Improving your grazing management on any sized land area can lead to improvements in ground cover, increased soil organic matter, increased water storage in the soil, increased soil biology, improved animal health, improved production and improved profits. Angus is passionate about grazing management and offers practical support services to land managers who wish to improve their production and sustainability through improved grazing management. If you wish to contact Angus to discuss please send us an email via our contact page.
About Angus: Angus Deans was raised on farms in NZ; coming to Australia at the age of 16 when the family purchased a 7305 acre woolgrowing property at Ballandean in southern Qld. The move was necessitated as three sons in the family expressed a desire to farm and this was simply an unattainable imagining in NZ. The family sold their 27 acre property that ran 300 sheep and 7 stud cattle on the 20 acres of grazing and were able to purchase the property at Ballandean with 1800 sheep and 50 cows for the same amount of money.
Angus built his first subdivisional fence at age 10 in a school holidays. At the time he could not even lift the concrete posts and so had to use the three point linkage on the tractor to put the posts in. He was responsible for the grazing management from the age of 12 and just has an intrinsic understanding of optimising pasture and animal production.
Coming to Queensland in 1981 at the tail end of a big drought was indeed very formative to developing what has been a guiding tenet of Angus’ ever since. He does not believe that there is such a thing as drought as many others do because he observed that in most years 8 – 10 months were ‘drought’ – due to inadequate rainfall or heavy frost combined with impoverished soils creating nil or minimal growth.
His maxim quickly became to manage with the view that you must always have a considerable buffer of feed stored for the inevitable so-called drought events. Another guiding tenet has always been that it should be a land manager’s responsibility to leave the land for which he/she has stewardship in better condition than it first was found. This is an absolute no-brainer as it means inevitably ever increasing production and thus lower costs of production per unit.
The simplest way to achieve this in a grazing situation is by ensuring slight understocking and tight grazing control with a view to maximising rest periods and so allowing pastures to recover quickly and optimise growth rates. The side effect is reduced animal health costs, increased per head production, and increased production per acre. This process can be started from day one. No more infrastructure is required than already exists on any farm. If you have 2 paddocks you can start. But even better if you have 100! The more paddocks the greater the control, and perhaps more importantly the greater the flexibility.
Since December 2004 Angus and his wife Kim have owned 20 acres of granite country near Tingha that had been sluiced for tin at the turn of the 20th century. There were 5 paddocks on the place and about 4mm of darker looking ‘soil’ atop coarse sand with a clay layer at about 18” deep. The place could not carry 1/3 DSE/acre. Now there are 31 permanent paddocks that are often subdivided with temporary electric fencing that can vary that total up to 61 paddocks at present. The place is currently carrying 1DSE/acre and with no signs of soil degradation. Ground cover is always improving as a result of this management.
In early 2011 Angus & Kim had the opportunity to participate in a Soil Carbon Research Programme SCaRP that was examining soil carbon levels in the top 30 cm of the soil. It was designed to compare carbon levels between a rotational (or similar style of grazing management) grazed property and a conventional set stocked neighbour on light soils to see whether grazing systems influenced Carbon sequestration. The soil samples were taken by Soil Conservation staff and due to the neighbour’s absence Angus was fortunate to be present as both sites were sampled. The hydraulic core sampling rig they used could sample to a depth of 750mm on Angus’ property without aid but only about 60m away in the neighbours paddock it could only penetrate approximately 170 mm!
When the results were returned the differences in total organic carbon expressed as mg/g were massive in the top 20 cm as the attached table shows with no difference in the depth 20 – 30 cm.
Total Organic Carbon mg/g
Our Property Neighbour 0 – 10 cm 17.9 5.6
10 – 20 cm 14.1 2.3
20 – 30 cm 4.2 4.2
This equates to total carbon stocks per hectare as per the table below:-
Carbon Stock tonnes/ha
Our Property Neighbour
0 – 10 cm 22.3 7.8
10 – 20 cm 20.4 3.2
20 – 30 cm 6.3 6.2
Total 0 – 30 cm 49.0 17.3
The most exciting aspect of this from our perspective is the much increased ability of the soil not only to support correct biological functioning but also to store water from rainfall events which, as in most of this arid country, are far too infrequent.
The difference in total Carbon Stock per hectare between Angus’ and the neighbour of 31.7 tonnes equates to approximately 52.6 tonnes of humus per hectare. This then enables the property to store 210,000 litres more water per hectare than the neighbour. These observations which obviously are anecdotal suggest that the property has improved in resilience, biodiversity and productivity with each passing year and this must necessarily be so even if only because of the improved ability to store water.
Sound grazing management is the answer to many of our farming woes. By increasing the organic matter we store more water which grows more grass and increases the organic matter and so on it goes. This improved organic matter supports much more soil biology and biodiversity that is essential to counter the effects of a changing climate and enable not just sustainable, but regenerative farm management. As an aside animal health improves and so obviously does productivity as health issues only occur in unthrifty organisms. In fact the last time Angus drenched for worms was in 2012.
Angus’ ideas of grazing management have evolved over time spent managing properties for others, leasing a property himself, and his family farming experiences through to now. His practices and awareness are constantly changing due to all of the vagaries of differing locations and soil types and changing climatic conditions. Angus is truly am in awe of the landscape’s ability to heal itself when we choose to work in tune with it rather than thinking it merely exists in some form to be converted into short term idiotic gain whilst destroying it.