As I write this, many children (and perhaps adults) are preparing to protest about a climate change agenda today.
It’s no secret that we are in the grip of one of the worst droughts in Australia in recorded history. It’s entirely possible that it is not the worst drought in Australia, but certainly it has not been good. We know. We’re living it.
But, as I watch and listen, I’m equally disappointed about opportunities lost. You see, I don’t think that what they are protesting about is either practical, or going to make much difference. Assuming that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a problem (an obviously, people differ about that), these measures will do absolutely nothing to address the removal of the carbon dioxide from the air, and putting the carbon back in the soil where it belongs. And it doesn't do anything to encourage each person participating from taking personal responsibility for things they can change.
But just imagine what things could be like if instead of missing their exams and school to have protest, they were actively encouraging those of us engaging in regenerative agriculture – a type of agriculture that deliberately seeks to build soil, store carbon in the soil, reduce run off, pesticides and herbicides, and use herbivores to heal the land.
Imagine the difference these kids could make if they were prepared to personally act to improve their care of the land (and how much more influence they might have on the adults around them). Perhaps they could choose to reduce their plastic use in their space – by no longer using stuff out of a plastic bottle, but making their own shampoo bars, moisturiser and makeup and reusing the containers rather than buying tube after plastic tube that will enter landfill.
Imagine if these kids chose to spend their pocket money on clothes and bedroom linen of natural fibres that don’t release microplastics when washed – the quality of the water being released in our land and oceans might improve. Perhaps they could choose to save up and buy classic higher quality clothes from natural fibres that last longer rather than fast fashion for large chain stores that last for a season and are then added to landfill as they get holes and stretch and fade.
Imagine if they all started to garden and have a compost heap – that their family might have fresh lettuce and herbs (even an apartment garden will provide that!) that are grown on the property, rather than shipped (with the very oil or gas they are protesting about) to a depot, from the depot to the supermarket, and wrapped in plastic (again, an oil product) that ultimately will go to landfill.
Imagine if all of their organic wastes were properly composted, instead of going into land fill and becoming methane – the very thing that cows are accused of producing (that is not an entirely accurate allegation either, but I’ll leave that be for the moment).
Imagine if that compost was used on the garden or pasture – to enrich the soil without chemical fertilisers, to feed the soil microbiology and boost the carbon amount in the soil. Doing this should in turn lead to greater water retention, higher resilience in drought times, less run off, and less artificial chemical use, less flooding, less erosion, greater soil structure and productivity. It also ensures the soil/microbiology in the soil/plants in the soil have the ability to remove carbon dioxide from the air and sequester much greater amounts of carbon in the soil.
Imagine if they chose to bake their own bread rather than buy a loaf wrapped in plastic.
Well, it's been a busy few months.
The drought continues, and although we are in reasonable shape with the grass at the moment, water has been an ongoing problem. We have continued to do rotational grazing, or cell grazing and that seems to have made a huge difference in the amount of grass that we have had available for the cattle. The other thing that has made a serious contribution has been our use of some of the products from Bioactive Soil Solutions and Green Drop Organics.
We met Peter from Bioactive at Primex in 2018. He and his team have been a fantastic and much appreciated resource in answering all manner of odd questions about soil! What we have noticed is that the paddocks treated with the Bioactive products have come back much faster after a hard frost than usual, we are seeing a greater variety of species in the pasture and the cattle are loving it. In fact, we can tell where we got to last time with the treatment because the cattle prefer the treated areas. We won't know the exact picture of improvement for another 12 months when we do another soil test - but we can tell you now that we can see the improvement - and it happened much faster than we expected. It was money well spent.
With more fencing being done over the past 6 months, we've managed to bring 3 more paddocks back "online" and available to the cattle. And in case you needed evidence that we've been fencing.... here is a taste!
Here we have one of the loads of wire we have removed from
fences taken down heading to the dump. Work ceased for the
day when a snake was located nearby and we determined
that was an excellent reason to have smoko instead!!
And here is the evidence that there was in fact fencing being
done.... not just removing all the old wire - as Mr Farmer completes tying off the third strand of the fence.
Finally, we survived the antarctic blast and had a wonderful time attending the Australian Belted Galloway Association AGM in beautiful Tassie, ably hosted by Glen and Karen at Kookaburra belties. We were thankful to be able to visit 3 different studs and talk to the breeders and view animals - this has really helped us along, and we also used this time to network with other breeders and research our next bull acquisition.
To steal shamelessly from Tamara Stewart.... "Here comes the rain." After a much publicised drought had left our paddocks looking pretty dry and sad (see the before photo above) we were relieved and elated to get some good falls of rain over the last few weeks. Although well under stocked, and with grass in reserve, our main issue was fencing and water - and specifically, having grass that was fenced in, and getting water to the paddocks where it was needed. With some of the dams completely dry or significantly reduced on where they normally are, this was tricky and time consuming and has set other projects back.
We nervously watched as bush fires took off in all directions around us - and were blessed when we were largely unaffected by them - thanks to the significant efforts of the Forestry crews and RFS crews, and favourable winds. More answered prayers.
Throughout this tough stretch, our strategy has remained the same - that is, move cattle regularly across the property, allowing them to mow the space and then moving them - and so far, it's working for us. We've learnt some lessons along the way about judging the timing for the moves (the great thing about learning from mistakes is that it is better than repeating them!! ) Paddocks have held a lot longer than some in the area and there has been little bare dirt, even if there has been dead and dry grass covering the surface, and our cattle are still in great condition.
The exciting news - although we need good follow up rain, the rain we have had is enough to add a little water to the dams that were dry, and the ground is moist and green grass is growing and is a significant answer to prayers. More pictures will come shortly. We continue to pray for ongoing rain to fill dams before our usual drier season over winter.
Its also been an interesting time to see how the Belties perform - and perform they have. They have stayed in excellent condition over a time that has been pretty trying - an in much better condition that other breeds in the area without the requirement to supplementary feed. Yet again, the 'beltie comes out on top.
So, I can't get enough of calves. Yes, I know, Belties are known for their excellent fertility - most will produce a calf every year (and some twice per year) for 14 or 15 years. And the whole point of raising beef cattle is to get calves. So on one level, this shouldn't be a particularly exciting event. But there is something deeply distressing about walking down to check on your stock only to see a lump lying motionless on the grass - but boy is it super exciting and fun when you walk over to it and it sits up! Talk about making a person smile!
We found this little cutie pie on a Saturday morning walk recently - this was taken only a matter of hours after she was born. And boy is she a character. She frolicks around the paddock and dances and kicks up her feet. There is no possible way that you could watch her and not be joyful and happy. Mum is calm, and quite happy for us to pat her calf, and be near both of them when they are feeding. Oh, the joys of calm quiet cattle. With excellent bloodlines, and a lovely quiet temperament, we are looking forward to having these two with us for years to come. And in case you haven't seen enough of little Piper, here is another pic - just to make you smile.
I'm not aware of any living thing that can do without water - from the tiniest microorganisms through to cheeky quadrupeds and humans - we all need it.
There has been an awful lot of attention on the amount of water falling from the sky this year - or not falling from the sky. For farmers, reliance on water is paramount. Without water, we can't grow grass and fodder. We can't water our cows. We can't care for our land or our plants. In the city, if you need water, you turn on a tap. In the bush - that's not possible. Some farmers are desperate enough to truck water in from the city and town reservoir's - but even then it is expensive, and time consuming. Not like that instant turning on the tap.
And so, as we wait, and care for our little corner of the world, we are reminded that every good gift comes from above - rain particularly. And as certain as death and taxes, one day it will rain again.
In the meantime, there is an increasing number of people in cities and towns again being reminded that every family needs a farmer - and that is a great thing! It means that people are thinking about where their beef, their dairy, and their produce comes from. Lets all hope that the community remember that, even after the drought has broken, policies and processes and approaches that hurt farmers ultimately hurt us all - because without a farmer, there is no food.
Please don't just donate to a drought appeal - think about it - everyone has to be able to do 1 thing, start 1 new habit that will make a difference for farmers long term - perhaps you could:
I challenge you to find one thing you can start to do every week that will help the farmers feeding your family. Because every family needs a farmer.
So, today I don't have any picture, but a story to tell. Take from it what you wish.
We have been hand feeding our cattle now, each afternoon we are on Aloncaws, with some lucerne or similar, and sometimes some molasses. Not a lot - the aim of the game is not to supplement the nutrition that the cattle are naturally getting from the grass, but to quieten them down and get them used to us. It allows us to safely work with them, be in the paddock with them, and get hands on them and check for ticks, or problems without the hassle of putting them through the race and head bale. This week gave us another reason to continue to do this. The feed costs were more than worth it, I can assure you.
So, our boys decided to do the Harry Holt and headed next door to the neighbours place where there were plenty of girls to play with. For the older ones amongst our readers, you might remember a certain Hilux ad where the bulls stole the Hilux. Pretty much, that's what our boys did, minus the Hilux! Mr Farmer headed off to retrieve them with a biscuit or two of lucerne, and 6 of them came back - leaving 3 there still. Several afternoons of popping down to where we thought they were around the time we feed paid off - they came when we called and had lucerne, and walked home with us (stopping about every 10-15 m for another taste of lucerne or molasses!!). Trust me when I say - that that situation alone has justified every penny spent on lucerne and molasses up til now. You just can't beat quiet cows with good temperament. Not for big operators I guess, but there is a lot for knowing your cattle by name, and having them quiet enough to eat out of your hand. Makes mustering a whole lot simpler! Enjoy your week.
Brrrr.... It's been chilly down here! This is a photo taken mid morning - about 5 mm of ice on the top of the trough this time, and a very crisp frost. Having calves trotting around in winter is a bit nerve wracking - but the belties are great! They have their thick shaggy outer coat and a shorter fluffy inner coat that seems to keep them all warm and snug - even in artic frosts! Bred in Scotland, these cattle are adaptable - fine in winter, and in summer, despite extremes of temperatures. We humans on the other hand, seek the quiet warmth of the fire and hot cups of tea when it gets this cold!
As we start a new blog, it is fitting to write that blog about another new beginning.
Over the weekend when feeding the cattle we discovered this little cutie pie. Our first calf born on Aloncaws. Estimated here as 2 days old, and just gorgeous. Although mum is a red Beltie, this little cutie pie is jet black - not even a tinge of red in the coat.
Whilst we had been fairly confident that mum was pregnant, she had been running year round with the bull prior to arriving on Aloncaws, and we had no idea of service date. On that basis, we guessed that she might be serviced about 2 months after the last calf had been born, which would put her due date at around mid June. Looks like we were only about a week or two off on our estimate.