Taking Stock – Managing Pastures and Productivity day

FIVE quality speakers from RCS, DAF and cattle producers gave informative presentations, and the common message from all speakers was “good grazing and pasture management is vital if you want to keep your land productive”.

The speakers and their “take home messages”:

Raymond Stacey, RCS

“Pasture is our blue chip investment.”

“Imagine your country as your haystack.”

“Don’t underestimate the value of monitoring. Tools to monitor with include:

  • graze charts
  • paddock records
  • business analysis
  • landscape health monitoring and;
  • stock days per hectare per 100 mm of rain.

Jim Fletcher, DAF

“NIRS technology enables producers to assess diet quality, so they can make proactive, timely decisions.

“Nutritional management strategies that NIRS diet quality results can be used to assist in making informed decisions are:

  • timing of weaning and age to wean down to;
  • putting cattle with the highest nutrient requirements (e.g. first-calf cows, weaners) into paddocks with the highest diet quality;
  • identifying nutrients that are deficient in the diets as well as nutrient imbalances; and
  • identifying when to sell stock before they begin losing weight.

Tim Moravek, DAF

“Take lessons from the past and let the past go – make good decisions in the future.”

“Spend the time to do a grazing business analysis and you will make informed and profitable decisions into the future.”

“Weaning rate, classes by age, sales, approximate joined breeder and heifer numbers. and preg testing will tell you your grazing pressure, and can help you predict your cash flow”.

“Money is made in the bad years, if you plan”.

Jane Weir, Amelia Downs, near Charters Towers

“Be brave enough to change a few things – a few minor changes can make a big difference”.

“If we spent just one per cent more time in the office , and just one per cent more on our pasture budget – we can survive the hard, dry times.”

“If you’ve got a pasture budget, you’ve got a risk mitigation tool…. and that means you have options.”

Peter Anderson, Glenlea Downs, near Clermont

“When things turn sour, change your head space and make small changes, this can turn a potentially bad situation into a good one.”

“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.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, ask other graziers what they do, speak to experts, because the more information you have the better decisions you will make for your business.”

Plenty of opportunities on the calendar for 2019

AS part of an integrated program the LDC team in conjunction with project partners RCS and DAF is delivering a series of workshops and supported activities throughout 2019.  

These workshops aim to:

  • Improve the variety, quantity the quality of information readily available to landholders
  • help graziers make informed decisions that is specific to their needs and property, which in turn
  • helps properties increase farm productivity and profit while also improving the environment.

The following services were also launched on the day – available to all producers within the BBB catchment:

  • Forage Budgeting – Measure the feed supply for the coming dry. The LDC team and partners will undertake property or paddock assessments.
  • Photo Monitoring Sites – Record and monitor visual changes. The LDC team and partners will install sites and record this data.
  • Assessing pasture diet quality with Faecel Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) testing
  • Soils testing and analysis – have a professional test and provide a detailed soils analysis for your paddock or property.

These options are available free of charge. We do encourage properties to be actively involved in the data collection process. Once collected, all information will be presented back exclusively to the landholder only.

Data will not be shared unless approval to do so is given by landholders.

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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.

KEQ #5

KEQ #6

KEQ #7
KEQ #8

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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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