Don’t think, know grazing

Farmers discussing tests that they hope will see stock feed provided all year round during a recent workshop.
Farmers discussing tests that they hope will see stock feed provided all year round during a recent workshop.

Canowindra district farmers are fencing off small sample plots of land that will be crash and time grazed then professionally monitored over the next five years.

Scott Hickman, who operates the “Growing the Grazing Revolution” through Mid Lachlan Landcare, says there are three things we can definitely measure and are hoping to improve in these 30 by 30 metre plots of farmland.

“Groundcover, perennial plants and plant diversity; the three most important things to ensure stock have desirable feed all seasons, all year round,” Mr Hickman said.

This experiment has been influenced by the “Don’t think, know” message given by Victorian holistic management guru, Graham Hand, at a Mid Lachlan graziers meeting in 2015.

Mr Hand recommended graziers, who practiced holistic grazing techniques, should “know for sure” they were finding ecological and production improvements in their management techniques.

When Hand said the only way to “know” was to monitor and measure, Mid Lachlan Landcare devised a program for six local grazing farms to do just this.

Holistic management coach, Mark Gardener, is supporting the monitoring program.

“Ideally the plots will experience intensive grazing then be given several months of un-grazed recovery,” Mr Gardener said.

“The soil disturbance, manure and crushed ground litter, followed by recovery, will create the ideal environment to stir up existing seed banks and encourage native seed germination.

“The recovery period will enable farmers to see what desirable plants can be grown on their farms,” he said.

“The recovery period is critical to the water and mineral cycles.

“You can’t change how much water falls on your property but you can change the effectiveness of what falls by how much moisture you capture and store in root profiles. This, in turn, slows run off and helps biological activity in the soil such as microbial fungi that can pull out phosphate and help plants grow more rigorously,” he said.

Mid Lachlan Landcare’s Tracee Burke is collating all of the monitoring on each of the properties. “Our hope is that farmers can mirror the positive results of the plots onto the rest of their farmland. We are looking forward to learning from our results and releasing them each year,” she said.