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RESOURCES FOR SMALL FARMERS

Our workshop summaries, webinars and videos

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  • 29 Sep 2016 6:07 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)
    This is an updated summary from a poultry workshop held in 2016. The workshop was led by Dr Jayne Weller from Exotic Animal Veterinary Service and Dr Kate Sawford the District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services. The main topics covered on the day were keeping chickens on a small scale, exotic and zoonotic diseases of poultry and farm biosecurity. The workshop was held at Carwoola Farm which has now ceased operations.

    The key take home messages from the workshop were:

    • When designing a chicken coop for layers it’s a good idea to keep the nesting boxes at a lower level than the roosting perches to encourage the chooks to sit on the perches at night rather than in the nesting boxes. Designing your hen house in this way will reduce the amount of poo in the boxes – and as a bonus you will get clean eggs.
    • Clean eggs are safer for consumption. Egg shells are porous and if eggs are heavily contaminated with poo, the bacteria can move into the egg and make you sick.
    • Clean next boxes are also healthier for the chooks. Bacterial can move up the chook’s reproductive tract while she is laying the egg, and these infections can be very serious.
    • If you are not producing your own chicks (from existing chooks and roosters), try to stick to either buying immunised chicks or using one trusted supplier to reduce the chance of introducing disease to your flock. Always quarantine new batches from existing birds for at least three weeks.
      Commercial feeds have been developed for climate-controlled large-scale commercial production. This will usually not be the best nutrition for your backyard layers. Provide your chickens with a diet containing 16% protein. If the feed has less protein than this, consider additional protein sources. You can also do online courses to learn how to make your own balanced diet for layers.
    • Chooks need additional sources of calcium to form the egg shell. If your commercial feed has less than 4% calcium, top it up with a little calcium powder (powdered limestone) and also offer free access to larger pieces of calcium source like oyster shell-grit or eggshells. If feeding eggshells back to the chooks, make sure all egg material has been cooked off in a low oven.
      Diagnosing sick chooks is very difficult – even for vets – and often requires an autopsy. Many diseases and nutrient deficiencies can have similar presentations. Often, symptoms are noticed when it is already too late. Prevention of disease and nutrient deficiency is definitely the way to go.
    • If one of your chickens happens to get sick, remove them from the main flock to reduce the risk of spread and put them in a temporary pen. This is called a hospital pen and should be far enough away that the sick chook can’t sneeze droplets onto the other chooks. On the other side of a solid structure is the best.
    • To stop chooks flying, you cut seven primary feathers on both wings. Cutting the feathers on only one wing makes the chook unbalanced and they can hurt themselves.
      You can make a quick pen using $50 temporary fence panels available from a well-known hardware store with an electric wire around the bottom.
      Chooks breathe in strange ways. They don’t have muscles to draw the air in. If you hold them to tight or squash them, they can’t breathe.
    • There are some home remedies to assist an egg-bound hen, but if you are not making progress quickly, they will need to be taken to a vet. The vet will anaesthetise them and remove the egg. They are at a high-risk of ongoing problems and may need medications. There is a permanent operation that vets can do to prevent it happening again but it is extremely expensive and they won’t lay eggs anymore.
    • Some illnesses in chickens, like salmonella and Avian Influenza can be passed on to humans. The government monitors for these diseases, especially those which are usually exotic to Australia, and others which can impact on our poultry industries. If you have chickens showing unusual symptoms, or many of them getting sick at once, you should contact your local District Veterinarian or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline. They will assess whether testing is required. They will not force you to destroy your poultry as a result of this testing unless the risk to public health is extremely high.

    Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline: 1800 675 888

    Contact your Local Land Services District Vet

    Resources and Information

    Here is a collection of websites and information which may be relevant to your small farm.

    NSW Food Authority website
    Small Egg Farms

    NSW Department of Primary Industries Primefacts and website
    DPI Keeping Poultry on a Small Scale

    Backyard Poultry Forum 
    http://forum.backyardpoultry.com/

    Common Diseases of Backyard Chooks

    This summary was updated with help of Dr Lou Baskind, District Veterinarian, South East Local land Services. The event was made possible with funding from South East Local Land Services and funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. 
  • 3 Jun 2016 10:33 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Former NSW Department of Agriculture Sheep and Wool Officer, Col Langford, led an informative and interactive discussion aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of livestock managers. An outdoor practical session followed where participants learned about estimating the age of a sheep, how to catch sheep and fat scoring along with pasture and weed assessment.


    South East Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Dr Kate Sawford detailed the legislative requirements for Property Identification Codes (PICS) and the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS). Did you know that all properties with stock (even just one animal) need a PIC? If you move sheep from one property to another then you need to record this in the online NLIS.

    There was also a discussion about drenching, sheep diseases and routine management of sheep. The WormBoss website is a good resource for finding out managing intestinal worms in sheep to avoid unnecessary drenching.

    Take home messages from the field day for participants Jennie and Susan were:

    1. Sheep have lice. Just like children have nits. So don’t buy “lousy” sheep. Check before you buy.
    2. In this region it is a good idea to supplementary feed pregnant ewes over winter. In June and July the pasture hardly grows at all and this is the time when pregnant ewes most need to maintain their weight.
    3. Sheep pellets are the equivalent of convenience food for sheep. While they use grains in their manufacture, they have lower nutritional value than grains and cost more to provide the same amount of energy to the sheep. You can’t even rely on them to use the same recipe every time so you should introduce each new batch slowly. You can use the by-products from malt whiskey distilling to supplement the feeding of your sheep. A wee dram of feed introduced slowly over two weeks will get them used to the taste.
    4. Dorper lambs can be very good at jumping.
    5. Fat score 2 is a very bony sheep. Fat score 3 is just right. It’s not hard to learn to take the fat score of sheep. If you cook a steak using the palm of your hand to test how well it’s cooked you can score a sheep.
    6. The best way to help with lambing is to keep the ewes at fat score 3 throughout their pregnancy. It’s true. All breeds can have easy births. Just like breeders advertise. It’s all down to the shepherd. A well-managed pregnant ewe will usually have an easy birth.
    7. You can have sheep and still have a life. It’s all down to planning. A yearly management calendar will let you know what needs to be done and when. You can then plan a holiday.


    Resources

    • Farm biosecurity measures can protect your property from the entry of pests and diseases and can save property owners time and money managing their stock. See www.farmbiosecurity.com.au
    • Information about PICs and South East Local Land Services information and advice can be obtained from southeast.lls.nsw.gov.au/livestock. Your local district veterinarian at South East Local Land Services can also provide you with information and advice on managing worms in your flock. There are some key measures that landholders can take to manage worms in their flocks including buying worm resistant rams, providing adequate nutrition particularity to pregnant ewes, doing regular worm counts and rotating drench types. See www.wormboss.com.au
    • Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline1800 675 888
    • The Tocal Agricultural College publishes a series of booklets designed to assist you in managing your enterprise. You can order the Sheep Agskills and Fencing Agskills booklets on line at www.tocal.nsw.edu.au/publications

    This field day was made possible by funding from the National Landcare Programme, from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services.

  • 2 Jun 2016 10:10 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Dr Dean Revell from Revell Science in Western Australia was the keynote speaker at the Fodder Trees and Shrubs for Grazing Systems field day in Bywong. Over 35 farmers attended to learn about how native fodder trees and shrubs can be incorporated into livestock systems.

    Dr Revell led a discussion about how fodder grazing systems using native shrubs combined with pasture can provide stock on small and large farms with feed during autumn and winter feed gaps (or any other time when the weather is being unkind). We learned that shrubs use ground water not accessible to grasses, bring nutrients to the surface for other plants to use and provide shade and shelter for grazing stock. Dr Revell also outlined the amazing ways in which stock learn to use fodder shrubs and how we can use animal behaviour to teach stock to eat new plants.

    Grazing systems using shrubs also benefit animals by reducing stress caused by extremes in temperature, allowing the metabolic system of the animal to work efficiently which keeps growth rates steady. Some shrub species also provide medicinal value to the livestock thereby reducing worm burdens and potentially methane gas production. Farm productivity improves by reducing the cost of inputs including supplementary feed and drenches. It also allows farmers flexibility in rotating paddocks and feed resources. The downside to fodder crops is the initial start-up cost, but economic modelling over the long term showed improved grazing productivity.

    Geoff Butler from Wamboin Gearys Gap Landcare was on hand to share his extensive knowledge on local plant species that could be suitable for fodder. He discussed the establishment of shelter belts and the importance of site preparation including ripping, time of planting and tube stock establishment. Establishing effective windbreaks can have many positive effects in farming systems in addition to slowing wind speeds at ground level including providing habitat for beneficial birds and insects, providing additional feed resources during drought (using fodder trees suitable for coppicing) and providing shade and shelter for stock.

    South East Local Landcare Services Officer Matthew Lieschke gave a seasonal update and demonstrated how to calculate supplementary feeding rates for livestock if you do not have any fodder shrubs to fill the gap.

    A key message from the field day is that incorporating native fodder shrubs into a grazing system can reduce the need to hand feed and that while stock are using the fodder shrub area, other pastures are able to recover better.

    Resources

    The Enrich Project that Dr Revell worked on has now finished but the reports from the project are available online:

    Perennial Fodder Shrubs – Key Findings from Enrich

    Perennial Forage Shrubs – From Principles to Practice on Australian Farms

    More information about the work of Dr Revell including a free worksheet for shrub forage calculations: www.revellscience.com.au

    Follow up book published by Mallee CMA: Native Forage Shrubs for Low-Rainfall Areas

    Local Land Services Seasonal Updates and Newsletters from southeast.lls.nsw.gov.au

    A list of native plants suitable for growing on small farms in the Capital Region is provided in the back section of the locally written book Look After Your Natural Assets.

    The field day was made possible with funding and support from South East Local Land Services.

  • 15 Nov 2015 10:58 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    A group of new and prospective small farm owners gathered in November 2015 for the first field day for the Small Farms Network Capital Region. The Small Farm Walk ‘n Talk was a friendly and information rich day held in Rossi on a small farm that has a mix of grazing land and native bush.


    In keeping with the challenges for this and many other small farms in our area, Matthew Lieschke (Local Land Services Livestock Officer) led a discussion about pasture management including identification of grasses and how to work out how many grazing animals are a realistic goal. Captains Flat Rural Fire Service talked about the fire risks and planning for fire (and yes there was a close inspection of their fire truck by interested parties at the end of the day). Alice McGrath (Local Land Services) talked about recognising the land capability class of your small farm, which gives you an idea of what farming activities it might be suited to. Donna Hazel (Local Land Services) led a discussion about remnant native vegetation including what types of trees, shrubs and grasslands are covered by the Native Vegetation Act.

    A clear message from the day is that if you are thinking of buying a small farm with the goal of running a particular type of farm, you should look for a property that is already suited to that type of enterprise. Steep slopes are hard to flatten, native trees often cannot be cleared, soil types are hard to change and rainfall is really not negotiable. If you already own the farm then you might need to adjust your goals to suit what you have.


    This field day, generously hosted by small farm owners Susan and Michael, was made possible through financial and organisational support from South East Local Land Services.

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