Charters Towers grazier wins big Landcare award

12 Sep, 2009 04:00 AM
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Roger Landsberg
Roger Landsberg

A BALANCING act of conservation and production has earned Roger Landsberg this year's Queensland Landcare Primary Producer of the Year award.

Mr Landsberg said he was "greatly humbled" by the experience and the recognition from his peers was the greatest reward.

Speaking from his Charters Towers property, Trafalgar, the third-generation beef producer detailed how he and wife Jenny have bolstered their profitability with progressive ideas on both land care and herd management.

Trafalgar has been in the Landsberg family since 1913 with Roger and Jenny taking on the property in 1987. Their first move was to reduce the herd and implement an intensive herd management program and focus on pasture regeneration.

"The cornerstone of the whole operation is that I spell 20 percent of my property every year regardless of the season," Mr Landsberg said.

With around 1000 fat cattle turned off the 33,000 hectare property each year, pasture growth and regeneration is closely monitored.

"We're only utilising 12-20pc of the available grass in cattle production," he said.

"That means we've got good biodiversity values and spare grass that gives us options during drought, or the opportunity to buy cattle and fatten them."

With the pasture spelling program in place, strategic supplementation and careful selection of the more productive animals, the Landsbergs were able to see an improvement in growth rates and fertility.

"We have reduced the turnoff ages of steers from 4-5 years old to 2-3 years old at the same weight. We also reduced the number of breeders carried and increased the number of calves produced," he said.

Extensive internal fencing ensures the different categories of cattle can be put onto the best pastures, while fences around riparian areas (river flats) has improved the health of the waterways and reduced run off.

Trafalgar carries 1200 breeders, 1000 of which are commercial Brahman-Limousin-Brangus cross with the remainder forming the Brahman stud stock.

"We've been turning off 550-600kg liveweight steers direct to meatworks. Between 45-50pc of our turnoff is females, made up of cull cows and cull heifers."

Learning more about conservation and spreading the message of enviromental and commercial viability is a passion for Mr Landsberg, who formed the Dalrymple Landcare committee and chaired many groups in the Burdekin area.

"Attitudes have changed hugely in the last 22 years and there's a much better realisation that the pasture base of the land is the key to a successful grazing operation," Mr Landsberg said.

"When balancing production and conservation, there will be a few trade offs, but it's a win-win situation." Using a think global act local philosophy, the Landsbergs have been proactive on issues such as climate change, food shortages and education.

"I'm concerned about the growing world population, and food shortages occurring already, yet we're having pressures put on us to reduce production to reduce methane, when really we should be looking at the future when there will be more food required in the world," Mr Landsberg said.

"With better herd productivity and higher nutrition in your pastures, you're actually reducing your methane emissions."

Changing perceptions about agriculture and environmental change is a responsibility taken on by all the family - each year providing Trafalgar as an example and site for researchers, universities and even students from the US.

Most years a group of urban teenagers from the US visit the property to learn about Australian beef production, with the exception this year due to swine flu.

"It has been very successful in educating urban based teenagers from one of our biggest markets about Australian beef," Mr Landsberg said.

"I find a lot of the urban kids don't realise where their food comes from - most of them think it comes from a supermarket."

The US students and beef producers alike have been impressed by the coexistence of native and domestic animals in the context of a profitable business.

"We've got the environmental credentials and the balance sheet to prove the profitability is stacking up as well.

"There's good evidence to show that you can balance conservation and production.

"It's fantastically rewarding to live and work in an area that has so many innovative and switched-on people who want to become more knowledgeable and change their management for the better," Mr Landsberg said.

"We are going to win as an industry if we get our natural resource management right by reducing degradation, controlling weeds, improve our productivity and reduce emissions."

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After studying the contoured map of the area, the Bradfield site is the only one available. In
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Clearly, CMT and Jock are envious of growers taking a calculated risk and forward selling. They
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Agree with Fiona - this property is not cheap. Another thing - Mitchell grass is good - but 20