Grazing

The information contained in these guides is designed to help graziers in reef catchments identify and adopt better land management practices.

The aim is to support agricultural profitability while improving the quality of water in the Great Barrier Reef, as part of the Reef Plan initiative. 

Paddock capacities

This guide provides information on how to stock paddocks based on long term carrying capacity for your land types, adjusted for:

  • current land condition
  • pasture availability
  • seasonal or broader climatic conditions
  • level of property development

Matching stocking rate to the carrying capacity of your land can help to maintain groundcover and in turn reduce erosion and sediment runoff. Overstocking can affect land condition by reducing groundcover, compacting the soil and reducing the abundance of more productive, perennial grasses.

Managing stocking rates is one of the most important practices to optimise your business returns over the long term.

The short term economic benefits of stocking paddocks above the optimum are likely to be outweighed in the long term by the cost of regenerating a paddock that is in poorer land condition and the loss of productive capacity in such paddocks.

Information fact sheet: Paddock capacities (PDF, 290.7KB)

End of season ground cover

This guide provides information on practices that retain adequate groundcover at the end of dry season by:

  • knowing your groundcover needs for your land types, soils and higher risk areas (e.g. frontage country, riparian areas and slopes)
  • assessing land condition and pasture availability, in each paddock at the end of the wet season and adjusting stocking rates.

A number of studies have shown that the minimum groundcover required to minimise runoff and sediment loss is at least 40%. On some erodible soils ground cover more than 60% needs to be maintained. These levels of ground cover not only minimise runoff and soil erosion but also contribute to improved soil health and the quality of water runoff.

In general terms, there are economic benefits for your business by maintaining natural ecological conditions which assist in weed management, healthy water and nutrient cycles, and prevent erosion, salinity and runoff.

Information fact sheet: End of season ground cover (PDF, 291.9KB)

Managing stream frontages

This guide provides information on the practices that manage stream frontages and connected riparian areas by:

  • managing grazing pressure and timing with:
    • fencing
    • strategically placing off-stream water points and supplementary feed sites
    • occasional wet season spelling
  • controlling pests such as feral pigs as part of an integrated pest management plan.

Information fact sheet: Managing stream frontages (PDF, 297.5KB)

Recovering poor or declining land condition

This guide provides information on the practice to recover any poor or declining land condition by:

  • managing grazing pressure and timing with:
    • reducing stocking rate
    • fencing
    • wet season spelling
  • controlling exotic woody weeds as part of an integrated pest management plan that minimises erosion and chemical use.

Wet season spelling combined with low pasture utilisation has been shown to maintain land condition or improve areas of degraded land. Wet season spelling of paddocks increases groundcover, which in turn reduces sediment loss. Wet season spelling will also improve species composition, which is a vital part of land condition.

Using appropriate low utilisation rates and wet season spelling can recover land in poor condition and improve pasture species composition. Sustainable utilisation varies with land type and long term rainfall, but is usually between 15-25% of pasture grown.

Information fact sheet:  Recovering poor land condition (PDF, 312.0KB)

Grazing distribution

This guide provides information about practices that distribute grazing pressure evenly across land types to avoid selective grazing by:

  • fencing to land type
  • wet season spelling
  • supplement feed sites and water points
  • using fire.

Evidence from a study conducted in the Burdekin found that hillslopes with relatively high overall cover, but with some bare patches (which are often the result of selective grazing) have 6-9 times the amount of runoff and 60% more sediment loss than slopes without bare patches.

Distributing grazing pressure evenly to prevent patches that are bare of vegetation is necessary to prevent erosion and maintain land condition, even when overall ground cover is high.

Information fact sheet: Grazing distribution (PDF, 290.8KB)

Minimising soil erosion

This guide provides information on the practice of planning infrastructure including the  location and construction of roads, tracks, fences, firebreaks and water points to minimise soil erosion, (e.g. tracks and fences located on the contour, construct whoa boys).

In the long term, maintenance costs will be reduced if you plan infrastructure to minimise soil erosion. That is the construction of erosion control works will be cheaper than repairing damage from erosion later.

Information fact sheet:  Minimising soil erosion (PDF, 285.0KB)

Further Information

Contact our Customer Service Centre .

Last updated 03 March 2014