Sustainability of beef production from brigalow lands after cultivation and mining. 2. Acland Grazing Trial pasture and cattle performance

Melland, Alice R. and Newsome, Tom and Paton, Colin J. and Clewett, Jeffrey F. and Bennett, John McL and Eberhard, Jochen and Baillie, Craig P. (2021) Sustainability of beef production from brigalow lands after cultivation and mining. 2. Acland Grazing Trial pasture and cattle performance. Animal Production Science, 61 (12). pp. 1262-1279. ISSN 1836-0939

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Context: Agricultural land used for open-cut coal mining in Queensland is required by law to be returned to a safe, stable and self-sustaining state for agriculture.

Aims: The aim of this research was to identify whether rehabilitated pastures on post-mine soil at a site near Acland could viably support cattle production.

Methods: Five years of field data from Botanal pasture assessments, pasture quality, cattle liveweights and faecal observations, plus supplementary cattle liver data, were used to compare pasture and cattle performance from mined and unmined previously cultivated brigalow land. Subtropical pasture species were sown in 2007 (Rehab1, 22 ha), 2010 (Rehab 2, 32 ha) and 2012 (Rehab3, 22 ha) in three rehabilitated paddocks and in 2012 in an unmined (Control, 21 ha) paddock. The paddocks were grazed for 117–190 days of each year by Angus cattle.

Key results: Mean total standing dry matter in grazed pasture over the five trial years was consistently higher in Rehab 2 (5656 kg/ha) than in the other paddocks. Rehab 1 (3965 kg/ha) and Rehab 3 (3609 kg/ha) performed at an intermediate level and the Control paddock produced less pasture (2871 kg/ha). Grass leaf crude protein was higher in Rehab 2 than in the other paddocks and declined significantly (P < 0.001) across all paddocks as pasture aged. Pasture species remained perennial, palatable and productive in all paddocks; however, pasture yield, quality and composition trends over time suggested that pasture rundown occurred across all paddocks. The mean liveweight gain (LWG) per head when grazing the trial paddocks (trial LWG) was higher (P < 0.05) in the Rehab 2 cohort than the other paddock cohorts in Years 3 and 5, and trial LWG in the Control cohort was not significantly (P > 0.05) different from one or more of the rehabilitated paddock cohorts each year. Cattle production per hectare during the trial grazing periods was also consistently highest in Rehab 2 (5-year mean trial LWG 131 kg/ha) compared with the other paddocks (67–80 kg/ha).

Conclusion: The rehabilitated pastures in use by the mine were considered at least as productive as the surrounding unmined brigalow landscape.

Implications: The Acland rehabilitation process was considered successful in establishing pastures that were able to viably support cattle production.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published online: 14 May 2021. c.CSIRO 2021 Open Access CC BY-NC
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences - Centre for Agricultural Engineering (1 Aug 2018 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment - Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems (1 Aug 2018 -)
Date Deposited: 26 May 2021 00:09
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2021 05:05
Uncontrolled Keywords: rehab, rehabilitation, Botanal, nitrogen, subtropical GRASP, cattle
Fields of Research (2008): 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040104 Climate Change Processes
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0702 Animal Production > 070203 Animal Management
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050207 Environmental Rehabilitation (excl. Bioremediation)
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070101 Agricultural Land Management
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410405 Environmental rehabilitation and restoration
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3003 Animal production > 300302 Animal management
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3002 Agriculture, land and farm management > 300202 Agricultural land management
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9612 Rehabilitation of Degraded Environments > 961205 Rehabilitation of Degraded Mining Environments
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 10 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 1004 Livestock raising > 100401 Beef cattle
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