– this far north queensland cattleman has the vision to make smart decisions with huge benefits
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. For our customers, we think that some images are worth even more than that.
Good grazing management is crucial. From stocking rates to soil nutrients, grazing management allows maximisation of available land and sustainable pastures.
Russell Lethbridge (Far North Queensland) using the Grazing Circles module of FarmMap4D.
For Far North Queensland cattleman Russell Lethbridge and his family, FarmMap4D provides the pictures that allow for grazing management that has really made a difference, and became an easy to use ‘game changer’.
He remembers what a revelation it was to be able to measure exactly how big the paddocks were on 22,300 hectare ‘Werrington’ at Einasleigh.
Satellite mapping with FarmMap4D enabled the family to maximise their use of available land, and pinpoint areas that cattle did not use.
“It seems very simplistic but it’s a big part of grazing management to know how big an area you’re dealing with, because the size of the paddock is one thing but the grazeable area is different again…the flow-on effect of getting your grazing and nutrition right is huge in production. Get it wrong and you’ll watch it go the other way – all of a sudden you don’t have the utilisation that you should be having.”
“FarmMap4D is a huge time saving tool, it avoids duplication and makes infrastructure cost-effective through planning, and you can use comparative data to chart your progress.”
Russell Lethbridge remembers what a revelation it was to be able to measure exactly how big the paddocks were on 22,300 hectare ‘Werrington’ at Einasleigh, when the Lethbridges were first involved in developing the precursor to FarmMap4D in the early 2000s.
“The first thing we do when we’re developing a new property or looking to site a fenceline or pipeline or compare ground cover over time is jump on the map, and you can see it all in front of you,” Russell says.
The first thing they did on buying ‘Amber Station’ – managed by Russell and Donna’s daughter Georgia and husband Dan Slaney – was to use FarmMap4D to map the paddocks and watering points and plan the installation of pipelines.
“At Amber we measured grazeable areas and put circles around existing waters to see what we could actually run. We had an idea of where we needed to focus our efforts to get the biggest bang for buck in increasing carrying capacity when we bought it, but FarmMap4D makes that immediate – ‘If we do this and this, there’s another 1000 head we can run’,” says Russell.
The application of grazing ‘circles’ to ensure cattle don’t have to travel further than 2.5km to water, which leads to proper utilisation of available pasture, has been a cornerstone of the Lethbridges’ development of their properties.
Clarity on infrastructure
FarmMap4D has proven invaluable when calculating the cost and placement of infrastructure.
“The same applies to fencing and watering. We’ve already started closing some paddocks off and measuring fence lines. Measurement on these big places can be a long way out, and the accuracy of FarmMap4D is critical when we’re outlaying money.”
Ground and tree cover can be measured and compared over time through FarmMap4D, and it’s even possible to compare the time lapse data with a site 50km outside the property boundary.
“All our country’s undulating so we need to know at the onset what to expect when laying pipe – ‘Werrington’ is 2700m above sea level and quite hilly, ‘Rainmore’ is 100 per cent dams, ‘Amber’ is different with 40km of running water from the Lynd River, and we’ve just sunk three bores there,” says Russell.
“For example, if you want to put in a 6km poly pipeline, FarmMap4D will give you the contours it’ll follow and calculate the head – the size of the pump and pipe you need – and you can send it to a pipe supplier or whoever’s in charge of hydrology on the project and it’ll be right every time.”
Smart stocking rates
The aim on each of the three properties is to run less cattle but produce more calves, by focusing on breeder nutrition and fertility. Special attention is paid to providing nutrition or supplementary feeding for two-year-old heifers, with excellent results – pregnancy rates range from the mid 80s to over 90 per cent for this group of breeders, which make up 25-30 per cent of the herd on ‘Werrington’.
“We make sure the young breeders have some of the best nutrition on the place and we match the stocking rate to carrying capacity by removing sub-fertile animals when we’re doing our grass budget,” says Russell.
While ‘Werrington’ – now managed by Russell and Donna’s son Clayton – and ‘Amber’ are running breeder herds, ‘Rainmore’, managed by Vicki and Andrew Revett, is the family’s growing and fattening block for male weaners and cull females, destined for the domestic feeder trade or 100-day Japox in Darling Downs feedlots.
A Game Changer
Russell describes FarmMap4D as a ‘game changer’ that’s simple to learn. He believes beef producers should be more inclined to use digital tools to support their daily decisions as well as provide information for finance applications or government departments at the tap of a button.
“If we fail to use and embrace innovation there is no way we’ll keep pace with our competitors in producing beef. And once you have a play with FarmMap4D, that’s when you’ll think, what CAN’T it do?”