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Climate change turns out to be good news for Tasmania’s North West dairy industry When Cradle Coast NRM’s Dr Ernst Kemmerer started running climate change simulations for the north-west area, he wasn’t expecting to find some good news for pasture production. In a joint project with UTAS a regional map of pasture production was developed using climate information from Climate Futures Tasmania. Over 300 simulations across various drainage classes and soil types were run from present year until the year 2100. The results show that pastures are predicted to have an increase in spring growth of around 30% due to warmer temperatures. However, this will be offset by more variable rainfall combined with overall lower pasture production in summer and autumn by around 20%. Essentially, the North West will have bigger spring flushes of growth in paddocks. Farmers may be able to take advantage of this for their hay cuts. On the flip side, the summer and autumn months will be drier, leading to significantly reduced growth compared to today’s levels. Dr Richard Rawnsley from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture at the University of Tasmania said, ‘This may mean farmers will need to consider options to best utilise this surplus feed through varying calving dates, strategic use of nitrogen fertiliser in winter and early spring, advanced conservation of surplus feed and feed budgeting. ‘Summer feed deficits are likely to become more pronounced due to high temperature, greater evaporation and increasing variability in summer rainfall. This will lead to an increasing reliance on irrigation, use of summer forage crops and strategic feed planning,’ said Dr Rawnsley. Managing variability in pasture production under future climate change will be a challenge to producers in the region, with the larger producers such as VDL Company taking

a keen interest in the spatial models developed to assist in improved farm planning. Considering that the dairy industry is the highest grossing agricultural industry in the region and accounts for around 60% of Tasmania’s milk production, this modelling work is generally good news for the region and the state, despite the usual contingency planning needed for summer and early autumn. Dr Kemmerer worked on this joint project with David Phelan, Dr David Parsons and Dr Richard Rawnsley from the University of Tasmania. The project, Planning for climate change: spatial interpolation of pasture yields was funded by the Australian Government to evaluate the spatial and temporal variation in pasture productivity under climate change. A number of sophisticated software programs were used to show pasture production as a map through time. ‘We wanted to apply this technology in a practical way to see how it might affect farmers in the north-west,’ said Ernst. ‘The models provided new insights into the role of orographic and maritime influences on pasture growth in the region’. To see an interactive display of the predictions developed in this work, you can visit http:// www.cradlecoastnrm.com/our-work-climatechange and follow the links. This will show baseline spring, autumn and summer changes through until 2100.

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This publication is supported by Cradle Coast NRM, through funding from the Australian Government


Climate change information is also available for industries other than dairy. With AK Consultants and experts in the region, Cradle Coast NRM has produced fact sheets for each agricultural activity in the north-west, from cattle and sheep grazing through to viticulture and olive growing. These look at practical things farmers can do to adjust to climate variability and are also available on the Climate Change page of the NRM website. For more information about this project, please contact Ernst Kemmerer, Cradle Coast NRM Strategy and Implementation Manager, on 03 6431 6285 or ekemmerer@cradlecoast.com

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This publication is supported by Cradle Coast NRM, through funding from the Australian Government


Leading river recovery in the North West River restoration has become a hot topic at Cradle Coast NRM, thanks to an ABC news story that followed a recent workshop about willow removal techniques as part of stream bank protection works on the Leven River, undertaken at Gunns Plains. Biodiversity Coordinator, Ali Dugand organised the workshop with Greening Australia’s Project Officer Jimmy Collinson. Ali said: ‘We had a terrific response to the ABC news story and received lots of phone calls from people interested in how they can improve waterways in their area.’ ‘The Gunns Plains event was one of a few we have planned, which will get landholders together with other experts on riparian remediation so we can do on-site demonstrations to show how to overcome specific problems.’ The Leven River is one of the last free-flowing rivers from the headwaters down to the coast. The water is pristine but the banks at various reaches are still choked with willow trees. ‘Some farmers who attended the ‘Restoring the Leven’ workshop were sceptical at first, most were understandably worried about costs, but everyone recognised that practises of the past – and by that, I mean the deliberate planting of willows to stabilise river banks many years ago – have actually increased flooding and waterlogging of paddocks. They could see that a methodical approach to removing the willows would improve the parts of their land that easily become waterlogged.’ ‘The method we demonstrated on the Leven River involves leaving cut and treated stumps in the bank to retain the bank’s integrity. Other parts of the plan involve replanting with local native plants to stabilise the area around the waterway, and fencing stock out while providing off-stream water points.’ The success of this work relies on follow-up

willow control in the years after the initial work. Turning a blind eye can result in a site that’s in a much worse state than before. ‘It’s quite a costly task. Working with an organisation like Greening Australia allows farmers to team up and get some funding support and plenty of advice specific to their farm, so they can tackle the problem in stages,’ Ali said. ‘We’re not interested solely in willows. We’re interested in the health of rivers and their surrounding areas in general. Each area has its own challenges,’ Ali said. Ali’s program receives federal government funding for a range of activities that will be implemented over the next four or five years. They’ve just finished the first year. ‘We’re intending to replicate the same workshop process at different locations around the North West,’ said Ali. Each workshop will include local and statewide experts in the field of river health to address local problems, demonstrate works on site on the day, and invite the landholders who would benefit from the information to then undertake similar works on their properties. ‘We don’t tell people what to do. We provide them with information and different options,’ said Ali. ‘Part of what we do with Natural Resource Management (NRM) is to translate valuable science that has been trialled in the field into

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This publication is supported by Cradle Coast NRM, through funding from the Australian Government


layman’s terms so it can be used in the real world. ‘We plan to do our next workshop in Sheffield where there’s a river system close to the town site. It runs through the town, passes a waste facility and then a water treatment plant. There are many community groups involved in the health of the various river systems, however the Mt Roland Rivercare Group will be the driving force behind this workshop, which will add value to the many years of river care activities that they have undertaken in the Kentish area.’ If you’re interested in maintaining waterways in your area, please contact Ali Dugand, Cradle Coast NRM Biodiversity Coordinator, on 03 6431 6285 or adugand@cradlecoast.com If you missed the ABC News story on the Leven River remediation work, you can watch it here: http://www.cradlecoastnrm.com/hot-topicscurrent/sharing-leven-river-local-knowledge

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This publication is supported by Cradle Coast NRM, through funding from the Australian Government


New King Island Regional Landcare Facilitator Rod Graham is the new King Island Regional Landcare Facilitator. Rod was born and bred on King Island and farms there, and he took on this part-time Landcare role last April. ‘I’ve been involved with Landcare for many years. Now my son is taking on more responsibilities on our property this is the right time for me to let him be the boss on the farm and I’ll be the part-time worker,’ said Rod. ‘The focus of the Landcare job is sustainable farming – looking at ways of doing things better and working out what things farmers can do that will have a pay-off for them and for the surrounding ecosystems. ‘It’d be nice to find a magic bullet to change people’s lives but it’s often the marginal things that have the most benefits – the things that don’t show immediate results. We need to work on things like shelterbelts for stock, keeping riverways healthy and providing shelter for all kinds of creatures. I’ve been really encouraged over the years to see a noticeable increase in things like understories in tree lanes and buildups of populations of the small birds that need cover. ‘We need keep a whole range of natural factors in balance in order to have a healthy system. We farmers sometimes get a bit narrowly focussed. Even though we know that we need all these biological systems to be healthy and working for us to keep on farming, it’s hard to stop and do things a different way. But most of us are realising that we can’t keep pouring in insecticides and fertilisers. Apart from the increasing costs of these, what we’re finding is that we need all the bugs to be working for us.’ ‘We have a beautiful climate for growing grass on King Island but our soil isn’t very fertile. Fertiliser is a non-renewable resource, so within the next 50 years it’ll just get more expensive. We need to find a better way of doing things.

If I can help people with that, I want to do it. ‘I was part of a benchmarking group here on King Island for ten years, trying to do things more effectively. We kept coming up against biological barriers. There are real biological limits. There is only so much grass you can grow. It doesn’t matter what you do. ‘Farmers are under constant price pressures. They need their farms to be profitable. If they’re in survival mode they don’t feel there’s time or money to spend on good land practices. Sometimes, though, that’s precisely the time they need to be doing things slightly differently because the pay-off could include lower outgoings and better knowledge about how and when to react to problems.’ ‘I know most of the farmers here – it’s a small population – so I’m going to visit as many of them as possible. That way we can walk around their properties and they can talk about what they need. If enough farmers have similar things they want to work on, we can see if government funding is available. If people get some kind of a kick-start they’re often more inclined to start making the longer-term changes we need here. If you’d like to talk to Rod Graham, you can contact him on 0429 621 151 or email: roderickgraham@bigpond.com

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This publication is supported by Cradle Coast NRM, through funding from the Australian Government


King Islanders working together on natural resource management ‘I’m really pleased we’ll have Rod working as our new Regional Landcare Facilitator,’ said Jenny Thorn, chairperson of the King Island Natural Resources Group. ‘The island economy is driven by primary industry and it’s important that we manage our resources sustainably. We have the same problems here as in most places: a history of clearing of native vegetation and the usual problems of weeds and feral animals. However, because we’re on an island it’s incredibly easy for an entire species to come under pressure and possibly to be wiped out. On the up side, though, I think we’ve got a good chance of removing some of these threats to the biodiversity of the island. We’ve got a small population of feral deer I think we could remove. I’m optimistic that we could eradicate pampas grass and gorse on the island too, with a concerted effort,’ said Jenny. ‘Our community is incredibly active in Landcare here on the island. This is a small place and there’s a strong sense of ownership among the people who live here.’ This is our home. We’re not waiting for someone else to come in and do what needs doing.

‘I really enjoy the fact that every now and then we have a win. The community here is so easily engaged. When we hold a community education event we often get 30 or 40 people along. We have 15 people on the Natural Resource Management group committee, which is a high representation. There are a whole lot of people who help with the physical work. That’s my biggest satisfaction. It’s not just a small group hammering away, there’s a general acceptance that this work is important.’ If you’d like to know more about King Island’s natural resource management, please email Jenny Thorn: naturalresources@kingisland.net.au

‘I’m hoping that Rod can harness some of that interest and encourage even more activity towards sustainable land management,’ said Jenny. Natural vegetation covers about 30% of King Island. It is important that it remains in good condition. ‘Endemic birds are mostly reliant on habitat – if habitat is looked after they’d be fine, however a lot of this habitat was lost in fires in 2004 and 2007. For example the King Island brown thornbill and scrub tit are under threat. The loss of wetlands also means some frog species, such as the green and gold frog, are very rare here. You don’t hear them anywhere near as much as you used to.

www.cradlecoastnrm.com

This publication is supported by Cradle Coast NRM, through funding from the Australian Government

Profile for Cradle Coast Authority

Across the Paddocks - Edition 9  

Climate change turns out to be good news for Tasmania's North West dairy industry

Across the Paddocks - Edition 9  

Climate change turns out to be good news for Tasmania's North West dairy industry