STUFF OF LIFE… Grazing Naturally’s Dick Richardson explains how cattle dung can provide information about the health of the herd and the quality of pasture on which they’re grazing. The “students” are Pallamana Station grazier Kale Robinson, his son Sam, and NQ Dry Tropics Senior Project Officer Linda Anderson.
Graziers make a change for the better
SWEET… Dick Richardson gets up close and personal with the soil on Pallamana Station during a Grazing Naturally workshop.
MOST people find change uncomfortable. Grazing Naturally advocate Dick Richardson revels in it.
He believes change is the keenest tool he has as a land manager, particularly in a grazing setting.
He said nature always responded to change, and appropriate change could deliver a more
biodiverse and balanced ecosystem, a deeper, healthier soil, better pastures and groundcover,
and, consequently, less runoff and better beef.
Mr Richardson has farmed livestock in South Africa and Australia.
He explained to graziers and extension staff how the Grazing Naturally program taught graziers to
read the response of plants following wet season grazing, to achieve extraordinary pasture and
animal production, longevity in paddock greenness and energy-rich soil microbiomes.
At a Pallamana Station workshop, he said repeated grazing while the grass was getting moisture
and growing put the plants under stress prompting them to exudate maximum sugar into the soil,
stimulating a highly active, living soil that boosted grass growth.
“It’s the same principle as preparing the front lawn before your daughter’s wedding,” he said.
“You water it, and mow it every week, and on the big day, you will have a lovely carpet of grass.”
The Grazing Naturally process also added nutritious dung and urine, and the action of hooves
scuffing up the surface of any bare ground, provided an opportunity for more grass to grow.
Mr Richardson devised a system using seven paddocks to ensure areas were subject to
appropriate changes in grazing pressure and recovery each season.
The “priority paddock” would be grazed intensively, then, as the pasture recovered and began to
regrow, grazed again.
He said by grazing the same paddock repeatedly for short periods – sometimes only a matter of
days – it would respond in the following year when it became the “sabbath”, or rested paddock.
Grazing frequency in each paddock increased year by year as it got closer to the top of the list,
finally becoming the priority paddock.
“Most people try to get something right everywhere on their property,” he said.
“I try to get something right somewhere, then deal with the variations and change after that.”
He said different ecosystems worked differently in the way they recycled carbon.
A woodland ecosystem drops organic matter on the soil surface, which is broken down by visible
fungal saprotrophs and converted to humus.
“Grasslands work the other way round,” Mr Richardson said.
“When plants are actively growing, they push sugar into the soil. The sugar feeds microbiomes that
convert liquid carbon into humus through digestion.
“Grazing supercharges this process and maximises the release of sugar and liquid carbon,
increasing biological conversion and therefore the amount of humus produced.
“Grasslands complete this process across a deeper soil profile where plant roots live, creating
humus throughout the soil profile. This increases the water-holding capacity of the soil profile,
The Grazing Naturally workshop hosted by graziers Kale and Karin Robinson at Pallamana Station
was part of NQ Dry Tropics’ Reefwise Grazing of Burdekin Rangelands project funded by the
partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef
Senior Field Officer Linda Anderson said the project had multiple benefits, but most importantly
combined reducing sediment runoff to the Great Barrier Reef with rebuilding the condition of
grazing land and grazing business profitability.
“I hope training days like Grazing Naturally, and the broader Reefwise Grazing project, helps
families to broaden their approach to grazing and business management, to remain on the land
and leave it in better shape for future generations,” she said.
Contact Ms Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 4799 3556) to register your
interest in upcoming Grazing Naturally workshops.
HOSTS Karen and Kale Robinson with Dick Richardson (left) and attendees at the Grazing Naturally workshop on Pallamana Station.