Raymond Stacey, RCS, leads workshop participants through an exercise in the paddock

LDC’s Lisa Hutchinson, Leanne and Barry O’Sullivan, Glenalpine Station, and Mick Shannon.

Michael Pini, Lancewood, Lyle Gilham, Suttor Creek Pastoral Co., and Matthew Salmond, Lestree Downs Pastoral Co.

William Fordyce, Hillalong Station, near Nebo, and Clay Kenny, Llanarth feedlot, near Belyando Junction.

Taking stock – pasture management key for productive land

THE Landholders Driving Change (LDC) grazier support program for 2019 kicked off with 40 producers attending a Taking Stock – Managing Pastures and Productivity Day at Weetalaba Station, near Collinsville last month.

The aim of the day was to demonstrate how well-managed forage systems can contribute significantly to the profitability and sustainability of a grazing business. Five quality speakers from Resource Consulting Services (RCS), DAF and the cattle industry shared their knowledge and experience.

Event organiser LDC Senior Grazing Field Officer Brendan Smith said the day had been designed to start new conversations.

“Graziers are seeking knowledge about grazing management and animal husbandry to help them apply good grazing principles to differing land types” Mr Smith said.

“They’re also looking to increase their observation and monitoring skills to see subtle changes over time in livestock, soils, and pasture plants, so they can make informed and timely adjustments to grazing systems.

“Informed business decisions lead to Improved financial sustainability and ecological benefits, and this is important for a thriving cattle industry in the Bowen Broken Bogie (BBB) catchment.

“All speakers addressed these issues, and it invoked a lot of discussion, with producers talking about what works, what doesn’t, and throwing around ideas about what they’d like to trial on their land,” he said.

Presenter, Raymond Stacey, of RCS, said graziers should not underestimate the value of monitoring, and spoke about monitoring tools including graze charts, paddock records, business analysis, landscape health monitoring and stock days per hectare per 100mm of rain.

Beef extension officer Jim Fletcher, of DAF, spoke about how NIRS technology enables producers to assess diet quality, so they can make proactive, timely decisions about the timing of weaning, age to wean down to, when to sell stock before they begin losing weight, and how to identify nutrients that are deficient in their diets.

Agricultural economist Tim Moravek, of DAF, spoke about the benefits of spending time to do a grazing business analysis to help make informed and profitable decisions into the future.  

Charters Towers grazier Jane Weir, of Amelia Downs, also urged producers to spend more time in the office working on the business.

“If you’ve got a pasture budget, you’ve got a risk mitigation tool, and that means you have options to survive the hard, dry times,” Ms Weir said.

Clermont grazier Peter Anderson, of Glenlea Downs, said economical beef production must consider the needs of the animal and the forage plant at the same time.

“Nutrition should always be front of mind. Do not wait until you see cattle slipping, that’s too late and you end up spending a lot of time and money trying to get them back into condition,” Mr Anderson said.

Mr Smith said the workshop was the first in a series of training activities the LDC team was delivering in the region this year.  Other activities include forage budgeting, photo monitoring sites, assessing pasture diet quality with Faecel NIRS testing, soils testing and analysis, as well as one on one consultation.

Guest speakers Peter Anderson, Glenlea Downs, and Raymond Stacey, RCS, pictured with workshop organiser LDC Senior Grazing Officer Brendan Smith.

Guest speaker Jane Weir, Amelia Downs, Bec Clopperton, RCS, Daisy Denny, DAF, and guest speaker Tim Moravak, DAF.

Guest speaker Jane Weir, Amelia Downs, Bec Clopperton, RCS, Daisy Denny, DAF, and guest speaker Tim Moravak, DAF.

LDC Senior Grazing Officer Brendan Smith, with (from left) guest speaker Jim Fletcher, DAF, and Reid Muirhead, Weetalaba Station. Reid and wife Julie kindly allowed LDC to run the workshop at Weetalaba.


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.
KEQ #8

KEQ #7
KEQ #6

KEQ #5

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 #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 #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

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