NIRS Testing | Landholders Driving Change

Faecal NIRS testing – quick, inexpensive and informative

  • March-December
  • Across the BBB catchment

THE quality of the diet consumed by cattle is one of the main determinants of productivity, including reproductive performance, growth rate and carcass quality.

The analysis of cattle faeces using Near lnfrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) provides quick, inexpensive and reliable prediction of diet quality of grazing cattle.

The manure is tested by NIRS to determine:

  • Forage nitrogen and protein
  • Forage digestibility
  • Forage energy content
  • Amount of non-grass (browse) in the diet

NIRS diet quality results can be used to make informed nutritional management strategy decisions such as:

  • timing of weaning and age to wean down to;
  • putting classes of cattle with the highest nutrient requirements (for example, first-calf cows, weaners) into paddocks with the highest diet quality;
  • identifying nutrients that are deficient in the diets as well as any nutrient imbalances, and modifying licks to ensure there is a balance between nutrients fed in licks with nutrients obtained from pasture;
  • identifying when to upgrade from a nitrogen-based (i.e. urea-based) lick to an energy-based supplement before stock begin to rapidly lose weight;
  • identifying when to sell stock before they begin losing weight.

PIP blood tests assess the phosphorus status of animals, which if deficient can be a major factor limiting their growth and performance. PIP blood test are generally done on growing cattle when other nutrients are not in deficit.

Results are invaluable when planning supplementary feeding strategies for your herd. Contact the LDC grazing team if you want to know more about Faecal NIRS testing and PIP blood testing.

The Faecal NIRS Testing and PIP blood test service is part of the LDC’s BBB Grazier Support integrated program that is being rolled out this year. For more information: BBB Grazier Support program.

CONTACT:

  • Rodger Walker on 0408 828 276
  • Adrienne Hall on 0428 158 859
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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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