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Grazing

Why are regulations required for grazing?

Over time, unsustainable grazing practices reduce pasture and ground cover which increases the risk of valuable top soil being lost when it rains. Reduced ground cover also increases overland flow causing gully and streambank erosion and sediment and nutrient run-off to waterways.

Ground cover is a key indicator of land condition and refers to pasture plants, plant litter, tree leaf litter, twigs and woody debris that can protect the soil surface from erosion.

The minimum practice agricultural standards for grazing focus on retaining and improving ground cover and land condition to minimise soil loss.

The Queensland Government has made a commitment that the minimum practice agricultural standards will remain substantially unchanged until 2024.

What are the requirements for graziers?

Under the Agricultural ERA standard for beef cattle grazing (PDF, 1.5 MB) , all graziers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions are required to:

  • keep general records, for example of fertilisers applied to land
  • comply with minimum practice agricultural standards in the Burdekin and Fitzroy regions now and in the Wet Tropics, Mackay Whitsunday and Burnett Mary regions from 1 December 2022.

March 2022 updates

Small updates have been made to the Agricultural Environmentally Relevant Authority (ERA) standard for beef cattle grazing (PDF, 1.5 MB) and Grazing guide to make the requirements easier to understand (version 2 now applies).

The updates included: removing duplication of record keeping requirements already regulated under the Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988.

Why are existing producers in the Cape York region excluded from the requirements?

The general record keeping requirements and minimum practice agricultural standards do not apply to existing producers in the Cape York region as the region has met its water quality targets.

However, any new or expanding commercial cropping and horticulture activities in the Cape York region on five hectares or more of land that does not have a cropping history requires an environmental authority (permit). The environmental authority must be obtained before the new cropping activity, or any work takes place. The new cropping activity must also meet any minimum practice agricultural standards that apply for the crop, for example, the standards for growing sugarcane or bananas.

What records do I need to keep?

All graziers are required to keep general records now. Minimum standard records will be required as the minimum practice agricultural standards are rolled out across each region.

Records can be in any format but must be made within three business days, kept for at least six years and be available when requested by an authorised person such as a compliance officer.

The government has committed to not commencing the regulation to acquire specific agricultural data from the broader agricultural sector, such as data about fertiliser use, soil testing and crop yield.

For a full description of the record keeping requirements for graziers, please refer to the Agricultural ERA standard for beef cattle grazing (PDF, 1.5 MB) .

General records

For graziers, general records must include:

  • name of the grazier (i.e. the person(s) carrying out the activity)
  • name of person making the record
  • company name (if applicable)
  • property address/es
  • postal address
  • farm identification number/s (if applicable)
  • a list of the lots included in all the farms within the agricultural enterprise
  • records of fertiliser and mill mud or mill mud/mill ash mix applied and specifically:
    • location of each application (e.g. farm number with block name or management zone)
    • date of each application
    • fertiliser product (including mill mud or mill mud/mill ash mix) applied to each location with product name, application rate (kg/ha, L/ha or tonnes/ha for mill mud or mill mud/mill ash mix) and percentage of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Minimum standard records

Minimum standard records need to be kept to demonstrate activities being undertaken on the property are in accordance with the minimum practice agricultural standards.

For graziers, minimum standard records must include notes about the measures taken to retain or improve land condition. Specifically, records must include:

  • details of the measures taken
  • date the measures were implemented
  • location on the property (i.e. relevant paddock(s) or whole property) where the measures were implemented.

What about records about agricultural chemicals?

You might also be required to keep records because of other legal requirements.

For example, the Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988 requires records to be kept about agricultural chemicals. For more information on this requirement, please refer to ‘Agricultural chemicals’ on Business Queensland.

What minimum practice agricultural standards do I need to comply with?

The minimum practice agricultural standards for graziers do not mandate any particular action or measures. Instead, graziers are required to determine their own actions to retain or improve land condition.

Under the regulations, graziers are required to take action where land is in poor or degraded condition. Land condition is measured by the amount of ground cover at 30 September each year. On paddocks where ground cover is less than 50%, land is considered to be in poor condition, and less than 20% is considered degraded condition.

It is recognised that:

  • For some land types it may not be possible to achieve 50% ground cover at 30 September each year even when taking all reasonable steps.
  • It may be impractical and cost prohibitive to improve some areas of very degraded land, e.g. severe gullying or scalded areas. If so, measures must be taken to prevent these areas from further degrading or expanding.

Under the Reef protection regulations, there are four standard conditions for graziers:

Standard condition 1
For land in good or fair condition, continue using measures to maintain the land in good or fair condition.

Standard condition 2
For land in poor condition, measures must be implemented to improve land condition towards achieving good or fair condition.

Standard condition 3
For land in degraded condition, measures must be implemented to improve land condition towards achieving good or fair condition OR prevent areas of degraded land condition from further degrading or expanding.

Standard condition 4
General and minimum standard records must be made within three business days, kept for at least six years and be made available upon request.

For a full description of the minimum practice agricultural standard requirements for graziers, please refer to the Agricultural ERA standard for beef cattle grazing (PDF, 1.5 MB) .

You can also refer to the Grazing guide (PDF, 4.3 MB) for information on how to comply.

When the Reef protection regulations apply for beef cattle grazing
Region General record keeping requirements Minimum practice agricultural standards
Burdekin 1 December 2019 1 December 2020
Fitzroy 1 December 2019 1 December 2021
Wet Tropics, Mackay Whitsunday and Burnett Mary 1 December 2019 1 December 2022
Cape York N/A N/A

Recognised accreditation programs and acknowledged practice change projects

The Queensland Government has the ability to recognise producers who participate in programs and projects that align to, or achieve more than, the regulatory standards and identify them as a lower priority for compliance inspections under the Reef protection regulations. There are two options available (a) recognised accreditation programs and (b) acknowledged practice change projects.

For information on the benefits of being involved, read the recognised programs and acknowledged projects page.

How does compliance work?

Compliance officers from the Department of Environment and Science will meet with producers to help them understand what is required under the minimum practice agricultural standards.

The compliance program is prioritising its efforts on the areas that represent the greatest water quality threat to the Reef.

Where can I find more information?

You can register to receive an information pack as well as regular updates on the regulations.

What support is available for graziers?

Programs and support tools are provided by the Australian and Queensland governments and industry organisations to help graziers identify opportunities to improve farming practices. For more information visit Grazing support programs.