Friend or Foe

In our region almost 90% of prime agricultural land is owned by lifestyle farmers. They represent a major and growing sector in the Australian rural landscape and now play a critical role in the protection of Australia’s natural resources.

The-Farmers-hat-

Lifestyle farmers have diverse views, drivers and values. Many are new entrants to farming with little or no background in agriculture, and their knowledge of land management and agriculture tends to be poor. Their local knowledge is also limited and they lack the practical or tacit knowledge that larger farmers have such as good agronomic knowledge, identifying soil types and weeds, applying fertilisers or herbicides, building fences, operating machinery or vaccinating cattle.

Growing concern has been raised over the level of knowledge and skills within the lifestyle farm sector, and the ability of these farmers to manage their property in an ecologically sustainable fashion.

Depending on your point of view and who you mix with lifestyle farmers could be viewed as potential threats or possible allies for maintaining healthy, viable landscapes. I tend to mix with the one’s who care about Australia’s natural resources with a fervent passion and take every opportunity to up skill

In our region we are lucky enough to have the unique personality that is Richard Scarborough. Richard is a knowledge hub on all things natural resource management like no other and he takes every opportunity to share his vast expertise with those who want to learn and there are plenty of lifestyle farmers in our region who want to learn.

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Richard Scarborough at Clover Hill sharing his knowledge of the pros and cons for planting wildlife corridors.

Richard has drawn this diagram to show us the SMART way to plant trees to achieve the best outcomes for the landscape, the native animals and the farm animals.

Concept Plan for bufferring Native Vegetation

In our region Richard on behalf of Landcare Illawarra is conducting the Illawarra Woodland and Rainforest project which means locals have a wide diversity of tree species to pick from. A wide diversity of trees means a variety of food sources for wildlife and that’s a very good thing indeed.

Richard tells me rainforest tress DO NOT need a pioneer canopy and its very important not to use wattles in this capacity. Why you ask?  Well wattles are very fast growing and will compete with the rainforest trees for nutrients and water

So if you want to use Eucalypts and wattles Richard says its important to segregate them and create competition free niches for rainforest trees.

If you follow Richard’s clever strategy  you will have wattle and eucalypts for farm timber, furniture making and fence posts and superb rainforest trees for eternity.

Here is a tip:  Rainforest species will grow faster in response to light competition and its ideal to plant the trees far enough apart to allow slashing with a tractor or ride on mower.

Stages of development

Thanks Richard for sharing.  You are a natural treasure

Also check out this video which showcases some other people who are inspiring their neighbours and pooling their skills for the beneift of the natural resource base and the wider catchment

Something in it for everybody!

Todays post is by guest blogger Dr Neil Moss our farm consultant and one of the great team of experts who shared their vast experience and knowledge with the participants at our recent Field Day

Neil shares his field day banter with you ……….

One of the great privileges of working in dairy consultancy is being able to observe and collect innovations and exciting ideas from successful farmers in one location, and then mould, adapt and apply these to a wider variety of situations with other farmers that are also willing to innovate and try new things.

Dr Neil Moss and Dr Richard Eckard share the benefits of planting legume pastures with Field Day particpants

Dr Neil Moss points out the stoloniferous habits of some his pasture

Our recent field day at Lemon Grove Research Farm was a great example of just this concept. For many years I have been working together with clients on their farms  developing pastures that break away from the norm and start to cover some of the gaps in their pasture production and risk management systems.

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It was a colourful and diverse group of farmers who stood in Neil’s pasture salad bowl 

The field day wasn’t just a great chance to showcase some of these great pastures and how we go about getting them. It was also a great opportunity to explore how farmers’ ideas and observations can be captured and developed into farming systems, and how individuals that think “outside the square” and challenge conventional wisdom can shift “out of the box” concepts and techniques into the mainstream with benefits for many.

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The participants got some backgrounding from Lynne Strong

Using some concepts and techniques that I originally observed on a farm owned by David and Audrey Moxey on the Mid-North coast of New South Wales (Thanks guys!!) we are now working in just this way. Some great on-farm ideas based on Dave’s experience and a little innovation have now been morphed into a widely adaptable pasture system that may have substantial production and environmental benefits for those that can apply them. David had successfully negated some of the production challenges posed by low summer feed quality by including lucerne, chicory and plantain- tap rooted legumes and herbs with great summer growth and feed-quality, in his planting mixes. We had been sowing these with ryegrass to drive more winter and spring growth but this system was still exposed to summer grass invasion and the need to use significant amounts of nitrogen fertiliser to get the most out of them.

Now it was time to think and adapt! What if we used more winter active chicory cultivars dropped the ryegrass out and started to control some of the summer grass weeds with selective herbicides! It worked a treat.

Farmers network

There was plenty of discussion and networking opportunities

The run-up to the GFC saw a near tripling in price of nitrogen based fertilisers. Linked closely to the petro-chemical industry, it was clear to see that one of the key future “risks” we were facing was “nitrogen shock”- and believe me, many were shocked at how high the prices went and how exposed their systems were. Coupled with this, a growing understanding and acknowledgement of the potential environmental and greenhouse effects of high nitrogen fertiliser use was raising eyebrows – it was clearly time to observe, adapt and act!

Audience at Lemon Grove

Tracey Bob and Vicki thought it might be worth a try in Berry and Pyree

The Strong’s at Jamberoo are fantastic innovators and have been great clients to learn and grow with over the last 12 years. When we discussed these new pasture strategies and some of the benefits they may bring, they could not wait to give it ago. Taking considerable risk they dedicated 12 hectares to some new plots and away we went. For two years we worked to refine the system, adding clovers and modifying our winter agronomic strategies to see where we could shift the feed production curve to. We had what we thought were some great successes and picked up a few lumps and bumps on the way.

Michael in Lucerne @ Lemon Grove

But now we needed validation. We needed to be more certain that what looked, felt and seemed good was actually delivering! Testimonials and feel good stories (has anyone out there ever read a bad testimonial????) were and should never be enough to persuade farmers to drop what is tried, tested and true and expose themselves to even more risk! We needed a bit of data. Here’s where we were lucky enough to apply for and successfully receive some research funding through the Caring for our Country grants program.

Daff and Martin Royds

Marcelle from DAFF interviews Martin Royds

We could now put some numbers to what we thought was happening allowing farmers to make better decisions based on observations with real infield “controls” for comparison.

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We still had a few weeds to tackle

So what have we found so far? We have appear to have a resilient pasture system that is giving us as much feed (this year anyway) as the traditional kikuyu based pasture system commonly utilised on the coast. The feed quality is dramatically improved and most importantly, our nitrogen fertiliser usage has dropped by over 50% at this stage. Weeds can still be a challenge! This linkwill take you to the presentation of our full results to date.

Feed quality0028

Farm field days are a great way to present information and stimulate cross pollination of ideas. We had many farmers there, some from dairy, some from beef and small holdings, some with conventional farming backgrounds, others pushing in different directions with organic and biological ideologies. The great thing was that the barriers that seemed to exist between these farming “churches” appeared to subside allowing all to ask question and share ideas- farmers learning from farmers, picking out what may or may not work in their farming system!

The day was all about interaction. Interaction between farmers and those from the services sectors, between representatives from government and environmental bodies and the educational institutions. Personally, I really enjoyed the interaction with all the attendees.

Stephen Weidemann and Dr Richard Eckard

Stephen and Richard in the dairy at Clover Hill

I also got a buzz from bouncing off the other guest speakers attending the day including Richard Eckard and Steven Weidemann who were only too happy to step into the fray and openly share their knowledge and experience as well! I hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as I did!

Back to Lynne

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Let’s not forget the gorgeous man who always not only brings the lunch he cooks it too

Phil Monoghan

and serves it. Big shout out to Phil Monaghan and Weston Animal Nutrition

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and special thanks to Phil Duncan from Bishops Nowra and Carl Pratten from NAB Nowra who sponsored the drinks. This is Carl talking to Albion Park dairy farmer Craig Tait

Will it put money in my pocket

Tomorrow we open the doors of our research farm so the local farmers can see what’s been happening over the fence.

Our consultant Dr Neil Moss will be taking our visitors on a farm walk where he will share our pasture trial results that increase pasture protein and energy, lift milk production by up to two litres a day and use less fertiliser.

The farmers will be asking lots of questions and the first thing they will want to know is what’s it for them and their cows. That is exactly the question they should be asking because farmers are just like the rest of the world their first priority is to feed their families and just like everyone else their work and commitment should be valued at its real price. ( Ditto for their cows)

Neil is using his presentation tonight to set the scene. Would his slides entice you to come?

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Warts and All

Two more sleeps and we open the farm gate warts and all for our Field Day.

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A huge amount of work has gone into getting both farms ready (or as close as we can with all the major rainfall events) both on farm and at the regional Landcare facilitator’s office at the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority.

I have three presentations to get ready which is bad enough and now I hear the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry is going to film the entire event.

Research shows 9 out of 10 farmers learn from other farmers. We know we push boundaries and we don’t always get it right so its important what you share.

So I have decided to focus one of my talks on what we could do better.

This started by listing 10 things we do well and then listing 10 things we want to do better and second list was frightening

Firstly I wrote down what I thought, then I asked Michael and then I got Nick’s opinion and OMG did I end up with a long depressing list. So I think the first thing we need to do better is not be so hard on ourselves   

So here is the list of what we do well

  • Very focused on doing what it takes to stay in business and employing young  people and contributing to local economy
  • Animal well being and environmental stewardship focused
  • Chase knowledge and implement technology
  • Outsource the expertise we don’t have
  • Push the boundaries
  • Grow pasture well
  • Engage with the community
  • AGvocate
  • Monitor inputs and outputs
  • Share/communicate our story with the farming community
  • Whole of industry vision and we partner and collaborate

Now I am off to whittle down that long list of things that we could do better

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Meanwhile David and the dry cows get on with seeding season. See previous post here https://chdairiesdiary.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/seeding-season-begins-with-a-bang-and-a-whimper/

The big wet has left us a little worse for wear in more ways than one

All the details for our field day on March 26th and 27th 2012  see Future farming: research puts grass out to pasture are now bedded down. See flyer here

Jamberoo Field Day Lemon Grove Research Farm Flyer

However in typical farming fashion the weather is behaving badly and Lemon Grove Research Farm is under water

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The water is receding fairly quickly however with the trial paddock now reasonably water free after been totally covered in water at 6am this morning

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Mmh its looks like everyone will be coming to see how our pasture recovers from too much  water

The home farm Clover Hill is also waterlogged and sadly the dangers of farming are only too apparent to all the team after this accident this morning that left the tractor a write off and the driver thankfully in one piece

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The tractor after a long slide down the hill, an altercation with some large rocks and a couple of trees and a few double back flips.

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I send a special thank you to John Deere for making tractors that help save lives.

Future farming: research puts grass out to pasture

Todays post comes via Kiama Independent story on our field day we are hosting in partnership with Southern rivers cma

DANIELLE CETINSKI

22 Feb, 2012 01:00 AM

A RESEARCHER could have the answer to the future of dairy farming and the solution was born in Kiama.

Research company SBScibus director Neil Moss, who lives in Kiama, has spent the past eight years developing a new kind of pasture using no grass at all.

“We wanted another way of doing things to fill gaps in the feed base,” he said.

Dairy

Dr Moss’ “salad bowl of ingredients” includes lucerne, chicory and plantain, which are all deep-rooted legumes and herbs – red clover is part of the mix because it grows quickly while the lucerne establishes itself, and the white clover fills in gaps in the pasture if other plants die out.

The trial pasture at Clover Hill Dairies’ research farm Lemon Grove at Jamberoo has already yielded some surprising results.

“We’ve found it generates 10 to 15 per cent more energy and the milk is 15 to 20 per cent higher in protein,” he said.

“We’re also getting between one-and-a-half and two litres more milk per cow per day spent on the pasture, which is a rise of five to 10 per cent.”

Dr Moss selected them from years of observations and fieldwork because they grow year-round, unlike the ryegrass and kikuyu commonly used on coastal dairy farms, which only grow in winter and spring and summer and autumn respectively.

They have deeper root systems than grass, meaning the pasture would be more resilient in times of drought.

They also rely less on nitrogen-based fertilisers, which are increasing in price, and respond to recycled effluent from the dairy.

Clover Hill Dairies owner Lynne Strong said she was excited about the research.

“It is widely recognised nine out of 10 farmers learn from other farmers and they want to see the research working in their own backyard,” she said.

The Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority will run a field day at Clover Hill Dairies on March 26-27, allowing farmers to see the pasture firsthand.

“This field day will let regional farmers to see the results we are getting on our farm and allow them to determine if they think it will fit into their farming system,” Mrs Strong said.

It will include presentations on sustainable farming, soil health and the Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative, including how to generate carbon credits.

Mrs Strong said the presenters were experts in their fields, including Dr Moss, Richard Eckard from the University of Melbourne, Mick Keogh from the Australian Farming Institute and Louisa Kiely from Carbon Farmers Australia.

Also speaking is Steve Wiedemann

Presentation topic:  Carbon and Nutrient Efficiency; Opportunities for dairyfarmers

Profitability and sustainability are front and centre issues for dairyfarmers.  One unlikely area where there may be opportunities to win on both fronts is from the manure pile.  Steve Wiedemann will speak about the carbon and nutrient opportunities that exist for dairyfarmers through improving effluent and manure management.  This will be a practical look at how to best utilise the resources that remain in waste streams at the dairy and in the paddock, and how to set a path to reducing some costly fertiliser inputs. Beyond the farm gate, we’ll also look at how dairy farmers might be able to participate in the carbon farming initiate by getting paid to reduce their emissions.

Technical summary:

  • Nutrient and carbon flows around the dairy farm – what they are and what they tell us
  • ‘Waste energy’ – how to capture this (Anaerobic digestion at the farm scale)
  • ‘Waste nutrients’ – where do under-utilised nutrients end up on a dairy farm and what can be done about it?
  • How increasing productivity can lower your carbon footprint
  • How emissions capture may lead to carbon credits

Bio:

Steve Wiedemann is a carbon and nutrient management specialist with FSA Consulting, based in Toowoomba Queensland.  Steve is currently running a number of national R&D projects looking at the carbon footprint of livestock enterprises, is a member of the livestock technical committee for developing Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies, and works regularly with a wide range of famers in the area of nutrient management.

If you would like to attend the field day, email peter.pigott@cma.nsw.gov.au or phone on 4429 4449.