QUEENSLAND beef producers Russell and Catriona Murdoch’s work to use regenerative agriculture to achieve both ecological and financial improvements within their grazing business were last night recognised when they were announced as finalists in the Reef Champion Awards in Mackay.
The Awards, where the Murdochs were finalists in the Reef Sediment Champion category, recognise outstanding individuals or organisations who have taken action to improve the quality of the water entering the Great Barrier Reef.
The Murdochs’ regenerative agriculture journey began three years ago when they relocated to 1900ha Holroyd at Booubyjan near Gayndah in Queensland’s North Burnett district, from southern New South Wales in a bid to expand their beef operation.
When they arrived, Holroyd was overgrazed with scalded patches of land and erosion, and it was at this time Russell and Catriona, who work with Resource Consulting Services, shifted focus to prioritising soil health as the foundation of a healthy agribusiness.
A lot of the work carried out has involved subdividing paddocks into 10 to 20ha lots and the strategic placement of more troughs and water infrastructure. This has allowed the couple to implement an effective rotational grazing system that better utilises pasture, while also decreasing how far cattle have to walk to water and protecting riparian zones.
By creating those smaller lots and implementing significant rest periods for each paddock with rotational grazing, the Murdochs have been able to greatly improve utilisation of pasture and increase pasture yields four-fold, while at the same time, protecting the soil and ecological health.
By using data from grazing charts and feed budgeting, the Murdochs made the decision early to reduce cattle numbers in this year’s drought, when stock were still in good condition, allowing the couple keep a good body of grass. “You don’t have to travel far down the road and that is not the case. When it does rain, the country will come away so much more quickly and we’ll be ready to buy stock – ideally before the price increase,” they said.
RCS director Dr Terry McCosker said that by adding key fencing and water infrastructure in line with regenerative management practices and integrating rotational grazing, the Murdochs had been able to transform their business.
“Russell and Catriona have wholeheartedly adopted a regenerative approach and it is paying clear dividends with a four-fold increase in pasture yield of the land under rotation and a change in groundcover from 50 to 80 percent, despite ongoing drought conditions,” Dr McCosker said.
The success of what they are doing has allowed Russell to be full-time in the grazing business after 30 years working off-farm and has helped them to develop not just a vision for Holroyd but a pathway to achieving their goals.
“We’re delighted to work with the Murdochs and proud of all they have achieved in a relatively short period of time,” Mr McCosker said.
RCS hosts conference next July
RCS will showcase regenerative agriculture in July 2020 when it hosts its once-a-decade International Conference that, this time around, will also help Dr McCosker and the RCS team celebrate 30 years of operation.
The conference will feature some of the most outstanding thinkers in the world to speak to the theme ‘Convergence: Agriculture, human and planetary health’ to demonstrate the critical relationship which exists between the soil, human wellness and farm profitability, Dr McCosker said.
The lineup will include Dr Zach Bush, a compelling medical mind who is undertaking ground-breaking work across agriculture, human and ecological health in the United States.
“We look forward to sharing these important insights with people not just from farming but from across the entire food supply chain, or anyone with an interest in wellness,” Mr McCosker said.
“And, of course, we hope to inspire more producers like Russell and Catriona to not just contribute to the health of the environment but also to the success of their business.”