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Beyond the Bale : December 2016
Nodules formed by Rhizobium bacteria on the roots of a legume. When nodules are present, legumes can “fix” nitrogen from the air, satisfying their own nitrogen nutrition requirements and providing excess nitrogen to other plant species. growers like Tom and Dave who think their prospects are so positive.” However, Dr Swan added that whilst there have been many favourable pasture- related research outcomes generated by AWI projects, there has not been as much adoption and practice change by woolgrowers as expected. “AWI has therefore formed an advisory panel to help understand the barriers to adoption of such favourable feedbase practices, and develop strategies to overcome these barriers.” Tom Pengilly is a committee member of the ‘ASHEEP’ Group – which has 100 members in the Esperance area – and he said it is because of this group that his business has seen success in the adoption of pastures and legumes, right through to grazing crops. “Our local grower group has helped enormously with adoption. Getting a farmer- mentor group around you is definitely a major positive,” Tom said. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Adoption of new practices or products is not necessarily going to work perfect first time, but having that mentor group allows you to go to other farmers to seek advice and learn from their experience, and pretty much help each other grow.” MORE INFORMATION Listen to Tom and Dave talk about their adoption of legumes on AWI’s podcast available at www.wool.com/podcast “If you don’t know what it is costing you to run your business, how can you identify ways to improve it?” he asked. Mr Solly said it was important to be realistic when setting goals and to ensure they were effectively communicated and in line with what business partners (who are often family members) wanted. More than once during the Showcase, which included presentations from Wimmera based consultant Tim Leeming, Scott Dennis of Achieve Ag Solutions and VFF Livestock President Leonard Vallance, farmers were reminded of the value of sheep to farm businesses in the medium to low rainfall zones, particularly in terms of managing income fluctuations and variable climate. BCG CEO Chris Sounness said that particularly after the difficulties encountered due to below average rainfall in 2014 and 2015, it had become evident that farms which operate at 75 per cent cropping and 25 per cent livestock outperformed businesses that are 100 per cent cropping in long-term profitability. Armed with this knowledge, farmers were encouraged to consider how they might do things better. Mr Leeming, Mr Dennis and Mr Vallance all made mention of the way farmers had embraced technology to improve cereal production (such as auto-steer on tractors and yield monitors on headers) but lamented the fact that on many farms the livestock operation continued to run as it always had. SHEEP’S BENEFITS FOR MIXED FARMING SYSTEMS Founding member of the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) Ian McClelland examining Merinos on show at the BCG’s Sheep Management Showcase. PHOTO: BCG Mr Leeming made a strong case for investing in genetics while Mr Dennis highlighted the possibilities available with electronic ID tags (EID) and automatic sheep handlers that have the capacity to record and collect sheep data and significantly reduce the labour (see page 30). “Have a look at what’s out there and get excited,” he said. Building on Mr Solly’s advice to “monitor and measure” to identify where improvements can be made, livestock scanner Raquel Tyler (OnTrack Livestock Scanning) encouraged producers to pregnancy scan their ewes. According to Ms Tyler knowledge of the ewes’ pregnancy status enabled producers to identify poor performers, meet the nutritional requirements of pregnant ewes and improve lamb survival. “It’s one thing that producers can quite easily do to improve productivity,” she said. During the day farmers also got to see some new and innovative sheep equipment in action with demonstrations and presentations from Atlex sheep yards, Stephen Pasture Seeds, Gallagher sheep handlers, Clipex sheep handler, fencing and stockyards and Advantage Feeders. The 2016 Sheep Management Showcase was supported by several organisations including AWI, Making More From Sheep (an AWI and MLA project) and AWI’s state network in Victoria BESTWOOL/ BESTLAMB. MORE INFORMATION www.bcg.org.au The buoyant mood at this year’s popular Sheep Management Showcase in the Mallee region of Victoria was undoubtedly a reflection of the good state of the sheep industry at the moment and with forecasts suggesting that the good prices and demand will continue, farmers eagerly sought advice on how to improve production and efficiencies on their farms. Farmers, who had travelled from across Victoria and interstate to attend the Showcase, were not disappointed with an excellent line-up of high calibre livestock specialists providing them with information and ideas on how to make more from sheep. Keynote speaker and Naracoorte based agribusiness consultant Ken Solly urged producers to monitor, measure and know your costs. The many benefits that come with enterprise diversity in mixed farming systems were highlighted at the Birchip Cropping Group’s (BCG) fourth annual Sheep Management Showcase held in August. ON FARM 43
In the Shops - March 2017