Burdekin graziers win national award

A Burdekin grazier couple who installed fencing the equivalent of the distance between Ayr and Townsville have taken out a prestigious national award.

NQ Dry Tropics, the Burdekin Dry Tropics natural resource management company, nominated Glenalpine Station couple Barry and Leanne O’Sullivan for the 2013 Reef Rescue Grazier Award after they transformed the layout of their cattle grazing land. When the O’Sullivans first moved to Glenalpine Station, the 23,385 hectare property south west of Bowen was fenced into just seven main paddocks.

The paddock layout meant the cattle would graze on the lush pastures near the lower creek flats of the property, leaving little ground cover at the end of the dry. They would then watch as the bare soil washed away with the first rains of the season.

The ability to strategically spell country has helped improve groundcover and pasture composition.

The ability to strategically spell country has helped improve groundcover and pasture composition.

NQ Dry Tropics Sustainable Agriculture Program Coordinator, Colleen James says.

“This project had clear water quality outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, so we were pleased to support the O’Sullivans to implement their management plan to increase groundcover and reduce this soil loss.”

With the help of Reef Rescue funding and the assistance of NQ Dry Tropics, Barry and Leanne have installed 83 kilometers of fencing and revolutionized the grazing pattern of their cattle.

Mr and Mrs O’Sullivan say the project was worth it both economically and environmentally, and ensured a future for their children.

“To change the grazing pattern of the cattle, we began fencing to soil types. As more soil types were fenced, we could begin rotational grazing and utilise the ridge country that was previously unused.

“Fencing according to soil types has allowed us to spell country, which enables more palatable and profitable pasture to regenerate and propagate.  The fencing/spelling process also enables higher volumes of feed.

“As a result, the cattle maintain a higher weight while still maintaining more than 80 percent ground cover at the end of the dry.

“Commercially this has reduced supplementation costs, enabled higher calving percentage and heavier weight gains in the cattle.

“The outcome of all this has secured a future for our children that is environmentally healthy and profitable.”

The seven main paddocks of Glenalpine Station are now 21 paddocks of lush grazing pasture.

NQ Dry Tropics also distributed a Reef Rescue grant that enabled the O’Sullivans to install additional water points into the new paddocks, allowing a rotational grazing regime.

“The ability to strategically spell country through more frequent stock movement aims to not only improve groundcover and pasture composition, but also to improve the resilience of pasture for future poor seasons,” Ms James said.

The O’Sullivans continue to strive towards best management practice, having won other awards, undertaken continuous education and holding positions on a number of industry boards.

They have opened their property to other landholders at an NQ Dry Tropics field day, hosted the previous Minister for Agriculture, Tony Bourke and featured on ABC radio various times.

“There is one key fundamental concept that we have learnt,” the pair says.  “Throughout the process we went from being cattlemen, to grass farmers and then realising that we are actually soil farmers.  Our future is the direct result of how we look after the soil.”