By Gav Ross
THE neighbour of a messy Bass Coast dairy farm is at his wits end.
After complaints to the recalcitrant operator, the shire and the EPA; the situation has not improved and he’s become more and more concerned about animal welfare in particular.
Dozens of listless, starving calves, left penned inside a small, grassless paddock on the dairy property, situated north of Wonthaggi, has compelled him to act.
The neighbour, who preferred not to be identified, claims the calves have been
surviving on just a small amount of supplementary feed “for weeks”, and dead calves are a common sight, he alleges, around the paddocks.
“It’s absolutely disgusting,” the man said as he showed The Sentinel-Times the paddock from afar last week.
“These calves would only be four or five months old and you can see they’re suffering.
“You can see they’re bloated from the quality of feed they’re getting and many of them have scours (diarrhoea) – you can see it caked around their tails.”
There’s no sign of any dead calves but they’re certainly looking poorly, and there’s an awful smell rising up.
The man adds that he is mystified as to why the calves have been locked up in a paddock where they can’t graze when the same property appears to have several lush, empty fields nearby.
“It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out they’d be better off in the paddock next door.”
He pointed out two escapee calves that had somehow breached a fence and separated from the main herd, looking far healthier in an adjacent paddock.
While he is concerned for the welfare of the 40 or so calves in the dirty paddock, the man says it is just one of “heaps of problems” he claims are at the property.
He has alerted authorities to unsafe work practices, improper effluent management and odour issues.
And the piles of discarded silage wrap mounting up near the front of the property and clearly visible from the main road, are a disgrace he says.
“If anyone wondered whether Bass Coast had a rubbish tip, this is it,” he said.
“When it’s windy there’s usually bits of wrap sent flying towards my property, which get stuck in the fence.”
The man said he has met with several officers from Bass Coast Shire Council’s local laws department on-site in the past year.
But he claims they have been “useless” and no action has been taken.
He also claims to have met with Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Workcover officers on-site, and he is still waiting on a visit from the RSPCA.
‘No problems’ – council
Bass Coast Shire Council’s general manager of healthy communities, David Elder, confirmed council officers have visited the property and “no further action is required”.
“Any complaints received are followed up and appropriate action taken,” Mr Elder said.
“When dealing with a working dairy farm we also need to take into account the normal farming practices that take place in this type of environment.”
There were no further details provided by Mr Elder because “it isn’t appropriate for council to discuss specific details regarding a private property”.
EPA Victoria’s acting Gippsland manager, Leigh Bryant, said the authority was aware of the neighbour’s concern and “is working with the owner and also its operator to ensure there are no environmental impacts resulting from the site’s operation”.
He said EPA inspected the site last April in response to a complaint concerning waste management at the site.
“Following the inspection, EPA issued the site owner a Pollution Abatement Notice (PAN), and the site operator a Minor Works Pollution Abatement Notice (MWPAN),” Mr Bryant confirmed.
“The MWPAN required the immediate maintenance of the farm’s effluent storage system to prevent any overflow occurring; additional advice included that loose silage wrap be bagged to prevent it escaping the site.”
“The MWPAN was complied with and revoked on August 3.”
“The PAN requires the installation of an irrigation system to manage dairy effluent.
“This notice is due for compliance by October 30.”
Attempts were made by the Sentinel Times to contact the owners of the farming property but without success.