Graziers rid of Rat's Tail through natural strategy

Clare Adcock
By Clare Adcock
Updated February 17 2022 - 9:16pm, first published February 16 2022 - 10:00am
Derek and Emma Zeimer at their Bracewell property where they have removed giant rat's tail without poison. Photo: Supplied

Giant rat's tail is an issue for many landholders across the state, but one couple are leaving the spray pack in the shed and finding success tending to their land in a different way.

Derek and Emma Zeimer have been dealing with invasive weeds by using simple methods to maintain their properties at Bracewell, near Mount Larcom.

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Rather than spraying rat's tail with herbicides, the couple took a different approach; slashing the area, fertilising and mulching the paddock, and locking it up for six months.

"The spray you use for weeds, you're trying to just kill the one species but you're also killing all the other stuff that's feeding your soils," Mr Zeimer said.

"Through us cell grazing and just restoring the fertility naturally, the rat's tail doesn't grow anymore, because it doesn't need to be there."

The strategy is a part of natural sequence farming, developed by landscape regenerator Peter Andrews OAM. According to the system, weeds are pioneering plants that can protect from soil erosion and nutrient deficiency, and once slashed, soil fertility is built up, so that palatable grasses can replace the weeds.

"The whole point is that the soil is missing those structures and it gets them from the plant available once the weed is broken down, and then you can make it go faster by fertilising with the same sort of compounds in a natural form," Ms Zeimer said.

"It has to be a natural form not chemical, because the moment that we start putting too much chemical into the ground we've just lost all our microbes.

"You can't put the microbes back in until the soil structure is right for it and that's what rat's tail does, it breaks up the top soil structure and re-feeds it, changing the structure of soil to be able to accept the next generation of grasses.

"We've got to build with it rather than taking from it."

The couple recently received a project grant by the Fitzroy Basin Association to recover the fertility of a piece of land by applying the same strategy that they used on their own property.

This time they will be dealing with parthenium and lantenna.

Bethlea Bell from the Fitzroy Basin Association said the project was very promising and ticked a lot of boxes for the association.

"The philosophy of the natural sequence farming is that when you have a weed, it's an indication of an issue with your soil, so certain weeds pop up when your soil is depleted in certain minerals," she said.

"The whole idea is to rehydrate the landscape.

"In a lot of landscapes these days it'll rain and then the water runs to the coast, but this system actually blocks some of that water from running off so that it stays in your landscape.

"For beef production, it increases your capacity to grow cattle there because there'll be better plant growth. It's a no brainer, a win-win."

Ms Bell said Cement Australia had donated part of their property and Mount Larcom High School would use the project in their agriculture studies.

"This project is really exciting because it's bringing quite a few players together," she said.

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A Biosecurity Queensland spokesperson said controlling GRT grass was a very complex situation requiring a case-by-case assessment taking into account density and land type.

"Use of integrated management strategies involving a range of techniques is the best way to manage GRT grass," the spokesperson said.

The Zeimers run Bazadaise and Brahman cross cows, which they are currently joining to Wagyu bulls.

After a bushfire ripped through Central Queensland in 2018, the couple had to cut down to just 40 breeders.

Ms Zeimer credited their alternative land management processes for the ability to rebuild their herd to 210 head in just over three years.

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Clare Adcock

Clare Adcock

Roma Journalist - Queensland Country Life

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