Rotational Grazing: The Peart’s

On the Western side of Queensland’s renowned cattle region – the Arcadia Valley – you’ll find a multigenerational, organic beef operation called ‘Bundaleer’ – owned and operated by the Peart family.

In the early 90’s, the Peart’s began implementing a grazing program that was seldom heard of back then; Rotational Grazing. The Peart’s were early adopters; Dr Stan Parsons had only introduced the concept of Rotational/Cell Grazing and holistic management to Australia in 1989 – just a few years prior. At the time, the words ‘Rotational and Cell Grazing’ and the name ‘Allan Savory’ were controversial among producers and scientists alike, and even most of the literature at the time stated that it ‘does not work’ (Jones 1993).

Bundaleer now comprises 65 paddocks which average around 55HA each. They run one main mob with breeders, and backgrounders, and another finishing mob on a separate rotation that includes 500ha of leucaena. As a small family run operation, the Peart’s are busy; moving cattle nearly every day in the warmer months when the grass is growing.

As Phoenix customers since the early 2000’s, we’ve proudly assisted the Peart’s along much of their journey, as data management has been integral to their Rotational Grazing system. Recently we’ve been lucky enough to get some time with them to hear their story, and now to share it with you.

Mob grazing at Bundaleer.

What was your motivation to initially trial Rotational Grazing?

We could see a gradual rundown in the health of our pastures and the spread of bare areas in our paddocks. Initially following an RCS Grazing for Profit course in 1992, then working closely with Brian Wehlburg from Holistic Resource Management, we adopted the holistic approach to improve soil, water, and mineral cycles and to improve biodiversity and applied rotational grazing to address these problems.

Aside from setting up infrastructure, what were the key challenges to begin Rotational Grazing? 

There were, and still are, a range of challenges we faced while implementing rotational grazing;

  • Accepting the mindset that the cattle were a tool to be utilised in pasture management rather than the primary focus.
  • Working with one big mob of cattle rather than multiple mobs of different age groups/sexes was a practice change that required adaptation.
  • Time management and the human resources required to manage regular cattle moves. The mob at Bundaleer can move anywhere between 4 hour and 3 day intervals. 
  • Our biggest challenge would have to be calving time – it is very time consuming ensuring cows have brought their calves along or finding those that haven’t.

 

Sunrise over the Arcadia Valley.

What’s your average yearly rainfall?

600mm, although for 2021 we measured 680mm.  It is not the amount of rain necessarily that makes a difference, it is more when it falls and how it falls.

Stocking density:

31SD/HA/100mm – this captures the seasonal fluctuations equating to 1800 LSU/year on average.

Pasture types: Improved or native? 

Bundaleer is predominantly improved pasture, consisting mainly of buffel grass. We are always seeking to diversify our pasture and promote biodiversity and go to great lengths to establish legumes (Siratro, Butterfly Pea), panics, medics and other grasses (Bambatsi, Rhodes) are planted as well as encouraging the native species (Kangaroo, Blue), to persist under a rotational system.

A happy team.

All these metrics are corresponding, but what has the biggest impact on your bottom line: soil improvement, rainfall efficiency, biodiversity, etc?

Rainfall efficiency probably has the biggest effect on our bottom line – if good ground cover can keep the water on the farm and in the soil, it makes a big difference. Healthy soil, pasture and landscape through improved rainfall efficiency has resulted in a heavier carrying capacity, but we are very mindful of being conservative. 

How do you use Phoenix to manage your grazing system? 

We use the Phoenix Livestock app to record cattle moves which is excellent as the app can be updated as you stand in the paddock with the cattle. From that we can generate good reports on Stock Days/Ha and keep accurate records for biosecurity and grazing management purposes such as seasonal feed budgeting. Recording cattle and paddock treatments is an invaluable feature for generating reports for auditing purposes, while Phoenix Financial provides a great platform for financial reporting both to the business and for taxation purposes. We also use Phoenix Payroll as it makes personnel and payroll management easier.

Smoko at the yards.

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