The Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator (RALF) program is made up of a national network which involves facilitators in each of Australia’s 56 natural resource management regions. They work to support Landcare and production groups to adopt sustainable farm and land management practices, and to protect Australia’s landscape.
The RALF position is funded and supported by the Australian Government – Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment as part of the of the Regional Land Partnerships (RLP) program, which, in total, is worth $450 million over five years (i.e. 2018 – 2023).
Julia’s role as a RALF in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region is an important one and requires her to deliver a range of services including:
- Engaging and informing farming communities and agricultural industries within the management unit about emerging ideas, innovative practices, and relevant new government policy to help improve the sustainability, productivity and profitability of agriculture
- Facilitating partnerships that will best deliver agriculture outcomes, such as connecting industry, grower, and community groups so that they can work together to address common issues
- Assisting farming communities and agriculture industry groups to develop new projects and seek new funding opportunities
- Supporting the delivery of National Landcare Program Sustainable Agriculture project – Holistic Land Management Project
- Reporting to the department annually on the delivery of RALF services
- Participating in a ‘Communities of Practice’ to better understand complex issues, improve networks and help develop solutions for national priorities
- Attending the RALF Annual Conference in Canberra and participating in regular teleconferences with the department
- Informing the department about emerging issues and events within the region (e.g. reporting on the impacts of natural disasters on farmers and organising field visits for ministers).
Key Annual Events
Julia facilitates key annual events, including the Innovative Grazing Forum and the Healthy Soils Symposium.
Every March, the grazing forum attracts more than 100 farmers, who learn about a wide range of grazing related topics such as herd management, genetics, pasture and weed management, biosecurity updates and managing climate variability by adopting improved grazing management practices.
The grazing forum is focused specifically on graziers and provides one of the only local opportunities for networking amongst grazing industry representatives, professionals, service providers, and producers Since 2017, Reef Catchments started live streaming presentations of the grazing forum which can be viewed on Reef Catchments’ YouTube channel: Mackay Sustainable Grazing Forum. Furthermore, event presentation pdfs covering a number of topics can be found on Reef Catchments Resources tab.
Soil health is one of the biggest challenges facing the region’s agricultural producers and the RALF program has enabled the delivery of the annual Healthy Soils Symposium to provide information from leading soils and land management experts, while supporting peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.
The RALF program strongly supports workshops that are directly related to environmental outcomes, however, seeks to support industry specific activities that support agricultural productivity as well. Julia encourages producers and growers to reach out and guide her on the topics of interest so that diverse and targeted capacity building activities can be provided to the agricultural sector in the region. For example, a recent bull selection workshop showed that a quality herd that is fertile and disease free is key to making a profit and keeping the land in a good condition. Whereas, large underperforming herds often result in overstocking and poor land management practices. In a farming business everything is interconnected, in a grazing setting for example, joining periods, green dates, calving dates, or shifting stocking rates throughout the year are important things to consider given our region’s climate to ensure cattle are well nourished all year round without jeopardising the integrity of the land.
Similarly, the RALF programme also delivers other diverse capacity building activities for the region’s agricultural producers including the three day Working Dog and Advanced Livestock Handling Workshop, which saw a group of 15 graziers, together with their working dogs and swags, join the Neil McDonald’s workshop in Balberra, Mackay.
Morning shed lessons prepared the group for hands-on practical exercises held later in the day. Attendees gained confidence in understanding their working dogs’ deep embedded instincts to allow them to work as a team to efficiently manoeuvre livestock. The subtle skill of handling livestock without the help of dogs was fascinating to the participants. This workshop aligned well with Reef Catchments Grazing ABCD Framework, supporting the likes of cell grazing and rotational grazing to allow greater spelling periods which results in improved ground cover and soil health conditions.
Other activities facilitated and/or supported by the RALF role include:
- Workshops on holistic management for graziers.
- Sponsoring local community leaders to participate in events and conferences, regionally and cross regionally.
- Workshops on seasonal forecasting tools and mitigation strategies.
- Cross-regional bus tours showcasing Qld’s most innovative agricultural enterprises.
- Soil workshops for all land managers.
- Regional Climate Plan
- Holistic bus tour
Two day holistic grazing bus tour
You can watch the video here.
‘Shared Learning’ was the motto of the two day Holistic Grazing Bus Tour held on September 17 and 18, 2019 which saw cross-regional collaboration between landholders and industry partners.
Over a two day period, Mackay Whitsunday landholders looked at three large scale holistic grazing properties across Bowen and Collinsville gaining a new appreciation for short periods of high-intensity grazing followed by long rest. Following this practice stimulates grass growth and allows soils to rejuvenate, thus increasing the amount of forage per hectare, and farm productivity. Participants witnessed how the breaking up of large operations into smaller paddocks enabled farmers to benefit from the ‘mob, mow, move’ mentality that aids in the regeneration of previously overgrazed country and in the remediation of gully erosion in the sodic country by maintaining adequate vegetation cover.
Participants also witnessed landscape rehydration designs (known as swales or contourbanks) that aim to capture and slow down the run-off from the rainwater allowing it to be absorbed into the soil where it can be retained by the diverse plant root system. Overall, this two day experience was very informative and fun encouraging peer to peer learning.
This project was funded by the Australian and Queensland Government through funding from the National Landcare Program and the Water Quality Program, respectively.
The RALF in the Mackay Whitsunday region partners and collaborates with groups including:
- Pioneer Catchment Landcare
- Whitsunday Catchment Landcare
- Sarina Landcare Catchment Management Authority
- Central Queensland Coast Landcare Network
- Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
- Central Queensland Soil Health System group
- Greater Whitsunday Food Network
- Mackay Regional Pest Management Group
- Mackay Next Gen Farmers Group
- Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network
- Mackay Regional Council
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
- Fitzroy Basin Association
- NQ Dry Tropics
- And many other agricultural and industry groups.