Northern Territory DPIR PalmCow research update

The Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources (NT DPIR) is a senior Australian partner in the PalmCow project, working closely with Indonesian partner agencies, collaborators and local stakeholders, and with colleagues from the University of New England to build capacity in improved management of palm-cattle integration. 

Kieren McCosker, Senior Livestock Scientist is providing animal production services to the team, while Arthur Cameron, Principal Pastures Agronomist, is providing forage production services.

Kieren and Arthur’s involvement will primarily be in the two project sites in East Kailmantan, Babulu District (Brahman cross cows held in 2 breedlots) and Paser District (Bali cattle in an extensive grazing system).

They completed scoping visits in November last year to these Districts with colleagues including Dwi Yulistiani and Yeni Widiawati (Indonesian Research Institute for Animal Production), Eni Martindah and Dyah Haryuningtyas (Indonesian Veterinary Research Institute), and Sionita Gloriana (BPTP East Kalimantan). In each District, the PalmCow team evaluated site environment, cattle ownership, management, reproduction and health, and feeding.

In the Babulu District, cattle in the two breedlots are kept in kandangs, with each farmer responsible for feeding their own cattle using cut and carry. The cattle observed by the team were reported to be in good condition, although relatively low conception rates were reported. A range of feeds were provided to the cattle, notably a mix of good grasses and ones with lower nutritional value, maize, and in some cases legumes such as Centro and Indigofera. Rice bran, tofu waste and palm kernel cake are also used to supplement cattle diet. The feed for the housed cattle is transported by motorbike as feed rolls.

Cut and carry feed rolls transported by motorbike, Mekar Jaya village, East Kalimantan.

Cut and carry feed rolls transported by motorbike, Mekar Jaya village, East Kalimantan.

In the Paser District, the extensive grazing system observed by the team included separate mobs of approximately 50 head of cattle, each comprised of animals owned by 2-3 farmers, who share management responsibility for their mob. Approximately 20% of the mob (generally matriarch cows) are tethered to control roaming. The cattle appeared to be in good condition, and natural mating was predominantly used. At the floodplain site visited, a number of forage grasses and legumes were available for the cattle to graze, however there is scope to provide more supplementary feed, especially during the wet season when grazing moves beneath the palm plantation. There are opportunities to provide this feed by planting forages between the rows of small palms. These extensively grazed cattle have the lead cows tethered, keeping the herd together.

Bali cattle in an extensive grazing system incorporating oil palm plantations in Paser District, East Kalimantan.

Bali cattle in an extensive grazing system incorporating oil palm plantations in Paser District, East Kalimantan.

A breedlot kendang in Sumber Makmur village, East Kalimantan.

A breedlot kendang in Sumber Makmur village, East Kalimantan.

Arthur also travelled to Cinta Damai village in the Musi Banyuasin District of South Sumatra, with PalmCow staff Febrina Prameswari and Mic Halliday. At Cinta Damai he will be involved in PalmCow forage evaluation trials conducted by Endang Sutedi and Iwan Herdiawan (Indonesian Research Institute for Animal Production). The trials will  be planted between young oil palms. A number of forage species will be considered for this trial, which is expected to commence in November, 2019. Currently, maize has been planted between some of the rows of newly planted palms as a cash crop. At this site (Cinta Damai village) there were also some rubber plantations which are progressively being replaced by the more profitable oil palms. 

Recently planted oil palms in Cinta Damai, Musi Banyuasin District, South Sumatra.

Recently planted oil palms in Cinta Damai, Musi Banyuasin District, South Sumatra.

The NT DPIR team’s involvement in PalmCow is a great example of the mutual benefits of IndoBeef for building research and implementation capacity both in Indonesia and in Australia.

The team are provided with an opportunity to pass on their expertise to improve the capacity of Indonesian farmers and staff to better manage palm-cattle integration systems. At the same time, through PalmCow NT DPIR staff gain further experience of cattle production under plantations, which will provide useful insights into grazing management under forestry plantations in the NT.