Accelerating the use of grazing land management tools (FORAGE)

To be commercially viable, Queensland graziers need to gain productivity and profitability improvements in complex and dynamic systems involving natural resources, animal production and welfare, climate, people, business, markets and more. Ultimately, the sustainability of their enterprise is founded on the knowledge, tools, skills and motivations they use to inform their management decisions. These are largely within difficult operational, financial and social conditions, exacerbated by drought.

Under the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, federal government and state agencies have invested significantly into research, development and extension activities to achieve land condition, ground cover and reef water quality improvements in the Great Barrier Reef. This has also been directly and indirectly supported by projects funded by natural resource management groups and Meat & Livestock Australia.

It has been demonstrated through long term grazing trials at Wambiana Station, Charters Towers that maintaining good ground cover, land condition and appropriate stocking rates relative to pasture availability and long-term carrying capacity is essential for productivity and profitability. Another benefit to maintaining good ground cover, land condition and appropriate stocking rates is the reduction in exposed areas that are subject to erosion and gully formation, which can be difficult and costly to remediate and reduces sediment flow into reef catchments. There are a number of state developed and commercial tools available in the marketplace for graziers to assist in their decision making.

One decision support tool is FORAGE – an online, web and email-based system that generates and distributes climate and pasture related information in customised reports for a requested location. This was developed under the Reef Water Quality Science Program funded by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and developed by the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, with input from industry, extension agents, stakeholders and policy officers.

FORAGE reports provide graziers and land managers with property-scale information formulated using remotely sensed imagery, pasture growth models, historical and seasonal climate data and long term climate projections. These reports can be used to support decisions for land condition assessment and grazing and environmental land management practices.

The target audience of FORAGE and similar decision support tools are graziers and extension agents including state, natural resource management, non-government organisations and private advisors who can support graziers with the adoption of these tools.

To date, the uptake of FORAGE by the beef industry has been relatively low due to the lack of an integrated engagement, education and communication approach following the development phase. To be attractive to users, it needs to be easy to use and interpreted and must be more effective and useful than the practice that they are currently using. It should also be integrated with other tools within existing projects to maximise adoption.

This project will:

  • develop baseline data for FORAGE and other grazing land management tools clarifying their benefits, uses, limitations and relationships to each other
  • identify key stakeholders who have used, will use or influence users of these technologies
  • commence initial work to build the capacity of key target groups in two reef catchments, the Fitzroy Basin and the Burnett Mary, and
  • identify and document the pathway for integrating these tools into existing extension activities.

When: 30 March 2016 to 30 December 2016

Where: Toowoomba

Contact: Giselle Whish E:

Collaborators: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation

RD&E objectives: Enterprise sustainability: Increasing natural resource use efficiency and managed environmental impacts

Industry priorities: Grazing land management, Information technology and Precision Livestock Management

Useful links: FORAGEWambiana grazing trial