Ben shared his story in our Facebook group called Regenerative Farmers Who Know the Value of Healthy Soil it was too great not to share around so others in our community can read and be inspired. If you like to share your story head over to the Facebook group and share away.
Now over to Ben, Enjoy!
I have been implementing some changes recently on the farm, I thought I would note what I’ve done here both for my reference and for anyone else who is in a similar position to reference. Over the past year or so now, I’ve been following a couple of blokes via ebooks, videos, and other online reference materials… Collectively these guys, when their practices are integrated provide a well-rounded view of #regenerativefarming. The guys are #GabeBrown, #PeterAndrews, and #AllanSavoury. I’ have only just now started to follow #GregJudy for a livestock/pasture management point of view and he proved to be a valuable resource as well.
I started to physically make the move last Spring 2019. I researched and selected a multi-species crop to sow for summer, in total I sowed over 15 various species from cereals and grasses to legumes… I waited a fair while for the rain. But when the rain comes in February this year… The sown paddocks exploded with life. In the meantime I sat down and generated a planned grazing spreadsheet based on the Holistic Management theory, to ensure my paddocks have enough recovery time before the livestock are let to graze there again. In order to gauge the length of time for grazing… I roughly measured the Dry Matter in each paddock, and with some simple calculations based on sheep weight, etc, I estimated the length of time the mob could potentially graze each paddock.
Ok, so I have fresh pasture in my lower paddocks now. Enough for me to join my ewes for 5 weeks and not worry about supplementing feed. The day before I moved the sheep into each paddock. I over sowed Oats into the paddocks, I don’t have a disc seeder. I use a spreader mounted to a UTV and or Tractor spreader for the more level paddocks. I then let the sheep trample the seeds, hoping to make good seed to soil contact. I did this to each paddock, for the steeper / rockier paddocks instead of Oats, I used Tetlia Annual Ryegrass. I ensured I had moved the sheep from the paddock once the pasture was down to 4-5inches. Within a couple of weeks. I could see the oat seeds starting to pop.
I managed through planned grazing to keep the mob of sheep in my front paddocks until the pregnancy scanning. Pregnancy scanning is another management task I have taken up to ensure I’m not running any non-productive livestock. I haven’t done this in the past. My scanning percentage this year was around 88% (Wet/Dry only). I sold the dry ewes in this amazing market and had a healthy return to can keep providing inputs into the property. Now I only have productive sheep on my farm.
I had some early lambing due to the rams being with the ewes through the latter parts of the drought in Dec/Jan. Hence I have a small mob of ewes with lambs. Although, this doesn’t line up with my lambing schedule. I’ll take what I can get from the drought conditions and align all ewes for next joining. This has given me the opportunity to progress yet another facet of the management life cycle through the use of RFID Tags and effectively start to build useful data.
Before I move onto the RFID technology, I have researched and tested numerous livestock management systems, over the past couple of years I had resided to using Farmware. I considered this to be a simple yet very effective livestock mgmt app. Easy to use and provided all the data I could want. I was audited earlier this year, the farmware app provided very usefully to show the auditor the chemicals storage/data and livestock activities with all the required data. However, I have now shifted my mindset to wanting a more diverse management system, one that would allow me to keep data on my paddocks as well as my livestock. I found through the regenerative Facebook groups.
A management system called #MaiaGrazing. I’m currently using the Lite version which is free and provides excellent management capabilities for livestock, also data for paddocks, and assists with documenting rainfall. Since I also use a planned grazing spreadsheet, from what I can see this would very easily be converted to the Maiagrazing planned grazing feature. Although this is a paid service, I will be subscribing to get access to this as well as other advanced features to display the growth comps between rain and various pastures types. I believe this will be very useful moving forward, especially for ensuring the stocking level is just right, hence allowing me to make the big decisions on the farm while being emotionally separated. I want to drought-proof myself, I have absolutely torn apart from the most recent drought conditions.. I do not want a repeat.
So, this leads me to the RFID technology. I now have a management system that will assist in making key decisions in terms of destocking etc. but what do I destock? I need useful data for livestock. Again I researched RFID tags with a nice functional design for sheep, along with an RFID stick reader to essentially collect and build data for each of my ewes. I have opted for the #Shearwell RFID Tags which are NLIS compliant, I print my farm name on the tag along with the visual RFID reference number. I also opted for the #GallagherHD5 RFID Reader. Albeit being one of the more costly RFID readers on the market, this is truly an amazing tool to have. Now I have the ability to build useful data for each sheep. I used this setup for the first time over the weekend while marking lambs. I was able to build attributes that I believe will be useful to me in years to come. I can export all my data into spreadsheets, sort filter, etc.. And on top of that. I can build draft lists… A draft list will allow me to sort any unwanted sheep from the mob based on any of my attributes. An example of what I’m thinking is when I need to destock, I will open my spreadsheet and sort ewes by singles and twins. I will then load all the ewes that only had singles into the draft list. I can take it further if I only had to destock 50 and I had 200 single bearing ewes. I could do a secondary filter for ewes with a poorer hair rating (or shedding ability). Hence, I would start to destock from bottom up.. Working my way to my core breeding stock. This is what useful data will start to provide and I’m excited.
My latest project in to regenerate a water flow path that has eroded over time. I’m attempting to use the #NaturalSequenceFarming techniques for this process. I have pushed the eroded banks in, created leaky weirs to slow the water, and seeded in areas. I have several eroded areas on the property. I’ll tackle one at a time.
To round everything off, on for the pest control side, I have invested in a #PulsarThermionXP50 Scope, this is a thermal scope. I have had issues with dogs/foxes taking lambs and ewes. I have knocked off quite a few foxes now in the night that are gingerly moving around my ewes and lambs. I have shot foxes a meter from newborn lambs. I sit in the paddocks and watch over the mob to see what comes to them. I would imagine by the end of this lambing season. This scope will have paid for itself in the number of lambs I would have saved. I opted for this scope over a guardian dog. As I use my working dogs all the time moving sheep etc as I have some very rough terrain and my dogs do a great job at mustering.
Looking forward, I’m planning my summer seed mix and planning to change out the tags on all ewes this spring using the Shearwell RFID Tags.
If you’ve made it to the end. Please provide feedback via the comments below. I still consider myself to be new to this type of farming and willing to keep soaking up information from various FB groups and online resources. I’d also be interested in how you are starting to change your practices or if you already have built-in processes that you think might benefit me in some way.
The key takeaways for me are:
– Soil enrichment with planned grazing and sowing multi-specie pastures.
– Farm Management for both pasture and livestock to make key business decisions
– Regenerating the landscape starting with water flow paths
– Gearing up on Pest Control.
Thank you for reading!
Ben Morgan of BCK Rural