This week’s announcement of grants to fast track creation of dairy cattle underpass projects is not a State election stunt but rather an initiative three years in the making, courtesy NSW Farmers.
Outgoing Chief Executive Officer Matt Brand said his organisation had followed the successful Victorian model which has helped build 550 roadway underpasses for travelling dairy cattle in the 18 years it has been running.
“We have identified 23 sites across NSW where an underpass or a marked cattle crossing is required,” Mr Brand said. “We have anecdotal evidence to suggest that these crossings are dangerous for road users, especially when dairy cattle are crossing early in the morning or late at night or when fog is settling in,” he said.
“Not only will an underpass help these high risk areas but they will also help with efficiencies on farm. It is easier if you can let cows wander back to the paddock on their own and you don’t have to escort them across a busy road.”
The first phase of this grant offering, which pays for half the construction called at $70,000 is currently budgeted at $3 million but Mr Brand said that if it was oversubscribed NSW Farmers would “do what we do” and advocate for further funding.
The Victorian scheme, for example, is up to its sixth funding round.
Some locations might do better with a safety crossing rather than an underpass and for those projects expenses are capped at $10,000.
NSW Farmers’ dairy committee member and Guernsey breeder Julie Moore, Dorrigo, said the idea of helping dairy farmers to build under-road access tunnels made sense from a safety point of view.
“We saw the need as farms expand and roads get busier,” she said. “The general public just don’t slow down for cattle. We don’t expect people to jump at this opportunity right now. We know that capital investment is not on a lot of people’s radar. We need the drought to end so feed costs go down. But this is an initiative we have been working on for the past four years and people have said it’s a great idea.”
Mr Brand agreed. “We realise there are challenges right now. But we’ll see what the uptake is. We’ll watch and see.”