Seeing is believing: Commercial scale implementation of wet season spelling for Mitchell grass recovery

Wet Season spelling is a well-known grazing strategy with lots of scientific data supporting it, but practical implementation on a commercial scale can come with challenges. The NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade’s (DITT) Rain Ready Rangelands Project is working with producers in the Barkly Region to look at all aspects of wet season spelling, with a focus on understanding the factors that influence pasture and soil health, in particular Mitchell grass, a major component of the Barkly Tablelands.

Method: 100m x 100m exclosures were set up in four different paddocks on the demonstration property. Three paddocks were used in a wet season spelling rotation, and were compared to a set stocked paddock as a control. Species composition, pasture yield, ground cover, multispectral drone imagery and soil health data were recorded inside and outside of the exclosures. Farmbots were used to record daily rainfall data remotely. GPS collars were deployed on 150 animals to monitor cattle behaviour throughout the duration of the project and data was collected from each paddock before and after the wet season.

The project is collecting scientific data whilst identifying logistical challenges associated with implementing wet season spelling. This includes how to select the right paddocks, how to ensure safe utilisation rates are implemented, when to move cattle and how this strategy fits into a commercial enterprise.

The project started following a period of below average rainfall in the Barkly region where Mitchell grass noticeably declined. The project will continue to follow the seasonal and grazing impacts of wet season spelling on Mitchell grass health in these paddocks in the future, with the aim of informing producers of the benefits of wet season spelling.

To view more information about the other components of the Rain Ready Rangelands Project, follow the link: Rain ready rangelands – FutureBeef

More updates on this project can be found on the AgricultureNT Facebook page.

If you have any questions about the Mitchell grass recovery and wet season spelling component of the Rain Ready Rangelands Project please get in touch with the project manager, NT DITT rangelands research officer, Jaidyn Eastaughffe

The project is being conducted in collaboration with Territory Natural Resource Management (TNRM) and is funded through the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.