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  • 16 May 2018 7:48 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    The weekend in March 2018 was a ‘cut above’ the rest of our workshops for 27 participants from the region.

    Workshop trainer Barry Aitchison shared with us some chainsaw related statistics. The National Coronial Information Service data shows at least 99 deaths occurred in Australia between 2000 and 2016 as a result of chainsaw use and tree felling (Source ABC News). According to Barry in 2014 there were over 60 accidents from chainsaw use requiring at least 66 stitches in NSW hospitals. Having worked in the industry for over 33 years Barry believes that the main cause of injury is apathy, complacency and fatigue since most accidents occur in the afternoon.

    So what are Barry’s top five tips for safe chainsaw operation and maintenance?

    1. Safety is the number one priority – invest in a good chainsaw and safety equipment. Including chainsaw chaps, helmet, eye and ear protection, gloves, close fitting clothing and lace up boots if possible. A dust mask is also useful to prevent dust and fungi from the wood dust getting into your respiratory system. When in the bush consider using a hi-vis safety vest. Always be aware of other people around you by keeping them in your line of sight.
    2. Chainsaw fuel once mixed does not last forever. At the beginning of the season empty the old fuel from the chainsaw and put in fresh fuel. Use a high octane fuel and a special synthetic chainsaw oil. If the chainsaw is not working check the fuel, spark plug and chainsaw air cleaner first. For new chains soak the chain in bar oil for two hours so the reservoirs in the chain fill up with oil to lubricate the bar.
    3. Use a safety chain with a low profile, this will help prevent kickback. Different chainsaws models require different chains. The chain, bar and sprocket must match. The chain cannot be pulled in the reverse direction if the chain and sprocket don’t match. The chain can be fitted the wrong way, so check the cutting edge is facing forward.
    4. A kickback occurs when the top quadrant (or kickback zone) at the end of the cutter bar snags on a log. The resulting torque effect causes the chainsaw bar to kick upwards towards the operator. To help prevent kickback, know where the top of the cutter bar is at all times and put the bottom part of the bar into the log first. Use a safety chain and ensure that the chain brake is working. Modern chainsaws have chain brakes as a standard safety feature. More about kickbacks.
    5. Know your equipment and keep it sharp and clean. The chain can be sharpened using special files designed for each chain. The chainsaw bar can build up a burr that can be removed using a special tool. The burr will slow down the chain spinning on the bar. Carry a wedge to help free your cutter bar if it gets caught in a cut. And apply bright coloured paint to your tools so they don’t get lost or left behind in the forest.

    See chainsaw maintenance video 

    By providing links to external information in this summary, the Small Farms Network Capital Region is not recommending or promoting any brand of equipment. The links contain the best available diagrams and information on the topic.

    The Small Farms Network Capital Region would like to thank Mr Greg Simms from BRural for sponsoring this field day. Sponsorship enables us to keep the cost of our workshops affordable.  Check out the range of BRural chainsaw equipment in store and online.

    This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and sponsorship from BRural. Thank you to our sponsors, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our hosts Alan and Sue for giving up their weekend to help others learn.

  • 8 Mar 2018 7:35 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    This workshop held in early 2018 looked at many aspects of storing and using water on farms. The following is a summary.

    Farm dams

    Each NSW property has a maximum volume of water (harvestable right) that can be stored in dams that is based on the area of the property. Before building a dam you need to calculate the capacity of existing dams to see if you have any more harvestable rights available (see NSW Office of Water Maximum Harvestable Right Calculator).

    If you have harvestable rights available then you need to work out whether a licence is required to build a dam (see NSW Office of Water Harvestable Rights – Dams). The easiest option is to build a dam on a first or second-order stream.  Dams on third-order waterways require a licence. The order of streams is based on the pattern of blue lines for watercourses shown on topographic maps (e.g. look up SIX maps for your property). There is an explanation about how to work out what order watercourse you are dealing with in NSW Office of Water Dams in NSW: Where Can They be Built Without a Licence[Your Council may also require you to lodge a development application before constructing a dam – Ed.]

    Good spillway design is crucial to ensuring that excess water can be released safely when there is lots of rain. It is desirable to have good ground cover on the spillway to protect it from erosion and also to keep it dry as often as possible. A trickle pipe can be installed to release small amounts of water so the spillway is kept dry.

    Farm dams can be made wildlife friendly and more attractive by excluding stock and planting riparian plants. See The Farm Dam Handbook (Water NSW) for design ideas and strategies.

    What makes dams leak?

    Poor construction

    • topsoil not removed before dam wall is constructed so water seeps out through topsoil layer in dam wall
    • inadequate compaction of dam wall

    Poor materials

    • a waterproof dam requires 10-12% clay
    • typically dams built in basalt soils will leak

    Leaking dams are expensive to repair. Options for repair include polymer material applied when dam is full or rubber or plastic liners. Contrary to popular opinion, throwing Bentonite into a dam will not fix leaks.

    It is also good practice not to plant trees on dam walls to reduce the risk of their roots causing leaks when the tree dies.

    Silted up dams

    Aim to maintain groundcover in the dam catchment to minimise silt flowing into the dam. Silt can be cleared out of a dam by emptying the water and then bucketing out the mud and spreading it on the dam wall or elsewhere. Sometimes dams leak after this has been done because the silt has been sealing leaks.

    Erosion around dams

    Generally erosion is caused when a dam is built on steeper ground so that the water drops down the front edge of the dam. The eroding areas can be protected by spreading rock on them. It might also help to build a berm across the front of the dam to direct the water into a narrow channel flowing into the dam that can be protected with rock. Strategies for dealing with erosion involve slowing the water moving down the slope, covering exposed soil and re-establishing ground covers.

    The NSW Government Soil Conservation Service provides consultants who can help design dams and provide advice for solving problems with existing dams.

    Stock water

    There are three key things to consider when planning your water supply for stock:

    • Quantity – how much is needed (see NSW DPI Primefact 326 Water Requirements for Sheep and Cattle), will you have enough in dry times? Remember that wildlife will use stock water too and you also need water for firefighting, garden watering and to allow for evaporation (25-30% from farm dams in the Southern Tablelands).
    • Quality – different quality water is needed for different purposes (e.g. drinking water for humans, drinking water for stock, irrigation water for garden). You can test your water to check that it is fit for purpose. Testing is important in dry summers when salt levels can build up in dams. Blue Green Algae (which is also sometimes red/brown) is toxic and stock should be kept away from it. The NSW DPI website has more information on water quality and testing for livestock and blue green algae testing.
    • Reliability – see NSW DPI Primefact 269 Stock Water: A Limited Resource

    Stock water can be provided by giving access to a dam or pumping water to troughs. Generally stock should be fenced out of dams to maintain water quality but you can fence so that they have limited access to a dam over rocky ground. Water troughs need to be kept clean and you need to make sure that all animals have access to troughs – sometimes there are bullies who keep the other stock away from the trough.

    The water in the dam will be cleaner if you fence to stop stock camping in the dam catchment. It is also important to maintain 100% ground cover in the dam catchment and 80% elsewhere to reduce silt and nutrient run off into the dam.

    House water

    Most farms store rainwater collected from roofs in tanks for use in the house including drinking. While this tank water is relatively low risk, good hygiene is critical for ensuring water is safe for drinking. People with compromised immune systems and the elderly are most at risk.

    Key actions are:

    • clean house roof gutters to remove dirt and debris
    • first flush diverters can keep the dirtiest water out of the tank but they need regular maintenance to work properly
    • tanks can be cleaned (say annually) using technology similar to cleaning a swimming pool while the water is still in the tank
    • pumps should be regularly cleaned and maintained
    • drinking water can be filtered using charcoal and paper filters which should be replaced annually
    • home test kits are available to check the quality of the tank water

    If the water becomes contaminated (e.g. dead animal in tank), water can be made safe for drinking by boiling. UV filters can also be used to clean water but are more expensive.

    This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services, the Soil Conservation Service and Veolia. Thank you to our sponsors of the network, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our host farm.

  • 28 Nov 2017 7:28 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Led by Jo Powells, Senior Agronomist with South East Local Land Services, the focus of the field days was land capability, soil chemistry and interpreting soil test results.

    Key points

    • ‘Land capability’ is the inherent ability of the land to sustain agricultural production. It takes into account the characteristics of the site including slope, vegetation and the physical characteristics of the soil. There is a range of classification from 1 (highly arable) to 8 (only suited to light grazing or conservation). The Rural Living Guide has more information about Land Capability Classes.
    • Regular soil tests can give you the information needed to recognise the physical and chemical limitations of your soil. The tests can help you to identify key properties of the soil and how it will react to inputs. For example, fertilising without regular soil testing may lead to nutrient imbalances or the over application of a particular nutrient. If you decide to soil test, use a NATA Accredited Lab for the analysis so you know that the result are based on accepted standards and can be compared with other soil tests.
    • Pasture legumes are sensitive to soil pH and low soil Sulphur which can lead to poor nodulation and reduced nitrogen fixation by the plant.
    • Phosphorus is usually the key nutrient limiting pasture production in Australia. By understanding and using soil test results, you can choose to use different fertiliser treatments to increase pasture production.
    • Some soils in the Capital region are classed as sodic soils. These soils have an exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) > 6% and are prone to dispersion and structural collapse when wet. This can lead to erosion problems or a very compacted layer in the soil. Cultivation of sodic soils can increase water infiltration and exacerbate the problems. Sodic soils can be improved by applying gypsum, or a combination of gypsum and lime in acidic soils. Soil testing can guide you in deciding on the best way to manage these soils.


    Alternative Fertilisers and Pasture Productivity – a South East Local Land Services research project in collaboration with Bookham Landcare to trial a range of alternative fertiliser treatments – the videos reporting on the research findings are excellent and may well challenge your ideas about soil biology and fertilisers.

    The Trouble with Sub Project – a South East Local Lands Services research project with Harden Murrumburrah Landcare investigating problems with performance of sub-clover in pastures and relationship to soil chemistry.

    Australian Soil Fertility Manual – CSIRO Publishing (edited Graham Price), available from various sources including digital version.

    Agskills Manual – Managing for Healthy Soils – a starting point for learning about soils.

    Rural Living Guide – useful primer developed by South East Local Land Services for small farms, provides overview of wide range of topics related to managing and farming rural lands with links to many resources.

    Introduction to Soil Sodicity – technical note by Co-operative Research Centre for Soil and Land Management.

    Best practice guidelines to using poultry manure on pastures – guide to using chicken manure by Neil Griffiths, District Agronomist, Extensive Industries Development, published by NSW Department of Primary Industries.

    Soils for Life – website with information about soils regenerative practices

    Northern Rivers Soil Health Card – tool developed for farmers by farmers to use to monitor the health of their soils.

    These field days were made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services. Lunch for the field days was provided by the ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator. Thank you to our sponsors of the network, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our host farms for the field days.

  • 28 Nov 2017 7:20 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    At this workshop with Alison Elvin we discussed weeds – why they are growing, how to identify them and what they look like in the paddock.

    “Weeds are messengers – they can tell you a lot about your land and what is happening with the soil” Alison Elvin 2017

    So why are weeds a problem and how can we manage them? Weeds are usually performing a function within the landscape or filling a niche where they can easily out compete other plants. They often grow on bare, acidic, compacted soils with little top soil. The most important thing that you can do to stop weeds getting a foothold is to maintain ground cover and protect top soil.

    General weed management guidelines

    • Accurate identification of weeds and your paddock plants is essential. Learn about what you have.
    • Maintain ground cover by managing stocking rates and using mulch to protect small bare patches of soil.
    • Most weeds set huge numbers of seeds that can survive in the soil for long periods. For example Serrated Tussock can set up to 140,000 seeds per plant per year. Stop weeds seeding in the current year by rotational grazing, mowing or other means. Cool burns at the right time of the year (with a permit) can help reduce seed.
    • Killing weeds can be helpful for reducing spread – use mechanical removal methods where possible. If you use herbicides, only spray on calm, sunny days at times when plants are actively photosynthesising. This will improve the uptake of chemical. Use a funnel over the nozzle to prevent spray drift.
    • Manage soil fertility – by improving soil fertility and taking soil samples you can address any mineral deficiencies in the soil. Cape Weed and other yellow flowering weeds indicate the soil is deficient in Calcium.
    • Biosecurity – seed moves on vehicles, in and on livestock, in feed (e.g. hay) and by wind. Use quarantine paddocks for newly arrived stock, buy feed from reputable sources and feed out in restricted areas.
    • When removing or controlling weeds – replace the weed with plants/seeds of the vegetation that you want to grow there. Sow seeds, plant shrubs/seedlings and spread mulch. On elevated ground, remove weeds and use mounds and swales made from vegetation or hay bales to trap seeds. Work in small patches to reduce erosion risk.
    • Some weeds like thistles can be beneficial – they have very deep tap roots and exude secretions that feed fungi in the soil. Consider chipping the weeds and leaving the roots intact as this will help the fungi spread and improve soil fertility.
    • Only use herbicides according to the label instructions and use personal protection equipment. Help reduce development of herbicide resistance by using integrated control methods. When selecting a contractor, ensure that they have Chemcert Training.

    Serrated Tussock

    Serrated Tussock has an interesting history in Australia. It was introduced in pack saddles before WW1 and only became a problem after the Rabbit Drought. Serrated Tussock is a problem because it is highly unpalatable to stock, it has a high silica content and the microbes in the rumen won’t break it down. It will kill stock that graze it when there is nothing else to eat. Over grazing pastures will compound the problem because the weeds that are toxic to the stock will proliferate since they are the least desirable to graze.

    Here are some tips to identifying Serrated Tussock and controlling it:

    • Poa spp., Corkscrew Grass and other native tussock grasses flower in early spring, Serrated Tussock flowers in November and December.
    • Serrated Tussock is usually a lime green colour when actively growing, native tussock grasses are more bluish grey. The seed heads of Serrated Tussock will blow around in late summer, native tussock will hold onto the seed heads (see photo). Serrated Tussock generally only flowers once a year. Native grasses can flower twice a year if conditions allow. Alison Elvins suggested that the best time to identify serrated tussock is in winter.  Physical barriers and dense windbreaks on the boundary can reduce spread of serrated tussock because 70% of the seed heads move around 70-90 cm above the ground.
    • If you need help with identification and management of weeds your Council Weeds Officers can assist you.

    More information

    NSW WeedWise – NSW DPI website with descriptions and photos of common weeds along with information about control and management options.

    Weed Spotter – ACT and Southern Tablelands website for reporting and mapping weeds and weed control actions – citizen science in action.

    Weed Management Guide – Serrated Tussock – information sheet about Serrated Tussock issues, identification, spread and management options by CRC Weed Management.

    Serrated Tussock Resistance to Fluproponate – information from the Serrated Tussock Working Party for NSW and ACT about the developing resistance to herbicides and how you can help reduce this problem.

    This workshop was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services and Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council. Thank you to our hosts for contributing to a successful day and our network sponsors, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability.

  • 13 Oct 2017 7:09 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Matthew Lieschke and Dr Bill Johnson from South East Local Land Services led the discussion and practical session about managing lambs and ewes at lamb marking. Lamb marking is a key animal husbandry task for people raising lambs and typically involves ear tagging, vaccination, castration and tail docking.

    Key points

    Plan to mark lambs at 2-8 weeks of age. Younger lambs are likely to recover faster. Lamb marking should be completed before the lambs are 12 weeks old. If you have lambs arriving over a long period, it might be better to have several lamb marking times. Marking before the end of October reduces the risk of fly strike.

    Preparation of the site and equipment will help you to minimise infections. Generally a temporary holding pen out in a paddock is cleaner than the sheep yards and a good place to do marking. Avoid mud and dusty conditions. Cover surfaces where equipment is placed with a clean cloth or towel. You can use a lamb cradle or hold the lamb securely in your arms (see photo).

    Disinfect any equipment between animals using Hibitane (Chlorhexidine). Push needles into a sponge soaked in the disinfectant solution after each injection. Note that most other types of disinfectants are deactivated by organic matter and need to be changed frequently.

    Vaccinate each lamb at lamb marking with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine for sheep with a follow up booster vaccination 4 weeks later. This is injected subcutaneously (under the skin) either in the neck or the brisket (if holding the lamb). Needles for sheep vaccinations should be sharp, 18 gauge and 6mm or 12mm long.

    Lambs that will be kept for more than 2 years can be vaccinated with Gudair vaccine for lifelong protection against Johne’s Disease. Be careful with Gudair vaccine which can have bad side effects for people who accidentally touch or inject it.

    [Options now available for reducing pain at marking include Numnuts and Buccalgesic - Ed.]

    The recommended tail length for tail docking is three palpable joints. In ewe lambs, a tail of this length covers the vulva. Shorter tail lengths take longer to heal, can affect the movement of the tail and increase the likelihood of fly strike. If you are using lamb marking rings, the ring should be placed on the joint rather than the bone between joints, the tail will usually drop off in about 3-4 weeks.

    Castration of male lambs is often done by placing a lamb marking ring over the scrotum, making sure that both testicles are included and that the teats are not included before releasing the ring into place (see ‘A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices’ below for more details).

    Lambs need to have an ear tag with the Property Identification Code (PIC) if they will ever be moved off the property. The tag can also have other information such as a number for the flock or individual sheep and a V if vaccinated for Johne’s Disease. Different coloured ear tags are used for each year but this is not compulsory. Pink tags are only used to replace tags where a sheep was born on another property and has lost its tag. Use a tag applicator that matches the type of tags. Dip the tag in disinfectant before applying half way along and half way up the ear. A convention is that ewe lambs are tagged in their right ear, ram/wether lambs are tagged in their left ear.

    After marking, allow lambs time to ‘mother up’ with the ewes. It can help to put the lambs in the middle of the paddock and then let the ewes out to the lambs and give them time to find each other. The male lambs will often lie down.

    Plan to wean at 12-14 weeks of age. In tougher years, it can be better to wean earlier so that ewes can start to put weight on in preparation for joining. By 8 weeks old the lamb is getting less than 10% of its nutritional intake from milk. Wean lambs onto your best paddocks that have been rested for 3 months to reduce worm burdens and don’t have nasty grass seed heads. Lambs are usually given their first drench at weaning. Weaning is also a good time for the lambs’ booster vaccination (if it hasn’t already happened).

    Further Information

    A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices – Meat and Livestock Australia. This guide gives a comprehensive guide on best practice sheep husbandry and more detail on lamb marking procedures.

    Sheep Ag Skills – A Practical Guide to Farm Skills

    Sheep Weaning Best Practice (WA)

    Early weaning and creep feeding of lambs in poor seasons (WA)

    Creep feeding lambs (NSW DPI)

    Options for weaning (Sheep 201)

    This field day was made possible by funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability. We thank them for their ongoing support.

  • 16 Aug 2017 7:05 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    This field day was about the practical aspects of fencing. Andy Taylor and Shane Laverty from the Rural Landscapes Program, South East Local Land Services discussed the theory of fencing and led a fencing demonstration.

    Key ideas

    There are some principles for fence design that usually apply. The best fence on the farm should be the boundary fence. When considering gate sizes choose larger gates that Rural Fire Service trucks can fit through – as a standard option choose 12′ (3.6m) wide gates if possible. If you have livestock, hang the gate on one side of the post so the gate can be opened flush with the fence when moving stock and the animals won’t get stuck between the gate and the fence. Gates located in corners usually work best – it is often difficult to get animals to go through a gate in the middle of a straight fence.

    The type of fence that you install should be influenced by considerations such type of stock, cost, understanding where the water runs, different soil types, land capability, vegetation and watering points. A property planning field day can help with planning the type and location of fences. In some cases electric fences (permanent or temporary) may be an option.

    Effective personal protection equipment is vital when fencing. This includes gloves, eye protection and protective ear muffs if you are using noisy mechanical equipment (for example when banging in steel posts).

    There are many choices for fencing materials. Low tensile wire just keeps on stretching – medium tensile wire is a better option. Hinged joint fencing mesh comes in many sizes. The numbers in the hinged joint mesh name refer to the number of horizontal wires, fence height and distance between the vertical wires. For example, a 6/70/30 hinged joint mesh has 6 line wires, is 70cm high and the vertical wires are 30cm apart – this size suits smaller animals like sheep. A boundary fence might use 8/90/30. Hinged joint mesh has a top and bottom. The side with the smaller gaps is supposed to be closest to the ground. Usually you put plain wire through the steel posts (star pickets to the non-farmer) lined up with the top, middle and bottom of the hinged joint mesh and attach the mesh to the wires using fencing clips. Two more wires will usually be run in the space above the mesh. To get the fence height right, bang the steel posts into the ground until the bottom hole is just above the ground.

    When repairing fences check the existing strainer posts, stays, steel posts and wire and see what can be salvaged. The most important part of the fence is the end assembly (strainer post and stay) and the most common type are steel. These can be galvanised or black steel and can be purchased as a complete kit.


    South East Local Land Services Rural Living Guide – a comprehensive guide for anyone on the land, lots of useful resources including tips on fencing

    Fencing Ag Guide – A practical Guide – available from Tocal College for purchase, has detailed information on building a fence including ends, corners, the law and fencing and more.

    Land and Property Information website – information on boundary fencing and the law.

    Commercial fencing guides – there are a range of materials online from the major fencing suppliers. Some of these pamphlets were handed out at the workshop. Here is a sample from Waratah Fencing, but you could also try Gallagher or Whites Group Fencing.

    This event was made possible by funding supplied by the Australian Government and in kind support from South East Local Land Services. Thank you Mark and Rhonda who hosted the event on their farm and our sponsors the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability.

  • 25 May 2017 6:50 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)
    Our 2017 sheep husbandry workshop was delivered by Doug Alcock (Graz Prophet Consultants) . The workshop covered a huge amount of ground about farming sheep in the Capital region. Our host was Craig Starr at Gold Creek Station (a mighty fine venue for country weddings and other celebrations).

    Key points

    Fat scoring is a handy technique for assessing whether your sheep are fat, thin or just right. A fat score 1 is a very skinny sheep that needs attention. Fat score 5 is where you can hardly feel the ribs (and maybe the sheep needs to go in the diet paddock). Fat score 3 is a good place to be.

    NSW DPI Primefact 302 Fat Scoring Sheep and Lambs has information about how to do fat scoring.

    Hoof trimming for sheep is done to help keep the feet healthy. Sometimes they get grit and gravel stuck between hoof layers and get infections. If there is lots of wet weather and the sheep have a foot infection with a putrid smell then it could be footrot and you need a vet. See Primefact 265 Footrot in Sheep and Goats.

    Pasture planning: our pastures in the Southern Tablelands follow a somewhat predictable growth pattern with most pasture growth in September and October. To minimise the costs of supplementary feeding, it is helpful to match stocking rates to pasture growth. In dry years there will be less grass.

    Graz Clock is a spreadsheet created by Doug that can be used to help with understanding pasture cycles and planning stocking.

    Attending a PROGRAZE course will teach you about how to manage pastures and grazing.

    Supplementary feeding: if there is not enough grass and you want to keep your sheep then you will need to feed them extra. The amount to feed depends on the type of sheep (dry, pregnant, lambs, weaners) and the amount of grass in the pasture.

    Feed such as wheat, barley, oats, corn or sheep nuts needs to be introduced slowly (say 50g/head/day for three days, then 100g/head/day and so on) so that you don’t poison your sheep. If they have never had the feed before then you need to be especially careful that a few brave sheep don’t eat the lot and die. Lupins are a safe option.

    NSW DPI Primefact 331 Supplementary feeding of sheep in southern NSW  has more information.

    [See also the NSW DPI Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app which allows you to calculate feeding options for your sheep and pastures.]

    Lambing time: generally it works best to time lambing so that lambs are being weaned when there is lots of grass. In the NSW Southern Tablelands, lambing in August means that the young lambs can take advantage of the peak grass growing time (September/October) and minimises the amount of supplementary feeding needed.

    Joining: sheep have a 150 day gestation period so you need to put the rams in with the ewes in early March to get lambs in August. This is known as joining and can go on for about 5 weeks. You need to feed your rams well before this (lupins are good). Ewes will have more twins and triplets if they are fat score 3 or higher at joining.

    Lamb marking is generally done when the lambs are two to six weeks old. This can involve ear marking, ear tagging, castration, tail docking and vaccination.

    Shearing: in the merino wool industry, shearing has traditionally been done at the end of June but this means that the sheep use extra energy to keep warm instead of growing bigger lambs. If you shear sheep in winter you will need to give them supplementary feed.

    Shearing in late November/early December can help reduce flystrike and problems with seeds burrowing into the skin.

    It is best not to shear in the month before lambing when pregnant ewes need to spend lots of time eating.

    Many meat sheep such as Dorpers don’t shed fully and may need shearing.

    Mostly you need to shear when the shearer is available.

    Fly strike: sheep with wet fleece or dags can get flystrike in the warm months. This is where flies lay eggs on damaged skin and maggots hatch and feed on the skin. Usually this happens around the tail (breech strike) or along the back (body strike). Generally sheep with wool have more problems with flystrike. See the FlyBoss website for more information about treatment and prevention measures.

    Crutching is shearing the wool from around the tail and inside back legs to keep dags off the breech area. This helps to reduce breech strike. It is often done before and during the fly season and prior to lambing.

    Parasitic worms: there are three main types of intestinal worms affecting sheep in the Capital region: Barber’s Pole Worm, Brown Stomach Worm and Black Scour Worm. If left uncontrolled, these can kill your sheep. Best practice worm management combines pasture management, faecal worm egg counts (WEC) and effective drenching. You need to do regular WECs if you want to have any idea about what is happening with worms in your sheep.

    Kate Sawford, District Veterinarian for the Braidwood Region has written a useful guide to Controlling Worms in Sheep in the Braidwood Region.

    The WormBoss website has extensive information about managing worms in sheep and helps you decide when drenching is needed. The Capital region is in the WormBoss NSW non seasonal rainfall area.

    Worm egg count test kits are available from South East Local Land Services offices and rural suppliers. The test kit is free and has information about the costs for the tests.

    Working with sheep

    Moving sheep around yards

    Sheep need to be moved into and around yards for routine tasks such as fat scoring, shearing, hoof trimming, drenching and vaccinations. A sheep dog can help with this but many people on small farm holdings use a bucket with some feed rattling in it instead.

    A bugle shaped layout for yards works well for funnelling sheep into a race or small space.

    It is easiest to move sheep if you are beside them. The balance point is at their shoulder. If you move forward from this towards the head then the sheep will go backwards, if you move behind the balance point towards the back leg then the sheep moves forwards. Mostly it doesn’t work to stand behind the sheep. This all takes practise.

    Drenching sheep

    Drench is an oral treatment for worms. The WormBoss website provides extensive information about selection and use of drenches.

    You need to know the weight of your sheep before drenching (so you need scales).

    Drenching guns are often rather inaccurate in the doses they deliver. Use a beaker to collect a number of doses (say 8-10) to check for accurate volume.

    Quarantine drench any new sheep arriving on your property and keep them in a quarantine paddock for at least three days. See NSW DPI Primefact 477 Quarantine Drenching – Don’t Import Resistant Sheep Worms.

    Drenching at weaning is encouraged by Doug (even when WECs are low).

    This video about drenching technique may be helpful.

    Vaccinating sheep

    Sheep are generally vaccinated with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine. The vaccine is injected subcutaneously (under the skin), usually behind the ear on the neck.

    This video about injecting technique may be helpful.

    Other  resources

    NSW DPI ‘Sheep Agskills: A Practical Guide to Farm Skills’, available CSIRO Publishing.

    J Court, JW Ware and S Hides ‘Sheep Farming for Meat & Wool’, available CSIRO Publishing.

  • 11 May 2017 6:41 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    The Cattle Husbandry for Small Farms field day was held at DMB Galloways in Sutton on the 29 April 2017.

    The day was led by Greg Meaker a former educator in beef cattle husbandry and management at Tocal Collage and District Livestock Officer with NSW Government Industry and Investment, Goulburn. Greg is also owner manager of two working properties in the Gunning district.

    Key points and resources

    • Before purchasing livestock it is important to decide on what type of operation you want (breeding or growing out), or if you want to purchase livestock to keep your pastures in check. If you are looking at trading livestock see:
    • The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is an important regulatory requirement that all livestock owners need to be aware of. The NLIS system enables livestock to be traced and managed during livestock emergencies such as disease outbreaks. You can view a PDF of the requirements here NEW NLIS Information BookletYard weaning- weaners and new stock should be ‘yard weaned’ to teach the young cattle about the yards and being handled. During this time routine worming and husbandry can be performed. Yard weaning makes the cattle more manageable and can improves lifetime weight gains (by 20-30 kilograms) because handling stress is reduced.
      See the 
      Yard Weaning and Education article.
    • Low stress cattle management -there are number of guiding principles that can be used to improve cattle performance and ease of handling. Find out more about the theory and practice of low stress cattle management on the Future Beef website.
    • Calendar of Operations – The South East Local Land Services has published a Beef Calendar of Operations – NSW Coast
    • If you are looking at a breeding operation the management of bulls is essential to the productivity of your herd.  When purchasing or leasing bulls vibriosis testing is an important step to stop the disease from becoming established in your herd.
      See the 
      NSW DPI Vibriosis fact sheet.
    • Sudden changes in diet and a poor vaccination regime can cause a disease called pulpy kidney. This disease is caused by Clostridium perfringens type D. This bacteria normally inhabits the intestine of cattle but can become present in large numbers when there are sudden changes to the animals’ diet. For more information and management options see the NSW DPI Enterotoxaemia in cattle fact sheet.
    • Yards based on a tear drop/circular design suit the handling and flow of cattle in the yards. The NSW DPI website has a series of designs suitable for cattle herds under 100 head. See NSW DPI Yards and Equipment for Cattle.
    • NSW DPI Feed cost calculator – this website allows you to compare the cost, protein content and energy of different types of supplementary feeds.

    More information

    Thank you to our hosts Dianne and Mark from DMB Galloways.

    This field day was made possible by funding from the Australian Government, in-kind and volunteer support from South East Local Land Services, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability and the ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator. We thank them all for their ongoing contribution to this project.

  • 4 Apr 2017 6:35 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Stuart Myers from Equiculture presented a horse property planning seminar in March 2017.

    Key points:

    • Horses have evolved to eat a low protein, low fibre diet, walking and foraging in herds.
    • The domestication of horses and use of horses after the industrial revolution has guided often-used practices for stabling and managing horses – usually for human convenience. Horses don’t really like stables and would rather be in a yard if they have to be contained.
    • Most modern horses require the three F’s: friends, forage and freedom.
    • Horses can be used for grassland management by having a systematic approach to running horses as a herd and rotating paddocks.
    • The first step in horse property design is to perform a site analysis and understand the capacity of your land. The site analysis allows you to identify aspects of your property such as buildings, roads, waterways, boggy areas, dams, remnant bush and hilly areas. Locations for yards, working and stabling areas, lane ways, paddocks and revegetation sites can then be planned.
    • Design road access and lane ways to be wide enough for trucks and fire vehicles, allow a good turning circle at the end of lane ways.
    • By using good quality pasture hay in round bales you can rehabilitate areas of low ground cover by allowing the horses to feed in this area. The hay and manure will act a mulch and encourage pasture regeneration.
    • ‘Think like a horse’ – they want to be close to the feed source ‘YOU’. Horse owners can use this behaviour to their advantage by arranging gates, lane ways and paddocks that allow horses easy access to a central yard facility where water and feed is available. This way, the horses want to come into the yard when they see you there. Consider having an all-weather yard with a suitable surface (deep wood chip, rubber matting or earth). This makes management easier and also allows horses to be called and corralled in times of emergency.
    Some useful links

    Information about horses, fire and flood planning at the Equiculture website. This resource has links to other websites to help you plan for emergencies.

    Healthy soil = Healthy Pasture find out more about managing soils by watching the short videos @ the soils network of knowledge

    The Soil Food Web

    Equine Permaculture and Property Planning

    Paterson’s Curse – DPI Prime Fact Sheet on the weed and poisoning of horses.

    NSW WeedWise Online - this website has detailed information on weeds and livestock. Of particular interest for horse owners are fireweed and Crofton weed

    Thanks to our seminar hosts.

    The event was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services and FuturePLANS.

  • 30 Nov 2016 6:28 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    At the Working with Weeds field day, Alison Elvin from Natural Capital Pty Ltd presented a compelling and informative story about weeds. Warren Schofield from ACT Biosecurity and Rural Services and Alice McGrath from South East Local Land Services also presented information on weed management and planning on the day.

    According to the Australian Government it is estimated that weeds cost Australian farmers approximately $1.5 billion a year in weed control activities and $2.5 billion in lost agricultural production. So why are weeds such a problem and can we change our thinking to manage them better?

    Key points from the field day:

    • Correctly identify your weed. Developing knowledge of weed and plant identification is critical to understanding what is happening on your land.
    • Boost your soil health by improving soil organic carbon and addressing any nutrient deficiencies. Consider using soil tests to help you address nutrient imbalances. Weeds can be indicator species, for example, Paterson’s Curse can indicate that the soil is lacking in copper and calcium.
    • Develop a plan for managing weeds over a 5-10 year period. There can be benefits to starting small and radiating out from control patches.
    • Weeds are pioneer plants that produce a lot of biomass, the organic matter from weeds can be used by slashing before flowering and used to increase soil carbon. Some grass species can also be baled for hay to use later for fodder.
    • Adjust your grazing system and aim to maintain ground cover, focusing on perennial species. Ensure that desirable species have the chance to flower and set seed at least every 3 years to allow seed banks to build up. Using rotational and strip grazing can also have benefits.
    • Keep bare soils covered to prevent erosion and weeds colonising. Weeds like to germinate on bare soils and thrive in impoverished soils.
    • Integrate your weed control measures. Use targeted control with chemical sprays, crash grazing and manual removal. Use the correct herbicide and correct rate for the specific weed in the correct season to prevent herbicide resistance. Develop a farm plan and keep records of what you do.
    • Consider returning marginal land to remnant bush and graze only lightly. Fence and plant perennial species on the contour and plant wind breaks where the prevailing winds come from to stop weeds entering your property. Physical traps can be used along fence lines.
    • Does the weed have a biological control agent?

    Useful websites and links:

    Weeds in Australia

    South East Local Land Services Integrated Weed Management Plan
    – A Land Managers Guide

    Planning Tool

    Biological Control of Weeds

    This field day is made possible with funding from the Australian Government.

    We also thank the following for their contribution:

    • The ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator and ACT NRM with funding from the Australian Governments National Landcare Programme
    • South East Local Land Services
    • ACT Biosecurity and Rural Services
    • Future PLANS
    • Small Farms Network – Capital Region Steering Committee
    • Our host Paul from Springfield.


Small Farms Network Capital Region Inc
PO Box 313
NSW 2621

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