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RESOURCES FOR SMALL FARMERS

Our workshop summaries, webinars and videos

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  • 8 Jul 2020 7:29 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Vaccinations can help prevent common sheep diseases when used correctly. They have the potential to improve sheep health across the region for all farms, small and large. A key element in deciding which vaccines are useful on your farm is to find out the risk of particular diseases in the local district and the past history of your property.

    Many vaccines require two doses for the vaccination to be effective followed up with annual boosters. Specific recommendations for effective vaccination can be found in the manufacturer’s instructions for each vaccine along with information about storage conditions and the length of time that the vaccine can be used after opening.

    Correct injection technique and sterile, clean needles are required both to deliver an effective vaccination and to protect sheep and people from adverse side effects. Used syringes and needles need to be disposed of safely. For more information about injection techniques in Making More From Sheep: Sheep Husbandry Practices.

    Vaccines can help prevent the following diseases of sheep in Australia. The information provided below is general in nature. It is strongly recommended that you consult your vet or animal health advisor before carrying out a vaccination program.

    Commentary marked with * was provided by Alex Stephens, District Veterinarian, South East Local Land Services in July 2020.

    Tetnus, Black Leg, Black Disease, Malignant Oedema and Pulpy Kidney (Clostridial diseases)
    5-in-1 vaccination – typically given as a primer dose at lamb marking followed by a booster dose four to six weeks later and then an annual booster dose. Various brands available.

    This vaccine is widely used throughout Australia and is usually the one being referred to when people say that their sheep are vaccinated.

    * Booster vaccinations are recommended to be given more often, every three months in high risk situations, particularly to younger stock. Boosters are also recommended to be given at other high risk times such as grazing high risk pastures and crops and at the start of a flush of green grass after a long dry spell.

    MLA Clostridial Diseases information

    Agriculture Victoria Clostridial Diseases

    Cheesy Gland
    6-in-1 vaccination – covers same diseases as 5-in1 as well as Cheesy Gland and has similar vaccination regime. Various brands available.

    * Cheesy gland is an endemic disease in the Capital Region so Alex Stephens advised use of 6-in-1 rather than 5-in-1 for the initial vaccinations and annual booster. Use 5-in-1 if you are giving the extra boosters in high risk situations mentioned above to manage a higher clostridial risk.

    MLA Cheesy Gland information

    NSW DPI Fact Sheet Cheesy Gland

    Johnes Disease
    Gudair vaccination – single dose lifetime vaccination given to lambs.

    * The Capital Region is one of the highest endemic areas for Ovine Johne’s Disease. Alex Stephens advised that this vaccination is given to any sheep that are going to be kept to be greater than 2 years of age (ie. breeding stock or wethers).

    MLA Australia Gudair information

    DPI Johnes Disease Fact Sheet

    Erysipelas arthritis
    Eryvac and Eryguard are brands of vaccine – primer and booster dose for lambs then annual vaccination.

    * This vaccine is given in response to a diagnosis of this bacterial cause of arthritis on a property. This disease has been diagnosed and vaccinated against in the Capital Region.  Where properties are getting higher rates of arthritis an investigation and diagnosis is advised.

    Scabby Mouth
    Scabigard is a vaccine option – single dose given to lambs.

    *Scabby Mouth is a common viral disease seen in the Capital Region.  It is present in some flocks and not in others. It is only advisable to vaccinate against this disease as a disease control measure if it is present on your property, as vaccination (with the live vaccine) will introduce the disease to your property.  It is a nasty disease and vaccination is an effective control measure.

    DPI Scabby Mouth Fact Sheet

    Barbers Pole Worm
    BarberVax – a vaccine option where Barbers Pole worms are prevalent and resistant to drenches.

    * Fortunately in the Capital Region we can still use strategic drenching with effective drenches to control Barbers Pole Worm. This is a very effective vaccine and should be considered where producers want or need to drench less or they have significant resistance issues. This vaccine has not had a high uptake in this area so you may need to order it in in advance and courier fees may apply.

    WormBoss Barbers Pole Worm

    Campylobacter
    Ovilis Campyvax – where abortions and still born lambs have been caused by Campylobacter infection. Initial primer and booster dose followed by annual booster given to ewes before joining.

    * Campylobacter is a prevalent disease is the Capital Region. The vaccine is reasonably new. Uptake of this vaccine has been higher in recent years, reflecting higher sheep prices and research showing the disease to be quite prevalent in the area. Abortions are more likely to be seen when sheep are being held more closely together and eating from the ground, such as during drought feeding times. See the link for a local case study.

    Campylobacter case study

    Anthrax
    Anthrax vaccine – annual vaccination which requires authorisation in NSW by Local Land Services.

    Anthrax is a serious and usually fatal. It is a notifiable disease in NSW. It typically occurs in an area through the centre of NSW and into Victoria.

    * The Capital Region is not within the Anthrax belt/zone and so vaccination against Anthrax would not be advised. Vaccination is usually done in response to control of an outbreak, which would most usually occur within the Anthrax zone

    More information on anthrax

    To contact your local District Veterinarian  in NSW, visit NSW Local Land Service Contact us

    This post was reviewed by Alex Stephens, the District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services (SELLS). Alex works at the Yass SELLS office.

  • 8 Jul 2020 6:58 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    In this webinar Alastair Rayner from Rayner Ag discussed sheep nutrition, how to use the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app, biosecurity and the National Vendor Declaration Scheme. The webinar was recorded on 10 June 2020.

    You can watch the webinar recording on the Small Farms Network Capital Region YouTube Channel.

    Key points from the webinar:

    • Poor production and ill thrift can usually be attributed to a lack of energy or protein in the sheep’s diet. Sufficient energy and protein are essential for growth and health. Fibre in feed enables the rumen to function correctly. More about rumen function.
    • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not the first factor that impedes the growth and health of sheep. A lack of energy or protein to meet the animals' basic demand for nutrients is most likely the cause of ill thrift.
    • The moisture in grass and supplements will affect calculations for the ‘as fed’ amount in rations. The ‘as fed amount’ is the amount of feed minus the moisture content. You can find out more about dry matter and pasture assessment on the Lifetime wool website
    • Care need to be taken when introducing new feeds to sheep. Grains and pellets need to be introduced slowly (over at least two weeks) to reduce the risk of acidosis. Feeding out plenty of fibre rich hay or grass can buffer the effects of grain poisoning.
    • The NSW Drench plan from WormBoss summarises a plan for managing intestinal worms in sheep in NSW. The WormBoss website provides extensive information and tools for managing worms. The Capital Region is in the WormBoss NSW Non-Seasonal Rainfall area.
    • The NSW DPI Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app can be used to calculate how much supplementary feed (if any) to give your sheep and to choose types of feed suited to the circumstances of your sheep and pastures. It includes an easy-to-use pasture digestibility and availability assessment tool. This helps you to decide whether you have enough pasture for your sheep to meet their nutritional requirements. Ewes in late pregnancy, lactating ewes and weaners have a higher demand for energy and protein. The weight of the sheep also affects the amount of feed needed (a smaller sheep eats less).
    • Targeted mineral supplements in late pregnancy can improve lambing outcomes. The most common mineral deficiencies in ewes are magnesium and calcium. This article from Australian Wool Innovation covers the metabolic syndromes of ewes and how to manage them.

    Other useful websites

    Agriculture Victoria - Trace minerals in sheep

    Sheep Connect - Pasture assessment skills and feed management

    WormBoss control program for non-seasonal rainfall areas in NSW

  • 7 Jul 2020 1:24 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    This webinar covered the information for people thinking of keeping production poultry on a small scale for eggs, meat or live chicken sales. The webinar was recorded on Saturday 27 June 2020 and features Dr Lou Baskind, District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services, and Wendy Hutton, a chicken farmer from just outside Canberra.

    Watch the webinar recording

    Key messages:

    • Check with your local council about what planning permissions are required for the size of your enterprise. You may require a permit for some agricultural enterprises depending on your zone and the type of business. Roadside stalls have specific requirements. Requirements vary between Councils. 
    • There are rules in NSW that govern the production of eggs on a small scale. You will need an egg stamp if selling from somewhere other than your own farm gate. Check out the NSW Food Authority Guidelines.
    • The best way to keep your eggs clean is to provide clean nesting boxes and collect the eggs regularly. Providing appropriate perches will stop birds sleeping in and dirtying the nesting boxes. It is illegal to sell eggs that are cracked or covered in faeces.
    • It is preferable to not wash eggs. People can become infected with Salmonella and other diseases after eating foods that are directly or indirectly contaminated with animal faeces.
    • If you want to sell chicken meat you need to use a registered abattoir. For home consumption, there are humane slaughter guidelines available that include stunning the animal as best practice. The handling of animals for slaughter should not be rushed. Read the guidelines. 
    • If you have 100 or more poultry you need to apply for a property identification code (PIC).
    • Biosecurity management of your flock is important. Diseases are costly to production. Any new birds should be kept in quarantine away from your existing flock for three weeks and monitored for signs of ill health.
    • Two common diseases of chickens that are challenging to manage with biosecurity alone are Marek’s disease and Fowl Pox. Vaccination is an important part of their management. Vaccinating chickens for Mareks disease requires skill and good timing because the chicken needs to be vaccinated when it is one day-old. More about Marek's Disease.
    • Off-label use of veterinary chemicals is not allowed without a veterinary authority. You need to know and follow the required withholding period for each product administered to your birds.

    Other resources

    Biosecurity Checklist for Poultry Keeping (a simple guide from DPI Tasmania)

    NSW DPI Guidelines for Poultry Biosecurity


  • 7 Jul 2020 12:58 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Despite good rainfall in many areas since autumn, some patches of soil are still bare. Dr Jason Condon from Charles Sturt University explained how soil acidity can be a factor driving poor ground cover in pastures. Jennie Curtis, a small farmer from the Capital Region, showed us some of the bare patches at her place.

    The webinar recorded on Saturday 4 July 2020 will help you to develop an understanding of soil acidity including the causes and influence of soil acidity on plants and the landscape. Simple methods to diagnose soil acidity are explained. Addressing soil acidity may be a useful step in filling the bare patches on your land.


    Watch the webinar recording

    Key messages:

    1. Soil pH is a measure of hydrogen ions in the soil. The most commonly used pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. As the number goes down from 7 (ie. 6, 5, 4...) the soil acidity increases while values above 7 are alkaline. In the Capital Region many soils are acidic. Soil pH can be measured in the field using a test kit or by sending a sample to a laboratory for more accurate results. The pH (CaCl2) test is the more accurate of the two pH tests, as it reflects what the plant experiences in the soil. The values of pH (CaCl2) are normally lower than pH(w) by 0.5 to 0.9. A simple pH soil testing kit from the rural shop measures pH in water.

    NSW DPI Understanding Soil pH  

    NSW DPI Soil Acidity and Liming

    2. Agriculture involves removing plant material either by harvesting plants or grazing plants and this process acidifies soils. To counteract this you need to get to know what the problems are for your soils.

    3. If your soil is pH 5 or lower, the percentage of available Aluminum is more likely to be at levels that are toxic to plants. High Aluminium reduces root growth and stops cellular growth at the root tip - the roots will be short and stumpy. Where  % Aluminium is high, Magnesium and Calcium are leeched away from the root zone.

    4. Soil acidity is not uniform down through a soil profile so the pH results from a 0-10cm soil test won't give you the full story. Often the pH at the surface where plants are growing is higher and then the soil is more acidic further down. A dig stick can be used with pH indicator powder from a pH test kit to show the range of acidity in your soil profile (see photo below where the pH in water is being tested).

    5. When you get a soil test done, only pay for what you need. A simple soil test should include soil pH, electrical conductivity, available phosphorus, cation exchange capacity, % Aluminium and organic carbon.

    6. Lime is akaline and can be used to adjust soil pH. It is not an annual fertiliser. Soil tests should be used to identify the need for lime and the effects of applying lime can take a long time to be seen. In acidic soils, research suggests that lime moves down through the soil profile best when a target pH of 5.5 is used. This often requires a high initial application rate followed by small top ups every few years for maintenance of a target pH of 5.5. This approach allows lime to be applied on the surface or in relatively shallow seed furrows and to move down through the soil profile without cultivation of the soil. Monitoring your soil is essential for finding our what works on your farm.

    7. Plain lime is best for surface application. Prilled lime can have a good effect when applied in seed rows or riplines but generally is not as effective as regular lime when applied on the surface.

    This project is supported by South East Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

  • 30 Jun 2020 11:46 AM | Alex James (Administrator)

    Dr Lou Baskind, District Veterinarian Form South East Local Land Services, joined the small farms network for a webinar about keeping backyard chickens.

    Key messages:

    • All animals under human control have the right to minimum animal health standards. This is called the five freedoms model.  
    • To thrive, laying hens need access to clean, cool water - don’t forget that water will freeze in winter in cooler climates and should be checked daily.
    • A ration composed of energy, protein, Calcium and micronutrients is essential. Inadequate protein can lead to nutritional stress, which can cause feather pecking, reduced egg laying and poor immunity. Check the protein content of your feed is adequate. 16% protein is needed for adult layers.
    • Provide a range of Calcium sources for your chickens. It takes 15 hours for a chicken to produce an egg and egg formation usually occurs overnight. If there is insufficient Calcium in the blood it can be mobilised from the bones causing stress for the bird. Calcium should be provided in lots of different sizes. Some examples are clean and dry crushed egg shells, crushed oyster shells and limestone.
    • Only use registered chemicals for treating worms, lice and red mite. Always observe the withholding periods on the packet. Off-label use of other vermicides can be dangerous for your chickens and human health because there are no recommended dose rates or with holding periods. A veterinarian is best placed to advise on the use of chemicals for parasite management in your flock. They can give an off-label authority if you need to use chemicals that are not registered for chickens. Lice from chickens will not affect humans.
    • Chickens need the right size and shape of perch (flat) for the size of their feet. Do not use round perches such as dowels. The chook needs to be able to fit their whole foot onto the perch so they can rest properly. 
    • Daylight hours affect the natural laying behaviour of chickens. If your chicken is not laying in winter that is most likely because of their natural breeding rhythm.

    UPDATE: Pestene Insect Powder is a registered chemical for lice in chickens and can be safely used.  Pestene is best used as a preventative and can be added to the dust bathing area or directly applied to the chickens.

    Registered chemicals for poultry

    Product Name

    Registered for laying poultry

    Pestene (sulphur and rotenone dusting powder)

    YES

    Avitrol Bird Mite and Lice Spray

    NO

    (Caged birds)

    Avian Insect Liquidator

    NO

    (ornamental and caged birds)

    Avimec (Ivermectin)

    NO (budgerigars)

    Fido's Fre-Itch Rinse Concentrate for Dogs and Cats

    NO

    Ivermectin*

    NO

    Fipronil (Frontline Spray Flea and Tick Control for Cats and Dogs)

    NO


    Further information

    Essentials for Backyard Chicken Keeping and Health by Dr Lou Baskind

    DIY rodent free chicken feeder from Gardening Australia

    NSW Department of Primary Industries Poultry Fact Sheets 

    The Queeensland Department of Industry has published a series of articles relating to poultry diseases and health. Follow the links below to find out more information.

    Moulting and the laying hen

    Feather loss not related to moulting

  • 27 Mar 2020 11:22 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    This workshop examined rural landscape issues emerging as a result of prolonged drought and recent bushfires. The workshop was held in Bombay, just south of Braidwood.

    Led by Andy Taylor from South East Local Land Services (SELLS) in Braidwood, the workshop was an opportunity for local farmers learn about actions they can take to mitigate the effects of erosion. We also learnt from Judy Carmody about the support available from the Rural Mental Health Resilience Program and Felicity Sturgiss, Senior Land Services Officer (SELLS), talked to us about ways to support wildlife after fires.


    Andy Taylor has written a handy guide to managing erosion after fire.

    Jane Ambrose from Upper Shoalhaven Landcare talked about Landcare in the area and how to get involved in the projects they run. Jane kindly agreed to share her notes from the workshop.

    Key points from the workshop were:

    • The scale of the drought and fires has made erosion events more likely due to lack of ground cover. A question asked at the workshop was “How do I to prioritise erosion control activities?” Andy suggests using Six Maps to calculate the catchment size above an erosion point and prioritising groundworks on the gullies with the largest catchment. You can slow water higher in the landscape by using grazing management to maintain ground cover and sediment traps to slow water runoff.
    • Understanding your soil type is vital for remediating erosion. Around the Bombay area, where the soils are sodic and highly erodible, protecting the topsoil is critical to prevent erosion. Information about your soil type can be looked up on eSpade along with soil testing results for your area. Here is the eSpade link and an example of the soil report you can get from eSpade.
    • Dams and rivers away from the fire grounds have been adversely affected by debris from ash, soil and dung. These contaminants can cause water quality issues for stock, fish and other water users. It is possible to build a sediment trap above a dam using vegetation, rocks or a sediment fence to slow down the movement of water into the dam so that debris is dropped in the trap before the water reaches the dam. This will improve the quality of the water collected in the dam.
    • Repairing containment lines created by bulldozers during the fires is important to reduce erosion. Replacing the topsoil with a grader is a good way to start. Mitre and roll over drains can help slow down and divert water in steep sections. Weed free hay bales can also be used as sediment traps to slow water movement.
    • Because of the intensity of the recent bushfires, the seed bank in the soil could be depleted. A hot fire can change the soil chemistry including soil pH and soil structure. Generally speaking, native grasses have evolved with fire and will recover better than introduced species of grasses. Perennial grasses with deeper root system can also recover well, depending on how hot the soil surface became. Consider using sterile Rye Corn to help establish groundcover. Rye Corn is a better choice than other exotic species on sites with high conservation values where you don’t want to introduce weeds and new exotic grasses. Branches, jute mesh, rocks and other vegetation can all be used to slow down water and create niches for plants and pastures to establish.


    Branches create a planting niche


    Using old lucerne hay under jute matting to slow down water


    Jute matting with seed spread over the top

    Felicity and Andy reiterated the importance of biosecurity when planning erosion works and when feeding wildlife. For example, use straw or other inert materials for erosion management rather than hay or materials containing seed to prevent the spread of weeds. Seek appropriate advice on what to feed wildlife in fire affected areas and avoid feeding meadow hay that could accidentally introduce weeds.

    The following are links to more information:

    Understanding the impact of the 2020 fires

    Building a sediment fence

    Pasture recovery after fire

    Fire retardant plant list from Yarralumla Nursery (but remember all plants can burn)

    Bushfire Customer Care NSW Government

    Healing the land techniques for managing erosion workshop summary

    The Small Farms Network Capital Region received funding from the Every Bit Counts project. The Every Bit Counts project has been funded by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.

  • 22 Mar 2020 11:05 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    The network’s very first webinar was a discussion about sheep handling on small farms. Things like yard setup, weighing sheep and feeding out can be done in many ways. The scale of small farm operations means that producers need to find cost-effective, practical solutions to everyday sheep handling tasks that our larger farming cousins take for granted. Sometimes these solutions can be slower to carry out but when there are only a few sheep, this is not necessarily a problem.

    This webinar, presented by Jennie Curtis from Roogulli Farm, was a chance for small farmers to see some ideas for sheep handling equipment, learn from each other and ask questions.

    Jennie, with assistance from Alice McGlashan, created a video showing ideas for yards for small flocks, a way to weigh sheep, a method for tipping sheep up and a variety of feeders.

    Watch the video

    Weigh bars and race set up


    Homemade sheep feeder

    Download design for sheep hay and pellet feeder used at Roogulli Farm (based on many others found in Google searches)

    For general principles of yard design and the U-Bugle design in particular see The ‘U’ bugle sheep yard from NSW DPI.

    Thank you to Jennie Curtis, Alice McGlashan and Chris Curtis for assisting with this webinar and donating their time.

    The Small Farms Network Capital Region received funding from the Every Bit Counts project. The Every Bit Counts project has been funded by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.

  • 21 Nov 2019 10:15 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    A vision splendid, a place filled with trees and koalas, while the rivers teamed with fish and platypus. From the historical records this is what Bungendore would have looked like to the early European settlers who arrived in 1820. It was the country of the Ngunawal people and to this day a culturally significant place for their descendants.

    This workshop was about stories of past times, honouring Aboriginal and early European history, while learning the importance of the fragmented vegetation that remains. The guest speakers were Wally Bell, Karen Williams and Jasmyn Lynch.

    Wally Bell is a Ngunawal man from the Yharr clan group and a Traditional Custodian of the Ngunawal. Wally welcomed us to his country and called upon the spirits to guide and protect us during our visit to Day’s Hill Reserve in Bungendore. Wally’s story telling about the local area was moving. He talked about Budjabulya the creator and water spirit who lives in Lake Ngungara (renamed Lake George). Ngunawal people believe that since the beginning of time this spirit has nurtured the Ngunawal people and created the lakes, rivers, valleys, people, animal and plants.

    Wally talked about the importance of Mother Earth to him and how we can all play an important role in restoring and healing the land. Wally’s advice is to sit, observe and listen to the land on which you live. Respect it and look after it because land is a gift.

    Wally also emphasised the importance of scar trees and how they were used as directional markers. Often they were located up high so people could see them from a distance.

    We looked at some Aboriginal stone artefacts and asked a lot of questions about what to look out for on our own properties. Wally told us that Aboriginal artefacts retain the spirit of the person who made them and must be left in the location where they are found.

    Karen Williams shared her knowledge of the early European history of the area, including a story about the first explorer in 1820, Joseph Wild. Jasmyn Lynch talked about the fragmented native vegetation that remains, including nationally threatened ecosystems such as the Temperate Grassland of the Southern Highlands, White Box, Yellow Box and Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland.

    You can download a copy of Ngunawal-stories-of-Lake-George-2019, the handout prepared by the speakers. The notes include a comprehensive list of online resources.

    Read more about the Aboriginal history and culture of the Canberra region by the Buru Ngunawal Aboriginal Corporation.

  • 5 Nov 2019 10:26 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    We all know that water is essential for life and making every drop count, especially during drought, is essential. How to maximise water harvesting and efficient irrigation methods was the focus of this workshop.

    Two successful market gardeners from Canberra’s rural outskirts, Chris Curtis from Roogulli Farm and Geoff Foster from Jerabutt Organics showed us how they manage water and grow enough to sell at the local farmers market. Planning effectively for water resources on small farms is challenging. Running a commercial small-scale enterprise is a remarkable achievement during drought. Geoff and Chris manage to do both.


    Chris Curtis has written two fact sheets on how to design a small-scale drip irrigation system and how much water to apply to different crops.:

    Drip-irrigation-design-example

    How-much-water-to-apply 

    Key points

    Secure your water supply from the threat of bushfire. Geoff demonstrated his bore and pump set up with a backup generator if the power is cut. Geoff has designed the system so that the water used for firefighting can be sourced from the bore or the house tanks via gravity feed. There is a sprinkler system that surrounds the western fire sector of the house including one on the top of the bore shed.

    Invest and plan for the largest water capacity you can and then have extra tanks to collect the overflow. Rainfall is sporadic in this region, often falling over a short period of time with high intensity.  Geoff showed us his set up for the market garden. Water is collected from the greenhouses using a viaduct system into a storage tank that can also be filed from the house tank over flow. There is a bore which is used to irrigate the outdoor garden beds while the plants in the three bay greenhouse are irrigated using rainwater.


    Always use a tap timer so you don’t accidentally drain your tanks. Buy the cheapest tap timer you can because they are not very durable. Tap timers are suitable for low pressure set ups and automating the irrigation of garden beds.


    When you dig a trench for irrigation consider laying an extra pipe for future upgrades. Geoff has a duel irrigation system from the bore and tanks. Two lines have been run in the same trench so if one water source dries up a back-up supply can be used.

    You can fit your garden beds with two types of irrigation. Geoff uses fine sprays to establish seeds and seedlings. Once the plant roots have grown, pressure-compensating drip irrigation is put onto the beds. 


    More information

    Water NSW Farm Dam Handbook

    How to calculate how much rainfall you can collect from a house roof

    Chris Curtis’s wicking bed research

    This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program.

  • 30 Sep 2019 10:46 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Horsewoman Helena Warren from Cadfor Equestrian and Murray Greys shared her expertise with a group of participants over a two-day workshop in 2019.

    This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program

    Key points

    Pastures for horses

    • When planning your horse property, think about ways to minimise runoff and nutrient loss. This can include locating horse infrastructure away from water courses, fencing along contours, rotational grazing, using windbreaks and installing vegetation buffers. A two-metre fenced wind break can provide adequate ground cover to prevent significant erosion and water loss.
    • According to Helena, reseeding a pasture from scratch is a three year process that takes a lot of planning including soil testing, managing weeds, planting a break crop and final seeding. Refer to the DPI Primefact on Pastures for Horses for more information. When the cost of pasture establishment is compared to the ongoing cost of supplementary feeding, fertilising and maintaining pasture becomes financially viable.
    • Being able to assess your horse’s condition score and weight is a useful tool for feeding management and worming. The amount of feed a horse requires depends on their weight, activity, growth stage and body condition. The NSW DPI Primefact 928Estimating a horses condition and weight gives a step by step guide on how to do this.
    • For optimum feed production, perennial grasses should be rested (ideally at the flowering stage) to allow them to develop their basal buds and roots. This will maintain the vigour of the grasses. Allowing native pastures to seed in autumn will also encourage the spread of these grasses in a pasture.
    • Helena described the optimum resting of pastures in a rotational grazing system as the ‘three leaf rule’. The three leaf rule allows the grass roots enough time to recover to maintain good production and for the grass to have the optimum sugar level for horses. The leaf stage of optimum grazing will depend on the species of grass. The Grazing Management Tool provides advice on how to grow more pasture and influence the species mix in your pasture.

    NSW Local Land Services runs Prograze courses that can help property owners develop skills in managing their pasture. Contact your local office.

    Stringhalt

    Stringhalt is a plant poisoning syndrome that affects horses and is caused by the ingestion of flatweed. At the workshop over one third of the participants had horses that were affected by stringhalt. Helena recommended the Investigations into the Australian Causes of Stringhalt in Horses publication for managing horses with stringhalt.

    Laminitis

    After colic, laminitis is the second largest killer of horses in Australia. Laminitis is caused by overconsumption of grasses or feeds high in sugar, but it is often associated with some other stress factor. The critical point to remember when feeding a horse with a high risk of foundering is to keep the structural carbohydrates low. The availability of sugars in grasses is impacted by a number of factors including the species of grass, moisture stress, time of day and amount of shade in a paddock. The production rate of sugar in grasses is linked to photosynthesis.

    Perennial pastures require resting to maintain their leaf production and to be safe for horses at risk of laminitis to graze. Continually grazed grasses at the 1 leaf stage are high in sugar and can increase laminitis risk. More mature grasses in the three leaf stage of production have lower sugar levels. Native pasture grasses are lower in sugars than introduced pasture grasses. The types of grasses suitable for horses are different to those suitable for ruminants. Cattle and sheep digest sugars in grass in the rumen to feed the microbes in the stomach. In horses sugar is digested in the hindgut, from here the sugar enters the bloodstream which can cause metabolic syndromes such as laminitis.

    Weeds in hay

    Helena recommends that you monitor your feed sources, especially hay, for weed contamination. Some pasture grass hay can be contaminated with undesirable pasture species and weeds.  If hay you are buying is cheap this is usually for a reason. If you are unsure of a grass species advertised you can look up the NSW DPI Weed Wise website and NSW Plant Net website.

    Feed rations

    The quote of the day was ‘feed to work’. Would it surprise you to learn that some pleasure horses are overfed? Helena explained how to calculate a ration for a horse based on condition score, growth stage, level of work, pasture availability and feed types.

    You can create a feed budget for your horse using the links below. Having a feed budget can save you time and money and you can tailor the ration to what feeds are available. Please note that these are general guides and the condition of individual horses should be monitored to ensure animal welfare requirements are met.

    Feed requirements of horses – for working out what to feed

    FeedXL on line – application (fees apply) for working out feed requirements.

    Parasitic worms

    Worm testing and rotational grazing are critical elements in an effective worm management program. Some horses have high worm burdens, while others have developed natural resistance. The only way to find out if your horse needs a drench is by doing a faecal worm egg test. You can get testing kits from Local Land Services or many rural suppliers.

    Faecal worm egg testing allows you to choose the appropriate type of drench to use. It is important to not routinely drench using the same active ingredient as this increases the likelihood of developing worms with drench resistance.

    Integrated pest management for horse farms
    Primefact – Worm Control in Horses

    Soils

    According to Helena the best time to take soil samples is in October when the soil is depleted during the pasture growing season. Further advice about soil sampling and fertilising pastures can be found in the Fertilisers for Pastures booklet. Some benchmarks for healthy soils can be found here.

    During the field day we looked at the soil test results from the property. The test results indicated that the soil pH was probably too low and the Aluminium too high. Y

    Harrowing horse paddocks and using rotational grazing can help increase organic matter in the soil and reduce fertiliser costs. Soil testing and working out a nutrient budget can help you decide if additional fertilisers are required. Fertilisers for Pastures contains a guide to working out a nutrient budget for a horse property.

    More information
    Pasture Management and Laminitis Risk
    Diagnosing and treating gastric ulcers in horses
    How to discourage your horse from eating sand
    Poisonous plants of horses field guide
    Strategic planning for horse properties

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Small Farms Network Capital Region Inc
PO Box 313
Bungendore
NSW 2621

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