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Beyond the Bale : March 2011
ON-FARM 19 March 2011 BEYOND THE BALE CASE STUDY: OLD MAN SALTBUSH HELPING STOCKING RATES Reduced rainfall over the past 10 years on John Parnell's property in the southern Flinders Ranges area of South Australia prompted him to take action to improve his property's carrying capacity. John, who runs a self-replacing Merino flock on the 8903ha Glenroy Estate 60kms south of Hawker, says the years 1999 to 2010 did not provide enough rainfall to enable sufficient moisture for growth of native grasses. "It was impossible to maintain the most basic flock numbers," John says. "Glenroy destocked over this period to around 20 per cent of the normal flock size. With the profitability of the property coming under pressure, it was necessary to provide extra grazing so we decided to invest in establishing Old Man Saltbush on the property." Two plantations of Old Man Saltbush were planted on his property over a three year period, totalling an area of 809ha. 1.7 million seedlings were planted. The area was split into 102 smaller paddocks and a water reticulation system was installed. Generally, each watering point serviced four paddocks allowing for the transfer of stock from one paddock to another by opening and closing gates at the appropriate time. At the same time water diversion banks were designed and constructed to allow, where possible, areas of Saltbush to receive additional water. "Old Man Saltbush is a drought resistance bush; it's not reliant on regular rainfall to regenerate. This has enabled us to increase our stock carrying capacity, which is paramount. It's excellent for preparing and dealing with climate variability," John says. "In addition, there have been other unplanned benefits. The bushes benefit the environment by improving soil activity and encouraging native pastures. The bushes also provide good shelter. Ground temperatures under the bushes are cooler in summer and warmer in winter compared with the ground temperatures where there is no bush." However despite the good results it must be noted that supplementary feed is required to utilise the benefits of the Saltbush. This can be provided by native grasses, or in their absence a grain supplement may be required. Also, when grazed on Saltbush, sheep utilised the feed better when drinking dam water rather than bore water. John says his vision for the property is to always operate the business in a sustainably responsible manner, giving due regard to both the environment and the need for a financial return. "Overall, Saltbush has provided a positive financial impact by the improved carrying capacity, alongside increased benefits to the soil and environment. It has given our business the ability to be flexible in dealing with the challenges of a variable climate. "Addressing these challenges needed good planning, but motivation was helped by participation in industry groups such as Bestprac. In addition, keeping healthy and living a balanced lifestyle helped develop a positive mindset." More information: John Parnell, (08) 8658 9028, firstname.lastname@example.org John Parnell on a saltbush plantation on his property in South Australia.