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This workshop was held in Tarago on Sunday 2 May 2021. Our presenters were Ross Kuchel, Agricultural Adviser from South East Local Land Services, Peter and Penny Dagg from Eastern and White Dorpers, Fiona McNeil from Bent Shed Produce and Stephanie Helm from The Vintner’s Daughter.
The topics covered included farm planning, water resources, managing risk, farm business resources, business planning, biosecurity, moving livestock and taking care of your natural assets.
Plan, plan and plan was Ross’s clear message. Knowing your personal values and goals can help you develop the priorities for your land and farm business. Understanding your legal obligations when it comes to managing water, weeds, vegetation and livestock is important. More information about how to do this can be found in the Rural Living Guide and by contacting your nearest Local Land Services Office.
Penny Dagg discussed starting out with livestock, managing a sheep stud, biosecurity and animal health. Penny told us how difficult and expensive it was to buy water and feed during the drought. Penny’s advice is to plan for the extremes and prepare to de-stock if necessary. Importing feed from outside the region can increase the biosecurity risk of getting new weeds that don’t normally grow at your place. Penny’s top tip: don’t be afraid to ask for advice, everyone starting out on the land needs help and support.
Stephanie Helm shared her family’s experience running a small winery and cellar door during COVID-19 and how the crisis led to a decision to start online marketing and to diversify into other farm enterprises to manage risk. Stephanie showed us how it is possible to integrate animals into a horticultural business and reduce chemical use at the same time. Stephanie’s top tips are take the time to create a business plan, develop your business skills and learn how to use social media.
Fiona McNeil’s key point was don’t forget to pay yourself a living wage. For unskilled labour this is a minimum of $25/hour and for skilled labour aim for around $50/hour. The Australian Taxation Office website can help you work out labour, car and other business expenses. Fiona discussed the challenge of working full time while juggling a business and how health can change your priorities. Her top tips are to contact the Business Enterprise Centre for support and look out for changes to council zoning that could affect your chosen enterprise.
Farm Planning Ideas - Local Land Services
Sustainable Farms - 10 Ways to Improve you Natural Assets
National Livestock Identification Scheme
Order of Streams NSW Water
Business Enterprise Centre Queanbeyan
Business Planning Templates
Native Vegetation Planning
Thank you to our presenters and the Country Women’s Association Tarago Branch for supplying delicious food for this event.
This workshop was made possible with funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program and in-kind support from South East Local Land Services.
Do you have an alpaca or two? Would you like more information on how to care for them? Perhaps you inherited a few when you purchased your small farm. This webinar with Dr Lou Baskind is about the basic care and management of alpacas and was recorded on the 3 March 2021.
You can view the YouTube recording of the webinar here.
1. Alpacas have a digestive system similar but not the same as other ruminants such as cattle. Alpacas have three stomachs and they chew their cud. Alpacas are more efficient at digesting low quality feed than other ruminants and have a lower risk of bloat compared to cattle. BUT that does not mean that you don’t have to watch what they eat. Alpacas have a requirement for long stemmed grass at all times for their gut to work efficiently. Pregnant and lactating females (called hembras) have a higher requirement for energy and protein. If there is a lot of green grass you might want to consider supplementing them with low quality feed for fibre.
Body condition scoring of alpacas
2. Alpacas must have a at least one companion otherwise they will fret. Alpacas have very strong herding instincts and need the companionship of other alpacas to thrive, it is best to provide each alpaca with a companion alpaca of the same gender.
3. Alpacas have a strong instinct to bond with other grazing herd animals and this has resulted in the growing use of wethered adult male alpacas or adult females as sheep and goat flock guardians. They have a strong instinct to fend off dogs and foxes to protect their flock.
4. Vitamin D deficiency – because alpacas come from high altitudes, even in Australia they can suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Crias (baby alpacas up to the age of 3) are most at risk of the disease. Prevention is the easiest treatment; you can do this by shearing the alpacas and by giving them a vitamin D injection every year. A deficiency in vitamin D can cause problems with calcium absorption.
5. Alpacas are susceptible to worms and liver fluke. These parasites are best controlled by integrated worm management, with consideration given to regular worm testing, creating worm free paddocks and targeted use of drenches.
Worms and alpacas
CRIA Genesis Website - A comprehensive website about alpacas.
Low stress animal handling
Tocal College Alpaca Ag Skills
Australian Alpaca Association
This webinar was made possible through funding from the NSW Environmental Trust through it’s Every Bit Counts Project and with in-kind support from South East Local Land Services Vet Dr Lou Baskind.
At this webinar Bill Handke from the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group Inc. discussed why a feral bird, the Indian Myna, is a problem and what actions you can take at home to manage them.
The webinar was recorded on the 17 March 2021 and you can view the recording here.
A copy of Bill’s PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here.
This is a summary of the five key points from the webinar:
1. Indian Mynas are native to the Indian subcontinent and are highly invasive, adaptive and intelligent. The birds were introduced into Melbourne in 1862 to control pests in market gardens and have subsequently spread along the eastern Australian seaboard. They are classed as one of the top 100 invasive species worldwide and are implicated in species decline and extinction because they prey on native animals and birds and compete with them for food and nesting sites. In Canberra, the impact of Indian Mynas on native birds has been studied by ANU researchers who identified they have a severe impact on birds such as rosellas, wrens, Willy Wagtails, Silvereyes and Whistlers.
2. Indian Mynas were introduced into Canberra in 1968 and have been recorded in densities of up to 250 birds/km2. Indian Mynas are a major threat to native wildlife because they:
3. Indian Mynas pose a human health risk because they carry bird mites and blood-borne parasites that can be transmitted to humans. They can increase the fire risk in rooves by creating nests in roof cavities. They are also a pest for agricultural, viticultural and horticultural industries. A major concern to the public is the loss of social amenity because of Mynas fouling backyards and BBQ areas, their raucous calls and their displacement of native birds.
4. The experience in Canberra indicates that trapping is highly successful and is the best method for controlling and removing the birds. Indian Myna bird trap designs can be found below. The disposal of animals once they have been trapped has been approved by the RSPCA. Training and support from the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group is provided for people interested in trapping Mynas in their backyards.
5. You can also help at home by reducing feeding opportunities, eliminating nesting sites in roofs and reducing roosting sites. Avoid planting trees with dense foliage, such as pencil pines, in which Mynas will roost at night.
Useful links and information:
Canberra Indian Myna Action Group
A website dedicated to help people manage and control Indian Mynas.
Indian Myna Information Sheet
Indian Myna Trap Plan
Indian Myna - the flying cane toad
Trapping Help Sheet and Protocol on Animal Welfare
MynaScan is a resource developed to help community members, pest controllers and biosecurity groups to map sightings and the damage that Myna birds cause, and coordinate control efforts with local community groups. MynaScan is free, easy to use, and can help you develop a detailed map of Myna bird activity in your local area. You can also upload images for accurate record keeping.
This webinar was made possible with funding from the NSW Environmental Trust through Every Bit Counts Project. Thank you to Bill Handke and the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group for their support of this webinar.
Alice McGlashan has spent many years monitoring feral animal predators and wildlife on her property just outside of Canberra. At this webinar/paddock walk she discussed her observations and methods for filming animals to help other small farmers set up monitoring programs for their properties. A useful links section is included at the end of this summary.
You can view the recording of the webinar on the 27 February 2021 HERE.
The key messages from the webinar and paddock walk are summarised below:
1. The key design features to look for in a wildlife camera are;
2. When thinking about where to put your camera, start at the places where you think feral predators are active (i.e., around chicken pens, along fence lines, well used paths). Foxes and their young are habitual and will follow the same paths each night. Leave your camera in the same location for 7 days.
3. Choose the height of your camera a little higher, or at the same height as the body of the animal you are wanting to monitor. For foxes and cats this is just below knee height.
4. Moving foliage and long grass can trigger the camera. If at all possible, choose a location where the camera is not looking towards long grass or shrubs. If you don’t have a choice, review the camera footage and erase the SD card. At the same time change the camera batteries (if they are flat). Change the SD and batteries every 2-3 days as needed if the weather is other than very calm.
5. Wildlife cameras can record still images or video (with sound). Video is great for recording animal behaviours, however fill up the SD card and flatten the camera batteries quicker than recording still images. Still images are great for recording presence/absence of animals. Set the camera to record still images (not video) if you wish to leave the camera in a remote location for several weeks to months without needing to replace the SD card or batteries. For easy to access locations where the camera will be checked every 1-2 weeks, choose video or still images depending on the purpose of the survey.
6. For wildlife monitoring – do not use baits or attractants to lure wildlife to your camera location. This can change the behaviour of the animal you are trying to monitor and put them at risk of predator attack or harmful to their health. Instead choose a camera location that will observe them in their natural environment. Direct the camera towards animal paths, rotten logs, rock piles, shrubby undergrowth, tree hollows and at tree trunks - depending on which animals you are seeking to observe.
7. Your scent can deter predators from visiting an area. Attaching the camera can be fiddly, Alice suggests you practice setting the camera up in an area that you will not be monitoring. When you set the camera in the monitoring location use a ground sheet and gloves so your scent is not transferred to the camera installation location, and the camera itself.
8. Use short sticks of varying thickness behind the installed camera (horizontal) to angle the camera up or down as needed when strapped to a tree, fence post or similar. And ensure the camera is very firmly strapped in location to prevent it from being dislodged by an animal.
Camera Loan Program for Members (insert details and links)
Alice recorded a 9 minute demonstration video on how to use a wildlife camera, see the link below.
Video - how to use a wildlife camera
Pest animal monitoring techniques PEST SMART
WIRES - Information about feeding wild animals
Setting up a Browning Trail Camera
SFNCR fox and rabbit workshop.
This event is made possible with funding from South East Local Land Services.
This workshop was held at the Mulloon Institute on the 5 December 2020 (with social distancing). Our guest speakers were Peter Hazell and Anne Gibson from the Mulloon Institute and Jennie Curtis from Roogulli Farm.
What is the water cycle? It can be illustrated by the diagram below.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The water cycle is essential to life on earth and 65% of rainfall is produced over land.
Peter explained to us that the small water cycle on your farm can be influenced by management. If there is insufficient water in the soil, on its surface and in plants, solar energy cannot be transformed into latent heat that produces water evaporation but is instead changed into sensible heat. The surface of the ground soon overheats, and as a result, a breakdown in the supply of water from the large water cycle arises over the affected land (Source Europeanwater.org). We learnt that farmers can maximise the water potential of their farm by increasing soil carbon, rotational grazing, maintaining ground cover, avoiding bare soil, planting trees, installing simple structures to encourage water infiltration and reducing the effects of erosion.
The Mulloon Institute has been working with local farmers along Mulloon Creek. These are the three main principles of the Mulloon Creek Rehydration Initiative:
1. De-energise flood waters by putting leaky weir structures in Mulloon Creek. The leaky weirs spread nutrients and water across the flood plain. The recharged ground water is released back into the creek system in times of drought and habitat is created in the resulting chain of ponds. The Mulloon Institute is monitoring the project including stream flows and water quality.
2. Slow the speed of surface water runoff higher in the landscape. At the Mulloon Institute they achieve this in steep areas using swales, leaky weirs and non-permanent structures in first and second order streams. Water energy is dissipated and stored in vegetation below the swales.
3. Increase surface roughness using vegetation, rocks and plants to create niches and microclimates. This conserves water in the landscape, creates habitat for wildlife and potentially increases feed resources for grazing.
Peter described simple ideas such as creating a wetland upstream from a dam or in the inflow area of the dam to catch sediment. He also suggested making brush packs using unwanted plants such as Kunzea and blackberry to place along the contour as small-scale solutions to reducing runoff and improving water quality.
Find out more information about the Mulloon Institute Rehydration Initiative here.
Jennie Curtis is a landscape architect who manages Roogulli Farm in Bywong with her husband Chris. The farm is a mixed enterprise with a Babydoll Southdown sheep stud and a market garden. These are key points from Jennie’s presentation:
The guiding principles that Jennie uses are:
The placement of structures in water courses requires rigorous engineering and planning. Weirs, rock structures are examples of ‘controlled activities’ that may require a permit and approval. It is wise to check that your contractor is aware of these requirements before building any structures in water courses.
Find out about Water Licencing and Compliance here.
Contact NSW Water Advisory Services on 1800 353 104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital elevation model and contours from Geoscience Australia
Water recovery for the climate: a new water paradigm
Peter Andrews - Natural Sequential Farming
Rivers of Carbon - What are swampy meadows and chains of ponds and why we need them
NSW Local Land Services. Chapter on water in Rural Living Handbook
Small Farms Network Capital Region Irrigation workshop
Small scale ideas for managing erosion
Information on dams, building dams and water on small farms
What is a swale?
Swales? Or Not to Swale?
This event was funded by the NSW Government through an Increasing Resilience to Climate Change (IRCC) Community Grant. You can find out more about the IRCC projects here.
At our online meeting Dr Jason Condon chatted with farmers Jennie Curtis, Allan Spencer and Harji Dhindsa about the soil test results from the demonstration plots on their farms.
Soil samples were taken from each farm in September from a ‘good patch’ and ‘bare patch’ of soil in the demonstration plots. The soil from the bare patch plots was bulked. The soil was sampled at depths 0-5, 5-10, 10-15 and 15-20cm to see what was going on in the different soil layers.
Jason discussed what the soil test results mean and the differences between the patches, soil depths and farms. We recommend you take the time to listen to Jason’s presentation. He explains how to interpret the soil test results including soil pH, aluminium, potassium, cation exchange capacity, organic carbon, exchangeable sodium percentage, soil electrical conductivity and calcium/magnesium ratio. He then goes on to suggest actions that can be taken to improve the soil health on each farm.
This meeting was recorded on the 16 November 2020 and you can view the video here.
Jason explained the demonstrations sites have their own unique factors that are limiting plant growth and contributing to the bare patches. It was fascinating to learn about how the “Law of the Minimum’ works in practice and how soil structure can affect plant growth.
Key messages from the meeting:
This is a summary of the key differences between the project sites.
Soil Acidity and Liming AGFACT
Identifying dispersive sodic soils
Assessing soil aggregate stability
Cycling on phosphorus in grazing systems
You can catch up on the latest Grassing the Bare Patches Project here.
Dr Jason Condon is a soil scientist and educator from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, a partnership of NSW Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University based in Wagga Wagga.
The Small Farms Network Capital Region received funding for this project from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.
At this event Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys spoke at a webinar and then in afternoon led two paddock walks where she identified pasture species. In the webinar Helena discussed the critical elements of establishing and maintaining grazing pastures in a challenging and changing climate.
You can watch the webinar recording.
See more about land classes
The MLA Pasture Soil Health Kit contains information on ground cover management and stocking rates.
Limiting soil factors can include:
A soil pH of less than 5.5 can reduce some nutrient availability and cause aluminium toxicity that will affect plant growth and legume nodulation. Over time, soils in the Southern Highlands have become more acidic due to cropping and agriculture. Some plants are more adapted to low soil pH, salinity and low rainfall. For example, Serradella is more tolerant of acid soil and Balansa Clover tolerates saline soils but generally it is easier to address the soil pH problem rather than try to find plants that will grow in increasingly acidic soils.
See more about soil pH
4. Pasture establishment requires water and the correct soil temperature. The type of plant you want to grow will dictate the best time for planting. C3 grasses are temperate grasses and C4 grasses are adapted to warm conditions. Having a mix of both types of grasses can help you grow more pasture throughout the year. Native pastures are generally well adapted to surviving drought conditions.
Grazing Management for Native Pastures
Tactical Grazing to Maximise Animal and Pasture Productivity
Weed removers, pasture improvers – effective weed control.
Pasture Species and Varieties
Grasses of the NSW Tablelands
Grass Habits and Habitats
Farming Forecaster – a tool for monitoring soil moisture and ground cover
Agrifutures – free downloads and resources
Weeds Poisonous to Horses - free downloadable PDF.
C3 and C4 native grasses
In the afternoon Helena led two paddock walks through old pastures in Bywong where we learned to identify pasture plants and looked at the pH profile in soil cores using a home pH testing kit.
Pasture plants we looked at
Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is red at the base and has shiny leaves. Considered a good pasture grass, but not good for horses as it is high in sugar. See more
Giant Brome Grass (Bromus diandrus) also know as rip gut brome is annual tufted grass to 100 cm tall with sharp seed heads. Common in disturbed areas, such as road sides and stick camps. Considered a weed and has limited feed value. May produce useful early spring feed but is only palatable when it is vegetative. Seeds can damage the eyes, mouth and guts of stock. See more
Prairie Grass (Bromus catharticus) a tufted short lived grass to 150cm tall. The leaves are sparsely hairy and bright green. This grass has higher feed value than Giant Brome Grass. See more
Common Wheat Grass (Anthsachne scabra), a native cool season perennial grass to 100cm tall. The leaves typically have a twist and the flag leaf sticks out at a right angle. The leaf sheaths are hairy and auricles are present. A minor component of pastures but is drought and frost tolerant. See more
Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) an introduced perennial pasture grass. Cocksfoot is tolerant of acidic soils (down to pH 4.0 and have high exchangeable aluminium).
To differentiate Cocksfoot from Phalaris (Phalaris aquatica) grass, the stem of Cocksfoot rolls in your fingers like a flat tyre, while the Phalaris stem is round and rolls easily. The seedheads are also different. In the photo below, a Phalaris grass stem is shown on the left and Cocksfoot is on the right.
See more about Cocksfoot and Phalaris.
Subterranean Clover (Trifolium subterraneum) has small white pea like flowers on stems that bury the seed into the soil (like a bur). The leaf of the subterranean clover is heart shaped and hairy with equal leaf storks. See more
White Clover (Trifolium repens) is a perennial, aerial seeding clover with white flowers and often a pale green stripe across the leaves. See more
Balansa Clover (Trifolium michalelianum) Introduced cool season annual, the seed heads consist if many white pea like flowers held on stems above the ground. The flowers are white to pink. It is a hard seeded annual clover that tolerates waterlogging. See more
Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis) an erect, short-lived, tussock forming perennial grass with leaves 3-5mm wide. Rough to touch on the top and shiny below. The auricles are stem clasping and hairless. See more
Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) grass is common in stock camp and low lying areas. It has furry leaves that many stock do not like to eat. Erect tufted greyish grass, covered in velvety hairs. The flower heads are purplish to white. Regarded as a weed. See more
Wallaby Grass (Danthonia species) is shown in the photo below, a native grass that survives drought. The leaf has a hairy ligule where it joins the stem. This feature is present in the many species of Wallaby Grass. See more
Spear Grass (Austrostipa spp) a native grass, good for biodiversity. Can grow year round but most productive in spring. Leaves are fine, inrolled, usually rough to touch. See more
This project is supported by the NSW Government Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Increasing Resilience to Climate Change community grants program. More information about the program can be found here.
Climate change is a big thing. How do we tackle it and prepare for it? The Small Farms and Climate Change Forum on 5 September 2020 was an opportunity to examine these issues and identify the topics that small farmers want to learn about in relation to climate change.
You can view the recording of the Forum presentations here.
Our guest speakers were Melinda Hillery, Senior Project Officer, Climate Resilience and Net Zero Emissions Branch, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and farmers Harry Watson from Millpost Merino and Helena Warren from Cadfor Agistment and Murray Greys.
Below is a summary of the key points discussed at the Forum and links to more resources on climate change.
Mel Hillery provided a snapshot of the projected changes to weather patterns in the near future (around 2030) and the far future (around 2070) as a result of climate change. She suggested the best way to prepare for climate change is to know (inform yourself about climate change), assess how climate change might impact us and respond by taking positive actions to prepare for climate change.
KNOW: What we know from climate research and historical observation
Climate change is happening now. We are already seeing impacts of increasing global temperatures such as changing snow seasons, bushfire, floods and droughts. There are flow-on effects to native ecosystems and impacts on farming and aquaculture. Examples include bushfire smoke taint to grapes and increasing ocean temperatures that have led to tropical species moving further south.
The areas that have warmed the most since 1970 are in Eastern Australia and the observed increase has been 0.3-0.4 degrees/decade. Further information on historical climate change in our region is available at the Bureau of Meteorology website.
Modelling for the South East and Tablelands region of NSW suggests that by 2030 the number of hot days will increase with 5-10 extra hot days above 35 degrees Celsius per year compared to 1960-1990.
Rainfall projections under climate change are more complicated. It is expected that there will be more rainfall extremes and it is projected that spring rainfall will be reduced. These changes are indicated in all of the climate models from the NSW Government.
ASSESS: What climate change means for you and your community
Mel suggests a vulnerability assessment is better for small farmers than a risk assessment.
These are the key features of a vulnerability assessment:
Use this to plan ahead. This is where we move from ‘business as usual' to how can we adapt to climate change.
RESPOND: Adaptation and transition to a low carbon future
The NSW Government has a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Good news includes work being done by the Cobargo Community post fires and the Yass Area Network Climate Ready Revegetation Project. You can find out more about these projects here.
Harry Watson and Helena Warren provided us with case studies about how they are managing and adapting to climate change.
Key points from Harry:
Some useful texts:
Permaculture - Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Holistic Management Handbook
Water for Every Farm - Yeoman's Keyline Plan
Key points from Helena:
Resources and further information
Further information on climate change and adaptation can be found in the links below:
NSW Government Adapting to Climate Change
Impact of climate change on biodiversity
Specific snap shots for soil erosion and biodiversity have been developed and can be viewed on the Adaptation Research Hub website.
Information on climate ready trees and revegetation
Which Plant Where?
Information on the importance of soil organic matter
More information on C3 and C4 grasses.
More information on Blue Tongue disease and its movement south.
This event was made possible with funding from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Increasing Resilience to Climate Change Community Grants Program.
Allan, a small farmer in Bywong, tells us about his truffle farm.
Watch the video
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 ruminant 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 copy of the slides from the presentation
The three common problems that weeds can cause in livestock are:
St John’s Wort poisioning
Bracken fern poisoning
Australia’s poisonous plants, McKenzie, R 2012
NSW DPI Weeds Wise App
Small Farms Network Capital Region IncPO Box 313BungendoreNSW 2621