Entrance to CSIRO's Lansdown Research Station.

CSIRO's Lansdown Research Station is one of five national demonstration sites set up to help primary producers with practical methane management on-farm.

Woodstock, Qld (Lansdown Research Station)

CSIRO's Lansdown Research Station in north Queensland supports a team of researchers using novel technologies to deliver science-based solutions for the tropical beef industry.

  • 18 April 2011 | Updated 4 April 2014

Summary

Lansdown Research Station is a 638 ha property located south-east of Townsville that provides state-of-the-art facilities for field research and demonstration aimed at delivering practical on-farm solutions to improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the northern Australian cattle industry.

The property is typical of the country in the Burdekin and surrounding catchments. Annually, it receives approximately 850 mm rainfall, mostly in the wet season (December to March), and supports a predicted pasture yield of more than 3 tonnes dry matter per hectare (1.3 tonnes per acre).

Facilities

The facilities at Lansdown enable researchers to test their research in a real on-farm environment as well as demonstrate innovation to graziers, rural industries and government. The on-site facilities include:

  • a state-of-the-art animal metabolism unit with four open-circuit calorimeters (respiration chambers) for direct measurement of methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen production from cattle. The chambers can also record real time feed intake as well as production of faeces and urine.
  • open-path laser equipment for determination of methane emissions from groups of grazing cattle
  • wireless sensor network for near real-time recording of animal location and behaviour, animal weight recording, pasture dynamics and weather conditions
  • individual animal pens for eight animals
  • two group animal pens for up to 20 head each
  • animal handling and drafting yards
  • ten uniform, equal-size paddocks, approximately fifteen hectares each for replicated grazing studies
  • a total of 26 paddocks ranging in size from a few hectares up to 124 ha
  • seminar room and meeting facilities for groups of up to 30

Farm details

Lansdown Research Station comprises 638 hectares of coastal mixed woodland country. Pastures range from open country to lightly wooded and support a mixture of native and improved pasture species, including Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana), Black speargrass (Heteropogon contortus) Queensland bluegrass (Dichanthium sericium), desert bluegrass (Bothroichloa ewartiana), Urochloa (Urochloa mosambicensis), Seca (Stylosanthes scabra) and verano (Stylosanthes hamata) stylos and leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala).

Significant weed species include Chinee Apple (Ziziphus mauritiana, Captain Cook or yellow oleander (Cascabela thevetia) and American Rats Tail grass (Sporobolus jacquemontii). An ongoing weed control program is in place.

The soils are sodolic with a predominantly sandy loam texture. The climate is typified by hot humid summers and mild winters. Annual minimum and maximum temperatures are approximately 18° and 29° C, respectively with an annual average rainfall of 850 mm.

The property has a stock carrying capacity of approximately 200 adult equivalents and is usually stocked with Brahman and tropical composite Belmont Red weaner cattle. The Station houses research offices, support buildings, welfare-friendly cattle yards and other infrastructure that supports the research and demonstration activities. It also has a permanent staff of three and the Station Manager lives on-site.

Research activities

Research activities at Lansdown represent an holistic approach to grazing animals and their environment. By improving our fundamental understanding of how animals interact and adapt to their environment, and using the latest technological advances in a systems context, we can drive science innovation to create tangible and valuable impact for industry.

The research strives to improve productivity for producers through reducing input costs and increasing efficiency of production while at the same time reducing the environmental impacts of the beef industry. Owing to Lansdown’s geographic location it acts as a testing ground for many applications that can eventually be demonstrated on larger commercial properties.

Some of the key research areas at Lansdown include:

Greenhouse gas research

Methane produced from the anaerobic fermentation of feeds in the rumen of cattle contributes about 8 per cent of all greenhouse gases produced in Australia. This also represents a loss of energy that could otherwise be used to increase animal performance. Lansdown is the only facility in northern Australia with the capacity to conduct research on livestock’s contribution to greenhouse gases. This research will increase our understanding of greenhouse gases and help producers increase production and reduce emissions from their herds. Research activities include:

  • Evaluation of feeds and feed additives for their ability to reduce methane. Through the use of respiratory chambers and related proxy alternatives on a range of novel and existing feeds and feed compounds to assess their impact on methane production in the rumen of cattle. These diets and compounds include tropical grasses and legumes, commercial feed formulations, algae, saponins, statins and nitrates
  • The use of lasers that are deployed in the field to measure methane emissions from groups of grazing cattle in their normal environment. A range of techniques are used including open path laser, FTIR and eddy covariance methods. These techniques are undergoing continuous development to achieve a reliable and practical measurement technique that can be deployed under commercial conditions across northern Australia. This work is supported by the Flagship Collaboration Fund project known as the Livestock Methane Research Cluster, a project involving collaboration of seven Australian and overseas universities
  • Modelling is used to apply the research findings across the range of production scenarios common in northern Australia. By integrating data collected at Lansdown into new and existing models we can better estimate the true emissions on properties

Precision Livestock Management

Lansdown Research Station supports a comprehensive science program that aims to improve our understanding of the interactions between cattle and their grazing environment and establish a precision livestock management capability that will underpin the future profitability and resilience of extensive grazing systems in northern Australia. Precision livestock management enables more timely, accurate and risk-informed decision making through easy and timely access to information about exactly what’s going on around the farm and the current state of all its resources.

The ability to measure previously hard to measure traits is invaluable in improving the phenotypic understanding of production and links into basic genetic and genomic research undertaken elsewhere in CSIRO. Work in precision livestock management includes:

  • Lansdown is home to the Digital Homestead project that brings together new technology and information streams from both within and external to the property. Such information, once packaged in a user-friendly interface or dashboard, can be used to improve tactical and strategic management decisions
  • Developing, testing and demonstrating the latest technology innovations. For example, novel imaging methods such as LiDAR and stereo imaging may allow in the paddock monitoring of cattle body condition. Thermal remote sensing technology on ground-based stations can monitor body temperature of animals or unmanned aerial vehicles can identify the location of livestock in extensive rangelands
  • Development and application of cutting-edge animal monitoring technology that gathers information about an individual animal’s location and behaviour. This information is critical for understanding the current status and performance of animals in order to make more accurate, timely and/or risk-informed management decisions. By understanding the status of the animal and the paddock it is grazing, it is possible to optimise the performance of the animal with the productivity of the paddock
  • The data collected is used to build and improve models that allow researchers to extend results from Lansdown to a wider environment. Models are helping researchers to predict animal performance in novel and changing conditions through better understanding of the processes involved

Partners

Research undertaken at Lansdown underpins national programs of work. The research involves collaborations with key scientists nationally and internationally including those at James Cook University, Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (QDAFF) and the University of Melbourne. Research at Lansdown is funded by CSIRO and a range of external agencies including the Australian Government’s Climate Change Research Programs, Queensland Government Smart Futures Fund and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA). It supports a local research team of 12 staff as well as a number of researchers and students from across Australia and overseas who utilise the site.

Location

Lansdown Research Station is located on the Flinders Highway 45 km south-west of Townsville and 94 km north-east of Charters Towers in North Queensland.

Learn more about research within CSIRO's Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.