Taswells Creek is a 1,816-hectare South Burnett property about 35 kilometres outside Kingaroy in Queensland. In many ways, it was a blank canvas when its new owners, Fiona Tessmann and Roger Eliott, arrived in August 2017.
There was plenty of work to do, with the property cut into only two oversized, patchy and inconsistently grazed paddocks with limited watering points fed from old windmills and bores. From the beginning, Fiona and Roger envisioned replenishing the land using regenerative agriculture.
Much motivation to transition to regenerative practices came from Fiona and Roger completing a series of RCS workshops. This knowledge was expanded in 2021 when they participated in the Grassroots Project (Grassroots), funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program. Grassroots has the dual aim of increasing grazier profitability and reducing run-off to the Great Barrier Reef in the Fitzroy, Burnett-Mary and Mackay-Whitsunday regions.
In 2017, before embarking on their plan to establish new paddocks and watering points, the couple spent hours in the saddle, riding the new block to get a feel for the country and learn which areas needed attention and rest. They married their observations with information from Google Earth and data they generated using RCS tools like Grazing Charts to help determine accurate stocking rates.
They soon realised their priority was improving the water infrastructure so cattle could roam across the full scope of the property, sparing the overstocked areas and achieving greater productivity from the unutilised patches. Two 25,000-gallon tanks were bought and placed on higher ground so water could be gravity fed into the new concrete troughs. “We didn’t want to rely on surface water at all, as we prefer to have our cattle on clean, piped bore or creek water,” Roger said.
Within 12 months, they divided the block into 24 paddocks and laid six kilometres of pipe to connect nine new watering points. This allowed them to complete their first round of rotational grazing. It was a rewarding moment that marked a new chapter for the property, previously managed under set-stocking practices for over 100 years.
Today, the breeding herd on the property—including about 300 head of mixed-breed Bos indicus cows joined to high-quality Angus bulls—is a picture of productivity compared to when Fiona and Roger arrived.
Fiona described the impact of the new watering system as transformative. “Using our cattle to landscape the property has built so much resilience in our land,” she said. “They have helped create productive areas, and we see wider biodiversity in the grasses. Every time we have rain, it’s exciting to see the new germinations sprouting.”
Recently, their homebred maiden heifers returned a 100% in-calf result. “I believe the relationship between the land and the cattle is what is improving our fertility. There is such a connection there, and it helps that when we ride up on a horse, the mob psychology is them knowing they will be getting moved to fresh, new pastures, so they start following us around,” explains Fiona.
To further perfect their pastures’ biodiversity, Roger has begun placing legume seeds in stockfeed to use livestock to help disperse deep-rooted seeds, including seca stylo, progardes desmanthus, siratro, serradella, woolly pod vetch and biserulla.
“As some of our land is undulating and rocky with many trees, we can’t physically get the seeds out ourselves, but our cattle can. We know increasing the biodiversity will increase the ground cover, which helps retain more water and improve our soils,” Roger said.
“It’s looking promising so far as we have seen some germination in our cattle manure. If this works well, we will keep doing it; if it doesn’t, we will try something else. We have learnt this through our RCS training—you need to plan for constant flexibility.”
Through Grassroots, Fiona and Roger were assigned an RCS mentor, Andrew Zerner. Andrew thoroughly examined their business and worked with them to assess the value of their changes and what more the could do. “We were able to show Andrew what we have completed so far. He had a thorough look and could let us know we were on the right track,” Roger said.
“He saw our property at the start of the growing season and will see it again at the end of our growing season. He also sat with us and reviewed all of our data to see if there was room for improvement. I think with regenerative agriculture, people want to do it, but trying to find a starting point is the difficult part. When we came here, we knew what we would do; it was just a matter of executing the plan.”
Roger acknowledges that they still have a long way to go but explains that talking with Andrew through Grassroots has given them the confidence to execute their plan fully. “We have watched our land move towards a much better state, looking vibrant and healthy, which has positively impacted our cattle. As our pastures are on track, it’s really showing in the condition and fertility of our herd,” Fiona said.
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