Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

Opportunities for producer-driven revitalisation of southern rangelands

Rain over the Murchison

[Jan-Feb 2017]
New alliances and innovations in livestock management are creating real opportunities for sustainable business development in the northern WA beef industry.

Rangelands NRM is working with pastoralists, researchers and agronomists to explore opportunities to improve the sustainability and profitability of the livestock production system while regenerating and rehydrating pastoral lands in the southern rangelands of Western Australia.

So far, more than 25 representatives from government and the pastoral industry have contributed to discussions to kick off collaboration in land management and pastoral productivity.

Kieran Massie, Rangelands NRM’s Southern Rangelands Program Manager said at the level of a station business, a range of management practices might be chosen by pastoralists to substantially improve carrying capacity of the land and deliver improvements in livestock turn-off.

He said the discussions to date had considered ways to drive collaborative efforts in managing grazing pressure; managing drainage dysfunctions; and introducing new technology for improving productivity, among other things.

“There has been keen interest from pastoralists to work with experts, researchers and government representatives to share information and trial innovative approaches,” he said.

“Industry leadership in collaboration among land managers is vital if there is to be a change in the state of the land,” Mr Massie said.

“Weeds and feral animals, for example, don’t stop at the boundary, so if there isn’t cooperation, the issue will persist.”

There is also a growing savvy that stock rotation may be possible across tenures, especially where the state of pastures can be remotely monitored. Such approaches were a focus of a recent industry forum in Coral Bay.

“Different ways of managing grazing pressure, such as investigating and testing boundary and internal fence design, and using self-herding techniques to minimise need for internal fences, have been identified as a priority,” Mr Massie said.

In terms of testing new technology, participants agreed to investigate remote sensing technology for assessing fodder supply, to facilitate trading and agistment across rangelands districts with different seasons, and to track livestock movements via ear tags.

At the same time, there has been broad agreement on the need to work together to manage invasive plants and large feral herbivores which impact productive land.

Weeds—such as parkinsonia and some cactus species—make it more difficult to muster stock, and cause a reduction in stock access to watering points as well as a decrease in primary production of grasses that are replaced by weeds. Additionally, the infestations provide refuges for feral animals.

“There is a growing awareness that unmanaged grazing by non-domestic animals, such as kangaroos and feral donkeys can severely impact the bottom line of pastoral enterprises,” Mr Massie said.

To improve land rehydration, popular suggestions were boosting land managers’ capacity to plan strategic remediation and monitor rainfall use efficiency.

Mr Massie said the collaboration is recognising and promoting the local knowledge of land managers and complementing this knowledge with technical expertise and support.

“It is anticipated that both opportunities and barriers to the development of sustainable pastoral production across the Gascoyne, Murchison, Goldfields and Nullarbor regions will be continued to be identified for further enquiry.”

Rangelands NRM also supports pastoralists to undertake on-station trials of innovative approaches to sustainable production and facilitates knowledge sharing and training opportunities.

Contact Kieran Massie for more information – kieranm@rangelandswa.com.au or phone 08 9468 8250

Image: Rain over the Murchison (K.Watson)