Over 60 producers gathered just outside Springsure for a joint Keep in Touch (KIT) day with neighbouring producers Mick Lavel (Kelvin Downs) and Les and Desley Abdy (Old Rainworth Fort). Both neighbours have been long term clients with RCS and are currently practising time control grazing as well as other holistic management strategies. This newsletter article focuses on what the group learnt about property development planning and land regeneration on Kelvin Downs.
Kelvin Downs is managed with a long term focus, balancing ecological and economic decisions. The key focus is to use systems that promote land regeneration resulting in a profitable cattle business. During the KIT day we saw the application of regenerative farming techniques used to create resilient ecosystems.
Some facts about the Kelvin Downs operation include:
- 8000 acres
- 265 paddocks (average paddock size is 30 acres)
- 70 troughs + ground water
- Runs up to three mobs at one time, down to one mob in non-growing season
- Runs approximately 1200 LSU (up to 3000 LSU) depending on the season
- Average annual rainfall is 600mm
- Fully developed with water and wire (singe wire electric fences)
- Fenced tightly to land types
- Approximately 500m walk to water
- Enterprises include trade cattle, agistment cattle and sometimes cows + calves
- Half of the time Mick works off farm as a builder as well as running Kelvin Downs
- Carrying capacity has been more than doubled through effective grazing management
Above left: Before time control grazing
Above right: After time control grazing
Mick points out grass stabilizing creek banks as well as the extra 1.5m of captured sediment from upstream as a result of the leaky weirs. Where Mick is standing is the original level of the creek bed and the group is standing on the new creek bed.
A healthy waterway on Kelvin Downs and a tree effect – the Floren Bluegrass under the tree is greener and healthier than the Floren outside the drip zone. This is also a result of rest.
Mick and his family are passionate about land regeneration and making the most of the resources at hand. Over the last few years approximately 10 leaky weirs have been implemented in the waterways that run through Kelvin Downs. Leaky weirs (see picture below) are just one of the methods Micks uses to encourage diversity, sustainability and productivity. Leaky weirs are designed to slow water velocity allowing it to spread over floodplains instead of immediately running off the property. Vegetation around waterways is critical to stabilising soil on the bank and assisting with slowing water movement. Over time, the weirs catch sediment with the aim of lifting the bottom of the creek to the original flood plain level. Mick said “leaky weirs will not work under most traditional grazing management systems. The grazing system must provide even grazing pressure, followed by long periods of paddock rest. Set stocking scenarios tend to result in cattle overgrazing the sweeter country around the watering points. This inhibits the growth of vegetation around the water point and defeats the purpose of the whole system.”
A few points to remember when developing your property…
- Think BIG!! Outline your dream water, fence and infrastructure plan then chip away at it in stages. Create a strong ‘nucleus’ of paddocks and waters and build on them from there.
- Work out where you will get the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ and start there. One way to calculate this is by using the last column on your grazing chart; gross margin per hectare based on change in carrying capacity as a result of development.
- Is it cheaper to develop your underutilised country than to buy the neighbour’s paddocks?
- Aim for a minimal walk to water distance and fence to your land types where feasible.
- Utilise what you already have. Remember that you can apply the 6 RCS principles of regenerative grazing to any size block, any enterprise and in any season.
- Learn as you go and use people around you who have already learnt from their mistakes.
Above left: Before – original paddocks on Kelvin Downs
Above right: After – paddocks fenced to land types
When asked ‘where to from here’, Mick said that he would like to focus on the management of Kelvin Downs as well as continuing to increase the number of pasture species, improving plant density and lifting the water table. We look forward to seeing the future impact the Lavel’s management style will continue to have on Kelvin Downs.
Again, we would like to extend a big thank you to both Mick and his daughter Maria and the Adby Family for hosting the KIT day and also to those who made the effort to attend.
If you are interested in being a KIT day host please contact us on 1800 356 004.
I look forward to seeing you at the next KIT day in your area.
Katie Crozier | Project Manager and Support