January 27, 2022

The Numundo Half Stand: raising cattle between rows of oil palm

Our Numundo beef operations in West New Britain date back to the 1970s. We breed, grow, fatten, slaughter, process, and refrigerate beef for the local markets. NBPOL established our palm oil production in 1998 along with an existing cattle herd of 460 breeders. At this time, NBPOL introduced the concept of half-stand oil palm planting. While a full-stand system has a palm density of 128 trees per hectare, a half stand has only 72 trees per hectare. We plant this lower density in a skip row layout –two rows planted followed by two of unplanted space for cattle pastures.  

We discovered that sharing resources by operating under single ownership and one estate management increases profitability from the same land area. Costs are further reduced by sharing tractors and equipment across the two operations. Sharing labour during peak periods allows us to optimise throughput without increasing the labour force. Cattle grazing means less reliance on weed management by chemical application and manual labour. Reduced pesticide application decreases the likelihood of soil contamination. Fire hazards during dry periods are reduced through natural weed and grass control on paths and non-crop areas. Nutrients from the grass, weed and palm fronds consumed by the cattle are returned to the soil naturally through cow manure.