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Grazier-based profitable and sustainable strategies for managing climatic variability (DroughtPlan)

Stafford Smith, M. Dr; Ph: (08) 8950 7162; Fax: (08) 8952 7187; markss@dwe.csiro.au

Clewett, J.F. Dr; Ph: (07) 4688 1244; Fax: (07) 4688 1477; mailto:ClewettJ@prose.dpi.qld.gov.au

Moore, A. Dr; Ph: (02) 6246 5298; Fax: (02) 6246 5800; andrew.moore@pi.csiro.au

Research organisations: CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, Centre for Arid Zone Research, PO Box 2111, Alice Springs NT 0871; Queensland Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 102, Toowoomba Qld 4350; CSIRO Plant Industry, Cooperative Research Centre for Soil and Land Management, PMB 2, Glen Osmond SA 5064.

Sponsors: LWRRDC, Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation; MRC, Meat Research Corporation; IWS, International Wool Secretariat

Objective: To develop economically-viable drought management strategies to increase animal production efficiency whilst sustaining the land resource, by:

1. cooperating with producers to identify their needs for supporting decisions related to stocking rate strategies through time;

2. documenting, with producers and extension agencies, a substantial series of case studies of the biology and economics of key existing and improved strategies in difficult grazing land regions of Australia;

3. developing an understanding of the links between climatic variability, production levels and biological rates (births and deaths) in grazing lands from producer and research records;

4. integrating economic, animal production and forage production models from QDPI and CSIRO to identify the response and sustainability of these strategies in relation to climatic variability, seasonal forecasts and economic conditions;

5. developing, with producers, a series of procedures and decision support tools for producers to test alternative strategies on their own properties, and for extension agencies and educational institutions in property management planning activities.

Methodology:

The project comprised five closely associated work streams, that in combination help producers to make decisions about stocking rate strategies, breeding, buying, selling and feeding options and enterprise selection in the face of climatic variability, particularly drought. Stream 1 was an intensive, producer-driven definition of 'benchmark' stock management strategies, information requirements to assist decision-making and the benefits and limitations of existing decision aids. The intensive nature of this stream was costly in resources and could only be carried out in a few places. Stream 2 was a complementary but less intensive survey of producer responses in various regions across the continent to ensure that all critical issues were considered. To understand the economic implications to an enterprise of the interactions between given stocking rate strategies and patterns of forage availability, the consequent herd/flock dynamics must be described realistically. To achieve this, it was necessary to relate animal production to reproductive and mortality rates, since such relationships are not generally well understood. Stream 3 was developed by collating and analysing existing data. Stream 4 met the needs identified in Streams 1 and 2 by firstly expanding the existing suite of decision support aids to more adequately assess profit, production, sustainability and risk, and secondly by assessing the value of seasonal climate forecasts for stock management. Finally, research and extension staff worked with producers in Stream 5 to identify improved 'benchmark' management strategies using the procedures collated in Streams 1 and 2 and the decision aids produced in Streams 2, 3 and 4.

Progress:

'DroughtPlan' has been a collaborative project between producers across the continent, State government agencies and CSIRO, aiming to help producers to develop management strategies to deal with climatic variability. The project developed some significant ideas about decision support and participatory research. There was a strong emphasis on practical evaluation of the products, and on fitting them into continuing activities like property management planning, so that they would continue in use after the end of the project. To this end, DroughtPlan sought to integrate with the Property Management Planning programs in Queensland and other States, Local Best Practice programs, the Queensland South-West Strategy, as well as other research projects such as 'Drought Alert'.

DroughtPlan created a strong network of more than 250 producers, agency personnel and researchers across the continent. It has documented how producers respond to climatic variability in at least 10 areas of the continent, with written reports on each region and a national overview. These regions were western Queensland, south-western Queensland, central Queensland, western New South Wales, Southern Tablelands NSW, Western Slopes NSW, northern South Australia, Gascoyne - Murchison WA, the Kimberley WA and central Australia NT. Between 6 and 25 producers were involved in individual or group collaboration in each region, as well as State or Territory agencies in all areas.

To meet information needs identified by producers during this process, DroughtPlan then developed 9 products that provide a multiple approach to financial management, and to long and short-term stock management decisions. The approaches include workshop materials, leaflets, paper work-sheets, spreadsheets, complex models and motivational activities, so that most products have multiple forms. They are the Assessing Your Livestock Management Options module for Property Management Planning workshops, the BB-SAFe tactics evaluator, the GrazeOn feed budgeting system, the Pasture Supply and Demand calculator, the 'Safe' Carrying Capacity Calculator, the Grasp Pasture Production Database, case studies using the Grasp/Herd-Econ linked model, the Decision Trees workshop and approach for farm business management, and a test case study with the RISKHerd policy analysis package. These products have been tested and evaluated (to varying extents) with industry; this process now requires on-going support beyond the 2 year timeframe of the project. A number of products also synthesise information across the project to help easy user access, and to document the decision support philosophy and management approach used by DroughtPlan.

Period: starting date 1993-10; completion date 1997-06

Status: completed

Keywords: sustainability, risk management, rangelands, drought management, climate variability

Publications:

The following lists reports, conference presentations, working papers and formal publications associated with DroughtPlan to date; some arose principally from other projects but are related to DroughtPlan work.

Breen, J. and Stafford Smith, M. (in preparation). BB-SAFe: Buy/Breed -Sell/Agist/Feed Evaluator, a farm business management spreadsheet to assess livestock management options. In: DroughtPlan: a suite of decision support tools on CD-ROM for managing the impacts of climate variability on Australia's extensive grazing industries, Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Buxton, R. Brennan, G., Engleke, J., Jack, E., Pastoralists from the region and Stafford Smith, M. (1995). DroughtPlan Regional Report: Kimberley. CSIRO Alice Springs, July 1995, 22 pp.

Buxton, R. Cobon, D., Pastoralists from the region and Stafford Smith, M. (1995). DroughtPlan Regional Report: Longreach/Richmond, western Qld. CSIRO Alice Springs, April 1995, 20 pp.

Buxton, R. Crawford, G., Pastoralists from the region and Stafford Smith, M. (1996). DroughtPlan Regional Report: Central Australia. CSIRO Alice Springs, January 1996, 20 pp.

Buxton, R. Drysdale, A., Pastoralists from the region and Stafford Smith, M. (1995). DroughtPlan Regional Report: SW QLD. CSIRO Alice Springs, September 1995, 18 pp.

Buxton, R. Erkelenz, P., Pastoralists from the region and Stafford Smith, M. (1996). DroughtPlan Regional Report: South Australia. CSIRO Alice Springs, January 1996, 20 pp.

Buxton, R. and Stafford Smith, M. (1996). Managing drought in Australia's rangelands: four weddings and a funeral. Rangelands Journal 18, 292-308.

Buxton, R., Stafford Smith, M. and Eddy, D. (in preparation). Drought Management on Australian Grazing Enterprises. CSIRO/LWRRDC Occasional Paper Series, Canberra.

Buxton, R. White, K., Pastoralists from the region and Stafford Smith, M. (1996). DroughtPlan Regional Report: Gascoyne/Murchison. CSIRO Alice Springs, January 1996, 24 pp.

Buxton, R. Woods, G., Pastoralists from the region and Stafford Smith, M. (1995). DroughtPlan Regional Report: Western NSW. CSIRO Alice Springs, September 1995, 21 pp.

Clark, R. (1994). Stream 1 report on drought management in central Queensland: experience and perspectives of four producer groups. QDPI.

Clark, R. and Stafford Smith, M. (in preparation). Participatory problem solving in agricultural research and research management: principles and practice. Journal of Environmental Management.

Clark, R.A., Dodt, R., Graham, T.W. G. and Cliffe, N. (1994). Drought management in the St Lawrence area: Beef producers' experience and perspectives. Department of Primary Industries, Rockhampton, 9 pp.

Clark, R.A., Paull, C., Ballin, R. and Cliffe, N. (1994). Drought management in the Morinish area: Beef producers' experience and perspectives. Department of Primary Industries, Rockhampton, 6 pp.

Clark, R.A., Walmsley, P. and Cliffe, N. (1994). Drought management in the Kunwarara area: Beef producers' experience and perspectives. Department of Primary Industries, Rockhampton, 8 pp.

Clark, R.A., Wright, H. and Cliffe, N. (1994). Drought management in the Gogango area: Beef producers' experience and perspectives. Department of Primary Industries, Rockhampton, 9 pp.

Clewett, J.F. (ed.) (1994). Modelling Animal Production, Reproduction and Mortality. DroughtPlan Working Paper No.2; QDPI Toowoomba, 20pp.

Clewett, J.F. and Drosdowsky, L. (1995). Managing Drought: Influence of El Niņo on Australian Rainfall and Pasture Production in the Arid Zone. Australian Veterinary Conference Proceedings.

Clewett, J.F., Kininmonth, W.R. and White, B.J. (1995). Sustainable agriculture: a framework for improving management of climatic risks and opportunities. In: Sustaining the Agricultural Resource Base. Paper for the Prime Minister's Science and Engineering Council (Office of the Chief Scientist), AGPS, Canberra, pp.48-60.

Clewett, J.F. and Stafford Smith, M. (1994). Decision Support Products. DroughtPlan Working Paper No. 4; QDPI Toowoomba. 31pp.

Cobon, D.H. and Peart, S.L. (1995). Astrebla rangeland condition and its effect on the productivity of sheep. Proceedings of the 5th International Rangelands Conference, Utah, USA, pp.97-98.

Cobon, D. and Pinington, G. (1996). Grazeon: Pasture budgeting for better grazing management - Mitchell grasslands. Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland. Information Series QI96045.

Eddy, D., Graziers from the region, Moore, A. and Donnelly, J. (1996). DroughtPlan Regional Report: Southern Tablelands of NSW. CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra, January 1996, 14 pp.

Mayer, D.G., Pepper, P.M., Moore, A.D. and Freer, M. (1995). Estimation of key biological relationships for livestock production systems in northern Australia. Proceedings of 'Biometrics 95', International Biometric Society (Australasian Region), Coolangatta, September 1995, p.63.

McKeon, G.M., Stafford Smith, M., Ash, A., Burrows, W.H., Clewett, J.F., Rebgetz, R., Scanlan, R., and Silburn, M. (1997). Simulation of grazing strategies for beef production in north-eastern Queensland. DroughtPlan Working Paper No.8, Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.

Milham, N., Stafford Smith, M., Douglas, R., Tapp, N., Breen, J., Buxton, R. and McKeon, G. (1995). Farming and the environment: an exercise in eco-economic modelling at the farm level in the NSW rangelands. Invited paper, Proceedings of the International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, Newcastle, November 1995, 8pp.

Moore, A. D. and Clark, R.A. (in preparation). Pasture Supply and Demand Calculator: a program to assess nutrition of beef cattle on spear grass in Central Queensland. In: DroughtPlan: a suite of decision support tools on CD-ROM for managing the impacts of climate variability on Australia's extensive grazing industries, Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Moore, A.D., Mayer, D., Pepper, P. and Freer, M. (1995). Modelling of research data on reproduction and mortality of cattle and sheep. DroughtPlan Working Paper No.5, CSIRO, Alice Springs.

Pepper, P., Mayer, D., McKeon, G.M. and Moore, A.D. (1996). Validation of reproduction and mortality rates for northern Australian beef and sheep breeders. DroughtPlan Working Paper No.7, QDPI, Brisbane.

Pinington, G. and Clewett, J.F. (in preparation). Grasp: Grass Production Calculator, a program to assess effects of climate variability on native pastures in northern Australia. In: DroughtPlan: a suite of decision support tools on CD-ROM for managing the impacts of climate variability on Australia's extensive grazing industries, Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Pinington, G. and Johnston, P. (in preparation). Carrying Capacity Calculator: a computer program to assess long-term suitable stocking rates for the Mulga lands of south west Queensland. In: DroughtPlan: a suite of decision support tools on CD-ROM for managing the impacts of climate variability on Australia's extensive grazing industries, Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland.

Stafford Smith, M. (1995). DroughtPlan: developing strategies with graziers to manage with climate variability. Proceedings of the LWRRDC Conference on Climatic Variability, Canberra, November 1995, LWRRDC Occasional Paper CV03/96, 90-97.

Stafford Smith, M. (1995). Changeable climates in rangelands grazing systems. Proceedings of the Climate Impacts Assessment Workshop, Melbourne, December 1995, Extended abstract.

Stafford Smith, M. and Ash, A. (1995). Paradigms at their limits in rangelands: what can we learn? Invited paper, World Conference on Natural Resource Modelling, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, July 1995, Abstract, p.42.

Stafford Smith, M. and Breen, J. (1995). BB-SAFe Manual. CSIRO Alice Springs, September 1995, 26 pp.

Stafford Smith, M. and Buxton, R. (in preparation). Managing climatic variability across Australia's rangelands: it only rains by accident. Rangelands Journal.

Stafford Smith, M. and Clark, R. (1994). DroughtPlan Decision Support Workshop Report. DroughtPlan Working Paper No.3, CSIRO Alice Springs, 13pp.

Stafford Smith, M., Clewett, J., McKeon, G. and Moore, A. (1994). DroughtPlan: grazier-based sustainable and profitable strategies for managing climate variability. 8th Australasian Forum on Climatology, Toowoomba, February 1994, p.40.

Stafford Smith, D.M., Clewett, J.F., Moore, A.D., McKeon, G.M. and Clark, R. (1994). DroughtPlan Project Description. DroughtPlan Working Paper No.1, CSIRO Alice Springs, 10pp.

Stafford Smith, D.M., Clewett, J.F., Moore, A.D., McKeon, G.M. and Clark, R. (1996). DroughtPlan. Full Project Report. DroughtPlan Working Paper No 10, CSIRO Alice Springs/LWRRDC Occasional Paper Series, Canberra, 143 pp.

Stafford Smith, M., McKeon, G, Ash, A., Buxton, R. and Breen, J. (1996). Evaluating the use of SOI forecasts in north Queensland using the Herd-Econ/Grasp linked model. DroughtPlan Working Paper No.9, CSIRO Alice Springs.

Stafford Smith, M., Milham, N., Douglas, R., Tapp, N., Breen, J., Buxton, R., and McKeon, G. (1995). Whole farm modelling and ecological sustainability: a practical application in the NSW rangelands. Proceedings of the ANZSEE Conference, pp.243-249.

 

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