Land and property management
Keeping your local environment and waterways healthy.
These practical tips and advice aim to help landholders manage their property. We can all play our part in keeping the local environment and waterways healthy.
Groundcover is recognised as a major benefit to both agricultural production and in mitigating risks to water quality. It protects soil from the impact of rain, slows rainfall run-off and helps keep soil moist for pasture growth and productivity. It also helps filter fertilisers, animal droppings and other pollutants before they reach dams and creeks. Groundcover of 80 to 100 percent made up of predominantly perennial pasture species is ideal.
Groundcover often becomes run down through over-grazing, uncontrolled stock access, poor understanding of pasture targets and feed availability, invasion by pests and feral animals such as rabbits, annual weeds, or from overuse by recreational activities. Undergrazing may also lead to a decline in feed quality and clumping of grasses over time leading to patchy groundcover, excessive waste and changes in pasture composition.
In a natural or well managed state, pastures of mostly perennial grasses can provide year-round groundcover. Perennial species are deep-rooted and last for several years. Perennial grasses can be native or introduced, although locally native grass species can often be better adapted to the conditions of the local area.
Perennial species offer better pasture cover during drought by accessing moisture from deeper in the soil than annual species. They also produce higher pasture yields and better feed quality in summer and autumn. This means less need for supplementary feeding of stock. Essentially, perennial species offer better groundcover over longer periods of time. This helps minimise erosion and maximise the ability of pasture to filter and trap pollutants before they enter waterways. This also keeps nutrients on the land benefitting pasture condition over time.
Leaving stock in a paddock too long may remove desirable species through selective grazing or overgrazing, and cause pasture degradation and erosion. Excessively long rest periods or undergrazing may lead to lower feed quality, excessive waste and a change in pasture composition.
Effective grazing management means managing:
A grazing management plan will help you:
Landowners are legally responsible for controlling certain types of weeds on their property, including declared noxious weeds. Weeds can occur on land and in water. Some aquatic weeds reduce water quality by blanketing the entire surface of farm dams, or by blocking or reducing water inflows. On rural properties, it is important to check not only pastures, but also farm dams and waterways for weeds.
Weeds can be a major problem on rural land because of the impact they have on pastures, crops and stock. The importance of managing weeds in pastures is recognised across the catchments as an important way to improve land productivity and sustainability.
Weeds are generally a sign of pasture in decline and land degradation, not the cause. Determining the cause of pasture decline and taking action early is the best way to prevent further loss of desirable species and minimise weed invasion.
Weeds can be spread by:
Weeds are best controlled through an integrated approach that involves:
Pests such as wild dogs, rabbits, foxes, feral dogs, feral cats and feral goats can injure or kill livestock, damage crops and pastures, degrade and erode your land, introduce disease and out-compete native animals for food and shelter.
Landholders have a legal responsibility to control noxious pests on their property, including rabbits, feral pigs, wild dogs and some locust species. Foxes and mice are classed as nuisance animals but may still be controlled as part of a well-managed property.
Chemicals used in the control of pest species must also conform with the guidelines for use of chemicals.
Problems for landholders and local residents have arisen due to waste being inappropriately dumped in waterways, farm dams, gullies or in old quarries, wells and mineshafts.
These problems can be avoided by practising waste separation, waste reduction and correct disposal methods.
While urban areas are generally well-serviced by recycling and garbage services, rural and rural residential properties typically have few services and a wider range of waste to deal with. Waste produced by landholders can include:
Many of the problems created by waste can be addressed by separating your waste out and reducing the amount of waste you produce.
After minimising the amount of waste you bring home, aim to re-use, recycle or compost everything else. However, some materials may still need to go to landfill or be otherwise collected at a registered waste facility.
To reduce risk of disease and the contamination of land and water, it is important to separate your various waste products.
The first step in managing waste is to avoid it in the first place. Select products with less packaging, and ask the retailer if you can return the packaging, or leave it behind when you collect the product.
Buying in bulk may also help reduce the amount of packaging you collect.
Avoid single use and disposable products where possible, and choose alternatives that can be used again. For example, use re-usable containers instead of freezer bags and take a refillable bottle of water from home instead of buying water when out.
Look for ways to re-use household goods and give unwanted goods a new lease on life. Give unwanted items to charity or your local second-hand shop, or use community noticeboards. You can also buy, swap and sell using various websites.
Look for products that use recycled materials or are recyclable. When you buy recycled products, you are saving resources and reducing the impacts of pollution.
When recycling, make sure only the items accepted for recycling in your area go in your recycling bin. You can usually recycle glass, hard plastic, aluminium and steel, paper, cardboard, and milk and juice cartons.
Check with your council about recycling pick-up and drop-off facilities in your area, including electronic waste and building materials. There are national programs for recycling items such as chemicals, drums and mobile phones.
Composting is nature's own recycling program. Organisms break down your domestic and farm waste into rich, dark, crumbly compost that you can use to improve the quality of soil in your gardens and vegetable patch.
Composting your garden waste also reduces the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill on your property, and helps the environment by reducing the amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, produced by rotting organic material in landfill.
Domestic and farm waste that can be composted includes:
Compost bins or worm farms are best for smaller amounts of waste. Compost heaps can handle larger quantities.
It is as simple as collecting ingredients from your garden waste, covering, turning the compost every week to add air and check it is moist, and then when it is ready after two to three months, use it to improve your soil. Compost bins and worm farms can be obtained from rural supply outlets and nurseries.
Check with your council about local domestic waste removal for your property.
If there is no service in your area, take care to minimise the amount of waste you create and do your best to re-use, recycle and compost. You will also have to arrange for a contractor to dispose of your putrescible waste or otherwise arrange for it to be taken to a waste management facility. Seek advice from your local council and nearest waste management facility. If you use a contractor, then you have a legal responsibility to ensure the waste is disposed of lawfully.
In the catchments, landowners have the responsibility to ensure that chemicals do not find their way into farm dams, waterways and groundwater. Landowners are legally responsible for the safe use and disposal of farm chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers. A national program called drumMUSTER helps farmers dispose of chemical drums while ChemClear has been set-up to help dispose of unwanted chemicals safely and without harm to the environment.
Any waste that you cannot re-use or recycle should be sent to an appropriate waste management facility in your local area.
Only as a last resort, consider disposing of waste on your rural property after consulting your local council. Choose an area away from water courses and drainage lines.
As a guide, items suitable for landfill may include glass, metal, plastic, and large items such as old machinery. Kitchen and other domestic waste, chemicals, paints and other contaminants should not be placed in the landfill sites due to land and water contamination risks.
Burning waste, like landfill, should be a last resort on rural properties. Restrictions apply to the materials that can be burnt, to reduce air pollution near towns and to prevent bushfires. Check the restrictions on materials that can be burnt with your local council.
Before burning waste on your property, seek advice from your local council and a permit from the Rural Fire Service.
Disposing of dead livestock on your property risks spreading disease, producing odours and polluting farm dams, creeks and groundwater.
The decision to burn or bury dead stock may depend on the cause of death. Burning is mandatory with some exotic diseases. Seek advice from the Local Land Services to determine the cause of death and the correct method of disposal.
Stock should be buried at least 100 m from any watercourse.
Paints, cleaning agents (such as detergents, varnishes or cosmetics), herbicides (weed killers) and pesticides or insecticides, baits and treatments to protect wood or pets, as well as fuel and fertilisers.
These chemicals are often dangerous, some are flammable, most are poisonous, and all can harm the environment if used incorrectly. Landowners have the responsibility to ensure that chemicals do not find their way into farm dams, waterways, wetlands and groundwater. This includes properly managing contractors using chemicals on your property.
There are a number of things to consider when managing your chemicals:
WaterNSW acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands and waters on which we work and pay our respects to all elders past, present and emerging. Learn more