Understanding your soil

Want to improve mineral cycles, soil fertility, drought resilience, pasture and crop health and productivity on your patch?

To find out more about the fundamentals of how soil and plants function, come along to Watershed Landcare’s Sustainable Soil Management workshop where we will explore the chemical, physical and biological properties of fertile soil.

The workshop will be presented by Bruce Davison, grazier, soil consultant and creator of the Soilsmith soil test analysis program and the Soilsmith fertcalc program.

“It is easier for me to do what the land needs than for the land to what I want.” said Bruce.

This full day intermediate level workshop will focus on enabling participants to make their own decisions on soil management. Participants will learn to properly read and interpret soil test reports, and calculate amendments with follow-up support.

Our Land: The workshop will be presented by Bruce Davison, grazier, soil consultant and creator of the Soilsmith soil test analysis program.

Workshop participants are also eligible to undertake a subsidised soil test prior to the event. Please contact us for more information.

The workshop will also include a field visit to a nearby demonstration site where Bruce’s process will be implemented in a trial paddock.

The workshop will be held from 9am-5pm on Sunday 2 June at Ilford Community Hall. Attendance is $40 for Watershed Landcare members and $55 for non-members and includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.

The course fee also includes the Soilsmith usb which contains a lot of reading and reference material, plus the soil nutrient spreadsheet which is the centrepiece of the workshop as it enables farmers to make their own decisions on soil management.

Please register by Monday 27 May: www.trybooking.com/500697

For more information please contact Watershed Landcare Coordinator, Claudia Wythes, on 0412 011 064 email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from Central Tablelands LLS and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Learn how to produce your own liquid gold

Are you interested in keeping bees but don’t know where to start? Join us for a 2 day Backyard Beekeeping course with Bruce White OAM.

The Mudgee Bee Group will be hosting a Backyard Beekeeping course in October and invite novice and experienced beekeepers, as well as people interested in starting up their first hives, to attended.

Renowned beekeeper and industry expert, Bruce White OAM has spent his career in the apiary industry in NSW DPI. He has extensive knowledge of rural beekeeping and frequently delivers courses for Local Land Services and the Amateur Beekeepers Association.

A retired apiary officer from the NSW Department of Agriculture and a hobby beekeeper, Mr White became fascinated with bees when he was in primary school. He got his first hive when he was 13 years old and now boasts over 60 years beekeeping experience.

Mr White is a master at sharing his skills and experience with participants to give each of them the confidence to handle bees and manage a beehive. The course will cover the essentials such as protective clothing, hive design, hive management, biosecurity, honey extraction and a whole lot more in a hands-on, practical weekend.

Liquid Gold: Bruce White showing participants how to use capping knife to extract honey.

The Mudgee Bee Group’s community hives will be available for participants to practise on and gain confidence in handling bees.

The course will be held on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October at the Straw Bale Building, Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC), Ulan Rd Mudgee.

Cost is $285 per person and includes course notes, lunch and morning tea on both days. A discount rate of $215 is available for Watershed Landcare and Mudgee Bee Group financial members.
Numbers are strictly limited and you must pay in full to secure your spot. If you’d like to participate send an expressions of interest to Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudia.wythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

The Mudgee Bee Group and Watershed Landcare would like to acknowledge support from AREC, for hosting the Mudgee Bee Group hives and providing a venue for meetings and the course.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Soil expert back with us by popular demand

After a booked out workshop last held last year, Watershed Landcare have invited grazier, enquiring farmer and soil specialist, Bruce Davison back to our region to present another Sustainable Soil Management workshop in June.

Bruce Davison has an advanced diploma of agriculture and advanced diploma of agribusiness management. Bruce has also trained in soil chemistry and plant nutrition, compost and compost tea making, Holistic management and certificate IV in training and assessment. Bruce is self employed as a farmer and soil consultant.

Bruce runs a cattle grazing enterprise on the far south coast of NSW where he has had success with utilising biological farming principles to build nutrients in his soils. He is also the developer of the Soilsmith soil test analysis program and the Soilsmith fertcalc program. This fertiliser calculating program is linked to the test analysis program and greatly simplifies interpreting soil tests and calculating amendments, cost per hectare and cost for the paddock.

The Sustainable Soil Management workshop will be presented by Bruce Davison: grazier, enquiring farmer and soil specialist.

This full day intermediate level workshop will focus on enabling participants to make their own decisions on soil management. Attendance at last years workshop is not a prerequisite.

The workshop will also include a field visit to a nearby demonstration site where Bruce’s process will be implemented in a trial paddock.

The workshop will be held from 9am-5pm on Sunday 2 June at Ilford Community Hall. Attendance is $40 for Watershed Landcare members and $55 for non-members and includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.

The course fee also includes the Soilsmith usb which contains a lot of reading and reference material, plus the soil nutrient spreadsheet which is the centrepiece of the workshop as it enables farmers to make their own decisions on soil management.

Please register by Monday 27 May: www.trybooking.com/500697

Workshop participants are also eligible to undertake a subsidised soil test prior to the event. Please contact us for more information.

For more information please contact Watershed Landcare Coordinator, Claudia Wythes, on 0412 011 064 email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare through funding from Central Tablelands LLS and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Implementing innovative ecological approaches to land management

Students from the University of Sydney tour farms in our region to study regenerative agriculture practices

Long before the term ‘Regen Ag’ was coined, many farmers in our region have been implementing innovative, ecological approaches to land management and are now promoting and encouraging the adoption of regenerative landscape management practices to help build healthy, productive and profitable landscapes which are more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate to the next generation of farmers and land managers.

As part of a first year field trip, 55 Agricultural Science and Food and Agribussiness students and 4 staff toured various farming enterprises in the Central West last week. The last day of their expedition brought them to our district to visit properties practising regenerative agriculture.

The first stop was a visit to a 1200 acre grazing property in Goolma producing superfine merino wool. The owners have been trialling and implementing various regenerative agriculture techniques since the mid 90s and the students heard about their focus on managing native pasture, selecting genetics for a more resilient flock, encouraging animals to utilise a diversity of feed and using the livestock as a land management tool. Native biodiversity is also actively managed on the property and a watercourse and wetland have been fenced off for this purpose.

Next the students travelled to Gulgong to explore pasture cropping and enterprise stacking.

Colin Seis developed the method of ‘Pasture Cropping’ in the 1990’s, a no-till practice of sowing annual crops into dormant perennial grass, and since that time has been perfecting the practice on his Gulgong property, ‘Winona’. ‘Pasture Cropping’, combined with planned grazing of livestock enables multiple productive uses from a single paddock, with minimal use of herbicides or other inputs.

‘Pasture Cropping’ has also produced significant improvements in soil health. Studies conducted by Sydney University and CSIRO/Department of Primary Industries showed increases of 204% in organic carbon and 200% in the water holding capacity of ‘Winonas’ soils, over a 10 year period. Soil nutrients and trace elements have increased by an average of 172%.

The benefits of improving landscape function and increasing production results have been internationally recognised. ‘Pasture Cropping’ has been adopted in the United States, South Africa and Norway as well as over 2,500 farms across Australia. Colin Seis has been recognised as a leading performer of regenerative landscape management practices and now spends much of his time travelling all over Australia and overseas training other farmers to implement the technique.

A successful, profitable farm is about more than just land management, and relies on having a robust business structure. One strategy is not ‘putting all your eggs in the one basket’. Colin Seis has built resilience into his farm by diversifying interests. ‘Winona’, traditionally a fine wool property, now also produces fat lambs, grain and native grass seed (it’s most profitable venture). Colin is also a renowned dog trainer and breeder, and dogs from his Kelpie stud are much sought after.

What you do in winter will impact your pasture productivity in spring

As the weather starts to cool and pastures become dormant it’s a critical time to think about managing groundcover through the winter months. Management decisions made now can impact pasture recovery in spring and beyond.

Groundcover is any material that covers the soil, including gravel, living and dead plant material, dung and biological soil crusts. It not only protects the soil surface from wind and water erosion but also protects the available moisture from evaporation, buffers soil temperatures, improves soil nutrient retention, structure and health and assists with soil carbon sequestration. All these factors lead to a decrease in recovery time, when spring comes or the drought breaks.

As landmanagers, we we have the most control of the vegetative component of groundcover. To manage that effectively we need to match stocking rate to available feed and ensure paddocks have adequate rest between grazing periods.

Overgrazing causes reduced pasture growth and loss of groundcover and decline in perennials may lead to soil and vegetation changes that are difficult to reverse. Bare ground reduces rainfall penetration into the soil and impedes pasture recovery. Ultimately, this will lead to decreased carrying capacity of the land and lower performance of livestock with impacts on productivity, profitability and income stability.

So as winter sets in and the grass is not actively growing, we need to ration what is available. Answering the following questions may help you with you management decisions.

How much feed have you got on the ground? Is it enough to get the stock you have on hand through winter?

If not, will you de-stock? If so, when? Making this decision early allows you to take full advantage of market forces, selling when stock prices are good, rather than when you have to, because you’ve run out of feed.

What order are you going to graze the paddocks? For how long? Planning grazing and rest periods now can guide your operation next season. For example, grazing your best paddocks first and giving them a long rest, to have them ready to graze again for spring lambing.

Have you got supplementary feed on hand? Can you readily source some and at what cost?

If you are going to supplement your stock, will you feed this out in the paddock to make existing pasture last longer or will you feed in a sacrificial or drought paddock?

Will you be supplementing the whole herd or flock? Or will you wean early and feed the weaners only? A cow/calf or ewe/lamb unit consumes a lot more feed than a dry cow or ewe and weaner calf or lamb and early weaning can be a cost effective way to manage fodder reserves.

Examining these factors now, rather than on the fly, allows us to consider risks, options and contingencies, to make sound decisions and take advantage of opportunities.

And don’t forget to regularly monitor and review your feed budget and tweak your plan if conditions change.

Our critically endangered honeyeater

Capertee Valley project providing habitat for one of Australia’s rarest birds

With only 350–400 mature adults remaining in the wild, the regent honeyeater is one of Australia’s rarest birds.

Image credit: Matt Baker

The striking black and yellow birds were once widespread along the eastern Australian coast, from as far north as Rockhampton to Melbourne in the south. Extensive clearing of woodland habitat has seen their numbers decline and the range of their distribution contract. Competition from more aggressive honeyeaters for their increasingly scarce woodland habitat has also put pressure on their numbers.

The regent honeyeater’s habitat is now mostly restricted to the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria and New South Wales and the Capertee Valley is a key habitat and breeding site.

The Capertee Valley Landcare Group have been working on enhancing woodland habitat for this critically endangered bird and are seeking volunteers to help with their latest planting efforts.

The planting is the first in a five year project to restore habitat and provide increased habitat connectivity. Support from local landholders along the Capertee River has meant the project can strategically target key regent honeyeater habitat and the plantings will supplement feed trees at breeding sites.

The project follows on from a pilot study conducted last year where volunteers planted 150 trees. Survival rates have been very good despite a very hot summer and drought conditions. The plantings have also been designed in a way that the river bank will be stabilised and prevent further erosion and improve water quality.

Capertee Valley Landcare Group are inviting volunteers to help plant 200 tubestock and install tree guards on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May. There will also be a further two planting days with high school students, on Friday 24 and Friday 31 May, where help will be required.

For further information or to register your interest contact Julie Gibson, Capertee Valley Landcare Secretary, cvlandcare@gmail.com.

Have a plan for the coming season

Local graziers are taking advantage of support while planning for what is forecast to be a tough winter season.

Grass budgets, setting critical dates and adaptive planning dominated discussion when members of Watershed Landcare’s Grazing Group met recently.

“Members are preparing for a tough winter and are having to make different decisions because they don’t have their usual backstop. A lot of people don’t have the the feed or fodder reserves they had this time last year, and that’s been a big factor in decisions.” said Grazing Group Coordinator, Claudia Wythes.

“It’s a good time to re-group and members are taking advantage of support, running plans past each other and having a sounding board for their decision making.”.

The Grazing Group provides participants with support, mentoring, vibrant and interactive conversation and new ideas. The group comprises of local graziers with diverse operations, from breeding to trading, and everything in between.

Much of the discussion was focused on making a plan based on current conditions and the best information available but also being prepared to adapt that plan if conditions change.

“Just because it’s rained don’t stop thinking about it. What stock have you got on hand? What water have you got? Is the quality good? Do you need to get it tested?” said Ms Wythes.

“A decision made on planning is better than a decision made because you had to, under pressure.”

Recognising the importance of rest, especially when paddocks are under pressure, to maintain groundcover was also a principal factor in graziers decision making. Current conditions mean longer rest periods need to be scheduled when planning grazing, for example when getting paddocks ready for spring lambing.

The Watershed Landcare Grazing Group meet on-farm four times a year to discuss seasonal, production, marketing and management strategies and decisions and to explore topics of interest through guest speakers.

Want to find out more about the Grazing Group and how you can get involved? For further information contact Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudiawythes@watershedlandcare.com.au

The Grazing Group is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Pest animals and weeds – everybody’s responsibility

Expert speakers in the pest animal and weeds field will gather for two workshops next week to be held in Gulgong on Wednesday 27 March and in Pyramul on Thursday 28 March.

Landholders in both areas have requested a focus on serrated tussock. This is an invasive weed of pastures, with the potential to infest entire properties. In the local region it causes a great reduction in carrying capacity as it is indigestible to livestock. The Australian Government has serrated tussock listed as a Weed of National Significance (WoNS). This means that it is one of the thirty two worst weeds in Australia!

WoNS are seen as a priority due to their invasiveness, potential for spread and environmental, social and economic impacts.

Serrated tussock has a life span of over 20 years and a mature plant can produce more than 140 000 seeds per year which can be blown up to 20 km by wind.

Serrated tussock

It’s one weakness is that seedlings do not compete well with other pasture plants. Unfortunately, with the current run of dry seasons, ground cover is very low giving serrated tussock a prime opportunity for expansion. These workshops are therefore a timely opportunity to explore management strategies.

Staff from the Local Land Services and Mid-Western Regional Council will be on hand to discuss serrated tussock and other weeds that landholders may want more information about. People are encouraged to bring in samples of weeds that they would like identified, but remember to bring it in a bag, we don’t want your problem to become everyone else’s!

The Biosecurity Act will be overviewed to help attendees understand land manager’s obligations for pest and weed control as well as compliance options.

Wild dogs, pigs and deer will also be covered on the day with a real focus on new technologies to help combat these pests.

Both workshops are free, with morning tea and lunch provided by local CWA branches.

The Gulgong workshop will be held at the Gulgong CWA Hall on 27 March and the Pyramul workshop will be held at Green Hills Crossroads Shearing Shed, Pyramul on 28 March. Both workshops will run from 9am to 4pm. Please register by Monday 25 March.

For more information or to register please contact Watershed Landcare Pest Animal Group Coordinator, Beth Greenfield on 0438 090 525.

Remote sensing technology a highlight of workshops

Local landholders and pest managers will be introduced to some cutting edge remote sensing technology at two Watershed Landcare workshops to be held on 27 and 28 March in Gulgong and Pyramul.

A team from New Zealand’s Encounter Solutions will be discussing their long-range wireless sensor networks for rural and rugged areas, with applications for pest control operations. The backbone of the wireless network is the solar-powered Celium Hub, using the Iridium satellite or cellular networks to transport data from the field to a smartphone that can be deployed anywhere in the world.

Celium networks have been used to monitor pest traps the length and breadth of New Zealand and last year were trialled in the Cooper Basin, South Australia. This trial, in partnership with the NSW Department of Primary Industry and Australian Wool Innovation Ltd, looked at alerting the team when wild dog traps were triggered.

Celium Hub: Macraes Flat, South Island, New Zealand

Foot-hold traps were set with a Celium Mole, a device hidden in the ground beneath the trap, that transmits an alert when the trap was sprung, sending a notification to the team. The Celium Moles communicated with a series of Celium Hubs, deployed for maximum coverage of the target trapping area. The trial also tested transmission quality and speed and enabled refinement of the application of the Celium Network.

“I can see a lot of potential for this system in our area. Checking traps is time consuming, on top of regular farm activities especially in dry times like we are experiencing now.” said Greg Lawson, chairman of both the Hargraves Hill End Wild Dog Group and the Mudgee Merriwa Wild Dog Association.

Mr Lawson is keen for landholders to come along and talk to the Encounter Solutions team.

“The alert system would be great to trial in our area, it could save us a huge amount of time and cost and ultimately improve welfare outcomes for trapped animals.” he continued.

The Gulgong workshop will be held at the Gulgong CWA Hall on 27 March and the Pyramul workshop will be held at Green Hills Crossroads Shearing Shed, Pyramul on 28 March. Both workshops will run from 9am to 4pm.

Attendance is free with morning tea and lunch provided, all welcome. For more information or to register please contact Watershed Landcare Pest Animal Group Coordinator, Beth Greenfield on 0438 090 525.

Putta Bucca Carp Muster

Mid Western Regional Council will be hosting a Carp Muster at the Putta Bucca Wetlands on Sunday 17 March.

Carp have a detrimental effect on water quality and their feeding habits are destructive to plants, which provide critical feeding, spawning and nursery habitat for native fish.

Carp are benthivorous fish that feed in and on the sediments to a depth of about 12 cm. This increases turbidity by suspending sediments and mobilising sediment bound phosphorus, creating an unfavourable environment for other species. High turbidity reduces visibility for visual-feeding predators and the suspended sediment particles can clog gill filaments.

Their feeding habits are destructive to soft-bodied and recolonising plants, which provide critical habitat for fish feeding, spawning and nursery habitat. Carp have also been known to consume the eggs of other fish. Carp can also exclude smaller fish from their preferred habitat through their physical dominance and overcrowding.

There are various approaches to carp control but it has been recognised that control for wetlands is integral to overall population management.

It is estimated that a 6 kg female can produce up to 1.5 million eggs and wetlands are often primary breeding sites for carp. These are also the sites where carp are most likely to have detrimental effects on water quality and affect native fish and invertebrate species.

So whether you are young or old and whatever your fishing ability, come along and have some fun and help remove this pest from our waterways.

The main event for the day will be the fishing competition which will run from 9am to 12pm at the Putta Bucca Wetlands, Putta Bucca Rd, Mudgee. Prizes will be awarded for Junior – under 12 years, Junior – 13-18 years, adult male, adult female, most fish caught and smallest fish categories. Mudgee Camping and 4WD have also donated lucky door prizes to be awarded on the day.

Registration for the fishing competition is free but all entrants 18 years and above must have a fishing license and comply with NSW fishing rules. License or receipt of license must be presented upon entry. All native fish caught on the day must be released.

Bring your fishing equipment, hat, sunscreen and show off your angling skills. A free sausage sizzle lunch will be available from 11:30am on the day.

For more information contact Cassie Liney, Environment Coordinator with Mid-Western Regional Council, on 6378 2850.