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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
20 Pastures Beyond the Bale Native grasses drive low-cost profit push Poorly managed grazing country near Wellington, NSW, has been restored to a healthy productive state by encouraging native species to prosper By Kellie Penfold G eorge and Kerry Taylor and their son Chad and his wife Louise bought the Mumblebone Merino flock in 1996 and relocated it from Warren to Wellington, NSW, with the aim of producing easy- care sheep, run with a holistic approach to managing their whole-farm enterprise. Chad describes the operation as being a profit-driven business based on low-cost production, using year-round ground cover from a mix of native pastures. Pasture cropping (sowing a crop directly into pasture) has recently been added as a further tool to improve the native pasture base and business profitability. “We can’t be price takers at both ends – the price we get for the commodity and the price we pay for the inputs,” Chad says. “Our aim is to control input costs as much as possible to increase profit. “I worry hearing farmers say their costs are spiralling out of control. Our business revolves around costs, markets and the weather, which means costs are the only thing we can control.” To bring these cost-profit ideals to reality, the Taylors – in particular George – have made themselves students of soil management. George is on the management committee of the Stipa Native Grasses Association and feels the rewards are now flowing from taking a different approach to pasture management. The focus on their 3000-hectare farms, ‘Bulbudgeree’ and ‘Marapana’, is now on encouraging native species to prosper and build up the soil organic matter, decreasing the need for constant applications of costly fertiliser or pasture renovation. “Since cutting back, and eventually cutting out, the use of superphosphate, the perennial grasses have come back,” George says. “The soils are now much more fertile with much more humus, so better perennial grasses have appeared. The pastures are managed through rotational and cell-grazing systems. “These grasses produce much better year-round feed, even the red grass is of good quality.” George says better soil health has encouraged softer, more prolific
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08