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Beyond the Bale : Jun 07 - Jul 07 Supplement
PASTORAL ZONE Getting a handle on just what feed resources are available for the season ahead is a challenge for any grazier, but particularly so for those operating remote rangelands grazing businesses. Australia's pastoral zone supports 1700 woolgrowing families and produces about 12 per cent of the nation's wool clip. In this unique country, managers have to be expert in assessing the condition of native pastures, and how the season is unfolding, so that timely decisions can be made about stocking rate manipulation -- the primary management tool available to pastoral graziers. The Managing Pastoral Country project 'Wool Producers with Remote Control' looked at how satellite imagery and emerging remote-sensing technology might help assess how much pasture is on a property at any one time. Project leader Dr Gary Bastin from CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Alice Springs says: "What's now required is for us to put the technology in the hands of grazing families, and help them to develop it in a way that is most useful to them. They need to be comfortable that the imagery is telling them what we think it is telling them." Drought, and the lead-up to drought, are crucial times for making stocking-rate decisions in the rangelands. Poor decisions at these times, more so than at any others, can lead to irreversible decline of the soil and pasture base. Land, Water & Wool researcher Dr Alec Holm and colleagues worked with pastoralists Rob and Kathryn Mitchell from Yalgoo in WA's southern rangelands to develop a user-friendly computer program that assists graziers to overcome the decision-making distractions. "Making a decision to de-stock can be IMPROVING PRODUCTIVITY IN THE RANGELANDS Woolgrowers are utilising satellite imagery and remote-sensing technology to assess pasture availability in the rangelands Space stations David Warwick, a pastoralist from South Australia's Flinders Ranges, has for a number of years trialled remote-sensing technology using satellite information on his station 'Holowiliena South'. "It's got promise as a way to monitor land condition in the longer term," he says. "Pastoralists need to demonstrate that we're looking after the environment, and this might be one tool that we can use to do it." He can also see the potential for remote sensing as a drought-management tool that would allow an accurate whole-of-property assessment of feed reserves.To do that, David believes it needs to be allied to good rainfall-probability information. But more work needs to be done before he can see a place for it in his day-to-day management. "It has to be more cost-effective and more easily accessed by computer. If that was the case, I could see it as a great tool for triggering management decisions." 'Pasture classing' pays off Since Alan and Krystyna Dick bought 'Heywood', east of Cunnamulla in Queensland, they have almost constantly been in drought conditions. Eager to learn more about how to improve the property's grazing value, they attended an MLA EdgeNetwork Grazing Land Management (GLM) course. The course focuses on assessing pasture condition and classing it according to its stock- carrying capacity. Depending on condition, land is classed as A, B, C or D, and Land,Water & Wool helped refine that process. "The mulga country is a good source of high- protein feed for stock in times of drought," Alan says. "Using it properly for fodder can be the difference between completely de-stocking or just decreasing numbers." Krystyna and Alan Dick of 'Heywood', east of Cunnamulla, Queensland. PHOTO: NEAL ELLIOT Figure 1 Satellite imagery of one paddock showing changes in ground cover from autumn to spring 10km 10 BEYOND THE BALE LAND,WATER & WOOL SUPPLEMENT High cover Low cover emotional, and more often than not you are thinking it will be better next week," Kathryn says. "Objective data can greatly reduce the drama of that decision-making process." Pastoralists have also been given a clearer understanding of how to maintain Mitchell grass, an important pasture species in the rangelands. The sub-program looked at the extent, economic impact and potential for the recovery of Mitchell grass and developed management guidelines to assist persistence and recovery after drought. The sub-program also developed the ABCD Guide specifically to help woolgrowers monitor land condition of Mitchell grass and mulga country. ú More information: See back page for Land,Water & Wool Managing Pastoral Country sub-program publications, and see www.landwaterwool.gov.au for more resources.
Aug 07 - Sep 07
Jun 07 - Jul 07