Improving grazing and forest growth go hand in hand
THERE are large areas of native hardwood forests throughout the region that are not being managed for maximum production.
Bill Schulke, an extension officer with the Gympie-based Private Forest Services, said Queensland graziers could do much more to increase the quality and quantity of timber and also improve grazing in forest country.
Mr Schulke was speaking at a Cows, Grass and Trees field day, where the emphasis was on the impacts of forest health, economics and grazing integration with forest practices.
Clearing hardwood forests for grazing (pasture) alone is not an economic proposition. The combination of forest management and increased cattle numbers will give increased returns.
"Most cattle producers regard themselves as graziers, not forest growers," he said.
"In reality, they are both but they are severely underestimating the possible returns from well-managed hardwood forests."
Mr Schulke said too often after a sawmill had taken what it wanted, the forest was left to regenerate without attention.
"This gradually results in a poorer quality forest and reduced returns," he said.
Mr Schulke said most unmanaged native hardwood forests consisted of a mix of non-commercial trees and those that could not be marketed.
He said this could be regarded as the "business as usual" model.
He added the model could have up to 650 stems per hectare, which made it "pretty useless" for both grazing and timber production.
"That model involves only removing a few quality stems and leaving all the other stems, with a harvest period of about 30 years," Mr Schulke said.
He said that a good management system took only stems that had reached optium value, included post-harvest treatment to reduce stem numbers to about 150 stems and had a harvest interval of 25 years.
Part of managing the forest included only keeping those stems that could increase in value and removing those that had reached their maximum value.
As the forest was thinned this allowed increased light and resulted in increased pasture species growth under the tree canopy.
"The difference between the 'business as usual' (approach) and good management can increase safe carrying capacity in the forest by nearly four times," Mr Schulke said. "As well as increased cattle numbers or better finished animals, there is a very significant income stream from forest products."
Under a good management system, forest growth and tree stem value also increased, with up to four times the return that resulted from 'business as usual'.
Mr Schulke said not managing an area of native hardwood forest did not make any sense.
"Clearing hardwood forests for grazing (pasture) alone is not an economic proposition," he said. "The combination of forest management and increased cattle numbers will give increased returns.
"Grazing cattle gives a cash flow, while waiting for the forest management practices to kick in."