The network’s very first webinar was a discussion about sheep handling on small farms. Things like yard setup, weighing sheep and feeding out can be done in many ways. The scale of small farm operations means that producers need to find cost-effective, practical solutions to everyday sheep handling tasks that our larger farming cousins take for granted. Sometimes these solutions can be slower to carry out but when there are only a few sheep, this is not necessarily a problem. This webinar, presented by Jennie Curtis from Roogulli Farm, was a chance for small farmers to see some ideas for sheep handling equipment, learn from each other and ask questions.
Jennie, with assistance from Alice McGlashan, created the video below showing yards for small flocks, a way to weigh sheep, a method for tipping sheep up and a variety of feeders. The video is just under 10 minutes and can be watched here.
If you are interested in joining a sheep discussion group contact us via email.
Thank you to Jennie Curtis, Alice McGlashan and Chris Curtis for assisting with this webinar and donating their time.
The Small Farms Network Capital Region received funding from the Every Bit Counts project. The Every Bit Counts project has been funded by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.
This workshop examined rural landscape issues emerging as a result of prolonged drought and recent bushfires. The workshop was held in Bombay, just south of Braidwood. Led by Andy Taylor from South East Local Land Services (SELLS) in Braidwood, the workshop was an opportunity for local farmers learn about actions they can take to mitigate the effects of erosion. We also learnt from Judy Carmody about the support available from the Rural Mental Health Resilience Program and Felicity Sturgiss, Senior Land Services Officer (SELLS), talked to us about ways to support wildlife after fires.
Jane Ambrose from Upper Shoalhaven Landcare talked about Landcare in the area and how to get involved in the projects they run. Jane kindly agreed to share her notes from the workshop which can be downloaded below.
The scale of the drought and fires has made erosion events more likely due to lack of ground cover. A question asked at the workshop was “How do I to prioritise erosion control activities?”. Andy suggests using Six Maps to calculate the catchment size above an erosion point and prioritising groundworks on the gullies with the largest catchment. You can slow water higher in the landscape by using grazing management to maintain ground cover and sediment traps to slow water run off.
Understanding your soil type is vital for remediating erosion. Around the Bombay area, where the soils are sodic and highly erodible, protecting the topsoil is critical to prevent erosion. Information about your soil type can be looked up on eSpade along with soil testing results for your area. Here is the eSpade link and an example of the soil report you can get from eSpade.
Dams and rivers away from the fire grounds have been adversely affected by debris from ash, soil and dung. These contaminants can cause water quality issues for stock, fish and other water users. It is possible to build a sediment trap above a dam using vegetation, rocks or a sediment fence to slow down the movement of water into the dam so that debris is dropped in the trap before the water reaches the dam. This will improve the quality of the water collected in the dam.
Repairing containment lines created by bulldozers during the fires is important to reduce erosion. Replacing the topsoil with a grader is a good way to start. Mitre and roll over drains can help slow down and divert water in steep sections. Weed free hay bales can also be used as sediment traps to slow water movement.
Because of the intensity of the recent bushfires, the seed bank in the soil could be depleted. A hot fire can change the soil chemistry including soil pH and soil structure. Generally speaking, native grasses have evolved with fire and will recover better than introduced species of grasses. Perennial grasses with deeper root system can also recover well, depending on how hot the soil surface became. Consider using sterile Rye Corn to help establish groundcover. Rye Corn is a better choice than other exotic species on sites with high conservation values where you don’t want to introduce weeds and new exotic grasses. Branches, jute mesh, rocks and other vegetation can all be used to slow down water and create niches for plants and pastures to establish.
Felicity and Andy reiterated the importance of biosecurity when planning erosion works and when feeding wildlife. For example, use straw or other inert materials for erosion management rather than hay or materials containing seed to prevent the spread of weeds. Seek appropriate advice on what to feed wildlife in fire affected areas and avoid feeding meadow hay that could accidentally introduce weeds.
The Small Farms Network Capital Region received funding from the Every Bit Counts project. The Every Bit Counts project has been funded by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.
A vision splendid, a place filled with trees and koalas, while the rivers teamed with fish and platypus. From the historical records this is what Bungendore would have looked like to the early European settlers who arrived in 1820. It was the country of the Ngunawal people and to this day a culturally significant place for their descendants.
This workshop was about stories of past times, honouring Aboriginal and early European history, while learning the importance of the fragmented vegetation that remains. The guest speakers were Wally Bell, Karen Williams and Jasmyn Lynch.
Wally Bell is a Ngunawal man from the Yharr clan group and a Traditional Custodian of the Ngunawal. Wally welcomed us to his country and called upon the spirits to guide and protect us during our visit to Day’s Hill Reserve in Bungendore. Wally’s story telling about the local area was moving. He talked about Budjabulya the creator and water spirit who lives in Lake Ngungara (renamed Lake George). Ngunawal people believe that since the beginning of time this spirit has nurtured the Ngunawal people and created the lakes, rivers, valleys, people, animal and plants.
Wally talked about the importance of Mother Earth to him and how we can all play an important role in restoring and healing the land. Wally’s advice is to sit, observe and listen to the land on which you live. Respect it and look after it because land is a gift.
Wally also emphasised the importance of scar trees and how they were used as directional markers. Often they were located up high so people could see them from a distance.
We looked at some Aboriginal stone artifacts and asked a lot of questions about what to look out for on our own properties. Wally told us that Aboriginal artifacts retain the spirit of the person who made them and must be left in the location where they are found.
At this workshop Dr Lou Baskind, the District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services in Braidwood, discussed weeds, livestock and how pasture plants can be poisonous to ruminent livestock in some conditions. Temperature, rainfall and the plant’s lifecycle can influence the amount of poisonous compounds in a plant. Other plants have inherent physical and chemical properties that are poisonous.
Download a full version of the slides presented by Dr Lou Baskind.
The three common problems that weeds can cause livestock are:
Physical impediments such as wool contamination and physical damage to the animal;
Key points from the workshop:
Animal species are affected by different weeds, for example, alpacas can tolerate some weeds that sheep and cattle can’t.
Sharp weed seeds can cause damage to the face, eyes and hide of animals. The affected animal is then predisposed to other health problems including secondary infections such as pink eye in cattle and scabby mouth in sheep.
Weeds often out compete other more nutritious pasture species and this can affect the animal’s ability to consume enough feed to meet its nutritional requirements. The fibrous nature of some grass weeds with low digestibility creates gut fill, limiting the intake of nutritious feed. Most weed species are too low in nutrition to maintain body condition. Serrated tussock has the same digestibility as cardboard.
Over 200 plant species are potentially poisonous to ruminants. The three main factors that contribute to plant poisonings are:
Plant factors such as toxic chemicals in the plant that are there as a defence mechanism, the stage of growth and the part of the plant;
Environmental factors – temperature, water stress and drought; and
Fodder oats can cause nitrate toxicity in cattle. When grazing new paddocks be careful with monocultures of the same grass type. Where possible avoid sudden changes of diet because the microbes in the rumen don’t have time to adjust to the new feed which can cause poisoning. Feeding roughage (such as oaten hay) is protective against nitrate poisoning.
If you have multiple deaths in your flock or herd, call your local vet or the district veterinarian. Don’t dispose of the animal carcasses because they can be used for autopsy and blood testing.
First aid if you suspect plant poisoning: remove the animals quietly from the pasture they are grazing, don’t stress or overwork the animals. Provide clean (not green) oaten hay, shade and access to water.
Plant poisonings can be chronic (sudden onset) and cumulative.
Links to websites and weeds that can cause poisoning
This session was about building connections with people and the land: an opportunity to learn more about diversity, indigenous culture and the local area. The walk and talk was led by Tyronne Bell from Thunderstone Aboriginal Cultural and Land Management Services. Tyronne talked about his culture and traditional Ngunawal uses of plants and animals found at the site.
Key points from the workshop
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a spiritual connection with the land, that can be expressed in some part through stories about plants, insects and animals in a particular location.
By studying the behaviour of different species of insects, Aboriginal people used their traits to help them in their every day lives. For example, Tyronne told us about the ability of ants to regulate the temperature of their nest by bring different coloured gravel to the surface of the nest. White in summer and black in winter. Meat ants were used by some Aboriginal people to clean the carcasses of fish so the bones could be used as needles.
If you find Aboriginal artifacts, scar trees or other relics it is important to leave them intact and where you found them. These items hold great significance for Aboriginal people and are protected under NSW law. You can find out more information at the Office of Environment and Heritage website.
Preserving Nungawal language is very important to local Aboriginal people. The language can be spoken by everyone and children especially should be encouraged to use it. Tyronne taught us how to say thank you in the Ngunawal language ‘djan yimaba’. You can find more information about Ngunawal language in the links section below.
Some Aboriginal people used to bend over and weigh down trees in order to use the trunk as a structure to build a shelter on. In winter more permanent structures and caves were used as housing and remains of stone structures built by Aboriginal people have been found in our region.
5. Plant species commonly found in the Bungendore area had special uses for Aboriginal people. For example, the Cherry Ballart (Exocarpus cupressiformis) looks like a small cypress tree and the sweet, juicy fruit provide a spring time snack, the sap can be used for snake bite, the fresh leaves are used for headaches, the roots as clap sticks and it can also be used as a shade tree to camp under. The plant was is used as an indicator species for the coming season.
Other plants that we learnt more about on the walk and talk were Hardenbergia violacea, Indigofera australis, Diannella species, Lomandra species, Acacia species, Cassinia quinquefaria, Microseris lanceolata and Bulbine bulbosa. Tyronne told us about uses of these plants for food basket weaving and stunning fish. Some of them are poisonous and should not be eaten. Find out more about these plants and their uses by following the links below.
6. According to local Aboriginal culture there are six seasons in a calendar year and no autumn. The calendar includes two summers, two winters and two springs, each with their signature weather pattern and special traditions.
Community spirit, professional expertise and practical demonstrations were a feature of this erosion and revegetation workshop. Guest speakers David Hilhorst and Andy Taylor from South East Local Land Services and Scott Soper led an inspiring and educational day.
One of our participants Chris Curtis has kindly agreed to allow us to publish his notes and photographs from the day – see the link below.
Here are more ideas and strategies from the workshop.
Pioneer plants such as wattle add nitrogen to the soil and improve soil fertility and structure. You can use branches from these plants (preferably with seed attached) and lay them over bare ground to create a nursery for seeds and/or or tube stock.
Locally grown small trees including wattles, kunzea and tea tree can be lopped and placed strategically on an eroded gully floor, the branches can be bundled and pegged creating a brush raft. The raft areas catch sediment that can be direct seeded using native grasses, sedges and rushes.
Look for wet patches above and below small erosion head cuts and use these sites for revegetation using locally sourced plants. Use bendy plants that slow the speed of the water including Juncus species, Carex appressa and Lomandra species. Trees that grow thick trunks should be avoided in confined gully beds and streams because tree trunks can deflect flood waters into banks and exacerbate the erosion problem.
Protect your soil from erosion is by maintaining 70- 80% ground cover in your paddocks and by limiting stock access to dams and dam spill ways. Erosion can be caused by overland flows from vegetation removal, dams, roads and gullies and by subsurface water movement. You can use simple clues to help you read your land, for example, are larger trees dying in patches? This could indicate that salinity is a problem. The eroded site at the property we visited was most likely being impacted by saline ground water which we learned also affects the water quality in the dam.
Mapping shallow ground water with an electrical conductivity survey gives an insight into the depth of the water resource and the salinity of an area. Windellama Landcare owns electrical conductivity (EC) mapping equipment and it can be hired for use by property owners and contractors. You should seek advice from South East Local Land Services to help you plan your erosion control work and EC mapping – Contact your Local Land Services office.
Eroded patches of sodic soils in gullies look like candle wax or stalactites. You can do a simple sodicity test using a small clod of soil and a clear dish. If area around the clod becomes cloudy, this indicates that the soil is sodic and might be highly erosive. Soil sampling of your farm could help you decide if you should be planting salt tolerant species at an eroded site.
Weirs, rock structures and rock/wire mesh weirs are all examples of “controlled activities” that may require a permit. Contact the Office of Water for advice about building structures including dams in drainage lines. As a general principle, water should always be returned to the same drainage line not diverted to another site. Before undertaking major works in water courses and gullies it is wise to check that your contractor has sought the correct approvals.
Jute or hessian can be used on bare eroded sites to create zones where vegetation can be established. ‘Burritos’ can be made by wrapping jute or hessian fabric around a mixture of forest mulch and compost which can then be laid on the contour and held in place using wire pegs. Mulched areas can then be seeded with a soil conservation grass mix or local native grasses. Once micro climates have been established other plants can be encouraged to grow using the brush raft technique described above.
Weeds such as blackberry and serrated tussock can be used as a resource to help provide mulch, organic matter and plant cover at eroded sites if they are already growing there. It is important though to manage weeds to prevent flowering or setting seed by cutting, spraying or manual removal. Chip and spray the weeds or cut the canes and leave them in situ on the gully floor or bank, this slows the flow of water and traps sediment. The area can be then planted with desirable plants and grasses. The thorny plants can act as protection for new plants during establishment. Continual monitoring of weed prone sites is important.
The SIX Maps website can be used to work out the size of the catchment for an erosion head cut. For example, using SIX Maps, Andy Taylor estimated that for 1 in 50 year high rainfall events, the gully on this farm would have one tonne of water per second flowing over it. That is equivalent to one intermediate bulk container (IBC)/second. Estimating catchment size, soil testing and electrical conductivity testing are just some of the tools that can be used when planning erosion control measures.
This workshop was an opportunity for a group of small farmers to learn and practice routine animal husbandry procedures for cows and calves. ‘Marking’ refers to a set of husbandry practices for calves that includes vaccination, ear tagging, castration, dehorning and mothering up.
Vaccinations are given subcutaneously – just under the skin. The best place to give the injection is on the side of the calf’s neck (see fact sheet on vaccinations below for a diagram). The 5-in-1 vaccination covers five clostridial diseases, namely pulpy kidney (enterotoxaemia), black disease, tetanus, blackleg, and malignant oedema. 7-in-1 covers the same diseases as 5-in-1 plus Leptospira harjo and Leptospira Pomona. Using 7-in-1 is recommended if you are keeping the stock for breeding. Keep vaccines cool in an esky while you are marking. Hygiene is important – keep the needles and injection site on the animal clean. To be effective these vaccines require an initial dose, a booster 4-6 weeks later and an annual booster.
Zoonosis refers to a disease or infection that can transfer from animals to humans – examples include Q Fever and Leptospirosis. People who work with animals should be vaccinated against Q-fever and understand how to minimise the risks of contracting these diseases.
Castrate calves as young as possible (around two weeks of age), not more than 3 months or younger than 24 hours. The rubber ring method is the easiest and safest method for small farmers to use on young calves. Using analgesia (pain relief) such as local anaesthetic and/or anti-inflammatory drugs could be beneficial to reduce pain and swelling at the castration site, and improve welfare. There is a 90 day withholding period for some medications given to calves.
If you have any concerns about the condition of stock in your area you can contact the NSW Stock Squad or RSPCA. It is not anonymous but it is strictly confidential and protected in accordance with the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act.
Call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888
Do not be afraid to contact or report to your District Veterinarian. District veterinarians can help with diagnostic investigations of unexplained deaths or herd syndromes and there are often funding arrangements in place. Some specific signs to report if noted in cattle: sudden or unexpected deaths, red or brown urine, cattle ticks, chronic wasting conditions, lumps along the neck, cysts in meat, or abortions/vaginal discharge.
Cattle Husbandry for introductory information on cattle husbandry and links to the National Livestock Information Scheme (NLIS) and National Vendor Declarations (NVDs) which must be used when buying, selling and moving cattle.
This workshop was funded by the Australian Government and supported by South East Local Land Services. Thanks Dr Lou Baskind from South East Local Land Services for her contribution to this summary.
We will not share any personal information collected by the Network in the course of running events with any other organisation unless if there is a legal requirement to do so. Contact the Small Farms Network Coordinator if you have any concerns about your privacy.