Location: Dysart, 340km North West of Rockhampton, Central QLD
Property size: 12,672 hectares
Currently runs: 3000 – 4000 LSU, 2000 ha cropping
Average annual rainfall: 600mm
Enterprise: Beef cattle breeding, fattening and trading, cropping
Drivers of Success:
Ideas for future innovation:
Leichhardt is a Central Queensland beef cattle business owned by Brian, Judy and John Pownall. Since 1995, they have made many improvements in their land and business and now stand as proof that regenerative agriculture and profitability can coexist.
Leichhardt currently operates with beef cattle breeding, fattening and trading, and a cropping enterprise. The main breeds of cattle used are Droughtmaster, Brangus and Charbray.
Their motivation and discipline to keep learning provide the Pownall’s with a solid financial and grazing management foundation, resulting in a resilient and profitable business with many opportunities for the future.
Before the Pownall’s management, the land was not overgrazed but showed symptoms of patch grazing and underutilisation. The family were challenged by juggling all aspects of business management, such as running their own business, completing a large amount of property development and raising and educating a family with no outside help.
Brian and Judy have adopted regenerative grazing management to increase efficiency and profitability while improving the ecosystem.
The Pownalls decided to enhance their knowledge and skills after completing GrazingforProfit® in 2007. After the course, they organised an RCS advisor to visit Leichhardt and assist with completing their water and fencing plan. They then joined the three-year ExecutiveLink® program from 2010-2012, where they gained significant momentum in their business.
The improvement in their land condition is due to the strategic development of stock water and fencing, enabling improved effectiveness of the time-controlled grazing system. Education has given them the tools to prevent management-incurred drought and reduce the loss of topsoil and runoff into the reef.
The Pownalls’ cattle are managed under Low Stress Stockhandling and a time-controlled grazing system based on the RCS Grazing Principles. They rely on grass budgeting to determine the optimal stocking rate, calculated in Stock Days per Hectare/100mm Rainfall (SDH/100mm). This budget is monitored on an ongoing basis, and changes are made according to the actual feed present in each paddock.
In the initial stages of implementing time-controlled grazing, animal performance decreased, but as their knowledge and level of development increased, animal performance equalled and surpassed the results they achieved before. This demonstrates the relationship between healthy, well-utilised ecosystems and overall business profitability.
The family have installed a reticulated system that pumps water out of dams into troughs, giving stock higher quality drinking water. Increasing the number of water points has promoted more uniform grazing pressure across the property.
Their regenerative methods have seen a reduction in the number of weeds, more even pasture utilisation and less patch grazing, increases in desirable species with native grasses appearing in previous Buffel-dominated landscapes, and a more extended plant growth period from increased water infiltration. The Pownalls expect to see more ecological change from increased animal impact.
Business benchmarking shows that the Pownalls are a viable, profitable operation. Data and visual assessment show that land condition has improved, long-term carrying capacity has increased, pasture quality and quantity have improved, and people in the business are happy, educated, and achieving goals.
The couple was able to draw on peer experience to make these changes in their grazing management. The most important management focus is to look after the land, as this underpins the business’s future profitability.
Embracing change and a willingness to learn helps the Pownalls and their business continually improve and renew.
They have several production goals to achieve, such as 100% groundcover, 30% plant basal area, subdividing grass paddocks to sizes of 200 hectares and leucaena paddocks to 90 hectares, increasing carrying capacity to 30 SDH/100mm, and improving cattle yard efficiency by adding a race draft.
Technologies that would make a big difference in sustainable, efficient business management at Leichhardt include walk-over weighing and auto drafting, digital mapping with elevation to plan water development, and virtual fencing through satellite technology.
The Pownalls believe incentive-based programs should encourage regenerative grazing management and protect agricultural land from mining and foreign ownership.
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