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Changing grazing practices at Ma Ma Creek; meet Mark

Changing grazing practices at Ma Ma Creek; meet Mark

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Name: Mark Taylor

Where: Ma Ma Creek Catchment

Size: 75ha across two title deeds.

Herd Size: 12 cattle – the goal is to eventually increase the number to 30 or 40.

Enterprise type: Currently a part time grazier.

Cattle breed: Currently a mixture of breeds. Mark would eventually like to move towards Angus or Drought Master.

Mark is a third generation cattle farmer based at Mount Whitestone. His grandfather used to own nearly 500 hectares in the region. Mark eventually took over about 10 hectares of the property, later expanding it to 75 hectares with the purchase of an adjoining property. 


He currently manages 12 cattle, but his goal is to eventually increase this to around 30 or 40 cattle.
When managing a property of this size, often knowing where to start and where to prioritise your time and money can be difficult. 

After meeting SEQ Catchments’ Area Manager Ross Bigwood a few years back, Mark started to get involved in different workshops and courses, such as the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries ‘Stocktake: balancing supply and demand’ training package delivered by SEQ Catchments staff, weed management, property planning and more recently Grazing Best Management Practice (BMP). 


Grazing BMP is a voluntary, industry-led process that assists graziers to identify improved practices to enhance the long-term profitability and sustainability of their business. 

Mark says that since attending these courses, it has given him a lot more direction, motivation, and a starting point.

Here is Mark’s story:


This is beautiful country if you look after it, but you really have to know a lot about it.

My family has been here a few generations - a real local you could say. I always wanted to give something back, but also to make an income as a primary producer. 

It is phenomenal to think of how much was taken out of here when I was a child, such as the Brigalow Forest (now endangered). 

You can still see big stumps across the top of the property and this is where you usually find tunnel erosion happening. 

There is definitely a big change in our generation from our grandfathers.

There is a focus more on striving towards understanding and implementing sustainable land practices. This means finding a balance between achieving grazing productivity to support our family livelihood/lifestyle while striving to minimise future environmental impacts on the farming practices we undertake. 

I was previously involved in Junior Landcare and various schools around the area and currently live on the last part of our family’s property – eventually, I bought the property next door and now we manage around 75 hectares in total.

I currently work full time off the farm, but eventually I'd like to get into this full time. That would be the ideal scenario.

When we first bought the second property, it was quite overgrazed and degraded and there was no fencing along some of the property boundary. We knew we needed to change a few things. 

How did you first get involved?

I met Ross through Landcare projects through my other work and eventually got involved with different workshops and activities. Eventually, I got onto Grazing Best Management Practice and I've now completed all five of the modules.

What have you learnt?

Usually, I have a plan in my head but putting it on record is the big thing.

So far, the online modules have allowed us to do a self-assessment of our business and establish different benchmarks. Having this means that we are continuously making improvements to our property and business. 

I think it has been a good self-assessment process and helped us develop and prioritise actions to make improvements for the next 12 months. 

It also made me think about a few potential issues on my property that I hadn’t thought of before, such as biosecurity. For example, the gazetted road provides access to our property and is used by a number of contractors and other organisations, so there is always the risk of weeds being transported to my property. 

The course has also allowed me to look at my current management practices and continue to improve what I have already been doing. For example, by doing some soil testing, I was able to identify different soil types I have on my property and how best to manage them. Managing weeds is an ongoing battle, but having a plan helps you keep on top of it. 

Grazing BMP also looks at your business elements and it has helped me to budget better for the future and work out my real costs of production.

Could you tell us a bit about how you changed your management practices in recent times?

Making changes on the property has been a real process over the last few years. 

At the start, we really didn’t have the money or direction to do what we wanted to do.  

I found that attending some of these courses and workshops over the years was a big motivating factor to get things going. Otherwise, I think we still would be thinking about where to start.  

It’s helped me set up milestones and goals and meeting other people through the process has been really important. I’ve been able to share ideas and information with neighbours and other landholders and we often help each other out. 

So far some of the things we have done on the property include:

Resurrecting our bore


The previous property owners had a little bore at the bottom of the property that got washed away in the floods and we’ve been able to successfully resurrect it to use the water for stock again. So far it has worked out really well and given us a reliable water source, especially during the dry periods.  

We also installed two tanks up on the hill that together store 40,000 litres of water. These connect to four different troughs. Having this water source as a back is really important if the bore ever decides to play up. This resource also encourages regular monitoring of water supply usage for stock water with the integration of dam and bore supplies.

Fencing and lanes


We’ve installed 2,500m of internal fencing to create five cells and laneways to move the cattle around, as well as re-erecting the fencing that divides the two properties to make sure that we allow different paddocks to rest at different times of the year and makes handling stock much easier.  

We recently fenced off the dam to stop the cattle having access to it and causing erosion along the edges. 

Forage Budgeting


Learning about forage budgeting has really changed my mindset.  

Forage budgets allow a comparison of the feed available in the paddock with expected cattle consumption over a fixed period.  

Doing it 2-3 times a year, and it helps you identify all the different grass species that you have and ensures that the size of your paddock, and the feed available, can support the number of cattle you have. It also helps you plan for different seasons. 

Weed control


The main weeds we have on this property are Lantana and Fireweed. We’ve been able to manage some of the Lantana so far and the Fireweed is also under control. 

Firebreaks


So far we have installed over 2km of firebreaks to manage the risk from fire during the dry season. 

What kind of improvements have you seen since you put the infrastructure in place?

I’ve seen a really big improvement in grass species since resting the pastures. One of the learnings I always apply is the 3P’s - that is making sure we encourage the palatable, productive and perennial grass species to dominate our pasture composition.  

I try to move the cattle every month. I used to move them every 1-2 weeks, but since doing the Stocktake course, I’ve increased the size of certain paddocks to make sure that they are sustainable for the number of stock we have for the time I wanted to have the paddock utilised. Before the paddocks were far too small. 

The dam we have is very low at the moment so I’ll be running the troughs connected to the tanks which will help us get through winter. 

What’s your longer term goal?

My long term goal is to keep the property within the family, to keep our lifestyle and to keep giving back.  

Another goal is starting to plan a few shelter belts, get the tunnel erosion and Lantana under control and put in some more native tree species. 

What advice would you give other landholders?

  • Visit your property at various times of year: If you are thinking of buying a property, make sure you visit it at various times of the year. E.g. If you come in January after the rainy period, it will look great but you also need to know what it is like during winter. 
  • Make sure your property is able to support the number of stock you intend to have: Calculate the long-term carrying capacity or do some forage budgeting in April at the end of the growing season to make sure your property is able to support the number of stock you have. Otherwise, you will see things start to erode very quickly. Knowing what pasture species, and weeds, are on the place is also critical. 
  • Check your fencing: Fencing is important to move your cattle around your property so make sure you find out what condition it is in before buying the property.
  • Talk to landholders, not just the real estate agents: Find out the pros and cons of each property and history.
  • Prioritise what you decide to do on your property: Have a plan and work through it to help give you some direction, and don’t get too overwhelmed at the start!



  • A proud Grazing Best Management Practice delivery partner


    For more information about Grazing BMP, please visit http://www.seqcatchments.com.au/case-studies/grazing-best-management-practice

    SEQ Catchments is also supporting Mark through funding from the Queensland Government.

     

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