ROSEVALE farmers Tim and Katherine Reed have cut synthetic fertiliser use by more than 75 per cent by using bio stimulants, for example seaweed extracts, for improved winter forage production.
The innovative couple has recently hosted a field day to share their experiences of using annual species introduced into their perennial pastures for improved winter forage production.
The young couple, who have two boys, five-year-old Will, and Harry, 2½, have been putting more focus into soil health to improve the farm’s health, cut costs and leave a legacy for their sons.
Their farm, Wenlock, is on 93ha with 65ha under pasture. The operation runs a Black Angus breeding self-replacing herd of about 50.
They run about 40 to 50 fatteners, which they sell mainly to Greenhams or through AuctionPlus.
“We also have a mob of 14 breeding Australian Miniatures goats,” Tim said. “We hardly use any chemicals, no pesticides, very limited herbicides only in real problem areas.”
Tim said a process of simply spreading seed and using a shallow speed disk, digging in about 30 to 50mm, was able to establish annual species without killing diverse perennial pasture.
This approach has seen increased production that equated to less silage feed out over winter.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how the paddocks bounce into spring,” Tim said. On a 2.5ha paddock, used for strip grazing, he put in a perennial mix of cereal rye, saia oats, black oats, Italian rye, tic beans, crimson clover, vetch, lupins, forage brassica and chicory.
“This paddock gets hammered, so it was time to freshen up.”
He put in 55kg of fertiliser to a hectare, taking little over one hour to sew the paddock.
It cost about $200 and should produce feed until November.
Tim and Katherine recently held a field day at Wenlock in conjunction with Soil First Tasmania, of which Tim is president.
Soil First Tasmania is a farmer-led group promoting soil health across all forms of agriculture.
“We had a good turnout of about 18 farmers. We get farmers working on 50ha to thousands of hectares.
“We have held field days in the past with Tamar NRM as part of the Healthy Soils Discussion Groups supported by MLA.
“I’ve come into this farm from a horticulture background. It’s about stimulating the life in your soils, worms and adding compost.
“It takes time to change from conventional farming but it’s important to experiment, be transparent on what works and what doesn’t, each farm is different.”
Tim said there’s a lot of work involved in moving animals each day to get the rotations working.
“It’s worth it, just about every paddock has ankle deep grass.
“I think getting the education out there is what’s needed. It’s not the fastest results. It’s not like putting on some nitrogen and you’ll see a result within three weeks. “
“It’s changing things and letting the microbes in the soil breaking things down and doing their thing, which can be six months or 12 months later. “
“We have cut our fertiliser costs by using bio stimulants. “
“There is not a one-thing fix for everyone, it changes from property to property.
“Sometimes you need to sit back and take notice of what’s working and don’t be afraid to experiment to see what does work best for your property.”