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Beyond the Bale : March 2011
March 2011 BEYOND THE BALE 22 ON-FARM FAST FACTS l Emie Borthwick and sharefarmer Andrew Cabot on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula are running their property more profitably while also creating a sustainable environment. lBy implementing improved grazing management, they have seen an increase in stocking rates of 10 per cent over the past twelve months. l Being members of the Sheep Connect SA producer network has helped them share ideas with other local producers. Three years ago, when Emie Borthwick returned to work on the family farm at Tumby Bay on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, she developed a ten-year plan to run the property for more profit while also applying good natural resource management (NRM) principles. 'Pillaworta' has been in Emie's family for six generations and, with young children herself, she wanted to ensure she can hand on a productive, sustainable farm to future generations. She was also motivated by the need to adapt to climate variability which had hindered production on Pillaworta in recent years. Pillaworta is located amongst the steep undulating hills of Tumby Bay, with an annual rainfall of 500mm. The property consists of 1400ha, of which 1085ha is hill to 400ha would not be used by the stock while in the paddock," Emie says. "Through smaller paddocks, stock are forced to utilise all feed on offer, which leads to greater productivity and less erosion around water supplies and hill tops. So far the investment in fencing and water resources is paying off, with the stocking rate increasing by 200 head, a 10 per cent increase." Emie and Andrew admit it will be a long process to complete the transformation of the property over the next ten years, but even though they are only two years in, they are seeing many benefits, not just financial. "Managing and working the sheep is easier. Sometimes we run up to 2500 sheep in the one mob, but because you're looking at them every three days, you can get on top of issues easier," Andrew says. "We're seeing improved quality of pasture too. As the mobs are larger and the grazing more intense, stock are helping keep weeds under control. We're also seeing a greater establishment of the native grasses on the property due to the changes in grazing practices." FIELD DAYS Pillaworta is one of the five focus farms set up in 2009 by the Eyre Peninsula Natural Resources Management Board and the AWI-supported SheepConnect SA producer network, along with the support of Woolworths and Caring for Our Country. Through two focus farm field days, Emie Productivity and NRM priorities grazing. Only 272ha are classified as arable and are suitable for improved pastures such as cocksfoot. Of the remaining 315ha, 167ha is cropping and the rest is native vegetation. Water supply is limited with only one bore and unreliable dams and soaks. Soils are highly erodible with nutrient deficiencies in phosphorus and zinc. GRAZING MANAGEMENT The balance between increasing production and profitability while maintaining and implementing NRM principles is a delicate challenge. Emie, who manages the property with sharefarmer Andrew Cabot, developed a whole farm plan for the 1400ha property, with the main aims of increasing stocking rates through improved grazing and pasture utilisation, while reducing potential erosion with the use of strategic fencing, paddock sizes and watering. Emie says she decided to change the grazing management strategy after realising stock were not evenly grazing whole paddocks, and that greater pasture utilisation could occur by creating smaller paddocks (averaging 40ha) and using rotational grazing practices. Stock regularly camped on the hill tops baring out the soil and making it susceptible to erosion issues, even though better quality pastures existed on the lower slopes. "Before subdividing two of the paddocks, stock would heavily graze areas around water points, but sometimes up Woolgrower Andrew Cabot demonstrating how easy it is to move the mob between two paddocks, using only a motor bike. The curved lines are direct seeding lines - part of Emie and Andrew's plan to revegetate and sow shelterbelts.