Famed Australia ranch to be sold due to export ban

AP News
Posted: Jun 29, 2011 6:26 AM
Famed Australia ranch to be sold due to export ban

Australia's best-known Outback cattle ranch has been put on the market by an owner who on Wednesday blamed the country's ban on livestock exports to Indonesia for destroying her livelihood.

The decision to sell iconic Bullo River Station in the Northern Territory is the latest evidence of the economic hardship gripping tropical Australian cattle country since the government announced June 8 that livestock exports to Indonesia were banned for up to six months because of animal cruelty concerns in Indonesian slaughterhouses.

The 40,000-acre (160,000-hectare) family-owned property was made famous by matriarch Sara Henderson, who wrote about it in six books including her best-selling autobiography "From Strength to Strength," published in 1993.

It told of her family's struggle to manage the remote and expansive ranch _ known in Australia as a cattle station _ after her American-born husband Charlie Henderson died in 1985. Sara Henderson retired from ranching before she died in 2005, aged 68.

Her daughter who now owns the ranch, Marlee Ranacher, said Wednesday the ban was the last straw for her and other ranchers like her in northern Australia.

"If there were any way I could change this decision, I would," Ranacher told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio of her decision to sell.

"I wish for a miracle, but there aren't many of those around at the moment, and this is definitely the last straw because the government, I believe, is legally and morally negligent to have done what they have done," she added.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of livestock. Many ranchers rely entirely on the 330 million Australian dollar ($350 million) per year live cattle trade with Indonesia because there are no large-scale slaughterhouses in northern Australia _ and the southeast market where most Australians live is too distant.

Ranacher said her ranch had not sold any cattle since the monsoon season set in October last year. Now in the current dry season when the cattle trade resumes, she had nowhere to send her 8,000 Brahman cattle specifically bred for the Indonesian market.

She said she could not afford the diesel fuel needed during the dry season to pump underground water into troughs for the cattle to drink.

"I don't know what else we can do but start shooting them. I can't stand there and watch them die of thirst," she said, adding that none had yet died.

Ranch salesman Andrew Gray said Bullo River Station was the first ranch in the Northern Territory to be put on the market since the trade ban began and he did not expect other ranchers would sell.

"Station owners are really hoping trade recommences at some stage soon, but it's highly unlikely people would just throw their keys on the counter and walk out," Gray told The Australian newspaper. He did not immediately return The Associated Press's call on Wednesday.

The government announced on Monday a AU$3 million compensation package for meat industry workers such as cattle truck drivers who had lost income through the trade ban.

But Ranacher said no financial help had been offered to the ranch owners.

The government wants the cattle industry-owned marketing company Meat and Livestock Australia to provide AU$5 million to feed and water thousands of cattle stranded by the ban.

The ban followed gruesome footage broadcast on Australian television that showed cattle in Indonesian slaughterhouses were beaten and took minutes to bleed to death as their throats were repeatedly slashed.

The government said the trade would be halted while Australian and Indonesian authorities work to ensure that the exported animals are treated according to World Organization for Animal Health guidelines.