Stockroute to Sydney

Host: Kadaitcha Pastoral Company
Written by James Christian

I have an exceptionally grand plan for marketing Australian beef to the rest of the world. It would require a vast amount of planning for huge levels of resources: tonnes of hay, fleets of trucks, a pub full of confident ringers, willing producers, skilled helicopter pilots, lots of camera crews, beautiful weather, and a permit from the NSW Government. The plan involves Australian icons, from people and their occupations, geographic beauties, and marvellous feats of engineering.

The concept is to walk a couple of thousand head of cattle down the Bradfield Highway, across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and into the Botanic Gardens while being filmed from all angles. Quite frankly, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the harbour city, as there have been many things in the past that have forced people into the Sydney Harbour Tunnel because the Bridge was being used for something else. Mark Webber did burnouts in his Formula One car with special permission from the NSW Police so he wouldn’t get a ticket for being a hoon; numerous fun runs are held annually that involve at least one crossing to the exclusion of all vehicles; breakfast was served to 6,000 patrons sitting at tables and chairs on freshly laid turf on the deck of the giant coat hanger in October 2010. Droving some cattle across should be a cinch!

marketing-1-sydney-harbour-panoramaThe Coat hanger and the feed yard. (Image from sydney.com)

To give this more perspective, for some reason in the past I was looking up stock routes to see which still exist. The Tanami in the NT, for example, is no longer a gazetted stock route. Droving cattle down it isn’t the best thing to try and do because the public water points are no longer equipped, and I imagine the road trains would get a bit upset having to share the road with a mob of cattle that shouldn’t be there. Somehow my research linked into looking at NSW stock routes, and the Bradfield Highway, which is the highway to the north of (and the feeder to) the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is a valid stock route as long as you get a permit. This is where my idea started.

marketing-2-plenty-of-space-for-livestock Plenty of space for livestock here! (Image from Dictionary of Sydney) 

Imagine what the video could look like. Helicopter shots zooming across the azure harbour, sweeping abreast of then over the Bridge, with the cattle thundering along, the CBD and Circular Quay, shimmering Sydney Opera House, colourful Luna Park, the Domain and lush Botanic Gardens all visible in the background. Shots taken from cameras mounted on the bridge, on the ringers, on the bull catchers, and on daring helicopters showing the cattle walking along under the famous trusses towards the green grass at Farm Cove where the First Fleet’s cattle grazed in 1788.

marketing-3-game-choppers-only-down-thereGame choppers only down there! (Image from bridgeclimb.com)

For a bit of fun there could be a handful of cattle cut out camp drafted through the toll booths or run out and around the outside of the Opera House. Montages of videos taken above and below the cattle; inside and outside trucks, Toyotas, choppers and on horses and motorbikes. There could even be a couple of whip cracks thrown in for good measure.

Shots of cattle grazing or chewing their cud, surveying the scenery at sunset (possibly trying to figure out the smells of the animals wafting over the water from Taronga Zoo), as the ringers sit around a fire and wondering who’s turn it is to get the next round of beers. Big, long pan shots of trucks parked up nose to tail with their bull bars, fuel tanks and exhaust stacks glinting and gleaming in the twilight. The best thing about the entire process is there’d be next to no dust!

In my head it’s becoming a great mash up of beer ads. The bigger-than-Ben-Hur size of the Carlton Draught ‘big ad’; the larrikinism of the VB ‘you can get it any old how’ ads; and the brilliance of the Fosters ‘I believe’ ad from the Sydney Olympic Games back in 2000.

It could become large-scale public awareness that as beef producers we want to do the best things possible for our cattle. We give them exercise by taking them on scenic walks. We feed them, we water them, we supplement their diet if we see they’re struggling. We pull them out of fences, we keep ferals at bay, we keep the ticks off. We even take them on holidays to the coast.

Music festivals held in the Domain and Botanic Gardens require epic tidying up. Hordes of people lose touch with reality due to consumption of booze, pills and powder, scattering rubbish and clothing as they see fit. By way of comparison a night of a herd in a panel yard with a mob of ringers camping right down on the harbour front before loading the cattle out the next day would be fixed with a hose and the next rain shower, with all the proceeds contributing to making the grass grow again! For that matter, some of the cowpats could be picked up and given to the veggie garden growers and compost heapers, further encouraging “paddock to plate” mentalities.

Before my imagination runs completely away from me, though, it’s important to note that this is just an idea and it’d take a mammoth effort to turn it into a reality. For it to become a marketing campaign there would need to be research done to see how it would be received, but perhaps if it were somehow coupled with a tourism campaign it’d get a great deal of steam up. Obviously there would be some challenges with logistics, but nothing would be insurmountable. The droving permit, as it stands today, requires livestock to be moved between midnight and dawn, but I’m sure that as with other exceptional circumstances and opportunities, the event could be accommodated if it was properly planned. Even if it didn’t make it as a campaign I reckon it’d be a cool thing to do at the very least.

As Paul Kelly sings, “from little things, big things grow”…

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