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Beyond the Bale : September 2018
38 ON FARM Dowrene Farm is owned by the Dowrene Farm Aboriginal Corporation, an aboriginal group formed twenty years ago in the traditional homeland of the Minang, Goreng and Kaniyang people. The 720 hectare property sits between Frankland River and Cranbrook in Western Australia and for the past 11 years the property has leased out its land. When the opportunity arose to change the lease, Maude Bonshore, the chairperson of the Dowrene Farm Aboriginal Corporation and her son Rhys Bonshore, who are both of Noongar decent, instigated a shift in the lease that saw half the property leased and the other half taken under Rhys’ management to run as a sheep enterprise. In 2017, Rhys and Maude decided to invest in on-farm education so they could manage the property and develop a sheep enterprise. As the property had never been run as a farm by the corporation, and Rhys had no prior knowledge of sheep production, he embarked on a number of courses to up-skill in farm management. Rhys began with an agriculture economics course through the University of Western Australia and then an environmental conservation management course. But the pivotal course Rhys undertook began in 2017. LIFETIME EWE MANAGEMENT COURSE In early 2017, along with two other Aboriginal corporations, Rhys, on behalf of the members of the Dowrene Farm Aboriginal Corporation, began the first of six sessions in the year-long Lifetime Ewe Management (LTEM) course. The LTEM course, supported by AWI, aims to increase producers’ understanding of the influence of ewe nutrition and management on overall reproduction rates and lamb and ewe survival. Producers develop the skills to manage their ewes to achieve condition score targets and explore the economics of supplementary feeding and pasture management to review stocking rates. LTEM groups, typically comprising 5-7 producers, meet six times in the annual sheep calendar during a period of 12 months. The course is very hands-on, being based in the sheep yards, shearing sheds and paddocks of participating woolgrowers, which enables participants to share and learn from one another. More than 4,300 producers in 750 groups across the country have taken part in the course. LTEM was developed using research outcomes of the AWI-funded Lifetime Wool project (lifetimewool.com.au), which ran from 2001 to 2008, and involved growers and researchers in WA, Vic, NSW, and SA. The LTEM course is a great example of where investment in initial research, its further development and an effective extension model has paid off handsomely for the woolgrowers for which AWI works, and it will continue to generate benefits for many years to come. Through participating in the LTEM course, Rhys and Maude have developed skills in sheep husbandry and a knowledge base of farm management to support their business. “The workshops involve condition scoring, pasture assessment and feed budgeting activities that are practical and applicable to each farm business, and the importance and effects of ewe nutrition on the performance of both the ewe and her progeny,” Rhys said. In 2018 Rhys, as farm manager, invested in the first mob of sheep, 1,200 Merino ewes to begin the Dowrene Farm enterprise. This base flock of Merino ewes have been joined to White Suffolk rams and will have their first lambs this year. Facilitated by Perry Dolling of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the course is run in the south west of Western Australia and had six participants attending the practical course. “I use the knowledge I have gained through participating in Lifetime Ewe Management every day, and nightly when I’m awake at 1am planning my paddock use and sheep movements,” Rhys said. “Time and again I draw on the skills and knowledge gained through the course. Particularly feeding requirements, feed on offer (FOO), and observation of your flocks on a daily basis. You can’t let a day go by without checking on your sheep. You can pick up problems quickly and reduce losses.” The AWI-funded Lifetime Ewe Management course is helping to build indigenous people’s practical sheep management skills in the south west of Western Australia, resulting in a bright future in the industry for several aboriginal-owned farms that have been involved. LTEM COURSE KEY TO SHEEP ENTERPRISE LAUNCH Condition scoring is a key element of the Lifetime Ewe Management course.
In the Shops - September 2018