Regenerative Land Management
Regenerative Land Management Principles
Open Resolve Funds Management strategy integrates five key elements to build the biological capital of the Australian Outback Grazing Fund. The integrated elements are animals, vegetation, soil, carbon and water. Managing these elements is an integral part of regenerative land management
Applying regenerative land management principles is a significant point of difference from traditional agricultural businesses and investment funds. While traditional grazing businesses tend to focus on livestock numbers, regenerative land management focuses on all five elements, outlined above, to achieve long term sustainable environmental and wealth generation outcomes, above and beyond average rates of return from livestock enterprises.
THE PRINCIPLES OF REGENERATIVE LAND MANAGEMENT
Regenerative land management uses infrastructure and management techniques (refer to the principles below) to manage pastures for optimal growth. Regenerative land management attempts to recreate animal “herding” (i.e., a high density of animals moving across a relatively small area) to achieve short periods of high grazing pressure, followed by extended periods of rest, allowing plants to recover before the next grazing event. Continuous implementation of regenerative management principles results in more vigorous root development, and an increase in plant density. A larger root system stores more carbon, and improves water infiltration. Above the ground, plant growth is more vigorous, providing more bulk, and hence more feed, for livestock.
Regenerative land management focuses on achieving optimal landscape health, understanding that increased livestock health, productivity and carrying capacity (the number of animals that can be carried per hectare) will follow. Long term implementation of these grazing principles can transform a grazing enterprise, from a degraded state to a productive healthy state.
The main benefits of regenerative land management practices are:
- Increasing organic matter in the soil by increasing groundcover, plant (and root) growth, microbial mass and diversity.
- Improving the structure of the soil by enhancing its physical and biological balance and mineral availability.
- Recycling vegetation, leaving adequate cover to insulate the soil from the effects of erosion, evaporation, salinity and temperature extremes.
- Enhancing hydrological cycles and retaining more “available” water for pasture growth through increased rainfall capture, retention of soil moisture and reducing evaporation.
- Renewing and increasing biodiversity.
- Managing the livestock to mimic nature by providing appropriate animal impact, and essential rest and recovery.
- Using objective management practices in the livestock business, with a focus on feed available to livestock.
The primary reasons for embracing this style of management in a grazing enterprise are:
- To increase the capacity, performance and profitability of the enterprise.
- To increase the financial value of the land assets.
- To increase the biological value of the land assets.
- For ease of management – using this approach to grazing allows management to be proactive as opposed to reactive in their decision making.
- To create significant, positive, environmental regeneration.
- To enhance landscape resilience and reduce the impact of climatic extremes such as droughts, floods and fires.
The regenerative land management principles adopted in the Australian Outback Grazing Fund are those developed and promoted by Resource Consultancy Services (RCS). RSC focuses on rangeland areas, where these principles have proven successful over many years. Although seasonal conditions over the years have been highly variable, graziers using these principles continue to achieve the financial and resource outcomes the Australian Outback Grazing Fund aims to deliver.
Regenerative land management is underpinned by the following principles*:
Controlled rest that suits the growth rate of plants.
- The rest period is a function of plant growth rate.
- Days of grazing must be managed to maximise pasture growth and provide sufficient rest so as to promote greater root development and desirable pasture species.
- Each paddock must have adequate watering points and fencing to water and control large numbers of livestock.
Employing maximum stock density for minimum time
- A large number of smaller paddocks are required to maximise the stock density for each herd.
- The higher the stock density, the shorter the grazing period necessary to have the desired effect on the landscape and vegetation.
Adjustment stocking rate (Density) of livestock to match the land’s carrying capacity
- Carrying capacity is the amount of feed produced in a particular area.
- Stocking rate is the number of standard animal units used to consume the feed (carrying capacity).
- Monitoring tools such as a grazing management chart are used to plan and monitor the stocking rate and the carrying capacity of each paddock.
- Stock are managed to ensure that there is no overgrazing. Overgrazing can occur when there are too many stock held in an area for too long.
- Calculations for the stocking rates and carrying capacity of a paddock take into account herd structure, animal class and animal productivity.
*Resource Consulting Service, http://carbonlink.com.au/soil-carbon/cell-grazing/
Planning, monitoring and managing grazing including recording grazing movements and stock types.
- Farm managers establish a grazing management plan where grazing periods are calculated. The grazing management plan takes into account the number of paddocks available, the number of paddocks being rested and the length of the rest periods. It is corrected for paddock area and the inherent carrying capacity of each paddock.
- Farm manager’s monitor grazing periods, the length of rest cycles and paddock yields to make decisions on stocking rates, using grazing charts or similar tools.
- Farm managers plan for events such as drought, fire and flood and act on that plan. For example, in the management plan, the farm manager calculates a “critical rain date” whereupon destocking will commence if seasonal rains are lower or later than expected.
Managing livestock to increase animal performance by:
- Ensuring all stock have sufficient water (quantity and quality).
- Minimising the distance animals have to walk to feed.
- Monitoring and managing animal health and nutrition and provide supplements as required.
- Using low stress stock handling techniques for animal welfare and productivity.
- Optimising timing and duration of reproduction to match seasonal feed supply and demand.
- Matching stocking rate to carrying capacity to optimise production.
- Not over resting plants (to avoid lignification), which will result in lower productivity.
- Avoiding grazing when pasture yield is low to avoid low production.
- Maintaining low utilisation rates at each graze to avoid low production.
Managing for biodiversity to improve ecosystem health.
- Planned grazing is fundamentally designed to improve the health of ecosystems.
- Improving the energy flow from sunlight, the cycling of water and minerals, and the health of the soil, leads to an increase in biodiversity, soil carbon and improved ecosystem productivity.
- The focus of regenerative land management is to maximise the number of desirable pasture species, including trees and shrubs, and the diversity of all subterranean elements.
Applying regenerative land management principles requires skill, adaptability and strategic decision-making. It involves the processes of planning, monitoring and managing. The share graziers involved in the Australian Outback Grazing project are chosen based on their ability to successfully implement regenerative land management practices in their own businesses. Their experience, combined with a professional network including share graziers, Open Resolve Funds Management and Resource Consulting Service (RCS) will ensure correct implementation of the principles of regenerative land management, and achieve the outcomes expected across the portfolio.