Stockyard is proud of their long-standing work on the restoration of Oakey Creek, which feeds into the Condamine River. A stretch of the creek cuts through the property that Stockyard’s Kerwee Feedlot calls home. While the health of creek seems innocuous, it’s consequences to the community are far reaching. It's projects like this, says Stockyard's Marketing Executive Ali Hart, that demonstrates our care for the surrounding environment and our neighbours.
Stockyard - Kerwee Feedlot has entered this initiative into the inaugural ALFA Community Heroes Award 2021, proudly supported by Lallemand Animal Nutrition. The winner will be announced at the ALFA SmartBeef 2021 Conference in October. Read on to find out more about how this feedlot is going above and beyond to support their local community.
Tell us about your ENVIRONMENTAL initiative...
Back in the 1800s, after the arrival of European settlers in the Darling Downs, the Condamine River catchment quality steadily decreased. Native fish struggled to compete with introduced carp species; poor riparian management and waste material entering the river system resulted in dirty water and loss of breeding locations; and overharvesting disrupted natural water flow. The 1,195 km river runs from north of Dalby to down past Warwick supporting communities in a significant section of Southern Queensland.
Stockyard began the restoration of Oakey Creek, which feeds into the Condamine River in 1990s. A stretch of the creek cuts through the property that Stockyard’s Kerwee Feedlot calls home. While the health of creek seems innocuous, it’s consequences to the community are far reaching.
Thanks to our Mill team member, Noal Kuhl, who’s dedication to our creek health is unparalleled, we’ve had significant success restoring the native flora and fauna to meet pre-settlement days.
Our creek restoration work is twofold – (1) introducing native species back into the creek annually and (2) creating the environment within and around the creek that allows for improved breeding conditions.
Here is some of our recent and ongoing activities:
In 1996, we ran a creel survey across 8 neighbouring properties along the creek to uncover what native fish were present.
To date, we’ve released 34,200 native fingerlings (junior fish) consisting of 3,000 Murray cod, 22,500 golden perch and 8,800 silver perch.
In 2014, we salvaged decaying trees in paddocks to be strategically positioned in singles or multiples to provide homes and breeding ground for native fish.
Installation of a rock ramp crossing to allow for fish crossing
From 2015, we began tagging and tracking the fish in the river. This allowed us to research the growth of the population in the creek.
We’ve planted trees on the riparian zone, maintained the riparian zone fences, introduced off-stream watering with cattle troughs and paddock rotation to protect the creek from erosion and stop our cattle eating the grass along the riverbank, which is often home to fingerlings and small aquatic life.
The bridge crossing to keep it clear of flood debris and general refuse build-up for native fish migration.
Work with QLD Fisheries to improve projects and trial new homes for cod.
What impact is the initiative having on the local community?
Native fish stocks are very healthy in Oakey Creek, with the dreaded European-introduced carp being found in very low numbers. We are no longer repopulating Murray cod as an abundance of them are being caught (and tagged and released) since we began tracking. Several large silver perch are being caught alongside the abundant Murray cod. Silver perch are a very good yardstick as to the health of a waterway. They are usually the first native fish to be reduced in population if poor quality water and disturbed riparian zones has infiltrated stretches.
When compared to the five intervention sites held by Queensland Fisheries along Oakey Creek, it was discovered that the native fish biomass is 8 to 9 times higher in density at the Kerwee Feedlot site. Plus, the abundance of apex predator native fish (Murray cod and eel-tailed catfish) is 4 to 5 times higher.
Native animal and flora identification recordings show an increase of population and vegetation. Due to the placement of extra logs in the creek and a better management of the riparian zone, native grasses like fragmitis now intrude into the water adding shelter for shrimps and the like. Since increasing the secondary biomass, we’ve seen an explosion of native fish in Kerwee.
When native animals bloom in the water, the food chain expands.
Native insect and bird species found in the rehabilitated zone have increased due to the abundance of food sources now provided. There is more food and more nesting sites in a greater number of trees. Wedge-tailed eagles feed on the water dragons, fish feed on yabbies, shrimp scrap off the zoo plankton from water plants and so it continues.
Communities along the catchment enjoy improved fishing for golden perch, silver perch and eel-tailed catfish.
While at Kerwee Feedlot, this project has encouraged paddock rotation of backgrounded cattle. It allows faster recovery of our paddocks while the creek can prosper in areas with extra established grasses controlling erosion and improving birth rates in native creek species.
Livestock losses in flooding is very low for animals been caught unawares thanks to consistent and safe water for our cattle plus the installation of riparian zone fences.
Healthy backgrounded cattle are happy cattle which mean more financial returns. That can only happen if there is a balance of natural pasture providing a constant quality source of feed and water. Our creek health is critical for this.
The feedlot in essence has been on site since 1964 and as communities grow the feedlot is being identified within the community as sustainable business. Projects like this make it clear that we care for the surrounding environment and our neighbours. That can only serve to benefit our brand within community, our access to opportunities and our ability to employ people who are looking to work for a good corporate citizen.
See the initiative in action:
About the ALFA Community Heroes Award
Australian feedlots are vital to the fabric of rural and regional Australia by creating jobs, supporting families, and contributing to local economies and the environment. This award recognises and rewards those feedlots that are actively nourishing their local communities and environment by going above and beyond to support their community, that ‘give-back’ and better the environment around them. The winning initiative will receive a $5,000 cash donation towards a local charity, business, or feedlot initiative to assist in further development and impact of the initiative.
How to Enter:
Entries close 31 August 2021. To enter, complete the online entry form at https://www.feedlots.com.au/communityheroes
With thanks to our ALFA Platinum Member sponsor, Lallemand Animal Nutrition for their support of this Award.