Improving grazing management practices to enhance ground cover and reduce sediment loads

The Improving grazing management practices to enhance ground cover and reduce sediment loads project investigated the relationship between grazing management practices, vegetation cover and water quality on grazing properties in the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments.

Led by CSIRO and funded by the Caring for our Country, Reef Rescue Program, this project related management practices to vegetation cover and water quality.  The project drew upon 10 years of paddock and catchment-focussed research, combining water quality outcomes of grazing practices with the recently-completed archive of Bare Ground Index (BGI) imagery and bio-economic modelling. Long-term outcomes of grazing management practices on vegetation cover, land condition, enterprise productivity, and water quality were identified and reported for the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments and the Great Barrier Reef.

Project aims:


  • Develop quantitative relationships for key land types between management practices, land cover and condition, and water quality outcomes (including erosion rates and the infiltration capacity that contributes to runoff, sediment delivery, and downstream gully and riverbank erosion).
  • Produce histograms of vegetation cover and erosion rate for high-priority land types in the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments to quantify the current impact of different management practices at paddock, property and catchment scales.
  • Develop estimates of the pasture productivity and sediment loss resulting from different management practices, and the likely outcomes of changing management practices in terms of land condition and pasture productivity.


  • Collaborate with CSIRO staff and consult with landholders and Natural Resource Management (NRM) groups to select 9 focus properties for analysis of cover levels using >20 years of BGI imagery to detect properties with  historically high, medium and low cover levels.
  • Interview producers from focus properties to document recent and historical grazing management at the selected paddock site, including herd management, stocking rates and spelling, live-weight gains, and grazing land management practices. This data informed CSIRO modelling.
  • In collaboration with CSIRO staff, produce fact sheets for distribution to the wider grazing and NRM community.

When: 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2013

Contact: Karl McKellar, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Collaborators: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; CSIRO; NQ Dry Tropics

More information

To learn more, please read the executive summary and download the RRRD032 Research Outcomes Report (PDF, 3.48 MB) from the Reef Rescue Research & Development website.