Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The value of spelling

Henry Townsend has experienced life on three stations in the NT. Each property was different, but they all benefitted from spelling.

“Paddocks need a spell every now and then otherwise a lot of your good grasses disappear and you end up with too many weeds. 

“When we were at LaBelle we were forced to rotate. For six months of the year you’ve got to keep your cattle off the floodplain, then you move them onto the floodplain when it dries out. On a big part of the Territory it doesn’t work that way. You can keep cattle on the same paddocks all year.

“When we moved to Tanunbirini a lot of the black soil alluvial plains were bare, but there was grass on the sides of the plain. About then we took the grazing for profit course. I couldn’t quite see how cell grazing could work with 15,000 head of cattle. But it gave us the idea that if we built some bigger paddocks around the outside of the alluvial plains and shifted all the cattle out of the valley for the wet it would give it a full wet season rest. Within two years there was Flinder’s grass and Mitchell Grass that we hadn’t seen the first wet season. When we left after five years there was just so much feed there that in the last year we didn’t even move all the cattle out. It had 10,000 head when we bought it and we could have had 30,000 five years later. So I think it’s important to have rotation and spelling.

“At Stapleton it’s a different type of country again. The original East Matheson area wasn’t used and was burnt as a fire break for Willeroo and Scott Creek. When we moved there the cattle did well, but after three years the grass was getting so old and the cattle didn’t do so well. So we have to burn it for the cattle to do well. I like to do it just as the rains are coming so it’s a hotter fire to control wattles. If you don’t lock it off the cattle keep it short going into the dry. If you have spelled an area over the wet that was burnt and grazed the previous year, it regenerates and you’ve got grass for the dry."

Read about the Townsend family in "Cowboy Heaven" by Peter Forrest. Article here

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