Upfront Outback

Upfront Outback

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From the western front

Huge Prickly Acacia tree we treated on O’Briens Creek; it would have produced millions of seeds in its lifetime.

In a campaign with shades of the military, our field team swept westward from the lower Wokingham Creek area to engage enemy infestations of the Prickly Acacia insurgency to the west of Ayrshire Hills.

In a combined ground and air assault, DCQ forces cleaned out an 18 kilometre stretch of O’Brien Creek, cutting off a seed source and creating a safety buffer to keep this relentless pest plant from gaining a bridgehead in the Diamantina River.

This long-planned outflanking manoeuvre was an extension of work done in 2014/15.  It saw the application of new misting methods to complement traditional close quarters basal bark spraying, residual chemical application and mechanical control.  And for the really tough pockets of resistance, drone air support was used to deliver residual chemical payloads.

While our DCQ field infantry lead the way, they were ably supported by civilian contractors, as well as local landholders who provided misters, constructed access tracks and established monitoring sites at three locations.

Including major infestations at dams, along the creek itself and in borrow pits, as well as light infestations in the paddocks, a total of 16,000 hectares were cleared of this insurgent Weed of National Significance.

To ensure no re-establishment, a sharp watch will be kept at the three monitoring sites; any required mopping up will be done with misters to reduce costs, time and effort for landholders.

This latest campaign to protect the Diamantina River from the ravages of Prickly Acacia was funded by the Queensland Government’s Feral Pest Initiative.

 

Gold in your ground

 

Simon Wiggins presenting at the soil carbon workshop

According to land management consultant, John Gavin of Remarkable NRM, soil carbon is gold.  John made the comment to more than two dozen interested graziers at our recent Soil Carbon and Gidyea Management workshop in Barcaldine.

He said soil carbon is directly linked to pasture health and, therefore, productivity.  This is unsurprising given that soil carbon improves soil structure and water holding ability, and makes more nutrients available for pasture growth.

While it’s a no brainer that producers should seek to improve their soil carbon levels to maximise land productivity, the difficulty for both producers and experts is that the best way to do this differs from site to site, even within the same property.

And when Gidyea management is brought into the equation, there is an increased level of decision-making difficulty: is there greater financial return in returning the Gidyea encroachment to productive pasture, or in retaining the Gidyea and earning carbon credits under the Emission Reduction Fund.

Again, the answer will be very site specific.

John Gavin said that for producers to be able to make informed decisions about land management options or enterprise diversification, they must have good financial records, and they need to accurately know their cost of production and returns per hectare.  It is only when armed with this level of detail that producers can decide whether the net financial benefit from returning the Gidyea encroachment to productive pasture is outweighed by the potential carbon credit income from retaining the Gidyea.

 

 Sun power


More solar energy strikes the earth in an hour than all of humanity uses in a year.  And that’s all energy use.  But it will run out… in about five billion years.

So why aren’t we using more of it?  Actually, we are, global solar capacity rose by 50 percent in 2016.  And DCQ is doing its bit.  We’ve just commissioned our very own 20 kilowatt solar power system, thereby saving us thousands of dollars per year that we can put into community projects.

Our gratitude to the Gambling Community Benefit Funds for their generous support.  Thanks also to the Sun for its ongoing provision of zero cost fuel.  Can’t get a better deal than that.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of solar power, our commercial arm, DC Solutions, has had quite a bit to do with the upcoming 15 megawatt Longreach Solar Farm being built by Canadian Solar on Camden Park, just east of town.

Several years ago, DC Solutions conducted preliminary environmental surveys on a number of potential sites, then last year they conducted detailed environmental and cultural heritage studies of the chosen area.

We are very proud to be playing our part in harnessing the energy provided free by nature every day.

 

The SOB finally shows

 

The draft Lake Eyre Basin State of the Basin Condition Assessment 2016 report has finally been released for public comment.  It’s been out for a month so we apologise for our tardiness in getting the word out.  The important thing is you are able to make comment, but it’s only until the end of June.

The draft report presents the current status of the Basin’s hydrology, water quality, fish and waterbirds, as well as identifying current and emerging threats and pressures on this unique inland drainage basin.

Under the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement Act (2001) between the Australian, Queensland, South Australian and Northern Territory governments a review of the condition of the watercourses and catchments of the Agreement Area must be undertaken every 10 years.  This is that review and, as a Basin resident, or interested party, you are invited to comment on the contents.

Details on how to provide feedback are provided on the links above, but it must be completed by 30th June 2017.  Your feedback will be considered in the finalisation of the report.  If you have any questions regarding the draft report, please contact the Lake Eyre Basin Secretariat at lebsecretariat@agriculture.gov.au.

The draft report was developed in consultation with the Australian, State and Territory governments along with the Lake Eyre Basin Community Advisory Committee and Lake Eyre Basin Scientific Advisory Panel.  The Lake Eyre Basin Agreement area includes all of the Queensland and Northern Territory sections, half the South Australian section, but not the New South Wales portion.

Flock Ewe

While there weren’t many ewes in the flock at the recent Muttaburra Flock Ewe Show, there were certainly plenty of drone devotees, and they did flock around for the demonstration flights of the PBE Services drone.

As a key part of our Prickly Acacia eradication program, the Yamaha Rmax chopper drone, was at the show as part of our wider display on weeds and feral animal control.  Even though our show bags, wrist-bands and stress balls were widely sought after by around 400 patrons, it was the latest in hi-tech weed control that had people buzzing.

Simon and Nic from PBE Services flew two demonstrations of the residual chemical application pattern used to infestations of greater than 1,000 stems per hectare of the pasture choking Prickly Acacia.

As well as weed control, drone questions turned to mustering, checking waters and fences, monitoring stock movements, battery capacity, cost, range of models, line of sight versus remote flying, and much more.

Our team also attended the Winton, Longreach, Blackall, Isisford shows.

Expanding the shield

Twenty-two months of frenetic action has seen DCQ’s feral pig control team expand the shield protecting the prime grazing land and environmentally significant wetlands of the inestimable Channel Country from the scourge of feral pigs.

Desert Channels Queensland’s Central West Feral Pig Control Project was funded by the Australian Government Drought Assistance Pest Animal Management Program through the Queensland Feral Pests Initiative, and began in October 2015 with a remit to build a self-sustaining buffer to keep feral pig numbers reaching the Channel Country at low and manageable levels.

And we had until the end of June 2017 to get it done… no pressure.

Given that graziers are on the front line of feral pig issue, and that Government funding comes and goes, the cornerstone of this project was working in partnership with landholders to develop a control program that would remain in place, and active, long after funding for this project ceased.

Controlling feral pig populations delivers significantly improved lambing rates to graziers, reduces a major vector for livestock diseases, and benefits critical environmental areas such as wetlands of national and international significance.  However, maximum effectiveness is only achieved where landholder participation rates are high; control activities are coordinated and where landholders continue control activities after the initial work.

In addition to developing a long-term self-sustaining program to control feral pigs along the critical riparian pathways into the Channel Country, the immediate population control aims of this project were to knock numbers down to a manageable level upstream of our long-term monitoring and control activities in the Channel Country.

Consequently, we targetted the Thomson River between Windorah and Muttaburra, Torrens and Tower Hill creeks upstream of Muttaburra, the Diamantina River from Monkira to the Winton to Boulia Road, and the Georgina River between Cluny and Linda Downs.

A combination of baiting and shooting was used across these areas.  In all, we provided over 10,000 kilograms of pig-strength 1080 baits to the aerial and ground dog baiting programs carried out by Longreach, Barcaldine, Barcoo and Winton councils.  To provide added benefits to graziers, wherever we conducted aerial shooting, we targetted wild dogs as well.

In April 2017, the trapping component of the project was expanded up the Barcoo and Alice rivers to Barcaldine.

While our baiting and shooting activities have reduced feral pig numbers, the backbone of this project’s ongoing success is skilled, equipped and motivated landholders.  To deliver this we held training and information workshops, developed a control methods booklet, deployed traps to strategically located landholders and established monitoring sites with remote sensing cameras.

Our workshops were held at Aramac, Winton and Boulia with eminent feral pig control specialist, Dr Jim Mitchell.  Jim’s 32 years’ experience in field work and feral animal research, as well as his practical, hands-on approach gave attendees a great platform of knowledge on the origins, behaviour, diseases, predation and environmental impacts of feral pigs, as well as baiting, shooting, trapping and the use of data recording programs.

Complementing the workshops, and giving attendees a permanent reference and refresher on feral pig biology, behaviours and control techniques, as well as legal obligations, was our 40 page booklet, Feral Pig Control in the Desert Channels Region.

Key to minimising feral pig incursions down our inland river systems is capturing those that attempt the journey.  This is why we deployed 20 feral pig ‘panel’ traps with animal-activated drop gates to strategically located properties on the Barcoo, Thomson, Diamantina and Georgina systems where they will be operated on an ongoing basis by the individual graziers.

And to round off this skilling and equipping aspect of the project, our 35 remote sensing camera sites will provide us with critical information on the trend in feral pig numbers and their locations.  This will enable us to direct resources to assist landholders if their area experiences a surge.

Over the course of this 20 month project, 50 tissues samples have been taken and sent to Biosecurity Queensland for analysis of disease as well as population links and dynamics. Participating landholders will continue this practice after completion of the project.

Along with more traditional monitoring such as cameras, surveys and personal observations, tissue sampling allows population profiling that tells us about the patterns and movement of feral pig populations, and informs where future control investments should be made.

The skilled, equipped and motivated landholders straddling the mid reaches of our river systems will not only be reducing the impacts of feral pigs on their livestock, they will provide an important shield for the Channel Country by minimising the feral pigs that make their way downstream.

Desert Channels Queensland’s Central West Feral Pig Control Project has developed another vital cog in long-term, effective feral pig control in the West.

For a copy of our booklet, Feral Pig Control in the Desert Channels Region, please contact Desert Channels Queensland on 07 4658 0600 or info@dcq.org.au.

Size matters

Congratulations to the team at the NRM Spatial Hub for taking out the Northern Territory’s 2016 Spatial Excellence Award for innovation and commercialisation with their big data, web-based tool to give rangelands graziers the edge in managing their extensive grazing areas.

The NRM Spatial Hub is built around big data.  It brings together maps, satellite ground cover data and grazier knowledge on an easy to use platform that helps graziers optimise their grazing land management.  

The Hub combines the latest geospatial mapping technologies with time-series satellite data, to provide world leading remote sensing of ground cover through an online website, enabling land managers to optimise grazing pressure and land condition through more informed decision making.

By using The Hub technology to guide future investment in infrastructure development to optimise stocking rates and pasture utilisation, the 700 plus graziers currently using The Hub consider they can increase their annual revenue by a whopping 35% or more.

The Hub’s success is largely due to the close collaboration between developers and end-users.  The result is an innovative, easy to use, practical tool with demonstrated production benefits, increasing uptake and broad support.

Supporters of The Hub include the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, Meat and Livestock Australia, Desert Channels Queensland and the other 13 members of the Rangelands Alliance, the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information, and multiple government departments of the five largest states and territories.

 

Rangelands reminder

If you share our deep and abiding commitment to Australia’s rangelands, you won’t want to miss the 19th Biennial Conference of the Australian Rangelands Society at Port Augusta, 25 – 28 September.  You can book here.

Australia’s rangelands cover the majority of the continent, and are areas that haven’t been intensively developed, where natural ecological processes predominate and where values and benefits are based primarily on natural resources.

The Australian Rangeland Society aims to promote the science and art of rangeland management and to foster dialogue between all those with related interests, both nationally and internationally.