Workshop looks at how to look after land during the Dry

HIGHLY-respected grazing management consultant Brian Wehlburg spent a week in the BBB in mid-September visiting a number of properties to assist in grazing planning for the rest of the dry season and preparing for the wet season.

The visit was a joint initiative between NQ Dry Tropics’ Reef Trust Stomping out Sediment project and the LDC.

Brian provided local graziers with valuable insights and information including:

  • Getting Animals to the ‘right place at the right time for the right reasons’.
  • Innovative techniques to simultaneously maximise stocking rate and improve land health and productivity.
  • How to use livestock to improve the health of your land and increase profit.
  • How to coordinate three primary land management tools (rest, grazing, animal impact) to grow more pasture.

Tabletop Station grazier Tom Murphy talks about the importance of well-designed yards during a Field Walk

  • How to maximise the harvest of sunlight by managing stocking rate, time, stock density and herd effect.
  • How to make the best plan for the season ahead.
  • How to meet your grazing and pasture production challenges effectively.

The week-long tour ended with a field trip to Tom and Karen Murphy’s Tabletop Station where Tom highlighted the importance of pasture recovery during the wet season.

Nearly all Tabletop paddocks receive at least four months of rest during the wet season to grow as much grass as possible to carry into the dry season.

Attendees also saw progress on a number of gully management projects which include a range of earthworks and grazing practices aimed at re-profiling suitable gullies using livestock.

Karen and Tom Murphy, Tabletop Station (photo by Melissa Cormack Photography)

Experienced holistic management trainer

Holistic Management trainer Brian Wehlburg

Brian Wehlburg is a well-regarded Holistic Management educator. Passionate about the environment from an early age, he attended an introductory course in 1995 and was bowled over with the results he obtained through managing holistically.

As a certified Holistic Management educator, Brian has shared his passion and knowledge with many businesses, land managers, families, environmental groups and pastoralists. Brian has trained and consulted in Australia, New Zealand, America and Zimbabwe.

He has hands-on experience in crop farming in Central Africa, working as a pasture and cattle manager in South West Queensland and managing a mixed-species property in New South Wales.

In 2016, Brian provided Holistic Management courses for Bowen, Collinsville and Charters Towers districts graziers and continues to work with many of those graziers.

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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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