New Solutions to Old Problems

Host: Mel McDonald – Rangeland NRM
Written by Mel McDonald – Kimberley Project Manager, Rangelands NRM.

How do we make our industry more sustainable? One way is certainly by trying new ways of doing things and talking to each other about it so we can learn from each other’s successes and failures. In my work as a Landcare Facilitator with Rangelands NRM in the Kimberley, I was involved in a number of small projects where Stations did just that. They had a problem, some ideas on how to address it, and were able to access funds to help them have a go.

Some of these projects had ideas to address erosion on their properties. One property had areas of very fragile soils in which deep gullies were carrying large amounts of soil into Lake Argyle. Another had an eroded area near a stock watering point. A couple of other projects wanted to look into whether using herbicides to maintain firebreaks and fence lines could be a beneficial alternative to the traditional use of a bulldozer and/or grader which can be expensive, can cause erosion, and doesn’t always achieve the desired result.

Other projects looked at the viability of establishing a small area of improved pasture to regenerate a degraded area which can be common in high traffic areas such as around yards and holding paddocks. This pasture could also be used as a ‘hay stack’ to reduce the risk of importing weeds from other areas in hay bought onto the property. It can also improve business options by increasing flexibility in animal management and marketing, including being able to keep potential sale cattle close at hand to decrease the real risk of numbers of ‘out of spec’ cattle accumulating on the property and leading to over-grazing. ‘Out of spec’ cattle are those that cannot be sold because they are too heavy or not the right breed. By having these cattle close at hand, they can be sold as soon as a sale opportunity comes up. If they are out with the rest of the herd, the expense and time needed to get them in the yards can prevent the sale and numbers can accumulate.

I organised two web meetings. The first was to talk about the plan of attack for these problems and gain any words of advice from others who may have already addressed or tried to address such things. The second web meeting was to talk about how it went – the good, the bad, and the ugly. The idea was to use the Internet to show pictures of the problem or solution while people told their story. Luckily we used the phone as a backup instead of talking to each other over the Internet, because there were a few technical difficulties. The pictures that everyone had taken were great and the idea worked well for a short time before the system froze. So we all learned something – especially me! (about web conferencing!)

6.1Gully erosion in fragile soils to be addressed by a trial installing a series of check banks.

6.2Erosion caused by traditional maintenance along a fence line – an issue which many stations are working to prevent and remediate.

6.3High traffic areas such as those around watering points, holding paddocks and yards can become degraded – trials aim to turn this animal impact into a solution.