Dr Ian Braithwaite has the rapt attention of students in his makeshift classroom (from left) Montana Spurdle from Rangeview Station, NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Field Officer Sam Skeat and Three Creeks Farm grazier Elisabeth Poole.

Profitability dominates breeder management strategies

CASH flow, not calving rates should be the measure North Queensland graziers use to manage their breeding herds according to cattle veterinarian Dr Ian Braithwaite.

Without cash flow, herd performance declined and land condition suffered.

That was one of the key messages Dr Braithwaite delivered to graziers attending breeder management and pregnancy testing schools at Sutherland and Ewan Hills stations, in the Burdekin recently.

“Cash flow really is king in northern breeding herds,” Dr Braithwaite said.

“The other two factors – the performance of breeders replacing sold animals and providing quality pastures that match stocking rate to carrying capacity – are important but will really feel the pinch if cash flow falls short.”

Attendees worked through breeder mob scenarios which highlighted how reproductively lazy animals in a mob encouraged managers to carry extra cows to build calving rates, with a subsequent detrimental impact on pastures.

The two-day workshop was rounded out with learning how to pregnancy test and determine foetal age.

Linda Anderson, Senior Grazing Field Officer with NQ Dry Tropics, said the practical component of the workshops was what drew participants.

“But that’s not the real power in these workshops,” she said.

“After the two days of training, graziers realise they get so much more value from the real-life, practical decisions that Ian teaches.

“They help power up businesses, production and pastures.”

The two courses, which attracted 27 participants from across the Burdekin region, were supported by the Queensland Government Landholders Driving Change project and the Reefwise Grazing of Burdekin Rangelands project, which is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

Host of the Ewan Hills school, Ryan Jones, said the work to get cattle in and set up for the school was well worth it.

“I’ve now got a clearer picture about how I can set up my female mobs to get higher productivity, target supplementation and manage my grasses better,” he said.

“By far, this was the best course I’ve ever done.

“It rounded out my knowledge and gave me skills and management options to operate our business more profitably.”

Dr Ian Braithwaite explains to to Kelsey Jones from Milestone Brahmans how to identify points in the anatomy of a cow during a pregnancy test.

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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

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 #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 #5

KEQ #6

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KEQ #8

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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.
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