HOW TO USE THIS ONLINE MAGAZINE
by clicking the arrows at the side of the page.
by clicking anywhere on the page. A slider will appear, allowing you to adjust your zoom level.
and move the page around when zoomed in by dragging the page.
and return to the original size by clicking on the page again.
by entering text in the search field and click on "In This Issue" or "All Issues" to search the current issue or the archive of back issues
a PDF of this magazine.
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
a page via email, Facebook, Twitter and more.
TO VIEW PREVIOUS EDITIONS
, click the
button at the bottom of the screen.
Beyond the Bale : March 2019
32 ON FARM DEFYING THE With so much of eastern Australia still in drought, how do woolgrowers Charlie and Anne Maslin from the Monaro of NSW still have full ground cover, flowing streams and no need to back up the feed truck? Charlie and Anne Maslin own ‘Gunningrah’, 20 km north-west of Bombala in the NSW Southern Tablelands. On the 4200-hectare property, which comprises predominantly native grasslands, they run medium wool Merinos and cattle. Gunningrah has been managed by the Maslin family for more than 100 years. Charlie and Anne took on its management in 1987, which was when they observed significant annual variations in its rainfall – and profit. While annual rainfall averages 550mm, it has varied from 250mm to 1000mm over the past century. Examination later revealed the significant impact of low rainfall on the cost of production: wool production costs could double when existing pastures were insufficient, due to supplementary feeding or agistment costs. Furthermore, a mid-1990s third-party analysis of their pastures revealed alarmingly lower levels of ground cover (more than 30% bare ground) than the Maslins had perceived. After managing the property for almost a decade, Charlie and Anne realised that Gunningrah was gradually facing ecological deterioration and profitability was becoming increasingly variable. Crucially, it became clear to them that effective management of inconsistent rainfall was a key factor in maintaining profitability. While they couldn’t change how much rain falls, they could change how to manage the rain they are lucky enough to receive. So the Maslins changed their mindset to focus on the health of the land, which has resulted in the Maslins managing poorer rainfall years more effectively and not over- using pastures in abundant years. Maximising the retention of available rainfall and striving for much improved ground cover has delivered more consistent profits on reduced inputs. In addition, erosion is being controlled, weed invasion has reduced, stock are healthier and management is more flexible. Charlie sums up their new approach: “Rather than us dictating to the land what stock it has to carry, we try to look after the land, evaluate what it has to offer and then attempt to stock it accordingly.” A photo taken last month of a leaky weir on Gunningrah. The creek corridors where they have put the weirs usually remain pretty lush, no matter what the season. MAINTAINING GROUND COVER Charlie and Anne’s focus has been to lift ground cover and improve the water cycle of their country so that when it gets rain there’s very little run off. Over the past 20 years, they have increased ground cover levels from the mid-60% level up to about 90%. “Especially in dry times like we have experienced in the past 18 months, we need to be holding as much moisture in the soil as we can for the plants to grow and the animals to eat, and then for us to make a profit,” Charlie said. “By building up the ground cover over the years, we’ve increased the infiltration of water into the soil and improved the organic matter which help limit moisture evaporation – and once we've started to get that happening we've been able to reduce the runoff from the property quite considerably. “Growing periods have extended as the water is now held in the pasture for longer, rather than running off straight into the dams. “By greater water infiltration and retention in pastures, we are making much more of the rainfall that we do receive.” INTRODUCTION OF LEAKY WEIRS The main source of water inflow to the property is the Cambalong Creek, which flows though the property for 16km. Three smaller streams also flow into the farm. The Maslins found that using the techniques of Natural Sequence Farming – constructing ‘leaky weirs’ across their creeks and gullies – the health of their watercourses and adjacent pasture could be significantly restored. Since the mid-1990s, the Maslins have constructed a number of small leaky weirs across Gunningrah’s streambeds and gullies. Charlie Maslin: “Especially in dry times like we have experienced in the past 18 months, we need to be holding as much moisture in the soil as we can.” At Gunningrah, the main focus has been to lift ground cover, improve the water cycle of the country so when it rains there is very little run off.
In the Shops - March 2019