Water Week

EWN Publishing

$6.4m Project Pigeon Hole shows water management, infrastructure investment dramatically reduce costs

Posted by waterweek on 10 October 2007

According to Aust­ralia’s largest pastoral development research project, dramatic potential increases in the carrying capacity of Australia’s Top End cattle properties could double property values, wrote Matthew Cranston in The Australian Financial Review (8/10/2007, p. 62).

Land utilisation doubled: Preliminary results from the $6.4 million project, known as Pigeon Hole, centred on two stations in the Northern Territory and showed that initiatives such as water man­agement, investment in animal behavioural practices and expendi­ture on infrastructure had doubled the utilisation of land. Pigeon Hole project manager, Steve Petty, had said the results showed it was possible to “sustainably and cost effectively double the carrying capacity of a significant proportion of the pastoral land across north Australia”. “Most people value property on the number of head a property can carry. So if you double the capacity of a property, in theory you have doubled the value of the property,” Dr Petty had said.

Multi-agency study: The five-year study had started in 2003. It had been developed and funded by Heytesbury Beef, which was chaired by Janet Holmes a Court, and Meat and Livestock Australia. The agencies supporting the pro­ject and undertaking the research had included the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; Northern Terri­tory Department of Primary Indus­try, Fisheries and Mines; Co­operative Research Centre for Trop­ical Savannas Management, Charles Darwin University; and the Univer­sity of Queensland.

Alternate water management system slashes cost of nutrition: The preliminary report had said increased stocking rates on proper­ties under the current level of development had often caused a decline in cattle’s nutritional intake. But the project’s use of an alter­nate water management system had seen the cost of nutrition slashed from $32 per head per year to $12. “The ability to manage the cattle by alternating watering points rep­resents a vast change from tra­ditional grazing strategies and is considered a major achievement of the investigation,” Dr Petty had said.

Mustering costs reduced: Investing time in training cattle and modifying their behaviour as well as the use of additional fencing had been shown to reduce mustering costs from $10 per head to as low as $2.25 per head. The project had used global positioning system collars to track the uneven land use of cattle and had found that smaller paddocks resulted in more effective use of the landscape.

The Australian Financial Review, 8/10/2007, p. 62

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