Improving pasture and the land

CHIESA FAMILY’S FOCUS ON THE LAND

1 FEBRUARY 2022

A new focus on the land underneath their cattle’s feet is racking up wins for Brahman breeders Peter and Mariah Chiesa.

The Kennedy Valley graziers have seen a major improvement in pastures since they began changing their grazing management practices six years ago, moving to smaller paddocks and grazing the land more intensely.

From 6 to 16 paddocks

“We had 130 hectares of cane, banana (and guinea grass) that was fenced into six paddocks – we’ve pushed it out to 16 paddocks averaging five to seven hectares with a solid 60 per cent of the pasture now being improved species with a heavy legume influence,’’ Peter said.

“It allows us to manage our feed a lot better, and to have our finger on the pulse when it comes to selling cattle at an optimum time.”

The Chiesa’s Kennedy property was showcased at a field day in the Tully region, hosted by the farmer-led group Lower Wet Tropics Soilcare and supported by Terrain NRM.

Peter said Terrain’s grazing management workshops, held in the Tableland and Ingham regions over the last couple of years, had helped him look at his management of grazing land from a different angle, building on the knowledge he and Mariah had gained over the years.

“New ways to run our country better”

“Breeding cattle is long-term project and learning how to manage the country is part of it,’’ the third-generation farmer said. “We’re always looking for ways to run our country better. I’m not a big fan of applying synthetic fertiliser so I’m interested in different approaches.

“We run all our cattle in one herd now. We have minimal inputs. With smaller paddocks, they always have fresh feed available. We move them regularly. In the wet season that can be every couple of days.

“When we had the bigger paddocks, we’d have parts that were always overgrazed and parts that were overgrown or underutilised. Now cattle can evenly graze paddocks, allowing the more desirables a chance to grow, spread and thrive.

Intensive grazing and spelling

“We put a bit of stress on a paddock, eat the grass down and then give it a rest for a time period that depends on the paddock’s recovery. It could be anywhere from two weeks to four months. With the rest period, grasses can send down their roots, set carbon and sugars into the soil and grow a healthier plant with better water retention and nutrient value.

“Grasses are coming up without us planting a thing. There has been a big improvement in the land and in turn we are providing more protein and energy for our cows.

“There is still a long way to go but we’re improving our country to be more in line with nature.”

For more information about the Lower Wet Tropics Soilcare Group, contact Alan Lynn on 0419 722 101. For more information about Terrain NRM and its soil health projects, visit this project page or contact Sally Fields on 0421 710 474. Terrain’s soil health projects are funded through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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