Re­duce dieback risk through ren­o­va­tion

The ways pro­duc­ers are sav­ing their land

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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