Grazing BMP in the Desert Uplands

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Overview:

Property: Bunuro Station Region: Burdekin basin / Desert Uplands, South-west of Pentland Commodity:  Beef cattle breeding and growing for the feeder market Property Size: 31 020 hectares Rainfall: 500 mm average per year

Background:

In 2001, David and Donna Rankine purchased Bunuro Station, an undeveloped pastoral holding. Bunuro consists of sandy loam soils with Yellowjacket country being the predominant land type. Over the years, David and Donna have successfully addressed many challenges associated with grazing cattle at Bunuro. These include climate variability, a harsh environment with phosphorus deficient soils and the presence of the toxic native ‘heartleaf’ shrub over half the property.

At the time of purchase, Bunuro was half boundary-fenced with 5 main paddocks. Over a period of 16 years, David and Donna have worked to not only completely boundary fence Bunuro, but also subdivide the property into 29 paddocks to implement a comprehensive rotational grazing system.

David and Donna focus on grazing land management to allow the property to reach its full grazing potential. This has included extensive property development of fencing and stock water installation to minimise grazing pressure and decrease the distant stock have to walk to water as well as allow them to spell paddocks. The performance of their breeder herd is also not overlooked. David and Donna use individual animal records, seasonal mating and supplementation to ensure they are receiving the highest level of productivity possible from their breeders.

David and Donna’s passion for learning

David and Donna have an unquestionable passion for learning. David admits that there are not many beef related courses, seminars, workshops, field and information days that he and Donna have not attended over the years. David and Donna’s management style at Bunuro is innovative and reflects the knowledge and education they have acquired on their pathway to developing a sustainable and profitable business.

The Grazing BMP journey

David and Donna were amongst some of the first producers to engage in the Grazing Best Management Practices (BMP) Program in the Burdekin. They attended a DAF led Grazing BMP workshop in Pentland in 2014, eager to find out more about the program and what it could offer their business. Since that time, David and Donna have gone on to complete a reassessment of their business and are now a Grazing BMP accredited business. Well on the way to implementing a high level of management, David and Donna said the Grazing BMP process as a whole pushed them along to tidying up the loose ends in their business.

Initial Grazing BMP Assessment

David recalls that when completing their first Grazing BMP assessment he was impressed with the thoroughness of the program in covering all areas of a beef business. He said he felt at the time it would be a useful tool for industry to encourage the adoption of well-known principles as well as validate what some producers were already doing. David said he could also see the power a program such as Grazing BMP had in providing the grazing industry with some data to combat the criticism thrown at it.

Completing an initial assessment of their business allowed David and Donna to identify areas where a level of improvement was required. Donna says they mostly found themselves below industry standard in the areas of record keeping and workplace health and safety. “These are parts of the business we all know we need to improve, completing Grazing BMP gave us a taste of what was considered to be industry standard in these areas. There were also areas of record keeping that we had never considered, things such as recording our decision making and the processes used with livestock handling”.

Grazing BMP Reassessment

Following on from their initial Grazing BMP assessment, David and Donna together with a nearby property and DAF extension officer completed a reassessment of all Grazing BMP modules in January 2016. “This is when we got serious about tidying up those areas of the business that we knew needed improvement”. “We discovered that we had not really addressed the issues that we identified as needing attention from our initial BMP assessment” Donna said.

Whilst David and Donna were able to identify areas still lacking, they also said it was quite rewarding to benchmark their business against whole of industry. “It is satisfying to know that what you’re doing is considered by industry as the right thing by your business and your country”.

Grazing BMP Accreditation

Over a period of 12 months, David and Donna worked with DAF Future Beef extension staff to ensure they met a level of ‘industry’ or ‘above industry’ standard for all areas within the Grazing BMP Program.  “This is when we became interested in Grazing BMP Accreditation” David said.

From its initial implementation, David and Donna were very supportive of the Grazing BMP Accreditation process. They believed that the Grazing BMP program required something such as the accreditation process to ensure its integrity was maintained.

DAF FutureBeef Extension Officer Mellissa Holzwart worked with David and Donna to implement the changes and work towards accreditation. “David and Donna were 85% along the way to being ready for audit when we began working with them. We find this a lot when working with producers towards accreditation, they are already implementing sound management practices however just lack the documentation to validate and support what they are doing. David and Donna have a very high level of management, so it was pleasing to be able to work with them through the accreditation process to be able to give them and their business the recognition it deserves”.

In February 2017, David and Donna were successful in becoming a Grazing BMP accredited business. They said it was very satisfying to be rewarded for the day to day management they carry out. “Nothing within the Grazing BMP program was new to us. The standards are well-known principles that encourage sustainable and profitable management. It is rewarding to know that what we are already doing is supported by the industry and wider community” David said.

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