The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management

Learning From History to Survive in the Future: Management Evolution on Trafalgar Station, North-East Queensland.

RG Landsberg, AJ Ash, RK Shepherd and GM Mckeon

The Rangeland Journal 20(1) 104 - 118
Published: 1998


Managing rangeland enterprises requires balancing socio-economic goals within a production environment characterised by ecological complexity and large climatic variability. Trafalgar Station in north-east Queensland, has been trying to maintain this balance over a period of 80 years and three generations of the one family. This paper explores how management on Trafalgar Station has gone through four evolutionary phases and examines the advantages and disadvantages of each of these stages of development. The first 50 years of management was a technologically constrained era of low stock numbers and poor productivity but there were few resource management problems. Next followed a 20 year period of production maximisation which was made possible by improved cattle genetics and nutritional technologies. With drought feeding occurring more frequently and loss of perennial grasses and soil becoming more evident, there came the realisation that this high stocking strategy was unsustainable. The management of Trafalgar then embarked on a new philosophy based on conservative stocking (similar to historical levels) and increased emphasis on herd, pasture and financial management. This new management philosophy required a transitional phase where stock numbers. and income, were very low to allow pasture condition to improve. Current herd management focuses on maintaining quality rather than quantity, strategic use of supplements for production, and developing a diverse range of markets for sale cattle. Conservative stock numbers have increased opportunities in pasture management with 15 to 20% of the property now annually rested from grazing. Fire has been reintroduced to restrict "thickening" of native woody plants and to control exotic woody weeds. Together with long-term financial planning, these improvements in management are reducing economic risk. The perceived benefits of the current management philosophy are supported by simulation modelling studies of pasture and animal production and analyses of property economics.

© ARS 1998

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