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Inside Acland Pastoral's operation

Acland Pastoral Company runs predominantly angus cattle.
Acland Pastoral Company runs predominantly angus cattle. Vanessa 'Ness' Kerton

IT'S A rehabilitation program demonstrating agriculture and mining can co-exist.

Acland Pastoral Company was established in 2006 as a way to manage a buffer zone around New Hope's Acland coal mine on the Darling Downs.

New Hope's executive general manager of mining Jim Randell spoke with Rural Weekly recently to discuss the company's history, achievements and future goals.

Over the next six months, through a paid-content campaign, Rural Weekly will take you inside the 11,000-hectare operation.

Mr Randell said New Hope purchased agricultural land surrounding the coal mine, just north of Oakey, as part of the mining project.

In 2006 New Hope formed Acland Pastoral Company to effectively manage this mine buffer land.

"The company purchased mainly smaller dairy holdings, many were under stress due to industry de-regulation," he said. "Since that time, New Hope, through Acland Pastoral Company, has spent over $1million on wire and water programs.

"We've worked on fencing paddocks into larger blocks and establishing a piped water network to deliver water that the company purchases from the water treatment plant in Toowoomba, to paddocks."

Mr Randell said a series of spines around the property took water to troughs, which were all centred in 600m radius of each other.

"It means no animal has to walk further than 600m to get to water," he said.

"We've also got single pivot irrigation to help grow forage - we've actually just harvested a crop of silage corn.

"We had cropping and cattle as part of the land management plan as our original strategy."

New Hope owns 11,000 hectares around the mine, with about 9000 hectares allocated for pastoral activity.

"In 2015 we moved from backgrounding cattle to a breeding operation - with the drought in Queensland and New South Wales at that time, the Aussie herd had depleted," he said.

"So we saw a 5-10-year program to introduce a breeding enterprise appropriate.

"We suffered risk issues with our grain production and went out of grain cropping in 2015 in preference to cropping for silage and forage to support our beef enterprise."

Acland Pastoral Company runs about 2500 head of predominantly angus cattle, with 700 calves just recently weaned and branded, but is hoping to eventually have a herd of 4000.

 

Acland Pastoral Company.
Acland Pastoral Company. Vanessa 'Ness' Kerton

"We've done a lot of work on weed control - including prickly pear and boxthorn - which we will continue to do, and it's really opening the country up," he said.

"There were so many fence lines because they were smaller blocks, which made it difficult to clear, but as we've made the paddocks bigger and bring the soil back to health, it means the ground can be used more effectively.

"We've tried a few different breeds of cattle - brahman, red angus but we've found black angus worked well for us."

 

Acland Pastoral Company manager Steve Erbacher.
Acland Pastoral Company manager Steve Erbacher. Vanessa 'Ness' Kerton

Acland Pastoral Company has three full-time employees consisting of a manager and two station hands.

"We've manned up to handle the day-to-day work on the property, but we have a pool of local contractors to help with cropping, spraying, harvesting and fencing," Mr Randell said.

"Many of the subcontractors actually work at the mine and are landholders in the area - it made sense to utilise local expertise."

In the next five years the company plans to continue its land and pasture improvements.

"Our goals include the continuation of land rehabilitation, reticulated water, cropping and further irrigation," Mr Randell said.

"We'd like to increase our herd size to 4000 and once we have the current operation down pat, look into the future - get it running the way we need it and set it up as a guide to handling land around other mines elsewhere in the state.

"It's a long, hard road convincing people and local land owners agriculture and mining can co-exist - but when they see how this place is running they can begin to understand.

"The three blokes running it have the expertise, they are all from properties."

Next month Rural Weekly will delve further into the Acland Pastoral Company operations with a feature on its grazing trials on the rehabilitation of the New Acland Coal Mine and the science behind it.

STAFF PROFILE

JIM Randell has worked in mining for 47 years. His various roles have included international resource marketing, and power generation in Pilbara, Hunter Valley, central Queensland and United States.

He has worked in both iron ore and coal operations.

He has managed both underground and open cut operations, as well as processing facilities.

Jim grew up on a sugarcane and cattle property south of Mackay in Queensland. With the family property being run by his younger brother, Jim now owns a horticulture property in Childers, near Bundaberg, where he grows avocados and lychees and has 4000 timber trees.

In coming months Jim is set to harvest about 90 tonnes of avocados.


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