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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
Pastures Beyond the Bale 21 George and Chad Taylor in native pastures on their Wellington, NSW, property, home to the Mumblebone Merino flock. sown and create a desirable state that nature will continue to aim for, if we let her.” Although it has been a paradigm shift in thinking, George and Chad thrive on being able to take poorly managed grazing country and restore it to a healthy productive state. More recently, pasture cropping has been trialled on the farm by sowing a winter-active cereal crop straight into 200ha of dormant summer-active pasture using a direct drill machine fitted with knife-points on 30-centimetre row spacings. In 2007 the average wheat yield in the pasture crops was 1.2 tonnes a hectare. One herbicide application is used to knock out winter-active weeds and DAP fertiliser is applied at 30 kilograms a hectare. The cost of production is covered by a yield of less than 0.5t/ha making the return a profitable 150 per cent in a tough wheat-growing year. This year the Taylors have sown crops into 300ha of pasture using a disc seeder: “When pasture cropping and cell grazing are used together, it is possible to return rundown country to a very productive, healthy state, in just a few years,” Chad says. When the Taylors decided to move into the stud sheep business, George and his brother Bruce, with whom he was in partnership, were breeding their own rams but were not registered. By buying such an established name in the industry as Mumblebone Merinos they felt it gave them a reputable ewe base with a solid client support base. After purchasing the Mumblebone stud, the first step was to modify the selection criteria within the stud. Three years later, genetics from the South Australian Leachim Merinos were introduced, which brought a larger frame into the flock while maintaining wool quality. The Taylors have benchmarked their production and, as an exercise on the advice of their classer, joined a seven-year-old traditional Mumblebone ram to traditional Mumblebone ewes to compare the traits with their latest drop. “The offspring were a great reminder that we are on the right track – they were so far removed from the productive easy-care animal we are now breeding,” Chad says. The Taylors have phased out mulesing and feel resistance to flystrike PHOTOS: KELLIE PENFOLD grasses, such as Microlaena, Warrego summer grass and common wheat grass, which take over from the less desirable grasses when managed appropriately. He says the answer is not pushing for ‘great pasture’, rather it is about learning how to best use what is there, then better manage the nutrition and production cycles of those grasses for the best results in your sheep. In the cell-grazing system, the Taylors move large mobs around 30 or more small paddocks – usually grazing each paddock for one to four days and then leaving the paddock to rest for two to four months. By working with nature, they say, they avoid bare ground, which otherwise creates a welcoming environment for species they do not want. “If we remove all the plants from a paddock to create a fallow, nature will want to put something back in place to keep the ground covered,” Chad says. “The first plants to come back will be the hardy thistles and undesirable plants. However, if you are starting in a situation where weeds have taken over and you are prepared to think long term they do soften the ground, which creates an environment for more useful species to be (Top) Soil improvement through sustainable practices has become a priority for the Taylors. (Above) Mumblebone flock ewes in native pastures on the Taylor’s property. is not just due to the lack of wrinkle: “When the sheep’s skin is free of wrinkle and grows a fleece of highly aligned and evenly sized fibres of low suint content, it remains dry at most, if not all, times,” Chad says. “This prevents the predisposing conditions to flystrike.” Chad has also observed that even if a woolgrower has ewes that require mulesing, if crossed with the right ram the majority of offspring do not require mulesing. It is these animal management practices, as well as an ecologically sustainable farming system, that has encouraged the Taylors to seek new markets for their wool. They recently signed an agreement to supply wool to Instyle Contract Textiles, which supplies LIFE (Low Impact For the Environment) Sustainable Textiles®, home-furnishing fabrics made from non-mulesed and ecologically farmed Merino wool labelled as EthEco. Instyle, which won the Business Sustainability Award for Environmental Best Practice Program in the 2008 United Nations Association of Australia, World Environment Day Awards, says it is taking the SRS product and story and using its environmental and ethical achievements in the development of the LIFE Sustainable Textiles® story. More information: Instyle Contract Textiles, www.instyle.com.au ú
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08