Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

Gascoyne pastoralists soil testing yields unexpected results

[October 2015]

A forage evaluation project has been conducted in the Upper Gascoyne to gauge pasture quality and highlight any nutrient deficiencies which ultimately contribute to cattle nutrition and growth.

Cattle on supplementFive cattle stations across Western Australia’s Upper Gascoyne region collaborated in the development of the Gascoyne Catchments Forage Resource Evaluation project, which was supported by Rangelands NRM.

The project aimed to broadly determine pasture quality and identify likely pasture deficiencies to inform grazing management and supplementation programs.

An unexpected result was faecal phosphorus showing low or marginal levels from land types with adequate soil phosphorus.

Rangelands NRM Regional Landcare Facilitator Mary-Anne Clunies-Ross said the pastoralists had expressed a need for information on soils within their region of WA that could enhance ground cover management, natural resource management, animal welfare outcomes and profitability.

“Phosphorus is known to be the main limiting nutrient across outback Australia and project testing focused on this element,” said Jason Hastie of Pingandy Station.

Jason said across the five stations, 72 soil tests were undertaken, with all stations having areas of adequate soil phosphorus.

“The tests showed that we have land types and locations with soil phosphorus levels ranging from deficient through to adequate,” he said.

A general outcome through, was that creek lines are mostly adequate in phosphorus. We’ll use that knowledge as our fence plan develops to ensure cattle always have access to areas with adequate soil phosphorus.

Results showed:

  • 41 soils tests (57%) showed adequate phosphorus levels
  • 20 (28%) showed marginal phosphorus levels
  • 11 (15%) showed deficient phosphorus levels
  • areas of water concentration (creek frontage or crab-hole plains) usually show adequate phosphorus levels
  • the majority of dung tests showed low or marginal faecal phosphorus levels
  • dung tests showing low or marginal faecal phosphorus levels came off land types that showed adequate levels of soil phosphorus
  • diet quality was fair with moderate to high amounts of non-grass in cattle diets.

“The pastoralists were engaged in several face-to-face meetings, email and phone conversations to develop this project,” she said.

More information on phosphorus deficiency and supplementation can be found in the Meat and Livestock Australia publication Phosphorus management of beef cattle in northern Australia.