Hold your nose, folks. An estimated 4800 tonnes of cow dung is infiltrating Victoria's rivers and creeks every day, renewing fears about human health and polluted waterways.
With thousands of grazing licences due for renewal in October, environmental experts warn that poo from cattle roaming near rivers is posing an ongoing threat, prompting calls for the state government to help more farmers fence their land.
At present, landowners can do so voluntarily in return for fencing, stock water supply and other incentives. But Environment Victoria Healthy Rivers campaigner Juliet Le Feuvre said progress was notoriously slow, because the government's current target was to fence 170 kilometres of public and private land every year.
''Everybody recognises that it's a problem, but the pace of change is so slow that it would take 100-odd years to fence off all the catchments,'' she said. ''Really, what we're asking for, is an increased commitment and funding to actually do something about it.''
At Boolarra South, Gippsland, beef farmer John Parker is one of several landowners ahead of the game. Over the past 10 years, Mr Parker and his wife have fenced about three kilometres of Crown frontage on a creek that runs into the Morwell River, with cows now drinking from a special trough away from the embankment.
For Mr Parker, keeping rivers clean is a no-brainer, but he agreed more incentives should be offered to help other farmers follow suit.
''Because we own both sides it was quite easy for us,'' he said. ''But some places have one farmer on one side, and another farmer on the other, so they have to agree to do it. That becomes a bit of a stumbling block sometimes. Other farmers agree to do it but want the local authorities to do all the work.''
Victoria has about 2 million beef cattle (each producing 21 kilograms of manure a day), and about 1.8 million dairy cattle, each producing about 55 kilograms of poo a day. Based on health department figures, about 3.4 per cent of that manure - or almost 4800 tonnes - ends up in rivers.
The government says it spent more than $13 million last year on waterway management programs, including fencing, erosion control, and in-stream works. Water licence fees were also recently reduced by up to $2100 for farmers who fenced Crown land along rivers in partnership with their local catchment management authority.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the Coalition had made considerable efforts to improve the situation.
''The Coalition government invests millions of dollars each year into riparian management works, including managing stock access to the frontage and the waterway,'' he said. "Victorians have clean, safe drinking water supplies that rank among the very best anywhere in the world.''