Zero impact approach to stock watering

Kathryn Dryden
August 12, 2016

Zero impact approach to stock watering

The Upper Herbert River now fenced off from cattle on the Fry's property (Source: Bernie English)

Owners of a 5,000 acre breeder block at the headwaters of the Herbert River have fenced off 10km of river frontage and installed watering troughs to significantly reduce the amount of sediment flowing from the property to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Ravenshoe property owned by Ray and Phyllis Fry, fronts the Millstream waterway which is a major tributary of the Herbert River. The fencing has been a commitment of the Fry’s to achieve zero impact on water quality from their breeder herd and cattle operation.

“We wanted to keep the cattle out of the creek in order to avoid them doing damage to its banks and influencing the quality of water flowing on,” Mr Fry said.

“The cost of the fencing was major as you can imagine. We appreciated some help to get this project off the ground.

“Terrain NRM awarded us two Australian Government Reef Programme grants which totalled nearly $62,000. This enabled us to build the fence along with new water infrastructure allowing us to pump drinking water from the river to cattle watering points across the property.”

Along with the funding, the Frys contributed a significant amount of cash out of their own pockets enabling them to install the watering system consisting of troughs every two kilometres, pumps and other related infrastructure.

 “It has resulted in more even grazing pressure across paddocks and has also allowed us to keep an eye on pasture yields and ground cover over the year. All of this contributes to retaining the soil and reducing runoff,” Mr Fry said.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Bernie English works with Terrain to roll out the Australian Government’s Reef Programme and is responsible for providing farmers in the Upper Herbert River area with extension support.

 “Ray and manager John have also implemented a rotational grazing system and started a wet season spelling program, all possible since the fencing and water infrastructure was completed,” Mr English said.

Terrain’s Chief Executive Officer Carole Sweatman said the Frys are one of 21 dryland graziers who were awarded grants in the first five years of the Australian Government’s Reef Programme in the Wet Tropics.

“Their project makes up six of the 196 off-stream watering points installed and their 10km of fencing contributes to a total of over 100km of fencing constructed by graziers to protect waterways across the region,” Ms Sweatman said.

Nearly 108,000ha of grazing land in the Wet Tropics has been subject to new methods of land management in this time to improve farm efficiency and better the quality of water flowing to the Reef.

The Frys are continuing to make improvements to their cattle operation with further fencing and installation of laneways.

“Everyone involved in helping us with our Reef Programme project has been brilliant,” Mr Fry said. “Bernie and Terrain have helped from concept to completion which has allowed us to make changes to our land management practices more quickly and effectively. We want to keep up the momentum.”

Ms Sweatman said Terrain is proud to be working with the grazing industry to support and enable farmers to change their practices for the better.

Terrain NRM is one of 56 regional natural resource management bodies across Australia working to look after our people, land and water.