Box 3.6 The Larsen family cattle - leucaena enterprise in Australia

The Larsen Family is located at 'Cedars Park', Banana, Queensland, 150 km SW of Rockhampton in Australia. They have 2100 ha of relatively fertile clay/clay-loam soil in a tropical, 650 mm summer dominant rainfall environment with moderate frosts June-August.

Their beef cattle enterprise is a breeding & finishing enterprise comprising 330 high grade Brahman breeders. They market 150 fattened animals to Japan annually plus 150 heifers and cull cows for the domestic trade and American market. Their pastures consist of 1000 ha of leucaena with buffel grass grown inter-row, and they have an additional 1000 ha of buffel only pastures. Leucaena varieties are Peru (815 ha) and Tarramba (185 ha). Leucaena was first planted in August 1985.

Grazing management consists of continuous grazing with about 2 ha/adult equivalent over the whole year. This is a conservative rate and could be doubled in a fattening only operation in better seasons.

Animal performance is excellent with liveweight gains/animal of up to 1.2 kg/animal/day, but an average of 0.8 kg/day in summer and 0.6 kg/day in winter. Finished steers are 2 to 2.5 years of age (2-4 tooth) and average 330 kg dressed weight (best ever was 403 kg dressed with milk teeth).

The Larsen's success in planting leucaena owes much to their innovations with establishment procedures which increased reliability of plantings. They include:

  • Seed scarification using boiling water for cultivar Peru and a mechanical method for cultivar Tarramba

  • Thorough seedbed preparation to eliminate weed/grass competition

  • Planting seed only when there is a full (>30cm) soil moisture profile

  • Twin leucaena rows (90cm), with row spacings of 5.5 to 6.0 m

  • Development of a twin side 'press-wheel' planting concept to ensure good soil seed contact without compacting soil above the seed.

  • Lorsban applied pre-emergent on seed, and post-emergent over surface of ground to control insects. Seedlings also spray-inoculated with Rhizobium after emergence.

  • Post-emergent weed control (eg. rolling cultivator and inter-row cultivation)

Source: P. Larsen and C. Middleton

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