After the completion last year of an Ecologically Sustainable Rangelands Management (ESRM) plan, two cattle yards, each holding up to 300 head of cattle, have been built on Mount Divide Station in Western Australia’s East Pilbara.
This is one of the first steps being undertaken by the new sub-lessees of this Aboriginal-owned pastoral lease in their staged implementation of the ESRM plan for the station.
The yards, known as Livestock and Landscape Management Centres (LLMCs), were completed this month by the Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation (AAC) pastoral managers, father and son team, Michael and Dustin Clinch, in collaboration with the Irrungadji lessors from Nullagine.
The infrastructure project, supported by Rangelands NRM with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, began with careful planning between the Traditional Owners, rangeland rehydration practitioner Tim Wiley, Landscape Scientist Richard Glover, Rangelands NRM Program Manager Chris Curnow and experienced station hand Smokey Heaney and pastoral manager Michael Clinch and leading stockman Dustin Clinch.
The LLMCs allow for better managed grazing of cattle around water access points, with a key objective being the ability for early intervention to prevent land degradation. As cattle access the water they enter the LLMC via one way gates and leave via another. When the cattle require management the exit gate is locked, so they can enter but not leave.
The LLMCs are located in the paddock where grazing pressures are being manipulated in real-time, reducing the need to transport cattle for processing.
Dusty Clinch of AAC’s Ashmulla Pastoral Company said Mt Divide station needed help to manage cattle grazing and reduce the negative impacts of over grazing to the landscape, the soil surface and vegetation cover.
“AAC entered into the sub-lease agreement with the Irrungadji lessors to assist them in their desire to improve their capacity to manage their pastoral enterprise,” he said.
The use of these yards is a recognised way of managing stock grazing pressures around managed water access points where paddock areas are immense, access is restricted and broad acre fencing is cost prohibitive.
He said the LLMCs also lower stress to livestock by reducing the need to bring them into the main station yards.
The ESRM planning process for Mt Divide was facilitated by Landscape Scientist Richard Glover.
He said ERSM planning involves looking at the land, understanding how water moves naturally over a landscape, establishing the aspirations for management change, and considering the risks to achieving those goals.
“By working with station managers we can analyse and determine what has been working well and what hasn’t been working so well for the landscape and subsequently, production. We develop a shared understanding of where and how management (or lack of) has impacted on vegetation cover, soil fertility, erosion and the accumulating downstream effects created by poor management decisions, unmanaged domestic (and feral) stock grazing and the impacts to biodiversity, and persistence of introduced animals and plants in the landscape,” said Mr Glover.
It involves discussing and planning possible modifications to the landscape or land management actions to restore land health and sustainable operations.
Michael Clinch, with more than 35 years of experience in pastoral land management innovation, says that the ESRM process is a good starting point for any new station manager.
“AAC want to give the best opportunity to the landscape and to the Irrungadji lessors to achieve their vision of a thriving pastoral enterprise and a landscape where traditional connections to Country are realised, recognised and respected,” he said.
We the sub-lessees and the Irrungadji people have great plans for the future of the station and this special landscape in the important headwaters of the De Grey River catchment.
Having an infrastructure set up that’s fit for the purpose of better managing total grazing pressures throughout the seasons is key. The LLMCs are a critical first step for Mt Divide Station.
The AAC pastoral managers have been invited to join the De Grey Land Conservation District Committee (LCDC) and hope to participate in collective improvements in management. Collaborative approaches can be made in fire planning, feed budgeting, weed control, biodiversity surveys and the like.
“Monitoring what we do is also important. We are in the process of establishing photo monitoring points around the LLMCs and other key areas on Mt Divide’s most productive country,” said Mr Clinch.
We’re also keen on monitoring domestic and feral animal interactions around the LLMCs with camera traps in key locations.
AAC assists Traditional Owners to manage three stations; two in the Pilbara, Mt Divide and Peedamulla, and one in the Midwest, Karbar station, which is owned by AAC. They are also a key provider of Aboriginal employment services, with a particular interest in linking job seekers with jobs within the pastoral and NRM sectors.