Improving the grazing resource base

Soils, pasture and groundcover inextricably linked in grazing management. This objective aims to support practice change on ACT grazing enterprises to improve soil health, promote healthy, diverse and resilient pastures and improve groundcover (above 80% regardless of season).

Soils

Landholders and ParkCarers inspect an eroded gully near Tidbinbilla at an erosion management field day organised by the ACT RLF Desired outcomes

Achievement of optimal physical, chemical and biological soil health, and to reduce the offsite impacts of soil erosion.

Priority areas

ACT grazing, horse agistment and equestrian enterprises in rural districts across the ACT are the main focus for soil management. However this can also include other broad acre enterprises where appropriate, for example, free-range chickens.

Future investment focus

Trials and demonstrations to show best practise management including constraints on soil fertility, carbon store in soils and soil erosion management.

  • Development of an ACT Region Soils Club to support landholders to do regular soil testing to map paddock fertility, soil carbon, soil food webs, soil constraints and landscape variability over time. Results of soil testing could be used to deliver targeted land management training to support strategic soil health goals on different soil types, land systems and production systems.
  • Engagement of rural landholders in a pasture legume testing program to determine the effectiveness of legume nodulation, soil constraints impacting on legume nodulation and training to assist landholders to address these constraints.
  • Use of hydrogeological mapping to identify areas of erosion risk and hazard and support training in appropriate land management for these areas.
  • Trials and demonstration sites to show constraints impacting on soil fertility and legume health, carbon storage in agricultural soils, and soil erosion.

Building on existing investment

Under the ACT Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator (ACT RALF) initiative, a number of ACT landholders participated in the Healthy Soils, Healthy Landscapes program and the proposed Soil Club will draw on soil testing done under previous programs to benchmark the current state of ACT rural soils.

Greening Australia and the ACT Catchment groups have undertaken a large variety of initiatives to improve soil management on farms across the ACT and surrounding region including incentives programs to address soil erosion, training courses, monitoring activities, and farm tours to raise awareness of soil-related issues.

For example, erosion control workshops were undertaken for Landcare groups by Southern ACT Catchment Group in partnership with the ACT RALF. This included low cost erosion control methods to manage erosion in areas of high conservation value. 17 Landcare groups constructed 18 erosion control structures through these workshops.

Native pastures

Landholders identifying native grasses in the field, near Tharwa at the Native Grass Identification Field Day Desired outcomes

Increase the health of native perennial pastures for optimal production year-round in order to increase fertility, reduce introduced annual grass species in native pastures, reduce weed invasion, improve groundcover and increase on-farm biodiversity.

Priority areas

ACT grazing lands, horse agistment and equestrian enterprises.

Possible application in other broad acre enterprises such as free-range egg and chicken production.

Future investment focus

Investments will focus on grazing land in the ACT. Specific activities will be dependent upon the carrying capacity of the land ;and the impacts of grazing activities on these pastures.

Capacity building, which may include field days, farm walks and other training, to raise awareness and share knowledge of a variety of programs such as the outcomes of the Meat and Livestock Australia Evergraze Program which focusses on native pasture management. Topics include grass identification, and strategic grazing and tactical management for enhancement of native grasses. Trials and demonstration projects will also promote best practice management of native grasses.

Building on existing investment

The ACT Agricultural Regional Landcare Facilitator (ACT RALF) initiative has undertaken a range of training initiatives with ACT rural landholders covering a range of topics which have been successful in building skills in management of ground cover, soil and pasture management.

Groundcover

ACT landholders taken through measuring groundcover on a fallowed paddock, southern ACT as part of Top Lamb Crop ewe management training organised by the ACT RLF and delivered by experienced livestock adviser, Doug Alcock. The paddock will store moisture in the soil profile over Summer ready for sowing in 2017. Desired outcomes

Groundcover maintained at 80% or better in rural landscapes regardless of season and landholders supported with the knowledge and tools to enable this to happen.

Priority areas

ACT grazing, horse agistment and equestrian enterprises in all rural Districts within the ACT and cross-border where appropriate.

Future investment focus

Capacity building and facilitation to improve groundcover by increasing the number of rural landholders who:

  • manage their farms according to land capability, using soil landscape, land capability and hydrogeological landscape mapping and expert advice
  • use in-field pasture assessments to determine groundcover, pasture biomass, digestibility to  inform stocking rates and groundcover management
  • use online and digital-based stock and feed budgets to analyse, plan and implement improved stock and land management
  • use Bureau of Meteorology weather and climate forecasting tools and remotely-sensed national groundcover mapping to inform current and future land management, grazing management and stocking rates
  • use finer scale soil moisture and pasture growth data from district and regional soil moisture probes
  • incentives to support land management changes which improve
    • groundcover, including subdivisional fencing and stock water infrastructure to improve grazing management
    • development of drought lot feeding facilities to take pressure off pastures during drought
  • incentives to support collection of finer scale soil moisture and pasture growth data, using district soil moisture probe stations in the region to inform improved land management
  • cross-farm and cross-tenure collaboration to support coordinated mapping, monitoring and control programs across rural districts to reduce external grazing pressures from kangaroos, pigs, deer and rabbits.

Building on existing investment

Under the ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator (ACT RALF) initiative, ACT rural landholders have been exposed to a range of groundcover, land capability, pasture management and stock management training courses including Top Lamb Crop, Landscan, Better Graze and Better Grow.

In addition, some landholders have been supported to undertake farm planning through the Kick Start Natural Resource Management (NRM) and Agronomy Advice Small Grants program and have implemented on-ground works under the ACT Rural Grants program to achieve changes and improvements to their grazing management.