Its business as usual for the beef team in Mackay

Apart from some extra planning and approvals for travel, little has changed for the beef extension team based in Mackay in recent times. Over the last two months the beef extension team have been conducting targeted visits to grazing properties, as they continue to get on with the job of growing Australian food.

These visits were to maintain field-based trials and have been planned with COVID-19 precautions front of mind, including social distancing, personal hygiene, limiting the number of passengers per vehicle, and sanitising the vehicle after each trip.

Jim, kicking goals since 1987
Beef extension officer Jim Fletcher maintains social distancing requirements while getting the job done in Mackay during COVID-19.

The team at Mackay have been closely following isolation directions and took an early lead, so that graziers and the officers themselves could have a level of confidence that the property visits could continue in the pandemic with a low risk of transmission.

To reduce the risk of any potential virus spread a number of property visits and the checking of demonstration plots have been carried out without any contact between extension officers and landowners. These measures have allowed the team to continue to provide advice and other essential extension services to producers.

Beef extension officer Jim Fletcher explained that whilst COVID-19 has affected beef producers and the way they do business, the interface with DAF hasn’t changed much at all.

“Producers still have goals that need achieving, and we are there to help them achieve those goals. We have always focused on one to one visits as a priority in this region,” he said.

At this time of year the beef extension team traditionally offer support with pasture agronomy, to plan for planting at the end of the year.  The team work with graziers to improve the productive capacity of the land and the overall land condition.

Improvement in land condition to reduce sediment loss to the Great Barrier Reef is a high priority in reef catchments, and in many ways this goes hand in hand with improved production outcomes.

“Many beef producers are interested in planting leucaena pasture systems to improve cattle weight gain to reach premium markets.  After planting leucaena they soon realise many other benefits that these sorts of well-managed systems bring.

“Soil stability is increased through having a reliable mid-story plant, soil health is improved through the tree legume fixing nitrogen, and diet selection is improved through an increased range of pasture and legume forage.

“We are also looking at ways to diversify revenue streams within beef businesses to improve profit.

“Some new initiatives include establishing broad acre cropping and tree cropping like limes and macadamias as well as pasture seed production.  Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are also providing economic support for better options analysis, through the agriculture economics team.”

To find the contact details of your local extension officer and agricultural economists, click here.