Successful Queensland regenerative farmers Shane and Shan Joyce have moved on from their property 'Dukes Plain' to start again and restore a degraded landscape to a thriving, productive environment. Join Shane as he shares his experiences regenerating 'Kumbartcho'.

Fixing weak links

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Shan and Shane Joyce

Image courtesy of The Australian Women's Weekly

Well here we are 3.5 months into this adventure.

13/01/2014 was our start date.

A gentle reminder that what we are about here on this farm is re-creating healthy soils.

We have now done two applications of the Biodynamic Preparations; have our Field Broadcaster working 24/7/365, our Atreorg also 24/7/365, and the occasional use of our Ether Toner (for rain).

At this point in time it is very clear what the ‘weak links’ are on this farm:

  • Soil Biology.
  • Grazing Management.
  • Stock Water Distribution.

Now for us there is an overlap of all these three issues, and we have addressed them firstly by the use of the Biodynamic Preparations, secondly by removal of livestock to REST the pastures, and finally by implementing a brand new stock (and garden) water system.

Farm Water Infrastructure

My experience has shown that properties with great natural water resources, for some bizarre reason, tend to have incredibly poor stock water infrastructure.

Here we have a property with a very rich water resource, and 16 paddocks, of which only eight have stock water!

Stock water is provided to these paddocks by four different pumping facilities! All this on a property of 141 hectares!

image of polypipe being laid in trench

Well all this has changed, and we have been busy this past week installing a deluxe water system, which will water all paddocks. Water is being pumped from a bore (7000 GPH), to a high storage tank, from which it will be gravity fed to all paddocks. Two other bores, and a well, will remain as back up in the event of a failure in the main bore pump.

All up we are installing 4.4 km of 63 mm PN 8 poly pipe, one storage tank, 8 new troughs, a pump, and a single storage tank. The pump will be an automatic electric submersible, with pressure switch.

Troughs will be located centrally in existing paddocks (and where possible on the top of hills), to allow for paddock sub-division. Future paddock layout will allow for short duration, high stock density grazing, with adequate rest.

Paddock grazes will be followed by application of the Biodynamic Preparations, along with 'spot' spraying/manual removal of noxious weeds (Giant Rats Tail Grass, Creeping Lantana, Groundsel Bush, Lantana, Parthenium).

Growing the Grass

Still we have no livestock on the property, choosing to allow pastures to ‘max out’, and feed soil biology.

Rains in February (40 mm), and then in March (140 mm) began the pasture ‘growth to recovery’.

Many of the grasses had learned to grow sideways, to prevent predation from herbivores. Grasses had very poor root systems (shallow). It takes some time for these plants to re-learn how to grow, as they become somewhat like root-bound pot plants.

Fortunately we have a neighbour who understands what we are doing, and does not ‘join the mob’, who keep asking why we have no stock on all that grass!!!

image of tall grasses

Also on our agenda is hay making and filling the great hay shed we have inherited with the farm. Much of our lower country frosts in winter, so our intention is to make hay from some of these areas, and the over-sow the paddocks with a winter active annual.

For the stored hay we anticipate a ready market as much of the area here, although green at present, is not far removed from a critical winter forage deficit.

Stand out features of the property at present are friability of the soils, and diversity of the pastures.

We look forward to introducing livestock to an adequately rested, and watered landscape in the not too distant future.

Till next time, good bye.

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A healthy landscape