1988 March: Dieldrin contamination at MMBW farm Werribee.

Friday 11th March 1988 (The Age Newspaper)

Board Sells Its Cattle Despite Quarantine

Victoria’s biggest cattle farm, the Board of Works farm at Werribee, has been quarantined because of pesticide contamination, but is still selling cattle through Melbourne Markets.

Nearly half the 10,000-hectare farm, which makes $3 million annual profit on cattle raised on sewage-irrigated pasture, has shown excessive levels of dieldrin, the pesticide at the centre of the Victorian meat industry’s contamination crisis.

However, the board is still selling cattle from the property, with Department of Agriculture approval. The animals, including 68 heifers sold yesterday, through Dandenong Market, are guaranteed to be below acceptable residue levels but are not identified as from a quarantined property.

The Werribee farm carries 15,000 cattle and has already sold 2000 animals this year, a board spokesman said. Dieldrin contamination was first discovered last September.

The board agreed to voluntary quaratine. Tests showed that the dieldrin was present in sewage effluent. The spokesman said the farm’s cattle had lost weight and value dramatically since their removal from the irrigated land.

He said the dieldrin could have been building up in the farm’s pasture for decades, and that there was no obvious solution. The board had carried out a big testing program. However, he was surprised to hear cattle were sold yesterday.

The Opposition yesterday raised the farm’s quarantine in State Parliament. Farmers whose properties are among 222 Victorian farms under quarantine made it plain yesterday that they felt the board was receiving special treatment.

But a spokesman for the Agriculture Minister, Mr Walker, said last night that the Werribee farm would not get special consideration. He said the approvals for sale were tightly controlled, and there was nothing wrong with the board not revealing its quarantine status when selling cattle.