Best-practice farming

Farming across the Derwent Catchment can be challenging.

The growing season is very short, and winter can bring some mighty frosts. Our soils are highly variable, creating a challenge for nutrient and drainage management. There are climatic differences too; some regions are classified as semi-arid (receiving less than 500 mm of rain annually) while other areas that back onto mountain ranges will still be green at the height of summer. The region’s north-facing slopes are preferentially grazed (it’s warmer!) and are a significant erosion concern if not managed carefully.

The Derwent Catchment Project delivers agricultural best-practice programs that focus on supporting farming resilience. Our overall goal is to improve landscape function. 

The Derwent Catchment Project team works with farmers to produce practical plans that support holistic farm management including soils, natural capital, shelterbelts, pasture and grazing management. We can tailor plans to support changing paddocks, irrigation systems or potential cropping areas.

We also offer ‘fee for service’ in strategic planning (whole farm, biosecurity, biodiversity), sustainability audits and on-ground works – learn more here.

Farm planning

The Derwent Catchment Project team works with farmers to produce practical plans led by the farmer’s interests. It can be tailored for changing paddocks, irrigation systems or potential cropping areas. The plans can cover any or all of the following:

  • pasture condition and pathways to improve production
  • land capability, enterprise options
  • soils and soil health, what types, filtration rates, % carbon
  • natural capital market opportunities (native vegetation, threatened species and vegetation communities – see also biodiversity plans, below)
  • infrastructure (fencing, water-points/distribution and built infrastructure)
  • nutrient management (see also Nutrient Works program, below)
  • drought risk assessment (on a scale of 1 to 10 where are you?)


We can also help you apply for grants and support for activities such as fencing off bush areas and investigating new innovations.

Derwent Pasture Network

The focus of the program is to support farmers managing dryland pastures across the catchment including difficult north-facing country, which is very prone to soil erosion. The Derwent Catchment Project team, with funding from NRM South through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, commenced this three-year program of work in 2020. As part of the Network, we have developed a tailored dryland-focused pasture course and run multiple field days, seminars and workshops each year. We have also established demonstration sites and case studies which we monitor and report on to answer locally relevant dryland management questions. The Pasture Network website has been developed as a repository for all things dryland:

Managing remnant vegetation/biodiversity plans 

We support farmers and land managers to better understand what natural assets they have in the form of remnant native vegetation (such as patches of forest, woodlands, non-eucalypt woodland and grasslands), native vegetation along rivers and creeks, wetlands and rocky outcrops. Our biodiversity plans offer a prioritisation of natural assets to access premiums and market opportunities that reward activities such as:

  • improving and maintaining natural capital and tracking changes over time
  • connecting important remnant vegetation through biodiverse corridor plantings
  • developing a natural capital account.

Nutrient Works 

This program is based on the Dairy industry Fert$mart, which works with farmers to build a better understanding of soil fertility and fertiliser requirements. The program works with sheep, beef and cropping producers and involves one-on-one support with on-farm soil testing and mapping.

Trees on Farms

This program provides farmers with comprehensive advice on tried and tested establishment methods and species suitability. Our native plant nursery grows hardy native species that are hardened off to the region. We can visit your farm and assess the site to give you the most accurate advice on species, site preparation and planting. We can also provide prep, planting and maintenance support through our fee for service.

Dairy Cares

A collaborative initiative involving the Derwent Catchment Project, local farmers, Dairy Tasmania, NRM South, TasWater and the Australian Government, this program was designed to ensure that environmental sustainability underpins expansion of the southern Tasmanian dairy industry.

Property management plans ensured 100% stock exclusion and good riparian buffers for those dairy farms fronting the Derwent River and all tributaries on dairy farms draining into it.

A Fert$mart nutrient management plan was developed for each property, to be regularly reviewed and actioned.


Dairy Cares: Open Gates 

We have been working with the Compass Agri group, who operate four large dairy farms in the Derwent, to help make changes to improve their sustainability by fencing off waterways, installing a constructed wetland and developing a farm sustainability audit. This program as supported by the Australian Government’s Smart Farm initiative.


Pasture Condition Tool 

We have developed a pasture condition scoring tool that provides a simple means of comparing and critically assessing pastures and their capabilities. The focus here is low-rainfall, dryland, permanent, improved pastures. However, the principles of our assessment are adaptable to most pasture types. It was funded by the State Government’s AriGrowth Pasture Production and Livestock Productivity Project.

Link to tool:

MLA forage shrub trial 

We are excited to be working with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to trial whether it is possible to establish Mediterranean saltbush (Atriplex hamilus) on three north-facing slopes and demonstrate persistence after grazing. This trial involves a costed proof of concept of what it takes to establish forage shrubs on north-facing slopes and improved understanding of production benefits in terms of stocking rate (DSE) and impacts on live weight. Forage shrub establishment will be required for two years.

Small farms workshops 

We have developed a small farms workshop to assist Derwent Catchment landholders with improving productivity while moderating impact on the land. The topics covered include property planning, soil science, native animal browsing management, animal health and pasture management.

Collaborative partners

Our partners include a wide range of industry, NGOs, government and community organisations collaborating to make a difference on the ground.