Subject: AGE: East Timorese Taste The Milk Of Human Kindness

The Age (Melbourne)

March 14, 2002 Thursday

East Timorese Taste The Milk Of Human Kindness

Olivia Hill-Douglas

A herd of 32 dairy cattle bred for tropical conditions has left country Victoria-bound for East Timor, where it will provide milk for 500 families in the village of Fuiloro, on the country's north-east tip.

The cattle - 30 pregnant cows and two bulls - have been on a farm near Echuca in northern Victoria for the past 18months, and yesterday were herded on to a truck to begin their journey to East Timor, where they are expected to arrive in early April.

Project coordinator Kevin Wood said of the cattle's send-off: "You'd only call it spectacular. Everything just went so smoothly and the cattle were pretty good to handle."

The idea to send cattle to East Timor came about in July, 2000, when East Timorese activist and now ambassador-designate to Australia, Abel Guterres, spoke at a meeting of the Brighton Kiwanis, an international organisation that works on projects to aid children.

Mr Wood said: "A simple challenge was put to us: could we do something to help re-establish a school, or schools, in East Timor, and would it be stretching the friendship too much if we could get a few cows over there to provide some milk for the kids that walk two to three hours to attend those schools.

"We got one better than that in that we are now establishing a dairy herd."

The 30 cows have been artificially bred from dairy cows in the Goulburn Valley and stock generated by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, which in turn have been bred from the Sahiwal cattle of Pakistan.

This cross-breeding means that the cattle will be able to withstand the tropical conditions - including a high prevalence of ticks and parasites that cause intestinal infections - better than dairy cattle in Australia.

A dairy is being established in Fuiloro, and an Australian couple will work there from July, helping to train locals in milk production and cattle management.

"We have another 30-odd cattle that will go this time next year ... and we believe the capacity of the college is 60 to 80 head initially," Mr Wood said.

The cattle will travel overland to Darwin, where they will stay until April 1 before being shipped to East Timor.

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