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Beyond the Bale : Apr 07 - May 07
By Kellie Penfold If farm managers Mick and Margaret Mooney were to plan the ideal farm, a 'droughtlot' would now rank up there with silos, haysheds and good sheepyards as essential infrastructure. The Mooneys manage 'Rosewood Station' at Barmedman, in southern NSW, for its three owners who all work in agribusiness, and in February they moved 6000 Merino ewes into a newly established droughtlot, bringing them in from paddocks around the 6000-hectare property. "We started talking about a droughtlot three years ago and planned it would happen when there was spare cash," Mick says. "After doing a StockPlan® course sponsored by the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority (CMA) we found there was a Lachlan CMA incentive available of $2 per DSE (dry sheep equivalent), up to a maximum of $10,000, to help with the establishment of a droughtlot. I'm lucky, as the blokes I work for are 'go for it' people and we went for it. Now, I don't know how we would have got by without it." StockPlan® is a computer program and workshop developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries with funding from AWI. The StockPlan® suite of computer tools -- Drought Pack, FSA (feed, sell or agist) Pack and Im Pack -- are designed to help livestock producers explore options during a drought, and make informed and timely decisions before and during a full-blown drought and during the recovery period. Established on a 20-hectare site -- chosen because of the shade and protection it provided and the fact it was not tying up cropping country -- the droughtlot on 'Rosewood' comprises seven pens, each with troughs watered from a nearby pipeline, which can connect to one of three pumps licensed to draw water from the uandialla bore. Each pen can hold up to 1000 sheep and at the moment they are being fed canola silage hay and grain spread on the ground. The overall cost was about $15,000, most of it for fencing and water troughs. "We feedlot prime lambs here -- more than 10,000 a year -- so we knew of the potential for sheep to do well in a confined space, where they are well-fed and don't have to walk far for water," Mick says. After the ewes were shorn in early February they were transferred to the droughtlot, into pens according to the results of pregnancy testing. For example, ewes carrying twins are placed in one, those carrying singles in another and those needing to be joined again in another, which allows tailored management. "Using the StockPlan® Drought Pack tool I know exactly howmuchitiscostingusadayinfeed--43centsaheadon current drought-affected grain and hay prices -- and I can make decisions accordingly," Mick says. He says the benefits of a droughtlot are many, with preser vation of topsoil and ground cover in the paddocks leading the list. Feeding ewes in the paddocks was taking up to 5.5 hours a day and two tanks of diesel in the Landcruiser each week. It is now down to 1.5 hours a day and half a tank of fuel a week. Mick says it will further prove its worth in filling feedgaps, such as when waiting for stubble after har vest and during a dry winter. Mark Leary, CMA catchment coordinator for western Lachlan, says that since late 2006 StockPlan® courses have been delivered to more than 400 landholders across the catchment, from Hillston to Crookwell. "About 40 per cent of the people who have participated have since established droughtlots as a result of what they've learnt and because of the Lachlan CMA incentive," he says. "But everyone has said that they learnt something from the Computer-aided drought management A StockPlan® course helped Mick Mooney set up the droughtlot that has proved invaluable -- not least for saving paddock topsoil and ground cover 5 CLIMATE BEYOND THE BALE Mick Mooney in the droughtlot at 'Rosewood Station'. "Using the StockPlan® Drought Pack tool I know exactly how much it is costing us a day in feed -- 43 cents ahead--andIcan make decisions accordingly." -- MICK MOONEY workshop they could implement in their own drought-management plan." Mick encourages other producers to attend the StockPlan® courses, saying that operators of any size can benefit and that a droughtlot can be set up on any scale, as the principles are the same. Trained StockPlan® facilitators are available in all woolgrowing states. ú More information: www.wool.com.au/drought; Mary Goodacre,AWI project manager sustainable production systems, 0409 816 630; Mark Leary, Lachlan CMA, 02 6972 2831, 0427 043 311; Mick Mooney, 02 6976 4202 PHOTO: KELLIE PENFOLD
Jun 07 - Jul 07
Feb 07 - Mar 07 Supplement