Restocking after restoring a degraded landscape

Shan and Shane Joyce

Image courtesy of The Australian Women's Weekly

Well here we are at Kumbartcho, and we have hit “P” mode, where P is for production.

We have had the property in ‘lock up’ mode since the 13th of January this year. Yes, no stock till pastures had fully recovered from previous (over) grazing, and under resting.

Rain throughout this resting period has been:

  • 4.5mm in January
  • 42mm in February
  • 158.5mm in March
  • 17mm in April
  • 37.5mm in May
  • 7mm in June.

The February rains started the growth processes, however with 40mm falling on the 17th of February and then no further significant rainfall untill the 25th of March, recovery in pastures were quite insignificant.

However, March rain from the 25th to 31st of 146.5mm gave the land a good soaking over a week, and with continued warm weather, pastures were afforded the opportunity to fully recover.

With two biodynamic soil activator applications and adequate rest, much has been achieved.

Pastures have had the opportunity to ‘max out’ to feed soil biology. (Most likely for the first time since settlement in the 1840’s!!!)

Making Hay

We have cut hay. Our very first hay production enterprise.

image of hay rolls

So, why and what of the hay enterprise???

  • We have a neighbour who has full hay making plant who offered to cut hay for us, so we are able to do this enterprise without the need to purchase equipment. (The only tractor is a con-tractor!)
  • This is also a ‘share’ arrangement, so no need for the exchange of money.
  • The paddocks we are cutting hay from are areas that frost in winter, so the longer-term plan is to harvest (make hay) from abundant summer growth, and then “pasture crop” a winter annual. The winter annual will both add organic matter to the soil, and be used for grazing.
  • The farm has a huge hay shed, so lots of storage facility not being used. We can now use this infrastructure to store summer forage for later resale, there already being a demand for hay I doubt that much of the harvest will go into storage this season.
  • None of the hay will be used on our farm as we have “kicked the hay habit”.

Introducing Livestock

On the 16th of June we purchased sixty-eight (261 kg) heifers from Gympie sale yards.

image of cattle

The timing of the introduction of livestock has been largely determined by WATER.

Yes, we now have a great, reticulated water system to three-quarters of the 141 hectare farm. Seven new troughs, a header tank, new submersible electric pump in the irrigation bore and four kilometers of 63 mm poly pipe (see this post).

image of cow at water trough

The system is deliberately quite over-engineered to allow for future 'mob' grazing, for improvement of soil and pasture condition.

Five paddocks currently have water and paddock size varies between 4.5 hectares and 16.8 hectares.

Troughs have been strategically placed to:

  • allow for future sub-division of paddocks.
  • provide “top of hill” watering for nutrient distribution (as per Peter Andrews’ Natural Sequence Farming).

We have five remaining paddocks, and five holding paddocks in which to implement new water reticulation or perform existing system upgrades.

Paddock graze periods will be determined both by what will maximise animal performance and provide adequate rest for pastures to recover.

Paddocks will be treated post grazing with biodynamic soil activator, as well as being spot sprayed for Giant Rats Tail grass.

Stock are ‘inducted’ using Low Stress Stock Handling methods, which in this instance was done largely by a group of year nine students from Samford Valley Steiner School. The seventeen students were given an introduction to Low Stress methods over a four day period, concluding with doing individual working of stock in yards, and ear tagging of cattle.

I’ll talk more about our relationship with this school in the next post...