Reduce dieback risk through renovation
The ways producers are saving their land
RUNDOWN pastures and concern over pasture dieback are prompting various producers throughout northern Australia to renovate their lands, in some cases for the first time in many years.
Near Comet, southeast of Emerald in Queensland, Dean Armstrong has been improving what he described was relatively new country purchased in the past six years and which “needed some development”.
After previously farming in Argentina for six years, Dean and his wife, Paula, now run about 12,000 beef cattle over 36,000 hectares. In addition to running trade cattle, they also use simmental, charolais, speckle park and angus bulls over their herd.
Over the past three years, they have put a blade plough through up to 16,000ha of the buffel grass country and then, following major rainfall events, have added legumes to the pasture.
“We stirred up the soil and so we then decided to put something else in,” Dean said.
Several legume pastures have been used, including the high protein Mega Stylo Mix, containing a balanced combination of Caribbean and Shrubby stylo species, Presto burgundy bean and butterfly pea from Heritage Seeds.
The deep-rooted, extremely drought-tolerant Presto burgundy bean is highly palatable and suitable for grazing and hay production. Its early maturity and improved seed yielding ability also assists excellent regeneration and persistence.
Butterfly pea, which Dean said had been added to their heavier black soils, is a strong
perennial with exceptional persistence.
He said they had also cultivated about 2000ha with forage sorghum, oats and barley for feed, although inconsistent rainfall had prevented oat production recently.
“The buffel grass went berserk when we ripped it and the legumes are there and slowly getting better,” Dean said. “You can see the difference in the cattle and their better performance.”
He said he had noticed some pasture dieback in laneways, where there had been no grazing, and some other areas, but he was not overly concerned.
“It certainly doesn’t affect the legumes, so we thought that if the buffel grass goes a bit, at least the legumes will help.”
Dean said there was also no pasture dieback in areas that had been burned, hence he believed pastures would improve once they were “cleaned up” – and after major rainfall events.
Heritage Seeds tropicals and summer crop portfolio manager Brent Scott agreed, claiming better pasture management, helping to increase soil nitrogen levels and pasture persistence, could aid improved performance against dieback.
Brent said numerous reports certainly suggested legumes, as well as grass
❝ You can see the difference in the cattle and their better performance.
— Dean Armstrong
pastures with legumes, were not so affected by dieback, which had resulted in strong interest in renovating pastures with legumes.
“Various producers are pouring a heap of legumes out – both because they are very palatable and you get good feed off them, and to see how they go with dieback,” Brent said. “Ripping and burning may be producing mixed results, but at least you can be improving the production and nitrogen fixation.”
He said there had been a strong focus on the Heritage Seeds burgundy bean
legumes, while the company also had launched a new tropical legume for producers, Ray Desmanthus.
“The new Ray Desmanthus is suited to heavy, black clay soils, which can be difficult to grow legumes on. It is a real hardy legume that can handle heavy grazing.”
Brent said the burgundy bean legumes and Ray Desmanthus offered high digestibility and productivity for high liveweight gain – and no risk of bloat. They were also highly compatible with other grasses and pasture mixes.
He said fortunately this year, there were good supplies of these pastures available and producers interested in the legumes could contact their local seed reseller or Heritage Seeds territory manager.
PROTECTING PASTURE: Dean Armstrong with Heritage Seeds central Queensland territory manager Matthew Lockwood talking about the pasture improvement program on his property. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED