Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

Environmental trials assist pastoralists in the Pilbara

[September 2012]

Rangelands NRM has started a new project to assist pastoralists to test ideas that might improve the environment whilst maintaining animal production. Rangelands NRM will assist pastoralists to set up their own trials on their own properties to test their own ideas. Pastoralists will then come together as a group to share their experiences.

Six properties in the Pilbara will be running their own trials. Concepts being tested cover ideas such as feed budgeting and rotational grazing, weed control, irrigated native tree and shrubs for carbon offsets, irrigated introduced and native pastures for feed production, and managing fire and grazing to improve the habitat for small native animals.

The pastoralists will monitor the impact of their broad acre trials using a common approach. Monitoring sites will be set up based on the new Rangelands Condition Monitoring sites. Additional data will be collected to measure ground cover, Feed On Offer, plant biodiversity and carbon stocks. Samples of plant species and dung will be collected from some sites and analysed by CSIRO. Dr Dean Revell will then model the likely cattle growth rates and methane emissions. From these models it will be possible to predict how a change in the species composition, or diet select by animals, could improve both animal performance and reduce methane emissions.

Data from the monitoring sites will be used to benchmark the current carbon stocks. Resampling these sites at a later time will give an indication of carbon sequestration due to changed management. This will provide valuable information on the commercial viability of CFI carbon offset projects in the Pilbara rangelands.

The irrigated pasture trial will give some of the first data on the potential yield and quality so as to evaluate irrigated pastures for the region. The Pilbara has large ground water supplies and many mines are currently pumping water from their pits so as they can continue mining. Low cost irrigated pastures in the rangelands could be used strategically to improve herd performance and reduce the grazing pressure at critical times to improve nature rangelands regeneration.  Native grasses and shrubs will be compared with the commonly used irrigated pasture species. It may be possible to develop irrigated pastures based entirely on local species.

The producer trials are also being supported by Greening Australia, Outback TreesAshburton Aboriginal Corporation and DAFWA.

For more information contact Tim Wiley.

Photo1: (L>R) Mike Clark, Greening Australia; Tim Wiley, Rangelands NRM and Annabelle Coppin, Yarrie Station examining the site for an irrigated native tree and shrubs trial.
Photo 2: Thomas Fox and Annabelle Coppin at Yarrie Station discussing possible sites for an irrigated native tree and shrub trial.