Bob got more grass with rotational grazing

LDC project panel member Bob Harris has worked hard over the past 10 years to get more from his land with the right grazing system. We spoke to him about what he has achieved.

Brought up on a dairy in Victoria, Bob Harris always knew he wanted to own his own patch of dirt to grow some grass and cows. But life took him along a few career paths before he found Glencoe, a 2400 hectare grazing property south of Bowen. 

He purchased Glencoe in 2000 and ran it as a hobby farm until 2010 when he relocated to live and run the business permanently.

Bob said he knew he had to build resilience and drought-proof his property. In the past 10 years he has completed numerous training and education courses and government-funded projects on-property —  resulting in improved water quality outcomes as well as boosting farm productivity.

Bob Harris, Glencoe, and Maree Cali, of the Department of Resources.

“There wouldn’t be a day where I don’t reflect on what I have learned from others, industry experts and my peers,” he said. 

“Their expertise and views are varied and you need to take heed of that collective wisdom if you’re going to improve your own business.”

That advice led Bob to introduce rotational grazing. He runs 700-plus head, a breeder herd and young store cattle, and 80 per cent of the property has no cattle on it at any given time.

“Plants are grazed in their vegetative state for relatively short periods,” he said.

“I’ve found pasture and soil health has improved because plants are being given longer rest periods to recover from grazing events.

“There’s been an increase in plant biodiversity and water infiltration has also improved.”

Bob believes it’s also important to treat degraded areas on the property. He recently completed a Grazing Resilience and Sustainable Solutions (GRASS) project with NQ Dry Tropics.

The project focused on small-scale landscape remediation measures to improve water management and sediment capture. A series of diversion banks were installed to hold water in the landscape and improve water infiltration instead of running into an adjacent gully system. The remediated area was 30 hectares.

“I had trouble repairing the gully system through grazing management alone,” he said.

“Constructing the diversion banks will allow the land to be repaired and healed, and to increase water infiltration.

“Although we’ve only experienced half a wet season, early indications are positive. Water has been held up but it’ll take a couple of years to see the full extent of the results.”

Recognition for a job well done came along the way. Bob Harris is pictured being presented with a Reef Champion award by Livingstone Shire Council Bill Ludwig in 2018.

The GRASS project aims to support graziers in priority Great Barrier Reef catchments to improve land conditions and productivity, while helping to protect the reef by reducing soil loss from properties.

It is funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and is delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Burnett Mary Regional Group, Fitzroy Basin Association and NQ Dry Tropics.

Watch this video and hear Bob’s story. We’ve put together a series of videos — Stories from the paddock — where landholders tell their story about life on the land. We will be sharing these during the coming months in NQ Dry Tropics’ monthly bulletin PRIME CUTS where you can find all the upcoming events and opportunities for graziers.

Bob Harris and some maiden heifers on Glencoe Station near Bowen.


Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
KEQ #8

KEQ #7
KEQ #6

KEQ #5

KEQ #4

The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

KEQ #3

*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

KEQ #1

Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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