Holistic Management trainer Brian Wehlburg has been a guest speaker at numerous NQ Dry Tropics events held in the BBB.

Graziers enthusiastic about holistic approach to management

In August, 11 BBB graziers took part in a two-day workshop by Holistic Management Educator Brian Wehlburg to learn about a systems-thinking approach for managing resources.

The Holistic Management approach helps graziers develop and implement a whole-of-property business plan to improve economic, social and environment outcomes. By focusing on more than one variable, graziers will see improvements across all three. 

Indicators for improved ecosystem health under holistic management techniques include:

  • more ground cover;
  • increased surface water;
  • enhanced plant and wildlife diversity; and
  • eradication of problem or invasive species.

Topics covered during the workshop:

  • How Nature functions holistically; rebuilding pasture diversity; ensuring positive animal nutrition and solving environmental problems, with minimal input costs.
  • Creating a grazing plan for adequate recovery of plants, maximising grass production and keeping soil on your property.
  • Quickly and accurately measuring feed volumes to match stock to fodder. Planning for the dry season… and for drought.
  • Effective monitoring techniques to improve the country and your cash flow.

Graziers reviewed their current business practices including evaluating their processes to determine if feedback loops to strengthen decision-making were already built into their business plan.

They were encouraged to look at the big picture, holistically, at the four ecosystem processes that drive all environments – water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics. 

Training also focused on how livestock could be managed for ecosystem recovery to help to enhance grass cover and build soil. Through holistic grazing planning this means getting livestock to the right place, for the right reasons at the right time. 

This workshop was initiated through the NQ Dry Tropics’ Stomping Out Sediment project funded through the Australian Government Reef Trust Phase IV investment.

Brian Wehlburg (Inside Outside Management) gets hands-on with soil on the footpath watched by (from left): Ben Childes (Weetalaba, Collinsville), Allan and Selena O’Sullivan (Vine Creek, Belyando Crossing), Barry and Leanne O’Sullivan (Glenalpine, Bowen), and Grace Muirhead (Weetalaba, Collinsville).

Community Dynamics: Grace Muirhead and Rebecca Lathwell stand to contribute to a session aimed at understanding the links between all living things to create a sustainable, diverse and profitable environment.

Educator recognises a gathering momentum in the response from graziers

The enthusiasm is obvious as Brian Wehlburg talks about an holistic approach to farm management.

Brian Wehlburg, from Inside Outside Management said it was good to see BBB producers who have already adopted Holistic Management attending the workshop.

“They provide invaluable insights and knowledge for graziers new to the concept,” he said.

“These producers appear to be leading the charge in creating change towards positive environmental outcomes.

He said by continuing to meet to discuss and share learning, observations and experiences, they provided an example for the broader community and the grazing industry, which was critical for success in a dynamic, constantly changing environment.  

“Holistic decision-making creates the vision to connect to people’s deepest desires through their values, so every decision they make should be leading them, and their land, in that direction,” he said.

“Sound understanding of the environment and using livestock to create positive environmental outcomes supports and increases land managers’ options to achieve their vision.”

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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.

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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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