11 Aug 2017


Five Queensland farming families – trialling an innovative way to reduce sediment harm to the Reef – star in a new WWF film.

They share their passion for managing their properties in a way that boosts profits while protecting Queensland’s incredible coral gardens.

Through Project Pioneer, leading agricultural training provider RCS is helping 50 beef producers in Reef catchments adopt regenerative grazing techniques.

WWF-Australia is also working with the farmers. The federal government’s Reef Trust program is funding the training.

Under regenerative grazing, herds are kept together and graze paddocks at higher density for shorter periods, sometimes just a day. The cattle are frequently moved giving each paddock a long rest.

Given this respite, grass cover improves, soil health recovers, erosion is reduced, the soil’s ability to absorb water is boosted, and in turn the cattle benefit.

The five farming families who star in the WWF film are spread through the Reef catchment area between Gladstone and Bundaberg.

Carly Burnham recounts a trip to the Reef: “When I hear about the Reef dying and when I experience the fading coral – we actually took the family snorkelling at Lady Musgrave Island, so we have this very upfront close experience – and it makes me feel a sense of responsibility as a custodian of the land, as a beef producer, the potential that we have to change that outcome”.

Husband Grant explains that practices that help the Reef are good for the farm: “By improving the water quality we’re improving our production and our bottom line also so it’s a win-win situation for everyone”.

Adam Coffey tells the film makers: “If sediment’s one issue that’s killing the Reef and we can help keep our soils where they’re meant to be then why wouldn’t we be doing it because without our soils we haven’t got our grass, we haven’t got our cattle, we’re not making a dollar”.

Craig Radel is seeing impressive results: “Over the years since we’re doing the time controlled grazing here our cattle numbers have improved immensely, our grass has improved immensely, our soil’s improved”.

Wife Anna knows the benefits extend beyond the farm: “So if everyone does a little bit to improve the situation that’s less impact on the Reef and the Reef is vital for our nation’s welfare but it’s also vital for the environment”.

Jess Bidgood echoes those sentiments: “You’re playing your small part and if we can get all these people to play this small part together and collaborate then I think it’s makes you feel good that you are running a business that has that environmental footprint in their mind, I think that’s a really positive thing”.

For Kash Maclean the power of this approach is that the environment and profitability can be improved at the same time: “The paddock only gets grazed on average seven days a year and the rest of the days it’s resting and we’ve seen the improvements so it’s a hell of a win for us”.

WWF’s Global Beef Lead Ian McConnel wants to grow the number of producers using techniques from Project Pioneer and educate the public about this type of farming.

Paddock on a property near Rockhampton in 2006 before the use of regenerative grazing techniques
Paddock on a property near Rockhampton in 2007 before the use of regenerative grazing techniques © Australia
Paddock on a property near Rockhampton in 2006 before the use of regenerative grazing techniques
Paddock on a property near Rockhampton in 2006 before the use of regenerative grazing techniques © RCS Australia

“If we can support farmers to adopt practices that are good for them and good for the Reef we’re not just limiting the impacts but we’re actually seeing farming become part of the solution towards saving the Reef."

“Ideally, people will have the choice to walk into a supermarket and buy beef from someone who is producing it in a way that is good for the environment and good for the Reef,” he said.

Dr Terry McCosker, RCS co-founder and director, said: “There’s over 870,000 hectares and 50 businesses that are in the project. That’s a massive impact that we will have over the next few years.”

The five grazing families in the WWF film are in the Reef catchment between Gladstone and Bundaberg.

WWF-Australia media contact:

Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571