When Marg and I purchased Apple Gully Farm eleven years ago it set in progress a steep learning curve. Both of us came with science backgrounds so we were very interested in examining farming from a scientific basis.
Information from friends with a sustainable farming background, a basic understanding of animal production and a desire to “do it right” meant our first port of call was a course in Sustainable Agriculture with a focus on Soil Mineral and Microbe management by Graeme Sait of Nutri-Tech Solutions in Eumundi, Queensland. Before the course we had several soil samples tested.
We were of course inundated with information but the take home message was that the soil is a massive factory of microbial activity that should not be disturbed. We can help with addition of deficient minerals and by not reducing photosynthetic activity (that is not overgrazing). Chemical fertilisers have a very limited role in pasture improvement.
Our first job on the farm was clearing a massive amount of scrub and regrowth that had severely impacted on grass growth. Generally what could be removed by my tractor was done leaving wooded parkland paddocks, perhaps a little too shaded but we liked the look and removing the larger trees would have vastly increased the workload (I was still a full time Vet in Sydney). Leaving the larger trees also had the advantage of maintaining a better balance for soil microbial activity.
We were reading avidly and the book that really made an impact on us was “Call of the Reed Warbler” by Charles Massy. Again the strong message was not to get in Mother Natures way. She has been at it for millions of years whereas upstart humans have been trying to influence soil and pasture for about a hundred years.
Charles Massy’s practical message was rotational grazing, many small paddocks that are not overgrazed and allowing the grass to be of sufficient height to allow continued photosynthetic activity. Photosynthesis is a vital process for producing valuable nutrients (particularly sugars) to the roots.
Finally we were introduced to Peter Andrew’s with reference to water management (“water should walk not run”) and we have strategically placed “weirs” to slow the water in times of heavy rainfall and allow slow lateral movement of water in to the adjacent paddocks when the rainfall has stopped.
I don’t pretend we have got it all right but it has been an interesting journey. We have made minimal chemical intrusions letting the existing pasture improve naturally (with assistance from manure and dung beetles and with periodic application of lime). I am still considering over sowing and some mineral supplementation but the jury is out. My brilliant discovery is the need for water (from the sky) above all else. Bring on La Niña.
Entries are closed now and the photos have been sent to the judges and we await the results. Here is a selection of the entries received.
Every year at Shady Creek Miniature Herefords we have around 20 new calves added to the herd in the Springtime. Only 1 or 2 bull calves are kept for future breeding and the rest are castrated and become steers. A couple of these steers can be sold as long term grass eaters for small acre hobby farms and we refer to them as “Lucky Boys”. The remaining steers fill the freezers of family and friends when they are approx 16 months old and we are starting to experience reduced pasture growth after Christmas.
The process by which this happens is as follows:
- Before Christmas I contact past clients and any new interested people wanting to buy meat direct from us. The steers are sold as halves and they are allocated to a client.
- The steers are transported straight out of their paddock to Radfords Abattoirs, just on the outskirts of Warragul and only a 15 minute trip from home. The timing is worked out so they are slaughtered within 2 hours of arrival so they are not hanging around for a long time.
The clients in the meantime have received a cutting sheet so they can choose how they would like their meat to be packed. Refer to cutting sheet provided.
- The carcasses are transported to Moreland Meats in Warragul, a popular Butcher shop where they hang for 7 to 10 days before being cut up and packed. The hot carcase weight of the last 4 steers processed were: 215kg, 199.4kg, 198.8kg and 248.6kg. As we don’t have scales in our yards we do not know what their live weights were.
- The clients are contacted when their meat is fully frozen and ready to pick up. They pay by EFT and I then pay Radfords and Moreland Meats for the processing.
Many of our clients are repeat buyers and appreciate their annual fill of their freezers with grass fed beef that has had minimum handling and therefore reduced stress for the steers concerned. This is reflected in the taste and tenderness of the meat. The clients also appreciate the amount of meat with half a small Hereford steer enough but not too much meat to be consumed in a year for a family. They then look forward to the next half!
Dianne and Brian Davey