Do Agricultural Colleges have a Future in Australia?

A recent Sheep Central article by Neil Lyon suggests that residential-based agricultural education is under threat across Australia, particularly at the vocational education and training (VET) level.  Neil states that the high cost of providing residential agricultural training, a lack of strong policy support from government, the increasing automation of agriculture and dwindling student numbers have been eroding the current model.   This has led to a number of iconic residential colleges closing or being absorbed into other institutions over the years.  Read more here


New Biocrust Project Looking at Boosting Natural Regeneration of the Nitrogen Capital in Grazing Lands

Soil fertility is a major limitation to pasture growth in tropical savannas, but applying  fertilisers is clearly prohibitive because of scale.  Funding has been obtained to test if it is possible to manage grazing and fire to maximise the natural carbon and nitrogen inputs by biocrusts (the ‘living skin’ on the surface of the soil) into soils and enhance soil fertility in tropical savannas.  Read more here


What is Calf-Watch?

Calf loss is a major source of lost income for northern beef producers, and it is estimated that neonatal calf loss costs north Australian cattle producers in excess of $53M annually. It has been historically difficult to investigate and reduce calf loss, as calving females are difficult to find in large paddocks, and close observation during calving disturbs animals and alters behaviour. In addition, calf carcasses are difficult to find under extensive conditions and so in many cases it has not been possible to conduct autopsies to determine the cause of calf deaths. The Calf-Watch project aims to collaborate with University of Florida researchers to adapt their system to remotely monitor calf loss for use in northern Australia and to use it to investigate the causes of calf loss.  Read more here


Regenerative Agriculture and Diversification in the Pastoral Zone

There are a number of interesting pastoral articles included in the December issue of the Beyond the Bale newsletter including:


Regenerative Agriculture in the Pastoral Zone

2020 Nuffield Scholarship recipient Tom Hooke outlines how he will use his scholarship to study regenerative agriculture in pastoral areas across the globe.  He believes “The recent drought has highlighted the difference in production outcomes between well managed land versus land that has been degraded over time. Given Australia’s variable climate, it’s important to look at ways to run sheep with less risk and greater. confidence – to be better prepared to handle the next drought and the one after that.”.   Read more on page 58.


Diversification in Pastoral Enterprises

2017 Nuffield Scholarship recipient Felicity McLeod investigated approaches to enterprise diversity after prolonged drought on her family’s beef, sheep and rangeland goat enterprise near Wentworth, NSW.   “If ever there was a time to study diversification in the rangelands then now is that time. However, the drought was not the only driver for my studies; it was also about managing for the future and improving long term economic viability and sustainability in an unpredictable climate.”  Find out more on page 59.