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Beyond the Bale : Apr - May 08
BUSINESS BOTTOM LINE DRIVES SHEEP/CROP MIX What South Australian mixed farmer Andrew Bates likes most about sheep is their ability to make money in dry years when cropping is a questionable proposition. Andrew grows wheat, barley and peas, running a 700-head flock of home- bred and bought-in Merino ewes, which are put to Suffolk rams for prime lamb production, and a I OO-strong stud of pure Suffolks. He and his wife Judy own 400 hectares at Butler Tanks, on the east coast of Eyre Peninsula, share-farm or lease another 2000ha and do "a bit" of contract cropping as well. Andrew says he likes to crop 60 to 70 per cent of available arable country, and this year he is farming a total of 1600ha, not counting the contract cropping. "We are full into no-till and stubble retention, although we do graze stubbles lightly in the summer;' he says. "Everything is a compromise, and sheep will pick up the waste grain and control summer weeds, particularly ryegrass, which becomes a problem if we get To learn more about local Grain & Graze activities, contact a regional coordinator Avon (WA) Border Rivers (NSVV, Qld) Central West/Lachlan (NSW) Co rangam ite/ Glenelg-Hopkins (Vic) Eyre Peninsula (SA) Mallee (NSVV, SA,Vic) Maranoa/Balonne (Qld) Murrumbidgee (NSW) Northern Agricultural (WA) Linda Leonard Kathryn Taylor Jodie Dean Cam Nicholson Naomi Scholz Zubair Shahzad Stephen Ginns Katrina Sait Philip Barrett- Lennard summer rain. "We are careful not to overgraze, particularly on the light soils.There needs to be a balance, because we also try to retain stubble on the heavy ground to conserve moisture, which tends to run out at the end of the season:' Andrew attributes his flexible approach to the needs of mixed farming and a desire to keep his mind open to new ideas and 'thinking outside the square'. He attributes this attitude to two years of study at Roseworthy College, where he took a Diploma in Agricultural Production. "Sheep give you a steady, reliable income over most of the year, as well as adding diversity to the (crop) rotation;' he says. "You don't have to spray every paddock every year and they provide non-chemical control where ryegrass resistance is a problem, setting you up for two years of cropping where you can use low-cost and low-risk chemicals. "There are people who leave a paddock out of cropping for the sheep, but basically there's nothing in there for them to eat:' In Andrew's system he has the option of taking sheep numbers up by sowing a paddock of oats and vetch and says he has doubled stocking rate at times by putting the effort into pastures. "It does involve a bit more work, but it's possible to time the operations for sheep to fit in with the cropping work, and with the lambs and wool they provide a reliable income later in the year when most croppers are at peak debt:' The Grain & Graze program has contracted two consultants on Eyre Peninsula to examine the effects of changing the percentage of farm cropped. The aim of the work is to increase farmers' ability to find the best enterprise mix for their properties. Each farm in the study showed a different response to crop intensity, but all had a decreasing profit at 85 per cent crop intensity. The study found that: o gross margins in well-run stock enterprises compete well with those from break crops in all rainfall zones in the Eyre Peninsula region; o as cropping intensity rises, the percentage of break crops increases (although break crops were not included in the 3 12-millimetre-rainfall case study); o plant investment increases with higher cropping intensities, with a resulting increase in machinery depreciation; and o higher crop intensities have increased chemical and fertiliser costs. Grain & Graze is a partnership between AWl, Meat and LivestockAustralia, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and Land and Water Australia. It aims to help mixed farmers increase the profitability of both their cropping and livestock enterprises and simultaneously better manage natural resources. More information: www.grainandgraze.com.au 0896902191 074671 7960 026895 1015 03 5258 3860 08 8680 6233 03 5021 9 I 03 07 4620 8 I 22 02 6924 4633 08 9475 0753 Learning from Grain & Graze is 'Wurrook South' farm manager Tom Blackford. II GRAIN & GRAZE BEYONDTHE BALE Grazing trials show value of winter crops Victorian producers find that sowing a good winter fodder crop of barley and grazing wheat provides substantial winter feed and contributes to pasture renovation B y taking part in the Grain & Graze national research and extension program and changing some of their management practices, mixed farmers Adam and Kellie Walton are lifting profits, while better managing natural resources including water, soil and biodiversity. The Waltons now sow winter crops on their 22S0-hectare property 'Wurrook South', 60 kilometres west of Geelong in Victoria, to provide winter feed for their sheep enterprise, based on 8000 Merino ewes, and are reaping the benefits. Running a sheep wool and prime lamb operation and currently cropping barley, wheat, canola, peas and oats, 'Wurrook South' has experienced several dry years. Farm manager Tom Blackford says changing some management practices has helped deal with drought conditions and prepare for further dry seasons. He says sowing a good winter fodder crop of barley and grazing wheat not only produced significant winter feed, but contributed significantly to pasture renovation. "As a result, the growing of a winter crop has been a profitable and beneficial option;' he says. "As well as getting some extra return from the paddock by solving the fodder shortage in the grazing system, it will enable a better seedbed to be prepared, resulting in more reliable pasture establishment. "With our lowest pasture curve in winter, we decided to sow the cereals into lucerne for winter feed and it has been fantastic. Because our paddocks had been overstocked during the dry times, we're now able to spell them. It has also enabled us to better handle the ryegrass weed problem, as planting into the seedbed disrupts its cycle and prevents its emergence." Recently the Waltons joined 8000 ewes to Merinos and Border Leicesters and found the ewes were in good condition prior to lambing due to the high-quality pastures. While helping the Waltons with practical advice, Grain & Graze technical consultant Simon Falkiner is recording dry-matter production before and after stock graze the paddock. "We have found with our research at 'Wurrook South' and at other sites that by grazing our cereals during the winter we are making available somewhere between 1000 and 2000 kilograms of dry matter per hectare for our livestock at a period when dry-matter production is the limiting factor in our livestock system;' Simon says. "This added production is allowing weight gains in excess of 200 grams per head per day when, under normal circumstances, weight loss is a real possibility. "It seems that as long as grazing is completed before the crop reaches growth stage 30, then final grain yield is not affected." With direct involvement of farmers and farming groups in trials and extension activities, the Grain & Graze program aims to boost farm profitability across mixed farming zones in Australia, while helping to protect the environment. The research focuses on cropping, pastures, livestock, profitability, feedbase management, whole-farm economics, biodiversity, social issues, soil and water. 0 >- I U <( Z o u ::::i w L Ö Õ I a... More information: www.grainandgraze.com.au
Feb - Mar 08
Jun - Jul 08 Supplement