About the Grazing Lands

Over 90% of our region’s land area is covered by grazing lands. These extend over the Gulf Plains, up into the Einasleigh Uplands, along the Gulf Coast and up into the Palmer River catchment at the bottom of Cape York. There are approximately 160 grazing properties, covering an area of roughly 17m ha. These enterprises rely principally on native pastures to turn off about 200,000 cattle per year.

Grazing lands are mostly open woodland dominated by Eucalyptus and Corymbia species with a grassy understorey, but paperbark woodlands, lancewood open woodlands and bluegrass communities can also be found on open grasslands. This reflects the region’s diversity of landforms, geology, soil types, climatic variation and fire history. The grazing lands generally support native vegetation from pre-European times; however, these have been altered by weeds and feral animals, altered fire regimes and grazing pressure. Consequently, the understorey and grass layer cannot support the wildlife it once did, with small mammals and birds which rely on grass seeds being the most effected.

A changing climate

The climate of the dry tropical savannas of the Grazing lands is projected to get hotter, drier with more extreme events (fire, floods, droughts and cyclones). This may affect the carrying capacity and health of many grazing enterprises, resulting in reduced pasture, productivity and subsequently reduced profit margins.

A decrease in surface ground cover may occur, resulting in a reduction in livestock carrying capacity as a result of these climate induced stresses. Changed climatic conditions may also favour weed species and will accelerate woody thickening meaning longer lived perennial pasture and tree species may have reduced survival during long drought periods.

Altered fire regimes also have the potential to radically alter vegetation communities, especially the grass understorey that many wildlife and cattle depend on. This will further impact on already vulnerable species including small to medium sized marsupials and rodents that have small home ranges or favour unburnt habitat (eg. common brush tail possums and black footed tree rat) as well as reptiles like the spotted tree monitor. It may also facilitate predation and prey switching by feral pigs and wild dogs to target mammal communities and also possibly calves.

We know riparian corridors are very important, however increased intense high rainfall events will accelerate bank erosion, gullying of drainage line and frontage country and the destruction of riverine corridor vegetation. Reduced water supply will also lead to more livestock pressure on river and creek frontages.

Our Goals