Re-assessing farm weak links

Shan Joyce spraying Biodynamic soil activator

 

Well here we are at end August 2014, tomorrow is first day of spring. August has delivered us 52 mm of rain, which gives us great soil moisture to begin spring.

 

image of spraying off the back of a quad bike

Shan Joyce spraying Biodynamic soil activator

The farm has had three sprays of Biodynamic soil activator, so is well ‘primed’ to burst into life/growth as the weather warms.

Now is a good time to re-assess what are the ‘weak links’ of this farm.

 

 
Having attended to the farm’s acute need for rest (destocked 13/01/2014 till 16/06/2014), and to the farm’s need to achieve a biologically active soil (three applications of Biodynamic preparations).  The outstanding ‘weak link’ was stock water infrastructure.

Stock Water Infrastructure

image of water pipe in paddock

Final paddock trough water supply is in place

On Friday 29 August we installed our final water trough. Paddocks are now set up for subdivision with no need for further water infrastructure. With a total of 14 stock water troughs, two tanks and 5.3 km of polypipe, we now have a deluxe stock water system.

If you’re wondering what the investment requirement was - the total cost of the system was $32,098.68.

We already had seven of the troughs and the two tanks, so they are not included in the cost. The trenching component for the pipe was $3580, including man and machine hire. There are no other labour costs included, as the work was performed by me, friends, and students from two Steiner School Year 9 classes during their ‘Farm Camp’ visit. Total time spent was six days with three people, and eight days with students and myself.

Stock are now into their last paddock, having begun their rotation on 16 June.

Grazing Management

This then leads us to the next ‘weak link’, which is associated with many things, however to keep it brief paddock subdivision has moved to the top of the priorities list.

Now that we have water in place, better use of stock densities will be facilitated by both permanent, and temporary electric fences.

image of worm

Biodynamic soil activator and grazing management has
  helped encourage soil biological activity

Stock densities will facilitate a speeding up of improvement of quality and diversity of pastures, knock down of unused pasture to improve litter and soil organic matter.

More paddocks will make utilisation of pasture more effective, and achieving adequate rest much easier.

Smaller paddocks will allow for more targeted treatment of ‘undesirable’ species such as Giant Rats Tail (GRT) grass. Our focus with the GRT is to basically treat the soil. Through the use of Biodynamic preparations, and grazing management we hope to shift the nutrient status of the soil to where it no longer ‘needs’ to grow GRT. Perennial, productive, palatable species will become healthy, and out-compete the GRT. The ‘spaces’ for GRT seedling recruitment will be largely reduced.

At this stage we have begun to install lead out electric wires, and subdivided one paddock with single wire permanent electric fence. Seven paddocks to go!

Landscape Hydrology

Next on the ‘weak link’ list is water (no not stock water), and how the water moves in the landscape.

image of rocks in gully

Rocks and scrap material from around the property
  have been used to construct a leaky weir

We plan to put in place a plan for landscape rehydration.

This will involve the use of Peter Andrews’ techniques to improve the hydrology of the farm, and maximize the effect of rainfall, and ground water.

image of shooting willow

Willow cutting planted to stabilise
  river banks are already
  beginning to shoot

We hope to begin this planning process in September 2014.

In the meantime, tree plantings have already started on the waterways, and one leaky weir is in place built from scraps of concrete, rocks, bricks, and tyres.

Electric fencing will also include one last section of waterway that is not fenced to better manage stock access and minimise disturbance.

Another series of 'weak links' well on the way to being addressed.