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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 a video showing ideas for yards for small flocks, a way to weigh sheep, a method for tipping sheep up and a variety of feeders.
Watch the video
Weigh bars and race set up
Homemade sheep feeder
Download design for sheep hay and pellet feeder used at Roogulli Farm (based on many others found in Google searches)
For general principles of yard design and the U-Bugle design in particular see The ‘U’ bugle sheep yard from NSW DPI.
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.
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 artefacts and asked a lot of questions about what to look out for on our own properties. Wally told us that Aboriginal artefacts retain the spirit of the person who made them and must be left in the location where they are found.
Karen Williams shared her knowledge of the early European history of the area, including a story about the first explorer in 1820, Joseph Wild. Jasmyn Lynch talked about the fragmented native vegetation that remains, including nationally threatened ecosystems such as the Temperate Grassland of the Southern Highlands, White Box, Yellow Box and Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland.
You can download a copy of Ngunawal-stories-of-Lake-George-2019, the handout prepared by the speakers. The notes include a comprehensive list of online resources.
Read more about the Aboriginal history and culture of the Canberra region by the Buru Ngunawal Aboriginal Corporation.
We all know that water is essential for life and making every drop count, especially during drought, is essential. How to maximise water harvesting and efficient irrigation methods was the focus of this workshop.
Two successful market gardeners from Canberra’s rural outskirts, Chris Curtis from Roogulli Farm and Geoff Foster from Jerabutt Organics showed us how they manage water and grow enough to sell at the local farmers market. Planning effectively for water resources on small farms is challenging. Running a commercial small-scale enterprise is a remarkable achievement during drought. Geoff and Chris manage to do both.
Chris Curtis has written two fact sheets on how to design a small-scale drip irrigation system and how much water to apply to different crops.:
Secure your water supply from the threat of bushfire. Geoff demonstrated his bore and pump set up with a backup generator if the power is cut. Geoff has designed the system so that the water used for firefighting can be sourced from the bore or the house tanks via gravity feed. There is a sprinkler system that surrounds the western fire sector of the house including one on the top of the bore shed.
Always use a tap timer so you don’t accidentally drain your tanks. Buy the cheapest tap timer you can because they are not very durable. Tap timers are suitable for low pressure set ups and automating the irrigation of garden beds.
When you dig a trench for irrigation consider laying an extra pipe for future upgrades. Geoff has a duel irrigation system from the bore and tanks. Two lines have been run in the same trench so if one water source dries up a back-up supply can be used.
You can fit your garden beds with two types of irrigation. Geoff uses fine sprays to establish seeds and seedlings. Once the plant roots have grown, pressure-compensating drip irrigation is put onto the beds.
Water NSW Farm Dam Handbook
How to calculate how much rainfall you can collect from a house roof
This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.
Horsewoman Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys shared her expertise with a group of participants over a two-day workshop in 2019.
This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program
Pastures for horses
NSW Local Land Services runs Prograze courses that can help property owners develop skills in managing their pasture. Contact your local office.
After colic, laminitis is the second largest killer of horses in Australia. Laminitis is caused by overconsumption of grasses or feeds high in sugar, but it is often associated with some other stress factor. The critical point to remember when feeding a horse with a high risk of foundering is to keep the structural carbohydrates low. The availability of sugars in grasses is impacted by a number of factors including the species of grass, moisture stress, time of day and amount of shade in a paddock. The production rate of sugar in grasses is linked to photosynthesis.
Perennial pastures require resting to maintain their leaf production and to be safe for horses at risk of laminitis to graze. Continually grazed grasses at the 1 leaf stage are high in sugar and can increase laminitis risk. More mature grasses in the three leaf stage of production have lower sugar levels. Native pasture grasses are lower in sugars than introduced pasture grasses. The types of grasses suitable for horses are different to those suitable for ruminants. Cattle and sheep digest sugars in grass in the rumen to feed the microbes in the stomach. In horses sugar is digested in the hindgut, from here the sugar enters the bloodstream which can cause metabolic syndromes such as laminitis.
Weeds in hay
Helena recommends that you monitor your feed sources, especially hay, for weed contamination. Some pasture grass hay can be contaminated with undesirable pasture species and weeds. If hay you are buying is cheap this is usually for a reason. If you are unsure of a grass species advertised you can look up the NSW DPI Weed Wise website and NSW Plant Net website.
The quote of the day was ‘feed to work’. Would it surprise you to learn that some pleasure horses are overfed? Helena explained how to calculate a ration for a horse based on condition score, growth stage, level of work, pasture availability and feed types.
You can create a feed budget for your horse using the links below. Having a feed budget can save you time and money and you can tailor the ration to what feeds are available. Please note that these are general guides and the condition of individual horses should be monitored to ensure animal welfare requirements are met.
FeedXL on line – application (fees apply) for working out feed requirements.
Worm testing and rotational grazing are critical elements in an effective worm management program. Some horses have high worm burdens, while others have developed natural resistance. The only way to find out if your horse needs a drench is by doing a faecal worm egg test. You can get testing kits from Local Land Services or many rural suppliers.
Integrated pest management for horse farmsPrimefact – Worm Control in Horses
According to Helena the best time to take soil samples is in October when the soil is depleted during the pasture growing season. Further advice about soil sampling and fertilising pastures can be found in the Fertilisers for Pastures booklet. Some benchmarks for healthy soils can be found here.
During the field day we looked at the soil test results from the property. The test results indicated that the soil pH was probably too low and the Aluminium too high. Y
Harrowing horse paddocks and using rotational grazing can help increase organic matter in the soil and reduce fertiliser costs. Soil testing and working out a nutrient budget can help you decide if additional fertilisers are required. Fertilisers for Pastures contains a guide to working out a nutrient budget for a horse property.
Pasture Management and Laminitis Risk
Diagnosing and treating gastric ulcers in horses
How to discourage your horse from eating sandPoisonous plants of horses field guideStrategic planning for horse properties
Owen Whitaker is a fifth generation farmer with 25 years’ experience revegetating farms and managing large scale revegetation projects. At this workshop he shared his revegetation wisdom and practical knowledge.
“Planting trees is an investment, well designed windbreaks can mitigate production losses from cold winds, improve pasture productivity, provide fodder and enhance biodiversity” Owen Whitaker 2019
Read more in The Economic Benefits of Native Shelter Belts
The 3 P’s of successful revegetation according to Owen are planning, preparation and persistence.
Owen Whitaker’s Planting Guide
Tips for revegetation projects:
Pottiputki Planting Tool (above)
Owen’s tips for direct seeding:
More information:A Guide to Native Pasture ManagementGreening Australia Revegetation Guides for Victoria Guide for planting temperate grasslandsPlant Net Online – Comprehensive listing of plants in NSWBraidwood Local Planting Guide for Upper Shoalhaven LandcareA Guide to Managing Grassy Box Woodlands
This workshop explored options available for fox and rabbit control in peri-urban areas. The workshop presenters were Nicky Clark and Phil McGrath, Biosecurity Officers from South East Local Land Services and Alice McGlashan, a local small farmer.
A combination of management tools delivers the best results when it comes to managing feral animals. To manage rabbits and foxes, persistence and planning is required.
Alice showed us methods that she uses to ‘out fox a fox’ when it comes to soft jaw trapping combined with wildlife cameras. The benefit of soft jaw trapping is that non target species including your neighbours’ dog, possums and other wildlife can be released.
When deciding on where to focus your control program, a wildlife camera can be helpful. Foxes tend to use established pathways and young kits will follow adult paths even if the adult has been killed. You can use a trail camera to learn the favoured routes and pathways of the foxes so you know where to set the traps. This might include locations close to the tracks, chicken pens and adjacent to fences and gates. Once you have established their typical routes on your property, you can use the information to set fox traps in the same place in subsequent years.
Alice’s tips for buying a trail camera: you get what you pay for, it is worth shopping around and USA sites will often be cheaper. There have been advances in camera technology over the past few years. A no-glow camera is essential. Do not buy a low glow/red glow camera because the light is visible and foxes are put off by the glow.
The use of soft jaw leg hold traps requires skill and training but the results can be good in peri-urban areas. The use of the traps is governed by legislation. The traps should be buried in soil or sand and disguised with surrounding leaf litter. Alice demonstrated laying a number of traps around a bait like a dead chicken or other meat. She suggested wearing gloves and minimising body contact with the ground and nearby objects to minimise the human scent left in the area. Ensure that the trap chains are secure.
Once you have trapped the fox you can transfer to fox to a cage and cover the cage with a blanket. Local Land Services biosecurity officers are licensed to euthanize foxes or you can organise a local shooter.
Alice has published guides to managing predators and using trail cameras.
Nest Box Tails Feral Predator Control
Wildlife cameras for feral predator monitoring
Nicky and Phil advised that Spring and Autumn are the best times to manage foxes. Options for control include laying 1080 baits, trapping and shooting. Other exclusion methods such as fencing and companion animals can also be used.
South East Local Land Services delivers training on the use of 1080 baits for fox control to minimise risk to other animals. If you use a 1080 baiting program it is essential that the baits are laid in the areas where foxes travel. Any uneaten baits must be picked up to avoid poisoning non-target species.
In NSW there is a Fox Control Pest Order and control programs are most effective when a number of neighbours in an area work together. According to the Department of Primary Industries, re-invasion by foxes can re occur within two to six weeks so ongoing planning and trapping over a number of years and in coordination with neighbours delivers the best results.
More information about managing foxes:
Principles of pest animal management
Standard operating procedure for using soft jaw traps for foxes
Feral Scan website
1080 and Pindone are toxins registered for rabbit control and are listed under the Pest Control Orders issued by the Environment Protection Agency. To use these baits you need to undertake training with Local Land Services. Contact your local office for more information.
Nicky and Phil suggest the following steps for effective rabbit control:
More information for rabbit management:
Local Land Services Rabbit Control
Uses and effects of 1080 poison
Soft jaw trapping of rabbits
NSW DPI Rabbit Control
This project received funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.
Learning to identify grass weeds, pasture grasses and native plants was the focus of this Farmers Postcard event led by Kris Nash and Fiona Leach, Agricultural Adviser with South East Local Land Services.
Kris showed the participants how to use the morphology of a grass plant for identification, most importantly the ligule and auricle on the sheath of the grass stem. Here are copies of Kris’s handouts explaining the different parts of grasses and identification of grass weeds and native grasses:
Parts of grasses
Field ID for native grasses
Field ID for exotic grasses
Clearing for agriculture, grazing and urban development has seen the decline of natural temperate grasslands in Australia. There is now only 0.5% of natural temperate grasslands left in Australia. Preserving and managing this declining valuable resource is very important.
You need some disturbance regime to manage native grassland. Aboriginal people used traditional burning techniques to manage the diversity of species living in an area.
Grass weeds are like teenagers, they change their appearance with the season making them difficult to identify at different times of the year.
Tips to maintain a healthy pasture:
African Love Grass can be distinguished from Hairy Panic by looking at the seed. The seed head of African Love Grass has one seed on the end of the pinnacle. Older plants often look messy at the base with old curly leaves in the centre of the thatch. African Love Grass has a higher feed value than Serrated Tussock but is very invasive.
African Love Grass fact sheet
Serrated Tussock fact sheet
Chilean Needle Grass fact sheet
The purpose of this workshop was to demonstrate how to design and install electric fencing in ways that make a small farm more productive and increase the range of plants and animals living there. Dean Paton from Gallagher Fencing, Matt Chidgey from Southern Ag and David Hilhorst from Works for Water were the presenters.
Some key points from the workshop:
More information about earthing systems can be found here.
Resources and links
Guidelines for fencing in flood prone areas
Wildlife friendly fencing design
Fencing how and where for small farms
Basic Information on Electric fencing
Gallagher Fencing Website
There are a range of fencing materials online. The product demonstrated at this workshop was from Gallagher but you could also try Waratah Fencing.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a spiritual connection with the land, which 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 everyday 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 artefacts, 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 Ngunnawal 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 Ngunnawal language ‘djan yimaba’. You can find more information about Ngunawal language in the links section below.
Some Aboriginal people used to bend 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.
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 the 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.
Australian National Botanic Gardens Aboriginal Trail
PDF Information Resources Aboriginal Plant Uses – Australian National Botanic Gardens
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.
Protect and manage objects – Office of Environment and Heritage
Aboriginal Plant Uses in Southern Australia
ACT Environment and Planning Website for indigenous NRM
Plant Net Flora online – http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/
Aboriginal Cultural Heritage ACT pdf brochure – includes pictures of plants
Ngunnawal Plant Use book
Ngunnawal language – simple list of words
Language revival project – https://aiatsis.gov.au/research/research-themes/ngunawal-language-revival-project
Indigenous Weather Calendar BOM
Indigenous weather knowledge
Dr Jane Morrison from Coopers Animal Health and Dr Alexandra Stephens from South East Local Land Services spent the day with our participants guiding them through the theory of worms and the practical aspects of worm management. Our hosts Suzie and Catherine showed participants how to do DIY faecal egg counts using a microscope.
The following points were the highlights of the workshop for Tracey, one of the participants.
1. Learning about the life cycle of the different worms in sheep and cattle was really important. I now understand how the worm life cycle can help inform strategic grazing decisions and the class of animal that you might graze on a particular paddock. I found out that temperature and rainfall impact on the survival of worm eggs and larvae on the pasture. There are two main life cycles of worms direct and indirect. Direct life cycles involve only one host, for example round worms and indirect life cycles involve two different types of hosts.
Round worm life cycle
Liver fluke life cycle – an example of an indirect worm life cycle.
2. Using faecal egg count tests can help inform decision making about drenching livestock and potentially save me time and money. The demonstration of how faecal egg counting is done helped me understand that using worm testing is a good management tool that can enable targeted use of drenches when needed.
Drench decision guide for sheep
3. Overall, the main benefit of the workshop for me is that I now realise how much detail there is in controlling worms in animals and that improving my knowledge about worms and their management can make a big difference to their health.
Five key components of a worm management strategy
Grazing management is the most important factor in controlling worms. Grazing management can include spelling paddocks and choosing the best clean paddocks for the classes of stock that have the highest nutritional demands and susceptibility to worms (weaners and pregnant or lactating ewes). Control worms without drench by using good grazing management including ‘smart grazing’, cross grazing with other species, rotational grazing and the use of fodder crops.
Grazing management and worms
Breed and feed for worm resistance. Older animals in good condition have higher immunity to worms than young or poorer animals. Adult cattle and sheep are good at developing worm immunity, except when they are lambing/calving and lactating. Aim for a condition score of 2.5 or above for more resilient animals with stronger immunity. Rams and breeding ewes can be selected for worm resistance – some breeds may have higher immunity to worms including Corriedale and Border Leicester sheep.
Use strategic drenching and good drenching principles. Dose correctly to the heaviest animals, calibrate the drench gun, use faecal egg counting to check drench efficiency and choose combination drenches with 2 plus additives. Use long acting drenches judiciously as they can accelerate resistance in worms. Always use a quarantine drench when you purchase new stock even if you have been told that the animals have been drenched. There are special drench combinations that should be used for quarantine drenching. Drench lambs/calves at weaning as they are highly susceptible to worms and are usually being weaned during high worm risk weather. Seek further advice form a vet if you need help.
Tactical drenching – these are drenches that are used when a faecal egg count test shows a high result or the animals show clinical signs of worm infestation.
The difference between tactical and strategic drenches – WormBoss
Manage worm resistance by informing yourself about the causes and what you can do to help prevent it. Get advice about interpreting faecal egg count tests and managing worms in livestock. Drenching may not be necessary if egg counts are low.
Managing drench resistance
You can contact your Local Land Services office for guidance on managing worms in livestock. Kits for faecal egg count tests are available free from Local Land Services offices and many rural suppliers.
The WormBoss website provides a comprehensive toolkit for managing worms.
Worm Control in Cattle – the Basics – NSW DPI Fact Sheet
Cattle parasite atlas – Meat and Livestock Australia – a comprehensive guide to managing cattle parasites in the different regions of Australia.
South East Local Land Services Animal Health Update – this update includes information on Barbers Pole Worm and Bioworma.
Worm Boss Canberra Region Drench Program
Worm Control in Horses – it’s all changed – Dr Petrea Wait (scroll down to the Animal Health Update February 2018)
DIY worm egg counting
Worm test for livestock and guide to egg counts
Liver Fluke guide from WormBoss
Small Farms Network Capital Region IncPO Box 313BungendoreNSW 2621