Glenalpine | Landholders Driving Change

Using the herd as a land regeneration tool

Leanne and Barry O’Sullivan at Top Sandy Dam on Glenalpine

Leanne and Barry O’Sullivan

Barry and Leanne O’Sullivan have created a system on Glenalpine Station that meets community needs, while being amenable to the needs of nature.

They have been able to regenerate pasture through drought, while growing the productivity and profitability of their business. Using cattle as a herd, and through a system of management acknowledging what nature presents and utilising it with regeneration in mind, they move the herd across the landscape.

These grazing principles allow the land to regenerate and business to grow, the cattle have highly palatable pasture to graze, which aids in maintaining good calving rates, increased weight gain and a higher quality of feed further into the dry season.

Barry and Leanne continue to engage in projects outside of their pasture system. These projects have involved several years of monitoring wildlife, gully remediation, fencing dams and wetland areas, followed by public field days onsite.

Barry and Leanne completed a Holistic Management training course supported by NQ Dry Tropics and implemented highly intensive grazing practices to manage weed infestations, halt gullying, improve pasture composition and improve water quality, and are members of the Grazing BMP advisory board looking for solutions to implement industry wide best management practices.

Sunrise at Glenalpine Station… a wonderful diversity of birdlife on show

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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.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*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.

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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.

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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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