The ongoing drought means naturally stressed pastures are generally producing below average yields – and graziers continue to look for ways to conserve pasture and maximise productivity while building resilience into their enterprises.

On 27 April 2016, 21 graziers representing 12 North Queensland properties attended NQ Dry Tropics’ Sustainable Grazing Workshop at Balfes Creek Community Hall, 40km west of Charters Towers, followed by a field excursion to a neighbouring property, Lake View Station.

NQ Dry Tropics Field Officer Oliver McConnachie said the event, funded through the Australian Government Reef Programme, aimed to address graziers’ concerns about the natural environment, soil conservation and improving pasture quantity and quality.

“Low ground cover and pasture levels are an economic concern for graziers, but given their increased awareness of grazing effects on the reef, they are also concerned about soil loss and reef ecology,” he said.

NQ Dry Tropics is already working with most attendees to move towards a more sustainable future within their industry. The workshop brought everyone up to speed with current science around sediment delivery to the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon, and introduced innovative grazing strategies that maximise pasture resilience.

In 2007, Darcy and Sue O’Brien took up ownership and management of The Brook Station, a 22,000 ha cattle breeding and fattening enterprise, 120km north of Pentland. They recently undertook Holistic Management training supported by NQ Dry Tropics through the Building Resilience in the Burdekin Grazing Industry project.

Darcy spoke about their holistic grazing plans and said: “Implementing a framework to manage 4000 head of cattle in one herd has been a steep learning curve, but we expect the benefits to be well worth the effort.”

Wade Rebgetz from Thalanga station said these types of educational days are essential for graziers to understand the facts about sustainable grazing and how the grazing industry affects the reef.

“Being are aware of the facts and current knowledge assists us to make informed decisions about what is best for our situation in terms of effectively reducing runoff and sediment delivery to the reef,” he said.

Feedback from the event was encouraging and showed a good interest in reducing grazing impacts on marine environments. All attendees came away knowing that they can make a difference by continually improving their grazing management practices and business decision making.

Participants were enthusiastic about tackling on-site erosion problems, and appreciated how using cattle impact to heal erosion can be cost-effective.

Ron Barnicoat from Speculation Station said, “Often it is the large cost of traditional mechanical erosion mitigation that puts people off. Having cost effective ways of achieving sustainability is the key.”