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  • 22 Jul 2021 11:25 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    This workshop was held in Bywong in July 2021 and was about constructing animal yards that are suitable for keeping farm animal safe and predators out. Our guest speaker was Chris Curtis from Roogulli Farm.

    You can watch Chris talk about predator proofing animal yards in a short video here. 

    Key Points

    • Think about the athletic abilities of the feral predator you are trying to keep out of an animal pen. Feral predators can push, dig, climb, jump or chew through fences. Foxes can jump up 1.8 meters high. Design your fence based on the animal you are wanting to keep out.
    • Breed healthy animals – healthy lambs with good mothers are less likely to by predated by foxes. It is good management to bury the placenta and birthing refuse after lambing. One study found that fox predation accounted for 0.8% of lamb deaths. Choose a breed of sheep known for good mothering, paying attention to nutrition and ewe health.
    • Electric fencing provides a psychological barrier for feral predators and other animals, but is generally less effective at keeping out feral predators than a permanent fence.
    • To be effective against foxes, a permanent fence should be 1.8 m high with a 600mm floppy top and 600mm skirt that is buried or pegged into the ground. See the link to the Fencing for Fox Control below for more information on designs. An example of an overhanging fence of this type designed for foxes, cats and rabbits can be found at Mulligans Flat Reserve in the ACT.
    • You can install a wildlife gate for wombats. The gate should be a steel plate hinged at the top and weighing 4-5 kilograms so only wombats can push it open.
    • Guardian animals including Maremma dogs and alpacas are effective in reducing predation by foxes and wild dogs.

    Chris provided the following resources for this workshop, click on the link below to open them:

    Predator proofing animal enclosures PowerPoint presentation

    Bibliography – a list of research papers on this topic

    Chris has designed a simple box addition to his chicken coop that allows chickens to enter the coop but excludes foxes. The bends in the entry way are designed so that the fox cannot bend around the tight corners. 


    Lamb predation and fox control in south-eastern Australia 2001

    Fencing for fox control. Factsheet, Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, 2012. PestSmart website. 

    Cost effective feral animal exclusion fencing for areas of high conservation value in Australia, Natural Heritage Trust 2004.

    Wombat Gate 

    Alpacas as guardian animals

    Guardian Dogs – Best Practice Guide to the use of Maremma dogs as guardian dogs, Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre

    Toolkit resource - guardian animals for livestock protection and wild dog exclusion 

    This project was supported by the NSW Government through a grant from South East Local Land Services.

  • 11 Jul 2021 7:22 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)
    Ashleigh Wildridge and Peter Dagg from Animal Health Australia, with assistance from Penny, presented an overview about sheep health and biosecurity. This information is relevant even if you only have a couple pet sheep.

    Watch the webinar recording in YouTube.

    Key points

    • Anything that moves can bring in pests, weeds and diseases
    • Making a whole of farm plan can help you decide the best place for paddocks, yards, trees, water, feed storage and visitor access
    • Making a footbath for visitors going into your paddocks is as easy as a bucket of (diluted) bleach
    • Quarantine all livestock that enter/return to your property for at least 21 days
    • Yards are easy to set up and make handling sheep much easier - they don’t have to be expensive
    • Your local vet can help you to learn about vaccinating and drenching
    • Check feed and water regularly for contaminants and keep them away from pests
    • Feed off the ground in a consistent location to reduce contamination of food and to help manage any weeds that come with the feed
    • You need a Property Identification Code (PIC) before you can bring livestock onto your property (contact Local Land Services)
    • When buying sheep, get a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) and a sheep health declaration from the seller and keep these in your records, NLIS registration is essential so you can record the movement of the sheep onto your property
    • Avoid buying sheep online, especially from social media pages or Gumtree if seller will not provide an NVD and sheep health declaration
    • When selling sheep, you need to have Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) accreditation so that you can provide an NVD to the buyer along with a sheep health declaration
    • Chat to your neighbours about pest and weed control since working together can be more effective


    A National Guide for Smallholder Livestock Producers
    (Meat and Livestock Australia)

    This guide, providing an overview of your responsibilities when keeping livestock including pet sheep in Australia, is a good place to start.


    Farm Biosecurity toolkit
    (Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia)

    Forms, biosecurity manual and other resources for creating your biosecurity plan


    A Producer’s Guide to Sheep Husbandry Practices 
    (Meat and Livestock Australia)

    Guidance for many standard sheep handling and treatment practices including yards, tagging, injections, worm egg counts, drenching, foot trimming, lamb marking and humane killing.


    Sheep Calendar of Operations
    (NSW Local Land Services)

    What to do when for sheep on the NSW South Coast region

    General information about biosecurity, health and welfare for sheep (Animal Health Australia)

    National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)
    Register here to be able to record sheep movements on and off your property (this is free)

    Meat and Livestock Australia
    Register with MyMLA as the first step to gaining LPA accreditation so you can sell sheep (even pet sheep) and write NVDs

    Animal Carcass Disposal
    (NSW DPI)
    Safe handling and disposal of carcasses.

    Yards and Equipment
    (NSW DPI)
    Series of fact sheets about design of yards, sheep handlers, ramps and shearing sheds.

    Straying Stock
    (NSW DPI)
    What to do if stock stray onto your property

    Vaccination in Sheep Flocks
    (Meat and Livestock Australia)
    Guide to how vaccinations work and the vaccines available for sheep.

    See also Vaccinations for Sheep in the Capital Region

  • 9 Jun 2021 10:57 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    This event held on the 22 May 2021 was a combined webinar and paddock demonstration with Alice McGlashan.  Alice is a natural resource management practitioner and environmental educator who lives on a rural bush property near Canberra. At this event she shared her knowledge about feral predator management using different trapping methods.

    The webinar recording can be viewed here.

    Alice recorded a 15-minute video demonstrating the use of padded jaw traps, you can view the video here.

    This is a summary of the main points from the webinar and paddock walk, a list of resources can be found at the bottom of this page.

    1. The Pest Smart Website has a best practice guide for the use of cage and padded jaw traps. The website includes information on the model code of practice for the humane control of foxes and feral cats. Control programs should aim to reduce the negative impacts of the feral animal using the most humane, cost effective and efficient techniques available. You can browse the website for information and advice on most feral animals. Model Code of practice for the humane control of foxes. 
    2. Before you start trapping it is useful to know where pest animals are moving and feeding on your property. Information on our previous event Feral Animal Monitoring can be found here.
    3. Once you have determined a suitable site for trapping, Alice suggests you free feed using tasty treats for random days over a couple of weeks before you set your traps. You can use sardines, chicken wings, fresh dog bones, or roadkill rabbits for free feeding and as bait when setting traps.
    4. Anchor your traps safely using galvanised 8mm or 10mm chain and good quality galvanised small D shackles, to the trunk of a tree or strong fence post. You do not want your trapped animal escaping with a trap on its foot. If your neighbour’s dog gets trapped you can safely release and return them.
    5. Be trap responsible – check your trap every morning and afternoon. In the morning cover the trap so you don’t trap non target species during the day. You must not leave traps unsupervised and they need to be checked twice/day. If you catch a fox or feral cat you need a strategy to dispose of them safely and humanely. This could include using a captive bolt gun, organising a shooter or during working hours you can call South East Local Land Services for help. Having a cage big enough to hold the fox or cat is a good idea because you can release them into the cage and cover it in a quiet place until they can be euthanized.

    Links and Resources 

    South East Local Land Services Feral Fighters Program - Feral Fighters is an initiative to strategically target pest animals at a regional and state scale through strategic, coordinated group baiting control programs.

    South East Local Land Services have Biosecurity Officers who can help you develop a feral animal control program. They can help you organise a coordinated feral animal baiting program with your neighbours. Find your local Land Services Office here.

    Members Camera loan program - Small Farms Network Capital Region Members can borrow a wildlife monitoring camera to use for feral animal monitoring. 

    Trapping Equipment- There are many suppliers of trapping equipment. Alice uses Victor #1 1/2 and #1 3/4 2 coil traps from traps.com.au and gettrapped.com.au. You are encouraged to do your own research for suitable suppliers. 

    Pest Smart Website https://pestsmart.org.au/pest-animals/

    Trapping of foxes using padded-jaw traps (fox005) standard operating procedure.

    General methods of euthanasia under field conditions 

    This project was supported by South East Local Land Services.

  • 6 May 2021 2:21 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    This workshop was held in Tarago on Sunday 2 May 2021. Our presenters were Ross Kuchel, Agricultural Adviser from South East Local Land Services, Peter and Penny Dagg from Eastern and White Dorpers, Fiona McNeil from Bent Shed Produce and Stephanie Helm from The Vintner’s Daughter.

    The topics covered included farm planning, water resources, managing risk, farm business resources, business planning, biosecurity, moving livestock and taking care of your natural assets.

    Plan, plan and plan was Ross’s clear message. Knowing your personal values and goals can help you develop the priorities for your land and farm business. Understanding your legal obligations when it comes to managing water, weeds, vegetation and livestock is important. More information about how to do this can be found in the Rural Living Guide and by contacting your nearest Local Land Services Office.

    Penny Dagg discussed starting out with livestock, managing a sheep stud, biosecurity and animal health. Penny told us how difficult and expensive it was to buy water and feed during the drought. Penny’s advice is to plan for the extremes and prepare to de-stock if necessary. Importing feed from outside the region can increase the biosecurity risk of getting new weeds that don’t normally grow at your place. Penny’s top tip: don’t be afraid to ask for advice, everyone starting out on the land needs help and support.

    Stephanie Helm shared her family’s experience running a small winery and cellar door during COVID-19 and how the crisis led to a decision to start online marketing and to diversify into other farm enterprises to manage risk. Stephanie showed us how it is possible to integrate animals into a horticultural business and reduce chemical use at the same time. Stephanie’s top tips are take the time to create a business plan, develop your business skills and learn how to use social media.

    Fiona McNeil’s key point was don’t forget to pay yourself a living wage. For unskilled labour this is a minimum of $25/hour and for skilled labour aim for around $50/hour. The Australian Taxation  Office website can help you work out labour, car and other business expenses.  Fiona discussed the challenge of working full time while juggling a business and how health can change your priorities. Her top tips are to contact the Business Enterprise Centre for support and look out for changes to council zoning that could affect your chosen enterprise.


    Farm Planning Ideas - Local Land Services

    Sustainable Farms - Ten Ways to Improve the Natural Assets a farm

    Six Maps

    National Livestock Identification Scheme

    Order of Streams NSW Water

    Business Enterprise Centre Queanbeyan

    Business Planning Templates

    Native Vegetation Planning 

    Thank you to our presenters and the Country Women’s Association Tarago Branch for supplying delicious food for this event.

    This workshop was made possible with funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program and in-kind support from South East Local Land Services.

  • 4 May 2021 11:26 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Do you have an alpaca or two? Would you like more information on how to care for them? Perhaps you inherited a few when you purchased your small farm. This webinar with Dr Lou Baskind is about the basic care and management of alpacas and was recorded on the 3 March 2021.

    You can view the YouTube recording of the webinar here.


    1.      Alpacas have a digestive system similar but not the same as other ruminants such as cattle. Alpacas have three stomachs and they chew their cud. Alpacas are more efficient at digesting low quality feed than other ruminants and have a lower risk of bloat compared to cattle. BUT that does not mean that you don’t have to watch what they eat. Alpacas have a requirement for long stemmed grass at all times for their gut to work efficiently. Pregnant and lactating females (called hembras) have a higher requirement for energy and protein. If there is a lot of green grass you might want to consider supplementing them with low quality feed for fibre.

    Body condition scoring of alpacas

    2.      Alpacas must have a at least one companion otherwise they will fret. Alpacas have very strong herding instincts and need the companionship of other alpacas to thrive, it is best to provide each alpaca with a companion alpaca of the same gender.

    3.      Alpacas have a strong instinct to bond with other grazing herd animals and this has resulted in the growing use of wethered adult male alpacas or adult females as sheep and goat flock guardians. They have a strong instinct to fend off dogs and foxes to protect their flock.

    4.      Vitamin D deficiency – because alpacas come from high altitudes, even in Australia they can suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Crias (baby alpacas up to the age of 3) are most at risk of the disease.  Prevention is the easiest treatment; you can do this by shearing the alpacas and by giving them a vitamin D injection every year. A deficiency in vitamin D can cause problems with calcium absorption.

    5.      Alpacas are susceptible to worms and liver fluke. These parasites are best controlled by integrated worm management, with consideration given to regular worm testing, creating worm free paddocks and targeted use of drenches.


    Worms and alpacas

    CRIA Genesis Website - A comprehensive website about alpacas.

    Low stress animal handling

    Tocal College Alpaca Ag Skills

    Australian Alpaca Association 

    This webinar was made possible through funding from the NSW Environmental Trust through it’s Every Bit Counts Project and with in-kind support from South East Local Land Services Vet Dr Lou Baskind.

  • 24 Mar 2021 11:37 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    At this webinar Bill Handke from the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group Inc. discussed why a feral bird, the Indian Myna, is a problem and what actions you can take at home to manage them.

    The webinar was recorded on the 17 March 2021 and you can view the recording here.

    A copy of Bill’s PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here.

    In 2021 we recorded Indian Mynas, nest boxes and habitat with Bill Handke, Tod Spencer and Alice McGlashan. At this webinar we discussed Indina Myna birds and how you can create habitat for Australian Native Birds. See this link.

    This is a summary of the five key points from the webinar:

    1.      Indian Mynas are native to the Indian subcontinent and are highly invasive, adaptive and intelligent. The birds were introduced into Melbourne in 1862 to control pests in market gardens and have subsequently spread along the eastern Australian seaboard. They are classed as one of the top 100 invasive species worldwide and are implicated in species decline and extinction because they prey on native animals and birds and compete with them for food and nesting sites. In Canberra, the impact of Indian Mynas on native birds has been studied by ANU researchers who identified they have a severe impact on birds such as rosellas, wrens, Willy Wagtails, Silvereyes and Whistlers.

    2.      Indian Mynas were introduced into Canberra in 1968 and have  been recorded in densities of up to 250 birds/km2. Indian Mynas are a major threat to native wildlife because they:

    • outcompete native birds for nesting hollows.
    • feed on eggs, chicks, skinks and insects.
    • drive small birds out of gardens.
    • are vectors for bird diseases (such as Avian Influneza).
    • degrade woodlands by reducing ecosystem services by other birds.

    3.      Indian Mynas pose a human health risk because they carry bird mites and blood-borne parasites that can be transmitted to humans. They can increase the fire risk in rooves by creating nests in roof cavities. They are also a pest for agricultural, viticultural and horticultural industries. A major concern to the public is the loss of social amenity because of Mynas fouling backyards and BBQ areas, their raucous calls and their displacement of native birds.

    4.      The experience in Canberra indicates that trapping is highly successful and is the best method for controlling and removing the birds. Indian Myna bird trap designs can be found below. The disposal of animals once they have been trapped has been approved by the RSPCA. Training and support from the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group is provided for people interested in trapping Mynas in their backyards.

    5. You can also help at home by reducing feeding opportunities, eliminating nesting sites in roofs and reducing roosting sites. Avoid planting trees with dense foliage, such as pencil pines, in which Mynas will roost at night. 

    Useful links and information:

    Canberra Indian Myna Action Group 

    A website dedicated to help people manage and control Indian Mynas.

    Indian Myna Information Sheet

    Indian Myna Trap Plan

    Indian Myna - the flying cane toad

    Trapping Help Sheet and Protocol on Animal Welfare

    Myna Scan

    MynaScan is a resource developed to help community members, pest controllers and biosecurity groups to map sightings and the damage that Myna birds cause, and coordinate control efforts with local community groups. MynaScan is free, easy to use, and can help you develop a detailed map of Myna bird activity in your local area. You can also upload images for accurate record keeping.

    This webinar was made possible with funding from the NSW Environmental Trust through Every Bit Counts Project. Thank you to Bill Handke and the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group for their support of this webinar.

  • 9 Mar 2021 12:17 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Alice McGlashan has spent many years monitoring feral animal predators and wildlife on her property just outside of Canberra. At this webinar/paddock walk she discussed her observations and methods for filming animals to help other small farmers set up monitoring programs for their properties. A useful links section is included at the end of this summary.

    You can view the recording of the webinar on the 27 February 2021 HERE.

    The key messages from the webinar and paddock walk are summarised below:

    1.      The key design features to look for in a wildlife camera are;

    • Choose a NO glow camera that does not emit any light at night. Cameras that emit a white flash, bright or dim red flash tend to cause feral predators to avoid the camera installation location. 
    • Choose a camera with a design that you can easily access the SD card and batteries while the camera is strapped to the tree/post.
    • Use good quality low self-discharge (retain charge while wildlife camera is not recording) rechargeable batteries (such as Fujitsu NiMh AA rechargeable batteries) and a good quality battery charger with a ‘slow charge’ option. Fast charging batteries significantly reduces their life span. Good quality rechargeable batteries should last for years.

    2.      When thinking about where to put your camera, start at the places where you think feral predators are active (i.e., around chicken pens, along fence lines, well used paths). Foxes and their young are habitual and will follow the same paths each night. Leave your camera in the same location for 7 days.

    3.      Choose the height of your camera a little higher, or at the same height as the body of the animal you are wanting to monitor. For foxes and cats this is just below knee height.

    4.      Moving foliage and long grass can trigger the camera. If at all possible, choose a location where the camera is not looking towards long grass or shrubs. If you don’t have a choice, review the camera footage and erase the SD card. At the same time change the camera batteries (if they are flat). Change the SD and batteries every 2-3 days as needed if the weather is other than very calm.

    5.      Wildlife cameras can record still images or video (with sound). Video is great for recording animal behaviours, however fill up the SD card and flatten the camera batteries quicker than recording still images. Still images are great for recording presence/absence of animals.  Set the camera to record still images (not video) if you wish to leave the camera in a remote location for several weeks to months without needing to replace the SD card or batteries. For easy to access locations where the camera will be checked every 1-2 weeks, choose video or still images depending on the purpose of the survey. 

    6.      For wildlife monitoring – do not use baits or attractants to lure wildlife to your camera location. This can change the behaviour of the animal you are trying to monitor and put them at risk of predator attack or harmful to their health. Instead choose a camera location that will observe them in their natural environment. Direct the camera towards animal paths, rotten logs, rock piles, shrubby undergrowth, tree hollows and at tree trunks - depending on which animals you are seeking to observe.

    7.      Your scent can deter predators from visiting an area. Attaching the camera can be fiddly, Alice suggests you practice setting the camera up in an area that you will not be monitoring. When you set the camera in the monitoring location use a ground sheet and gloves so your scent is not transferred to the camera installation location, and the camera itself.

    8.      Use short sticks of varying thickness behind the installed camera (horizontal) to angle the camera up or down as needed when strapped to a tree, fence post or similar. And ensure the camera is very firmly strapped in location to prevent it from being dislodged by an animal.

    The Small Farms Network Capital Region Trail Camera Loan Program is an initiative to provide financial members of the network short term access to high quality wildlife cameras to use on their properties.  Find out more and loan a camera.

    Alice recorded a 9 minute demonstration video on how to use a wildlife camera, see the link below. 

    Video - how to use a wildlife camera


    Pest animal monitoring techniques PEST SMART

    Is it OK to feed wild animals?

    WIRES - Information about feeding wild animals

    Setting up a Browning Trail Camera

    SFNCR fox and rabbit workshop.

    This event is made possible with funding from South East Local Land Services.

  • 11 Dec 2020 12:30 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    This workshop was held at the Mulloon Institute on the 5 December 2020 (with social distancing). Our guest speakers were Peter Hazell and Anne Gibson from the Mulloon Institute and Jennie Curtis from Roogulli Farm.  

    What is the water cycle? It can be illustrated by the diagram below.

    Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    The water cycle is essential to life on earth and 65% of rainfall is produced over land.

    Peter explained to us that the small water cycle on your farm can be influenced by management.  If there is insufficient water in the soil, on its surface and in plants, solar energy cannot be transformed into latent heat that produces water evaporation but is instead changed into sensible heat. The surface of the ground soon overheats, and as a result, a breakdown in the supply of water from the large water cycle arises over the affected land (Source Europeanwater.org). We learnt that farmers can maximise the water potential of their farm by increasing soil carbon, rotational grazing, maintaining ground cover, avoiding bare soil, planting trees, installing simple structures to encourage water infiltration and reducing the effects of erosion.

    The Mulloon Institute has been working with local farmers along Mulloon Creek. These are the three main principles of the Mulloon Creek Rehydration Initiative:

    1.      De-energise flood waters by putting leaky weir structures in Mulloon Creek. The leaky weirs spread nutrients and water across the flood plain. The recharged ground water is released back into the creek system in times of drought and habitat is created in the resulting chain of ponds. The Mulloon Institute is monitoring the project including stream flows and water quality.

    2.      Slow the speed of surface water runoff higher in the landscape. At the Mulloon Institute they achieve this in steep areas using swales, leaky weirs and non-permanent structures in first and second order streams. Water energy is dissipated and stored in vegetation below the swales.

    3.      Increase surface roughness using vegetation, rocks and plants to create niches and microclimates. This conserves water in the landscape, creates habitat for wildlife and potentially increases feed resources for grazing.

    Peter described simple ideas such as creating a wetland upstream from a dam or in the inflow area of the dam to catch sediment. He also suggested making brush packs using unwanted plants such as Kunzea and blackberry to place along the contour as small-scale solutions to reducing runoff and improving water quality.

    Find out more information about the Mulloon Institute Rehydration Initiative here.  

    Jennie Curtis is a landscape architect who manages Roogulli Farm in Bywong with her husband Chris. The farm is a mixed enterprise with a Babydoll Southdown sheep stud and a market garden. These are key points from Jennie’s presentation:

    1.     A swale is a ditch or wetland along the contour. It is hard to see a well-designed grassed swale; the cross section should blend smoothly into the surrounding landscape. Swales can be used to redirect water away from structures (drainage) and into places where you want the water to infiltrate the soil. For example, Jennie showed how water flooding the house pad on her farm was redirected into garden areas using swales.

    2.     You can rip along the contour to slow the impact of runoff and improve water infiltration rates. A word of caution though, ripping can increase weeds in the short term and in some situations ripping can cause erosion.

    3.      Know your levels – use a laser level, survey or water in a clear pipe to measure levels and identify lines along contours since the eye can be deceptive.
    4.      After drought or bushfire, water can be slowed by using simple silt fences constructed along the contour using hessian or silt fence fabric secured to star pickets. This can help protect dams and waterways from debris and erosion when vegetated filtration zones are missing in the landscape.
    5.     Leaky weirs can be used across drainage lines to slow water flows. The water held temporarily behind the structure has more opportunity to infiltrate the soil and helps protect the area upstream from erosion. These structures need to be designed to be structurally sound and sized to handle the peak water flows found in that flow line. This often requires professional design assistance.

    The guiding principles that Jennie uses are:

    • Simple solutions can work well
    • Deal with the problem near the source
    • Know your levels. Slow water by sending it along the contour. Move water by sending it downhill
    • Avoid concentrating flows
    • Design with maintenance in mind
    • Design for easy access (think about how swales will be crossed by vehicles, people and animals).

    The placement of structures in water courses requires rigorous engineering and planning. Weirs, rock structures are examples of ‘controlled activities’ that may require a permit and approval. It is wise to check that your contractor is aware of these requirements before building any structures in water courses.

    Find out about Water Licencing and Compliance here.

    Contact NSW Water Advisory Services on 1800 353 104 or email water.enquiries@dpi.nsw.gov.au.


    Digital elevation model and contours from Geoscience Australia

    Water recovery for the climate: a new water paradigm

    Peter Andrews - Natural Sequential Farming

    Rivers of Carbon - What are swampy meadows and chains of ponds and why we need them

    NSW Local Land Services. Chapter on water in Rural Living Handbook 

    Small Farms Network Capital Region Irrigation workshop

    Small scale ideas for managing erosion

    Information on dams, building dams and water on small farms

    What is a swale?

    Swales? Or Not to Swale?

    This event was funded by the NSW Government through an Increasing Resilience to Climate Change (IRCC) Community Grant. You can find out more about the IRCC projects here

  • 3 Dec 2020 2:42 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    At our online meeting Dr Jason Condon chatted with farmers Jennie Curtis, Allan Spencer and Harji Dhindsa about the soil test results from the demonstration plots on their farms.  

    Soil samples were taken from each farm in September from a ‘good patch’ and ‘bare patch’ of soil in the demonstration plots. The soil from the bare patch plots was bulked. The soil was sampled at depths 0-5, 5-10, 10-15 and 15-20cm to see what was going on in the different soil layers.

    Jason discussed what the soil test results mean and the differences between the patches, soil depths and farms. We recommend you take the time to listen to Jason’s presentation. He explains how to interpret the soil test results including soil pH, aluminium, potassium, cation exchange capacity, organic carbon, exchangeable sodium percentage, soil electrical conductivity and calcium/magnesium ratio. He then goes on to suggest actions that can be taken to improve the soil health on each farm.

    This meeting was recorded on the 16 November 2020 and you can view the video here.

    Jason explained the demonstrations sites have their own unique factors that are limiting plant growth and contributing to the bare patches. It was fascinating to learn about how the “Law of the Minimum’ works in practice and how soil structure can affect plant growth.

    Key messages from the meeting:

    • Acidic soils are those with soil pH (measured in Calcium chloride, CaCl2) less than 5.5. The pH test in CaCl2 (pHCa) better mimics the soil conditions that plants are growing in compared to pH measured in pure water (pHw).
    • When the soil pHCa  is less than 5, the concentration of exchangeable aluminium (Al) in the soil increases. This aluminium can be toxic to plants and can take up valuable nutrient holding sites in the soil (called the cation exchange capacity, CEC) causing useful nutrients to be displaced from the topsoil. When the percentage of the CEC taken up by aluminium (Al%) is  over 5% some plants and soil organisms will suffer aluminium toxicity however, even aluminium tolerant plants will still suffer from toxicity at Al% over 30.
    • Legume rhizobia may not fix nitrogen if the soil pH is below 5. Two of the demonstration sites have very low pH that decreases at depth. The Al toxicity would be limiting the growth of plant roots in the surface layer, which means the plants will have less resilience to stress and die off sooner in spring as water becomes limiting.
    • Low soil pH can affect the cycling of major nutrients including potassium and phosphorus. Correcting soil pH is a key way to improve nutrient cycling in the soil. Grazing animals cycle potassium and phosphorus through their urine and manures, if products such as hay, animal meat or fibre are removed  then these nutrients are lost from the system and the fertility of the soil is reduced.
    • When phosphorus (P) is low the plants become P deficient and growth will be limited. Even native grass pastures require a source of P (around 20 Colwell P), improved pastures require more P (around 30 Colwell P).
    • Exchangeable Sodium Percentage (ESP) measures soil sodicity. If the ESP is above 6 then the soil is sodic. Soil sodicity causes soil dispersion that leads to erosion.
    • When the calcium – magnesium ratio is low (below 2) the soil structure is not stable, this makes the pores smaller, the aggregates fall apart and slaking occurs. Slaking contributes to poor water infiltration because of the smaller soil particles. At depth where the Ca:Mg ratio is low, this can cause major soil slumping and potential erosion. The slaking at depth could also affect plant growth due to lack of oxygen and space for plant roots to grow.

    This is a summary of the key differences between the project sites.


    Soil Acidity and Liming AGFACT

    Identifying dispersive sodic soils 

    Assessing soil aggregate stability

    Cycling on phosphorus in grazing systems 

    You can catch up on the latest Grassing the Bare Patches Project here.

    Dr Jason Condon is a soil scientist and educator from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, a partnership of NSW Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University based in Wagga Wagga. 

    The Small Farms Network Capital Region received funding for this project from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.

  • 23 Oct 2020 2:51 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    At this event Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys spoke at a webinar and then in afternoon led two paddock walks where she identified pasture species. In the webinar Helena discussed the critical elements of establishing and maintaining grazing pastures in a challenging and changing climate.

    You can watch the webinar recording.

    Key points

    1.      Know the production capability of your farm and aim to keep ground cover at 70% or higher. This will reduce the likelihood of your soil becoming degraded. The land class, parent material (rock), slope, soil type and management all contribute to the suitability of your land to support livestock. 

    See more about land classes

    The MLA Pasture Soil Health Kit contains information on ground cover management and stocking rates.

    2.      Know your soil type and soil pH. Helena explained the Law of the Minimum, which states that plant growth is dictated not by total resources available, but by the scarcest resource (or limiting factor).

    Limiting soil factors can include:

    • Physical characteristics such as soil depth, soil texture, organic matter and moisture
    • Low or high soil pH that makes some minerals toxic and affects nutrient uptake by plants
    • The nutrients available for plant growth.

    A soil pH of less than 5.5 can reduce some nutrient availability and cause aluminium toxicity that will affect plant growth and legume nodulation. Over time, soils in the Southern Highlands have become more acidic due to cropping and agriculture. Some plants are more adapted to low soil pH, salinity and low rainfall. For example, Serradella is more tolerant of acid soil and Balansa Clover tolerates saline soils but generally it is easier to address the soil pH problem rather than try to find plants that will grow in increasingly acidic soils.

    See more about soil pH 

    3.     Understand the nutritional requirements of your livestock. For example, horses require lower energy pastures than sheep and cattle. Grazing horses on native pastures can help reduce the occurrence of laminitis, while young growing sheep or lactating ewes have a higher demand for protein and energy.

    4.  Pasture establishment requires water and the correct soil temperature. The type of plant you want to grow will dictate the best time for planting. C3 grasses are temperate grasses and C4 grasses are adapted to warm conditions. Having a mix of both types of grasses can help you grow more pasture throughout the year. Native pastures are generally well adapted to surviving drought conditions. 

    More information

    Grazing Management for Native Pastures

    Tactical Grazing to Maximise Animal and Pasture Productivity

    Weed removers, pasture improvers – effective weed control.

    Rejuvenating perennial pastures

    Pasture Species and Varieties 

    Grasses of the NSW Tablelands 

    Grass Habits and Habitats 

    Farming Forecaster – a tool for monitoring soil moisture and ground cover

    Agrifutures – free downloads and resources

    Weeds Poisonous to Horses - free downloadable PDF.

    C3 and C4 native grasses

    Pasture walks

    In the afternoon Helena led two paddock walks through old pastures in Bywong where we learned to identify pasture plants and looked at the pH profile in soil cores using a home pH testing kit.

    Pasture plants we looked at

    Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is red at the base and has shiny leaves. Considered a good pasture grass, but not good for horses as it is high in sugar. See more

    Giant Brome Grass (Bromus diandrus) also know as rip gut brome is annual tufted grass to 100 cm tall with sharp seed heads. Common in disturbed areas, such as road sides and stick camps. Considered a weed and has limited feed value. May produce useful early spring feed but is only palatable when it is vegetative. Seeds can damage the eyes, mouth and guts of stock. See more

    Prairie Grass (Bromus catharticus) a tufted short lived grass to 150cm tall. The leaves are sparsely hairy and bright green. This grass has higher feed value than Giant Brome Grass. See more

    Common Wheat Grass (Anthsachne scabra), a native cool season perennial grass to 100cm tall. The leaves typically have a twist and the flag leaf sticks out at a right angle. The leaf sheaths are hairy and auricles are present.  A minor component of pastures but is drought and frost tolerant. See more

    Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) an introduced perennial pasture grass. Cocksfoot is tolerant of acidic soils (down to pH 4.0 and have high exchangeable aluminium).

    To differentiate Cocksfoot from Phalaris (Phalaris aquatica) grass, the stem of Cocksfoot rolls in your fingers like a flat tyre, while the Phalaris stem is round and rolls easily. The seedheads are also different. In the photo below, a Phalaris grass stem is shown on the left and Cocksfoot is on the right. 

    See more about Cocksfoot and Phalaris.

    Subterranean Clover (Trifolium subterraneum) has small white pea like flowers on stems that bury the seed into the soil (like a bur). The leaf of the subterranean clover is heart shaped and hairy with equal leaf storks. See more

    White Clover (Trifolium repens) is a perennial, aerial seeding clover with white flowers and often a pale green stripe across the leaves. See more

    Balansa Clover (Trifolium michalelianum) Introduced cool season annual, the seed heads consist if many white pea like flowers held on stems above the ground. The flowers are white to pink. It is a hard seeded annual clover that tolerates waterlogging. See more

    Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis) an erect, short-lived, tussock forming perennial grass with leaves 3-5mm wide. Rough to touch on the top and shiny below. The auricles are stem clasping and hairless. See more

    Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) grass is common in stock camp and low lying areas. It has furry leaves that many stock do not like to eat. Erect tufted greyish grass, covered in velvety hairs. The flower heads are purplish to white. Regarded as a weed. See more

    Wallaby Grass (Danthonia species) is shown in the photo below, a native grass that survives drought. The leaf has a hairy ligule where it joins the stem. This feature is present in the many species of Wallaby Grass. See more

    Spear Grass (Austrostipa spp) a native grass, good for biodiversity. Can grow year round but most productive in spring. Leaves are fine, inrolled, usually rough to touch. See more

    This project is supported by the NSW Government Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Increasing Resilience to Climate Change community grants program. More information about the program can be found here.


Small Farms Network Capital Region Inc
PO Box 313
NSW 2621

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