Growing Rocks in the Kimberley
A growing concern for many pastoralists is areas of land that is increasingly showing brittleness, low water infiltration rates and declining range condition. How could this be turned around and the landscapes evolved to produce a high succession landscape? This problem is not unique to the Kimberley , but the rangelands as a whole, regardless of soil type, rainfall and geography.
Many managers are noticing this decline, the growth of lower succession species such as spinifex, the increase in bare areas (growing rocks) and decreased soil cover.
Can this trend be reversed?
Chris Henggler at Kachana Station in the East Kimberley believes it can.
Chris isn’t here to make money from the land – at least not yet.
Some of the new schools of profitable grazing theory suggest that if you can’t make “x” return from land, then you are better investing off station (shares, property) and using the income made from that to sustain the lifestyle you want. This is Chris’ financial goal, enabling him to support his dream of an ecologically sustainable property through intensive grazing management. There are currently no animals turned off from Kachana’s small herd, but that was never the goal!
Chris and his business partners purchased Kachana, the southern end of the El Questro lease, in 1989. There is no road into Kachana, and everything on it has been walked in, helicopter slung over the ranges or flown in by small planes. This is isolation!
His African upbringing, living on the land, has influenced the work he now carries on in Australia . He loves his piece of country and believes that his work makes him a responsible land manager. Chris holds a strong conviction that in some way, big or small, we can all make a difference to the way we responsibly manage the land.
I pose the question “Do we use animals to manage the land or do we use the land to manage our animals?” Chris suggests that animals are a tool, like fire or fencing, which can be used to achieve the ultimate aims of landscape management. This intensive grazing tool has many applications, depending on the desired outcome.
Controlled animal grazing can be used in varying intensity and lengths, depending on purpose, to achieve firebreaks, riparian stabilisation or to encourage growth of preferred species. Even this late in the dry season, the land that is under this grazing regime shows signs of green lushness. The basic concept of this work is the improvement of soil health, through the introduction of micro-organisms, soil toiling bugs like dung beetles and large scale soil ?mulching? by cattle hooves. This soil turnover provides the basic building blocks for future plant growth in enriched and enlarged soil profiles. One of the success stories of this work has been the reactivation of natural springs in the area, which Chris attributes to the increased infiltration rates caused by the increased ground cover.
An Envirotourism and research camp, run by Lee Scott Virtue at Kimberley Specialists complements the work at Kachana. This company offers the opportunity for researchers and tourists alike to experience for themselves the landscape and gather a true appreciation of issues facing land managers in the Kimberley .
To find out more about the management at Kachana, see the following websites: