Do you want healthier, stronger and bulkier pastures?
Sounds like a no brainer question right? Well, wet season spelling is the no brainer answer. It’s one of the most practical and scalable tools that graziers in North Queensland have at their disposal to manage land more sustainably and build a resilient livestock business.
What is it?
Wet season spelling is the removal of all cattle from a paddock during the growing season (i.e. the wet season).
Why should you do it?
North Queensland beef cattle enterprises rely heavily on 3P (perennial, palatable and productive) native pastures for production. These pastures often decline in abundance over time—due to issues such as set stocking, preferential grazing, and overstocking—and are replaced by less desirable species. Wet season spelling, supported by safe stocking rates, can help restore degraded paddocks and increase animal productivity.
When should you do it?
An effective wet season spell should start at the beginning of the growing season and last long enough for grasses to set seed. Tussock grasses are vulnerable to grazing in the first 6–8 weeks of the growing season, and the practice of wet season spelling protects grasses during this period. Additionally, by seed set there should have been sufficient transfer of nutrients to the roots of 3P grasses to ensure tussock recovery and growth in the next wet season.
Will it work?
For some paddocks a short spell for 6–8 weeks in the wet season is plenty to recharge productivity. However, severely run-down pastures, with low 3P grass populations, will require whole of wet season spelling over several seasons. In fact, in some areas with a history of overgrazing, it may require multiple wet season spells to achieve improvements in 3P grasses and carrying capacities. Immediate restoration of pastures is not possible where land condition and carrying capacity decline has taken place over several decades, but it is possible with time.
The science behind the theory
During the early ‘green pick’ stage of growth, tussock grasses rely on their root nutrient reserves to produce green leaf following early season rainfall. Spelling allows pastures to replenish root reserves, maximise seed production and fast-track seedling establishment across the system. Ideally, you really need 3P grasses to set seed in most years to maintain productivity, maximise tussock survival in dry years and to increase seed reserves in the soil.
Visit FutureBeef to read more about wet season spelling, or get in touch with Gulf Savannah NRM on (07) 4092 1088.