasmanian liquid seaweed We are not being proactive enough. in this area. Unfortunately, Australia is lacking this is being done. All over the world, all over Europe, more comprehensive training. and they need to be provided with to get their licences it's too easy for young people Driving trainers say on country roads. aimed at reducing the road toll are taking part in courses Young drivers from around Tasmania the community can't let happen. That domino effect is something that employment, probably, of 25 people. You'll lose the immediate beginning of the end for the town. town leaders say it will be the If the hospital does close, through lack of funding. is under threat of closure in Adrossan on the Yorke Peninsula a small community hospital In South Australia, within any system. But sure, we can operate in January of this year. in the UK and Europe it's only come into operation This is pretty new - if they can't. or buying more permits if they can cut their pollution selling them their emission permits, Companies will be allowed to trade the carbon trading scheme. through the use of to cut greenhouse gas emissions ministers have signed an agreement the nation's premiers and chief not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Despite the government's decision we can both coexist into the future. it's a very practical way that There's nothing cynical about it, and the people of Western Australia. to the people of Fremantle the live trade is very much exposed At the moment, sweeping things under the carpet. We would regard it as a case of away from the public eye. of moving the trade a cynical way But the proposal has been branded of the port city. with the "cappucino society" saying it's no longer compatible industry out of Fremantle, to move the live sheep export is seeking government approval the WA Farmers' Federation In Western Australia, of whether they've got to de-stock. to make decisions and farmers will be starting Another month, will fall. about when the autumn rain and farmers are becoming anxious there's little feed for livestock across the state, With paddocks parched on record. show one of the driest march months the Bureau of Meteorology In Tasmania, new figures from we get rid of the creeper. ultimately, So if we get rid of the young buds, at the young buds. The beetle likes to nibble

and smell all of the cabernet sauvignon and the yeast and it just has a vibrancy and a magic about it of what what could become - the potential. She's one of the stars of the Australian wine industry - an old-wine vineyardist in an era of increasing corporatisation. Vanya Cullen still believes in the magic of making wine. We're an organically certified and bio-dynamic vineyard and one of the reasons we've done that is because organics is about the soil and bio-dynamics is even more about the individuality of a place in a holistic sense - giving the land the best possible potential to produce the individuality of place. Then our job is to take that through into the bottle and that always means that you'll get a quality product which is unique. Cullen's vineyard and winery in the heart of Margaret River into the middle of vintage to walk in the winery and it's a wonderful thing of urgency and excitement That happens, so you get this sense but there's this rain about. and it still could be, was one of the region's first. Established by her late parents, Kevin and Diana, in 1971. Diana Cullen was a self-taught winemaker and industry pioneer, winning Margaret River's first ever trophy, and introducing grape varieties to WA and producing the first barrel-fermented semion and sauvignon blanc to make a Bordeaux-style dry white wine. The cabernet sauvignon merlot has always been our flagship wine. It was my mother's favourite and when she passed away in 2003 we thought it was very appropriate by honouring her and calling the wine after her name, which is Diana Madeline. And, particularly the first vintage, which was the 2001, is one of the great vintages of Margaret River. So, yeah, it gives me a lot of pleasure to pour that wine to people and have it named after her because it represents the philosophies of quality,

integrity and sustainability, which we worked together for 20 years with that philosophy in mind, which was great. The youngest of six children, Vanya Cullen continues the tradition today, breaking ground as the first woman to judge the Royal Sydney Wine Show and win national awards for winemaking. REPORTER: So were you always destined to be a winemaker, do you think? Look, I think - I never thought about it. I guess life happened and I became a winemaker. I was originally trained in zoology at university and then I did a third of a music degree and I then I just somehow ended back here, 20-odd years ago and I haven't left. So I guess that's partly fate, yeah. Just up the road from Cullens, nothing is left to fate as contractors work through the night to complete a 2,400 tonne vintage for Australian Wine Holdings Limited. Established three years ago, AWHL is an example of Margaret River's increasing trend to corporatisation. The reality is it's quite a substantial investment now to be a commercial wine producer. It's millions of dollars required to do it. It's very difficult to get a route to market, to get retailers interested in you, to be able to spend the marketing dollars, to get - to show the wines all over the world, to get the sort of tools required to sell wine in the market place. Long gone are the days where you produced the wine and people beat a path to your door. That happens in some rare instances, but it as really more business focused. It's still very much personality based, but very business focused going forward. AWHL's executive chairman is Mike Calnegga, a wine industry high-flyer for 20 years, now steering the company's three established wine brands into a new export-driven era. My dream is probably to get to a stage where we're a bit like the French producers in terms of our export/domestic sales being maybe a 50/50 mix. Where we've got 50% export and 50% domestic, my view is you've got to keep doing the things you do normally as a wine business - put the wine in front of people, get the third party endorsement, have a commitment to quality and time and ultimately you'll get the results. We're going to start with our pitchfork wines, which is our entry level, everyday drinking styles and then we'll show you a couple of wines, particularly the 2004 sauvignon blanc semillion, which has been voted the best in Australia out of 60 tasted by Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. AWHL currently exports less than 5% and is aiming to increase that to 15% in three years and 50% in a decade. If these New Zealand wine buyers are any indication, it's a goal well within the company's reach. As a brand, what sort of recognition does Margaret River have in New Zealand? High class, absolutely at the top end. It is priced that way, anyway. It's different, because if you are buying shiraz you'll be going Barossa Valley, McClarren Vail, if you are going for the cabernet blends I'm seeing a falloff in interest in Koonawarra and more interest in Margaret River for the cabernets and bordeaux blends and it's fantastic chardonnay, it really is. In just five years Margaret River's wine industry has grown from 40 brands to more than 120. With that increased competition, the profile of new players is changing. What we've got here is quite a comfortable renovated four-bedroom two-bathroom home with a nice view looking back over the vineyard and dam down here. As we walk down here we're got part of the established vineyard. Most of these vines were planted in 1995, so are reasonably mature and in full production at this stage. These vines are under contract to Evans and Tate - a five-year contract, with an annual fixed income with a CPI increase each year. According to real estate agent Ray Stocker an established vineyard such as Stellar Ridge is less likely to attract high-income earning professionals such as doctors and lawyers who a decade ago would have been looking for a tax break. People coming down realise it's more of a business operation not just a tax deduction to offset against other income and they are becoming more serious about their planning and business plan and also realising at the end of the day you're in primary production - it's a fickle business, you are producing some fruit that you have to sell. Like wine regions across Australia, surpluses are likely to be a feature of Margaret River's 2005 vintage. The biggest impact is the potential for some growers just not to pick. They'll just leave it on the vine and it will just be left there. There's certainly some vineyards, not exclusive to Margaret River, but in other parts of Western Australia where the vineyards just haven't been picked and I think we're going to see quite a deal more of that this year. This impacts on people who are highly geared, who need that income, could be pretty extreme. Wine writer and commentator Ray Jordan believes the wine glut will probably lead to a West Australian industry shakeout, but any disruption will be temporary. I mean surplus does level out. I mean, I remember when I started writing about wine there were surpluses in the riverland and they were making shiraz muffins and that's going back to the late 1970s. So I think it's a matter of rationalisation within the industry. It won't be here forever. I think there's going to be a little bit of pain in the industry. I think some people are probably going to find the romance, the dream, may well turn out to be a nightmare. With production outstripping demand, a group of 17 West Australian wine producers has bandied together for greater marketing power. The growers group is the brainchild of veto-culturist, Phil May. As a company, the growers represent the opportunity for a range of Western Australian-based grape producers to vertically integrate their businesses into wine brand ownership and into wine distribution network and not just remain as they were prior to the formation of our business as grape growers, accepting grape prices as their only source of income. Contract growers Russell and Marilyn Reynolds are shareholders and while bird damage is something they can prevent, they can't control the price they'll earn this year for their 17-hectare crop. Southcorp has changed their contract from fixed price to market based. Well, I think before we at least knew what our base price was and you could work your budgets to that. Now with the market-driven contracts, well, each year the price will vary with how the product is going. So, it's a little bit of uncertainty in that. I guess it puts us on our metal, really, to make sure we produce the best quality fruit so we can maintain our price at the highest level. The Reynolds are keeping 5 tonnes of their new vintage for the Growers' Group and see it as an important hedge against market fluctuations. It now gives us an opportunity to be involved in the winemaking and marketing side of it, whereas growers here we've got a pretty huge investment in our vineyard and that would be the same with the other shareholders and we've always had an aspiration to be part of the wine-making process, like the other shareholders as well, but, collectively, we're able to do that. Nice sort of clean, green juice just settling at the moment. It's a sauvignon blanc. Contract winemaker Bruce Dukes is making some of the Growers' 30 products, but none are likely to attract as much attention as the Growers' Garden - a 2-litre cask launched at Easter 2004. We knew that releasing a cask wine from Western Australia would be controversial. We weren't the first cask from Western Australia, but we were the first that contained a proportion of Margaret River fruit and, in our case, it was 70% Margaret River in origin. We branded the cask to water down any backlash from the more traditional players, particularly from Margaret River, by branding it Western Australia and not Margaret River in origin. With just 3% of the national crush, but 30% of the over $15 a bottle market, some WA producers argued a cask could undermine the state's premium brand. It's an argument the visiting Kiwis have heard before. We've got a cask now made from Marlborough sauvignon blanc and everyone said when it went to the UK two years ago it was going to destroy Marlborough. Nothing has changed and if you've got to look at getting the public drinking something and it will get them to think of Margaret River, even if it comes from a cask, you are just getting people in that direction. It's not what we want to be seen as fine wine people, but it's probably inevitable, the same as screw tops are inevitable What remains to be seen, though, is just how sustainable cask wine is from the west where growers produce less than half the national average of grapes per hectare and well below the high yields of irrigation areas like the Murrumbidgee and the riverland. The consumer ultimately will make the decision on whether they are prepared to pay the prices for various packages or types of product or types of wine. My personal view is I don't think cask wine is a sustainable economic process out of Western Australia, but I might be proven wrong. To me, if it moves another 100,000 or 200,000 litres of wine through the market place then fantastic. One thing about wine is once it is consumed it doesn't come back. There's no secondary market. From it controversial beginnings, the Growers' Garden cask has been a runaway success, selling 100,000 units in its first year. Now the Growers' Group says it's secured an export order to the United Kingdom of 55,000 cases of bottled wine as a direct result of the cask's exposure in that market. It is equivalent to what the whole state of Western Australia was exporting five years ago. I'm thrilled to announce that that in itself is a significant wine order, which will have very positive ramifications on the stock levels of wine that are currently held in wineries around Western Australia as we will need to buy in some stocks that we currently don't own. Just like the domestic market, surpluses and increased competition are forcing world prices down. The challenge for the growers and Margaret River will be maintaining quality and keeping their share of the premium market. Is there a danger, though, with all of the discounting, with cleanskins, with cask and things like that, the consumers will actually expect prices at that level and will sort of devalue brands? Yeah, there's a danger of that, but the reality of life is it's a supply and demand-driven equation and once the supply of that wine, if the supply of that win dries up, then it won't be available for purchase. Therefore, consumers will either have to elevate to the next level or, alternatively, they will find another source of alcohol. But, my personal experience is that when wine becomes cheaper, generally people buy more. They do consume it as well. We're probably at a bit of a double-edged sword at the moment whereby price points are under pressure but people are buying a lot more wine and a lot more people, a lot more individual consumers are buying wine as a preferred beverage as against other types of beverage like, say, premium beer or cider. Even for ourselves, I mean, we work, even though we have a reputation of 30 years, we still work at selling our wines, even though they are all allocated and sold. It's not something you would ever want to take for granted, anyway. If people are producing individual wines and have a philosophy of quality, then you'll never have any danger because there's never that much of a great wine, and it's just when you sort of look at you have all of this wine that's there, that's made as a number, you know, you have this amount of crop and it has no particular personality and no story or no human input, then I think there is that danger there could be too much of it. Sean Murphy reporting from the Margaret River region. And we'll continue our look at the wine industry in a couple of weeks. Now on to beef, where the hot topic at the moment is the call by the industry's funding steering committee to lift the cattle levy by $1.50 a head. Through June and July, producers will be asked to vote whether to accept the increase and, naturally, the committee is mounting a strong campaign for a 'yes' vote. Heading up their case is chairman Don McDonald, who told Kerry Lonergan he's confident producers would accept the increase once it was explained why it was needed. Any increase in charges is always difficult to sell, but the beef - the cattle industry in Australia at the moment - is at a pivotal point, and I think there's many opportunities for the industry and there are some threats. And I think, as the report will show in due course as people have the opportunity to read it, that there are very sustainable reasons why it needs to be increased so that the expenditure by MLA and other bodies will be able to take the industry forward, increase the opportunities for us, domestically and externally. But $1.50 on top of $3.50 - that's quite a substantial increase. It is, but this is based on research on the programs that are needed to sustain the market share we have, to increase it in some areas, particularly domestically and in some of the north Asian areas, and we have come up with this figure as a result of research into what is believed to be necessary to sustain our industry and the profit mode it is at the moment. OK - why is it necessary? Because everything is going so well at the moment. We've got near-record exports to all or our major markets, beef consumption in Australia is going through the roof. Why do we need an increase in our levy? Because the opportunities to take market share from America, which is now out of Japan, have never been more real. To maintain it when America comes back into the market, it is absolutely essential, or if we lose that market share we will see oversupply situations and prices dropping. So it is absolutely imperative right now that we take the opportunity to grow that image we have of a good, healthy, safe, clean product both in Japan and Korea and in North America to ensure that the markets that producers here or the prices of marketplaces they are receiving now will be sustained in future. If we don't do that, I believe there's real risk that the opportunities we've built up over the years will fade away and slip away from us. so are the increases to combat the re-emergence of America into the Japanese market and, I assume, perhaps the threats from Brazil and maybe even India in other Asian markets. Absolutely - I mean, BSE has changed the ball game for us in north Asia in the last year or so. America will come back in due course. It's a case of timing, not if, and we need to be prepared for that because that market we've got is underpinning the growth of this industry. And I think it is realised that the Australian beef industry will grow over the next four or five years by up to some 300,000 tonnes, and we need to have market for that if we don't want to see the price slip away. How big a threat would be coming from Brazil and India in the other Asian markets? Well, Brazil and India will beat us on price always as a commodity. Australia needs to position itself as the sought-after article that's safe, good quality and is desirable by our consumers in north Asia. If we just try to compete on price we can't win against those markets you suggest, but we have got the opportunity to present ourselves as the superior quality - which we are - into those markets to ensure that consumers will choose Australian beef over the other product. So the extra $1.50 on the levy will go entirely towards promotion? Promotion and marketing, yep, both domestically and overseas. So what can we expect to see - a lot more ads on television, magazine articles, etc? I think so. We need to sustain in north Asia, particularly, the image we've got of the Aussie beef - safe, clean, good quality - and in Korea, that market needs to be nurtured. I think if we were to walk away from that or reduce the effort into that market at the moment, we would see the opportunity for America to come back in much easier. Domestically, I think there's been a superb job done in Australia over the last 8 or 10 years in the research that's gone into the beef, the eating qualities, the MSA, the desirability of beef as a good, healthy choice in Australia, and I think we need to be promoting that a lot more to see that that consumption - which has again up directly with prices - continues. If we don't do that and we see the increase in production, we could well see the value come down if we don't have the consumption going up here. Donald McDonald, thanks for your time on Landline. It's been a pleasure, Kerry. Don McDonald there, chairman of the Beef Industry Funding Steering Committee. Not unexpectedly, the Australian Beef Association has a different view. Chair of that organisation is Linda Hewitt. Our official attitude is that there are some requirements that we would like to see happen before we accept any levy rise or before we go further into voting for an increase in levy rise. REPORTER: In brief though, do you support it or do you reject it? I'm neither. to their arguments. I'm willing to listen to what they've got to offer and how they put their case to me - how are they going to get this money, how are they going to use it, how have they used it in the past, how has marketing and advertising been done in the past? Give me the full picture and then I'd like to make an informed vote then. So they're the requirements? No, the main requirements from the ABA's point of view are the ones that we've been looking for for seven years. That is automatic membership to all beef producers in Australia - they pay a levy, a compulsory levy, and we want them to get their membership that goes with that. We'd like a democratic vote on issues and on selecting our own board. We'd like processors to be paying their share of the levy into the MLA board. They are the main issues. Then there are, of course, concerns of them now raising the levy at a time when we're still in prolonged drought, but producers are getting a decent amount of money. For the first time they might cut even. Just leave them alone and get ahead a little bit first. But the issues you've raised - you've been fighting that battle a long, long time and you haven't been winning. No, no, no, I wouldn't agree with you there, Kerry. I think the increased number of producers who've picked up their own membership, because you can't get in automatically - which you should be able to - so they're getting their own membership. The increased support I'm getting, the increased media coverage I'm getting - all that sort of thing, I think is highlighting the issues. It's knowledge. People have to have the knowledge first and most people assume they haven't got the right to vote or anything like that. But your membership at the ABA is declining, isn't it? No, it's not declining. Well, that's technically not true. When we first started out we had about 1,400 members and we are down to about 900 now. But as I... That's declining, isn't it? I was saying to you before, a lot of the letters we receive that are saying they are not taking up membership this year is "good on you for what you've done. "Keep up the battle, but we have left the land." And it's a surprising number of letters. So anyway, back to the levy. You will support it provided you get the proper information from MLA? No, I will not support it. I will consider the situation and if I do agree with them in all their arguments and in all their monetary situations that they lay out before all of us, then I will consider it and possibly support it or possibly not support it. And recommend that to your members? I will be making recommendations to members, yes. Linda Hewitt, thanks for your time. The role of the drover is well enshrined in Australian folklore. The role of the drover is well enshrined in Australian folklore. Paterson, Lawson and others immortalised the men and women who camped under the stars at night and led vagrant lives along the stock routes. There's no doubt today's road trains are certainly more efficient, but they lack the romance of life on horseback and its slower pace more in tune with nature. The annual cattle drive from the high-country calf sales in eastern Victoria was once a grand spectacle, but the pace of modern life has seen it pass into history. So when a couple of local farmers decided to host a drovers' reunion, drovers of all ages, stock agents, truckies and sundry others eagerly joined the party. HARMONICA PLAYS 750, I've got... In eastern Victoria's high country, the bellow of cattle and the frenzied shouts of auctioneers pierce the crisp mountain air. The once famous gold mining district of Omeo has long been renowned as cattle country and the annual autumn calf sales are known nation wide. It's the 65th year these sales have been held and few among the wizened faces of these hardy mountain folk can recall an occasion quite like it. A bumper season and sleek, premium cattle... Is it 2, 2 - 792? 792! ..fetching record prices. And for female cattle there was some big money? Females in particular, restockers certainly were very active. The processors were also active, but only to a certain point then the commercial aspect kicked in. I think, in fact, the roan hereford shorthorns heifers made $940, which I would suggest would be a record here at Omeo. Certainly the cattle here are big and fleshy and soft doing and that's why they're so keenly sought after. Those mountain cattle are renowned for their breeding and their growing abilities and their enormous weight gains when they move onto softer pasture. Most of these cattle are trucked to the softer, warmer pastures of the lower country, hundreds of kilometres away. Many of the steers go to feedlots and most of the heifers for a career of motherhood. The B-Doubles will take them down the windy mountain roads and deliver them to new homes, within a day, as far away as Mount Gambier. Until recent years, moving cattle down country was a great deal slower. It's been a great bit of history. It started in 1946 with Allan Taylor and we always say that Allan Taylor was THE man. Like Leon Ford took it over from Allan Taylor, I took it over from Leon, but we all did the same - we all did what what Taylor did. Taylor was THE man. So, you know, Australia owes a lot, I believe, to the likes of Alan Taylor, Leon Ford. They were characters - they were stockmen, they were good managers, they were good guys. It's been almost 20 years since the last mob of cattle were driven 140 kilometres south from Benambra to Bairnsdale. Local farmers, Greg and Robyn Counihan, decided it was time to muster the drovers. (Singing) # Droving days have been like this for years # No modern ways have meant the days were over # To me it was one of the achievements of my life that Laurie Hiscock allowed me to go with his team to do the last two trips. Ever since then I've been so proud to have done it and as the years rolled on I've skited about it and I've talked about it. Then I realised, there's no more droving round here now. The fellows who did it were getting older and even last night we had the sad event of one drover dying. We thought, we've gotta get these people together while it's still fresh, while we can still talk about it. We're trying to celebrate that because it is a dying art and we're involving people from another droving area in Gelantipy - Buchan/Gelantipy and further up because they just wanted to be in it, because there's no one else for them to celebrate it with. So, to paraphrase The Banjo - "All the tried and trusted stockmen "gathered from all over Victoria to re-live those days on the road". You miss them, you really do miss them. But as you can see here at the re-union tonight, we're all getting a bit older and a bit slower. but what you have got - you've got the memories. Today, to meet all these guys we haven't seen for years, is just fantastic. REPORTER: And Robyn, I guess you'll hear many a tall tale. Tall - they'll get taller as the fires burn lower, I suppose, Tim. We're really looking forward to recording some of them and lots of people seem to be keen on photos and let's hope we can capture as much as we can tonight because they're old. They're pretty happy to be together. The older ones attending tonight were born in an age where a horse was far more useful than a motor car in the steep Gippsland hills. It was a set route - we had our camps every night. It was 11 days - from Benambra to Bairnsdale was 11 days. We basically followed the Omeo Highway down, down along the river into Bruthen, into Bairnsdale. Originally they used to just sell the grown cattle because 60 years ago that country wasn't very productive - there was no superphosphate and they had to battle with the rabbit plague. They didn't have a calf sale, because the cattle weren't big enough or strong enough or good enough until they got to about 20 months old to sell. But as the farming procedures improved with the advent of superphosphate, they started yarding yearling cattle and it's snowballed since then to what we saw last weekend, which was just a magnificent yarding of cattle. AUCTIONEER: Make no mistake about that, there going for $630. Watching on with fascination this year was a camera crew from the British Broadcasting Corporation's 'Countryfile' program which is tracing the origins of the Hereford breed in Australia. Well, they spread all over Tasmania, really. Because of them, more Herefords were imported to Tasmania and then into mainland Australia and I think that their bloodline is probably mainly concentrated in Tasmania and we've still got some relatives of those back home. The amazing thing for me as a farmer and a TV presenter as well, is that I've been lots of cattle markets, but I've never seen so many Herefords in one place at one time. At home we've got a total of about 8,000 Herefords in the whole country and here we are today with the sale of a couple of thousand calves. Close to 9,000, in fact, sold during the two days. And in this part of the world the Hereford-Hereford cross stills reigns supreme. The mountain country here, of course, is a great breeding country and the Hereford's hardiness - its ability to survive and thrive in very rough conditions and come away quickly after setbacks and we know what sort of a setback they had here a couple of years ago with those huge fires. The fertility of the breed, the doing ability of the breed... .. and the docility of it too - the ease of handling. It comes back to ease of management. In this type of country it's quite significant. REPORTER: And Plugger those big mobs from the mountain sales would have been all Hereford cattle? Yeah, they were all Herefords in those days. But there's a lot of black cattle got in there now, yeah. In the early days, Tim, probably the main reason was there wasn't a lot of trucks around - they couldn't take the cattle. As years evolved, trucks got bigger, of course, and in the end, the trucks sort of actually took over the droving with your B-Doubles and things like that. But the two main factors from around say the late '60s into the '80's were - one of the biggest factors was those calves were straight off their mothers. They'd come into the farmer's property the night before - just taken off, not weaned, just put in the sales. By the time we'd got them to Bairnsdale 11 days later, we'd weaned them. They were quiet, you'd just put a dog around them and they'd go wherever you wanted them to go. And, of course, we were a fair bit cheaper than the trucking, even in those days. Like in 1974 I think we charged about $2.40 from Benambra to Bairnsdale. So it wasn't a lot of money. The biggest hassle we had in later years, particularly, was the traffic. You'd just get your mob set up and going - you can imagine say 1,300-1,400 head of calves strung out along that road. They'd be a mile and a half strung out, we'd have them in cuts going along with the guys, you know, taking a cut as they go along, and then the traffic would come and mess it all up. And we'd have to sort it out and go again. John Jennings used to buy cattle in the high country and help drove them to his farm near Bairnsdale. What Taylor said went. You know, he'd think ahead too. And that was what the leader had to do - thing ahead. You had to think about what you were going to do next day. And it was all set up the night before. He'd tell you what was gonna happen next day. He knew the road so well, he'd look for those faults - you know cattle might run down this gully or go up this hill. And he'd know and you'd be ready for it. Very much a team. You know, you hear about the romance of the bush and all these things, but that's where it's really at its utmost. You're on the road, you're working hard during the day, you're getting up in the morning before daylight, you're feeding yourself, your horses, your dogs. You're ready to go at daylight and you can have some long, hard days. It might rain all day. Like life can get tough. Sometimes, you know, you'd be a week in wet clothes. You'd light a big fire around a log or something like that and just turn around in circles and dry yourself out. You really need a team that can work together. Like, we'd pull into camp of a night - someone would feed the horses, someone would do the spuds, someone would get the wood. Everyone was working together. That's one of the most important things, you've got to have in your team. If you had bad person in the camp, it wasn't good for the camp. It wasn't good next day on the run droving or anything, because they'd always be niggling you or something. (Singing) # His boots were all dusty # His pick-up all rusty # His old hat was battered and stained # With a trio of musicians helping to set the mood the old stories soon flowed. The stories of dogs and horses and relationships between men and dogs and horses - they're wonderful! And packhorses and working dogs... We used to carry everything with packhorses. I had one pack mare I used to pack more or less for all our tucker and things, because if she went between trees she would ease up into the tree and feel her way and if she couldn't get through with the pack she'd back, back out. That's the way she was - you'd never lose anything on her. Keep the cattle quiet. I used to lead all the way from Benambra to Bairnsdale and to keep the lead and keep them under control and you used to have to watch out for the traffic too. If you heard anybody coming you used have to ride out the front to slow them down. It's always said that the butchers prefer cattle walked, as opposed to being trucked to market, because a calm animal produces more tender meat. Because they weren't knocked around. They weren't, you know, bruised or damaged in anyway at all. See we used to do around about 15-17 miles in a day, roughly. But big old bullocks straight out the bush who'd never seen humans on foot could be a different proposition. A bloke came out in his white apron to sweep the streets and, of course, the bullocks took off. They took about half the fence with them, went straight through, down the other side and they didn't pull up until they got to Mossiface. (laughs) Perhaps a drover's worst nightmare is when cattle spook and a mob rushes wildly and unpredictably. Boggy Creek was a terrible place for cattle to rush and it finished up they put yards there. And a lot of people said, "Why?" To me, dad used to do a lot of droving, and he reckoned now kangaroos and emus and that sort of thing could feed in amongst them cattle and they'd never take any notice, but, of a night, you get these sugar gliders that come down out of the tree and they hit about 8-10 feet on the other tree and they go off with a clap! Now, a beast never sort of looks up and they hear that sort of a clap and it frightens them and once one is on their feet, the whole lot - it's just, they're gone. At night time they're liable to spook. We never had a lot of trouble with them spooking at night. REPORTER: And what would set off cattle? Anything. A snap of a twig, or anything. A a dog bark or something. You know they'd all be on their feet in two seconds and on the move. Any fence that was in the way just went. And then you used to have to get on your horse and head them at night, in the dark, with a torch. And when they talk of horsemen in this region, the name 'Plugger' McMahon ranks among the best. REPORTER: What was your role with the horse sales? I used to catch the horses that were coming in and mouth them - see how old they were. And ride them in the ring. That fellow there, young Taylor, he was always in charge. He was the boss. He was very, very good, he was. He was a very, very good counter of sheep. Now 81, and stricken with cancer, the reunion was a timely chance to celebrate a much-loved character. 58 Plugger REPORTER: You're well known as a horseman and you're synonymous with this region, but I suppose you must miss those days, do you, on the road with cattle. Oh yeah, yeah. I spent most of my life on the road. Breaking in horses everywhere all around the district. Make sure you can see me! Look this way. The final cattle drive from the East Gippsland Mountain calf sales took place in 1986. Then Laurie said the worst thing they had to worry about was letting the mail car through. Then, by the time we went on our one, there were broken stubbies and cars rushing past - people wouldn't stop. Then it was just all over. So there's a lot of changes happening now. The romance has certainly gone out of it. (Singing) # I drift back through the ages # To my droving days of old # But perhaps the main regret of all these old drovers was that they didn't muster themselves a bit sooner. It'd should have been 10 years ago, yeah. But it's a great night. Much of Australia is looking at a tough winter. If it's not drought, it's very, very close and prices have reacted accordingly. All livestock has been hammered. Cotton's okay in terms of what's coming off, but the price is nothing flash. And sugar remains in the doldrums. We begin the price check with export cattle. Cows for the US market fell 8c back to 127c a kilo. The Eastern states' young cattle indicator plunged 17c to 347c a kilo. National livestock reporting service saleyards saw numbers reach 69,000 head - up 38% on the previous week. The Queensland Cattle Index slumped 7 points back to 176 points. The Tuesday store sale at Roma re-wrote the record book - 13,500 head were pushed through. Jap-Ox destined for Japan fell 3c back to 174c a kilo. Trade cattle lost 4c to 192c a kilo. At the feedlot, yearling feeder steers slipped 1c to 192c a kilo. I'm told feedlots everywhere are bursting at the seams as producers see value in finishing their cattle on grain rather than see them struggle in the paddock. Looking at the indicative live export prices, and heavy Malaysian steers out of Geraldton lost 5c back to 140c a kilo. Indonesian steers, also out of Geraldton, gained 5c to stand out at 150c a kilo. Live exports out of the territory are down 21% this financial year. The dollar isn't helping, but the real killer has been shipping rates, which I'm told are going up almost by the day. On the back of massive numbers, lambs crashed 25c back to 320c a kilo. Wagga Wagga, Thursday - 29,000 and Bendigo, Monday - nearly 18,000. Total on offer around the country - more than 192,000. In a rollercoaster market, mutton eased 1c to 159c a kilo. Again big numbers - 118,000 head on offer. To pigs now. There's a flood of American pork on the market. Latest figures show February imports from the United States hit 1.1 million kilos - double the January volume. Now, last week, baconers fell 3c to 234c a kilo and porkers, steady, at 278c a kilo. Checking now the international dairy market, and the indicative export market price range for skim milk powder - US$2,220 to US$2,290 a tonne. Butter - US$1,980 to US$2,100 a tonne. The New Zealand dairy company Fonterra is expected to decide in the next week or so how it will respond to being trumped by the Phillippine food giant San Miguel in its battle to take over Australia's National Foods. Turning to grains now. The APW pool price is steady at $199 a tonne. Australian prime hard also steady - $216.50 a tonne. Soy beans fell 3c back to US$624.5 a bushel. Canadian canola lifted $1.90 to CAN$293 a tonne. Back home, Australian canola slipped $2 to $328 a tonne. Sorghum out of Liverpool Plains picked-up $4 to $154 a tonne. Demand is strangely soft but there's not that much on offer as well. Now to barley prices. Barley delivered Port Adelaide steady - $144 a tonne. While barley delivered Geelong picked-up $3 to $165 a tonne. Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures for May 2005 fell 16.75 cents to 314.25 US cents a bushel. The May 2005 sugar futures now and the sugar indicator eased 0.04 of a cent to 8.66 US cents a pound. Looking at the May 2005 futures, and corn lost 7.5 cents to 205.5 US cents a bushel. The May 2005 cotton price softened 0.81 of a cent to 52.22 US cents a pound. There's a theory around that the more the price of oil goes up, the better for cotton and for wool, simply because synthetics come from oil. As I said, it's a theory. Finally, to our wool report. It's been a good week for a change - prices up around 1.1% across the microns in a market helped along by our slipping dollar. To the regional indices, and the northern indicator jumped 9c to 752c. Pass-in rate here was a record low - 4%. The southern indicator gained 7c to 722c and the western indicator rose 8c to 715c. Nearly 71,000 bales were offered at national sales last week with an average of 9.1% passed in. Sales this week will be in Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. Almost 75,000 bales are currently rostered for sale. And that's the commodities report for the week ending Sunday 10 April. Last week, I mentioned the southern oscillation index, and the fact that the February reading of -29 was the second lowest on record. Well, the March number, released last Monday, was a vast improvement - +0.2. What does that mean? In simple terms, uncertainty remains about the possibility of El Nino conditions later this year. Seven computer models suggest neutral weather patterns, four predict an El Nino and another is forecasting cold conditions. First up today - let's have a look back at some rainfall. Here's the official map of rainfall over Australia for January, February and March. Here's what the colours mean. The light blue represents the areas where there's been above-average rainfall. The white areas indicate average falls, and then we have the light red, which shows the below average rainfall country, and then there's the dark red spots which are very much below average. Note the dry areas of Tasmania, northern New South Wales and southern Queensland in particular. So that's where it's been raining over the past three months. Now let's look at rainfall for the past week, and our national map reveals good falls down the east coast. Tassie had it's first decent drink in ages and there was good rain in the west, although that had its downside. Starting in Queensland - And that's where the rain's been falling over the past week. Next week we climb aboard the harvesters working their way through the 2005 cotton harvest. Recent estimates suggest the national crop this year could exceed 2.6 million bales - about twice last year's production - and for many growers, the first decent pay cheque in three years. It's a particular cause for celebration at Cubbie Station in western Queensland. As a water conservation method, the state government once wanted to buy up and shut down Cubbie, Australia's biggest and most controversial cotton farm. Now Cubbie's not only paying more for their water,

they're working with government on a sustainable water resource plan. And it's a public invite to anyone who would like to - and I'll make it now - if anyone would like to visit Cubbie, I'm sure I'll accommodate a visit and no matter how negative you may be - please come! Please come and we'll show you what we do and then we'll let you judge. Open house at Cubbie Station. A special report on cotton next week. And that's it for another program. I hope you've enjoyed today's stories. Don't forget - this show will be repeated at 11 o'clock tomorrow morning. I'm Joanne Shoebridge. Until next time, goodbye from Landline. Captions by Captioning and Subtitling International.