Location: South of Torrens Creek, 340 kilometres West of Townsville, North Queensland
Property size: 31,000 hectares
Currently runs: 1400 LSU
Average annual rainfall: 500mm
Enterprise: Beef cattle breeding
Drivers of Success:
Ideas for future innovation:
Bunuro is a beef cattle farm south of Torrens Creek and west of Townsville, sprawling over 31,000 hectares. Since 2001, under the forward-thinking ownership of owners David and Donna Rankine, the farm has converted into a viable cattle business that is ecologically sustainable.
The Rankines have implemented management techniques such as rotational grazing, single-wire electric fencing and a reticulated water system to reduce grazing pressure at water points and give paddocks long rest periods. Despite the challenges of the property, the Rankines are excited to see the future potential.
David and Donna believe a sustainable business has stable ecological health and is economically viable. The Rankines met Terry McCosker at a grazing information session in Pentland and began implementing regenerative grazing practices after the purchase of Bunuro.
They started slowly, with grazing rotations utilising existing fences and water, and gradually gained experience with rotational grazing. In 2002, they received funding for a pipeline and ran it down a fence along the road between the clean and heart-leaf country. This means that grazing pressure is well distributed, and regular rotations result in plenty of available feed and minimal losses to the poison produced by the heart-leaf plant.
David and Donna were determined to own their land and pioneer these new practices in the area and wanted to manage it in a way that was improving rather than degrading ecosystem health. David and Donna completed GrazingforProfit® in 2002 and began ExecutiveLink® in 2004, leading to the purchase of quality cattle at an affordable price. Since graduating from ExecutiveLink®, they have also completed a Low-Stress Stockhandling School (LSS) and were involved in the Climate Champion program.
The Rankines are managing the land effectively and positively influencing the environment, despite the challenges associated with beef production. Innovations include rotational grazing, single-wire electric fencing, telemetry, tractor tyres on concrete slabs for troughs, and water development. All of these innovations have saved the Rankines time and money.
The stock watering system is fully reticulated, pumping from one bore and distributed to over 90 kilometres via a 63mm poly pipe. They have installed five dams on the property and 60 troughs made of tractor tyres, saving significant costs in water development.
Reliable stock watering systems are an important tool toward sustainability, and the Rankines are maintaining high levels of ground cover despite numerous poor seasons. The business is managed as a low-input system to ensure long-term viability.
The Rankines have developed a key innovation at Bunuro to muster the whole mob of cattle without the use of a helicopter. To do this, they have set up multiple troughs in each paddock. A second trough is installed at the front of the paddocks, approximately 50 metres away from the central trough, and the cell centre is closed off when cattle move out of the paddock. This results in an easy, efficient and highly cost-effective clean muster.
David and Donna are also reducing the use of fire where possible, as burning Spinifex country exposes a lot of bare ground, and animal impact followed by paddock rest successfully promotes nutrient cycling. They have also observed that wattle is encouraged by fire, and without fire, the wattle naturally peaks and then diminishes after approximately five years.
The biggest achievement for the Rankines is that they can see they have developed something from nothing, which is maintaining ecosystem health. The family has made key observations since 2001 that show they are improving the land at Bunuro. This includes increased ground cover, pasture growth and resilience, increased carrying capacity, desirable species, and greater biodiversity.
David and Donna have created their own Grazing Chart spreadsheet to monitor feed availability and feed consumed in each paddock. Completing property development was significantly easier with funding from NRM groups and government bodies. Their overall results with regenerative farming methods include:
The Rankines aim to run as many cattle as possible while improving the land’s quality and utilising the heart-leaf country to its maximum capacity. They plan to continue the current grazing management system and measure increases in production with Stock Days per Hectare, the number of Large Stock Units (LSU) sustainably managed and overall grass quality.
David and Donna aim to use water medication to reduce the expense of supplementary feeding. They are passionate about research and are willing to support studies that help move the industry forward. Their ideas for future innovation include:
The Rankines have taken on a challenge and made inspiring long-term improvements to the property and ecosystem in one of the more challenging areas to produce beef. To be sustainable, graziers must have stable markets, a more substantial price for beef, and access to education.
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