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South West Queensland

Farming Guide 2019

Your definitive guide to farming

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Contents PAGE 6. Beekeping PAGE 10. Cattle PAGE 32. Consultant and Contractors PAGE 40. Cropping and Hay PAGE 50. Dogs PAGE 62. Farm Infastructure PAGE 76. Farm Machinery PAGE 92. Floods, Fire & Pests PAGE 104. Goats PAGE 110. Growing Vegetables PAGE 116. Guard Animals PAGE 125. Horses PAGE 130. Livestock Health PAGE 140. Marketing & Selling PAGE 144. Organic Farming PAGE 150. Perfect Paddocks PAGE 164. Pigs PAGE 170. Poultry PAGE 184. Sheep PAGE 202. To The Table PAGE 210. Water


General Manager Surat Basin: Erika Brayshaw: PH: 07 4672 9921 Erika.brayshaw@news.com.au Special Project Consultant: Debbie Phillips PH: 07 - 4672 9915 Email: debbie.phillips@chinchillanews.com.au CHINCHILLA: Debbie Gaske & Jodie Williams PH: 07 - 4672 9902 Email: advertise@chinchillanews.com.au DALBY: Nicole McDougall & Ashleigh Griffiths PH: 07 - 4672 5500 Email: advertising@dalbyherald.com.au ROMA, ST GEORGE, CHARLEVILLE: Greg Latta, Carly Everitt, Emma Dohle & Stephanie Stonehouse PH: 07 - 4578 4100 Email: advertising@westernstarnews.com


South West Queensland Farming Guide is published by The Chinchilla News. Those who make advertising placement and/or supply copy material or editorial submissions undertake to ensure all such materials do not infringe the Trade Practices Act or other laws, regulations or statutes. Further to the above mentioned, these persons agrees to indemnify the publisher and/or its agents against any investigations, claims or judgments



Farming thrives Despite various challenges in recent years, farming families remain the backbone of our great nation and a key player in our overall economic position. Unfavourable weather and numerous outside obstacles aside, the resilience of our great farming community has been on display for all to see and as a result, the benefits have been reaped. Benefits such as years which have seen the gross value of Australian farm production produce a staggering $50 billion for the national economy. Or booming farming exports which are the envy of nations the world over. Or the fact that China’s rapidly growing middle class is developing a taste for Australia’s quality produce and with predictions the middle-class population in China will grow to be around 550 million by 2022, the future looks bright with endless opportunity for our salt-of-the-Earth, hard-working

farmers. And such an indication of the strength of the farming and agricultural sector can be seen first hand here, in our maiden edition of the South West Queensland Farming Guide, our salute to an industry we not only strongly believe in, but vehemently support. We hope this publication serves as a trusty companion offering insight into every essence of the farming and agricultural life. From the best suited cattle dogs through to achieving successful drainage on your property, we have every avenue covered in this comprehensive and in-depth maiden edition of the South West Queensland Farming Guide. We hope we can play our part in continuing to strengthen the already thriving industries that are our farming and agricultural sectors.

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 5


6 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Beekeeping The main reason people keep a hive or a few European honeybees is to enjoy the process and taste of fresh honey. However, another benefit is the improved pollination of flowers and fruit in an orchard. Whatever the reason, beekeeping encourages a landowner to become more observant of the weather, the seasons, patterns of plant growth and of the flowers in nearby farms or bushland. You don’t have t own land to produce honey. Many beekeepers don’t own the land where their hives are kept. Just like the bees themselves that forage beyond fence lines, beekeepers are always on the lookout for good sources of food for their bees. HONEYBEE HABITS Even if you don’t have a beehive, your spring flowers will likely still attract bees – but wouldn’t you like to taste the honey produced from your flowers? The bees might have flown from hundreds of metres or even kilometres away to gather pollen for protein and nectar to make their honey, right on your doorstep. They might be from a managed hives stacked neatly in a paddock, or from feral hives in the hollows of a peppermint gum nearby. Regardless, they are helping to pollinate native and exotic plant species. WHERE TO GET ADVICE You could amuse yourself watching thousands of hours of YouTube videos or buying and reading a dozen books on beekeeping (and it’s worth doing this), but nothing beats personal experience. You will encounter the sweet smell of the honey and feel the honeycomb burr on the rim of the frames. As smoke drifts into your eyes as you try to calm the bees, you will hear the sound of the insistent workers that attack you as you inspect the frames. While the initial discomfort and restricted vision caused by the protective clothing might annoy you, you will learn something new and become fascinated by these amazing creatures. It is worthwhile joining a club, enrolling in a course or attending a workshop on beekeeping before you start. There are TAFE courses for those seeking to work in the industry as well as for those who simply want to keep bees as a hobby. There are also private instructors, schools and clubs that will teach you. Some courses include the cost of the equipment and possibly even a hive. Importantly, get to know a local beekeeper who understands the flora of your area. EQUIPMENT The first thing you need is protective gear to reduce the risk of being stung. An all-in-one suit is a good one to start with. Some beekeepers make their own "hi-vis" jackets with hood and gloves. Those who wear glasses, or have whiskers, big noses or beer bellies might want custom-made protective gear. Other equipment such as hive tools and smokers can be ordered at the same time. A starter pack with all the basic gear is usually available from specialist beekeeping retailers. THE HIVE www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

South West Queensland Farming Guide 7


Coming to grips with bees Modem timber or plastic-framed hives with Langstroth frames — the traditional vertical frames on which bees build their honeycomb and deposit and cap their honey - are the most common. The Australian Flow Hive provides a way of extracting the honey. The Flow Hive retrofits into hives with Langstroth frames and, unlike traditional hives, it allows honey to flow out of a pipe at bottom of the unit on the turning of a handle. Some beekeepers build their own hives or frames, some buy everything pre-assembled, and some buy components and assemble themselves. For the first- time apiarist, a pre-assembled hive works well. At the bottom is the brood box, where the queen lives and lays eggs. The honey is contained in a box above. The excess 8 South West Queensland Farming Guide

honey is taken by humans, leaving enough for the bees to eat. Each beekeeper tends to design the features and size of the hives differently. THE BEES Populating a hive with bees is not as straightforward as it sounds. This is where a friendly beekeeper, association or club can help. There are apiarists who provide nucleus hives but buying them is not like buying lambs or a goldfish. You can't simply drive home with your


Populating a hive with bees is not as straightforward as it sounds.

bees on the back of the ute or trailer. You need to wait until nightfall, when all the bees have returned to the hive, to transport them. To transport them safely after dark, block the entrances of the hives so they can't escape. Another option is to assemble a hive with frames and ask a beekeeper to help you transfer a colony over time. You might like to volunteer to re-home a swarm, a queen and a group of bees that have set up home temporarily in a tree or building nearby, in your empty hive box. Some commercial beekeepers refuse to deal with swarms because of the unknown risk of disease and the unpredictable behaviour of the bees. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


BEE AWARE — THE BIG THREATS Australia’s bees might have survived extended drought but they are far from safe. All around the world bees have been dying because of the pinhead sized varroa mite, a parasitic insect that attacks the bees and spreads a harmful virus. The mite has been found on many islands to the north of Australia and has even been found on the mainland. So far it has not become established here but many fear it is only a matter of time before it does so. The other big world threat is Colony Collapse. Disorder, or CCD, believed to be related to pesticide use. It literally causes hives to collapse after many of the worker bees disappear from hives. STUNG INTO ACTION When we are young we are taught that bees are a danger. And yes, they can be a danger if we are allergic to stings — yet the reality is that bees generally don’t cause much grief other than a nasty stinging sensation, maybe after we have disturbed their work or accidentally trodden on one. Most times bees are just not interested in us humans. They have evolved over thousands of years to recognise flowers and non-flowers — and they have little interest in seeking out humans. Beekeepers contend the secret to successfully handling bees is to remain calm. In some ways bees are like horses - if you show fear, they detect it and become excited. Remain calm, and they will be calm too.


BEE MYTH: Contrary to popular folklore, bee stings are not good for arthritis. There are just too many arthritic beekeepers for it to be so. TELL THE GOVERNMENT Licensing of beehives is mandatory in all states and territories, because authorities need to know where hives are in case of disease outbreak and they need to communicate this information to other beekeepers. Some agriculture departments, such as those in Victoria and Tasmania, allow beekeepers to register five or fewer hives for free. Some subsidise the cost of testing the honey for disease. The ACT Government regards honey bees as domestic animals. While other jurisdictions offer guidance on urban beekeeping rules, the main focus is on beekeeping in a rural setting. These are the state and territory relevant authorities you need to contact: TRANSPORT CANBERRA AND CITY SERVICES (ACT) DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES (NSW) DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (QUEENSLAND) PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND REGIONS SA (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES PARKS WATER AND ENVIROONMENT (TAS) AGRICULTURE VICTORIA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD (WA)

South West Queensland Farming Guide 9


10 South West Queensland Farming Guide



CATTLE It’s the iconic rural vista, a herd of cattle grazing languorously in rich green pasture. It can seem an even more appealing sight in light of stories of just how much money can be made from cattle. Yet getting into cattle isn’t a move to be taken lightly. Whether you raise cattle for beef, for milk or as breeding stock to sell to others, cattle can be highly demanding. Planning and research are vital. Before you even consider types of cattle, there are questions to be asked. Do you have enough land of sufficient pasture quality to support the number of cattle you envisage? Are fences of good enough quality? Can you support your cattle in drought (cattle drink a lot of water and droughts do occur)? Do you have enough capital for ongoing costs before income starts to flow? Could you survive a sudden downturn in prices? Indeed, are you sure you actually willmake a profit? You might need some training to get up to speed on the complexities of maintaining your cattle. Or you might need to call in a consultant to head you in the right direction. TIME TO PREPARE Before you can have cattle on your property you need to do two things. The first is to obtain a Property Identification Code, or PIC, which is arranged through your state Department of Primary Industries. The second is to comply with the National Livestock Identification System, or NLIS. This provides whole-of-life identification and tracking of every animal through the use of an electronic ear tag or a rumen bolus (a ceramic capsule tracking device administered orally that remains in an animal’s stomach). When animals move off a property, a Vendor Declaration or a waybill must be completed.

Will cattle suit your lifestyle? Water supply You need a plentiful, clean water supply to keep any cattle. Adult cows can drink up to 75 litres a day, with pregnant and lactating cows having even greater requirements. Consider your ability to keep up with these requirements if you live in an arid part of the country. Grazing Cattles need a diet rich in fibre, and are best suited to grazing on pasture that is largely made up of grass. You may want to consider what sort of pasture you currently have on your farm. Fencing Full grown cattle can weigh as much as a tonne each, so your fencing needs to be up to the job. WIll your current fencing withhold the force of such a heavy and strong animal? Shelter Having some shelter available to cattle helps protect them during extremes of weather. Cows can suffer from both chill and heatwaves, and you should have enough shelter to accommodate all your livestock to prevent overcrowding. For cattle, shelter doesn't need to be sophisticated and shade shelters can be constructed of shade cloth and timber. Deciduous trees can also provide good shade and air movement in summer. Windbreaks and open sheds can provide protection in cool weather, with special attention needed for new calves in draught-free pens. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

South West Queensland Farming Guide 11


Four ways to buy and sell cattle There are a variety of ways in which you can buy and sell cattle. Outline below are paddock sales, saleyard auction, over the hooks and online auction.

PADDOCK SALES With paddock sales, livestock is viewed in and bought directly from the vendor’s property, usually on a dollars-per-head basis and with the buyer paying for the transport costs. This is a low-cost method for both parties, and both sides know exactly what they are getting before the stock are transported. lt is also low stress for the livestock. It does however mean prices have to be agreed on without other competition considered. SALEYARD AUCTION Cattle are sent to a livestock exchange centre for two types of sale, either prime or store. The cattle are sold by a livestock agency who charge a commission fee. usually 3 to 5 per cent of the price. Both dollars-per-head and cents-per-kilogram are accepted rates, with 'cattle weighed either before or after the sale depending on the centre. Advantages are it allows for strong competition, but vendors and buyers 12 South West Queensland Farming Guide

also have to pay transport and saleyard fees (about $2.50 per animal, dependent on weight), the animals can be stressed which affects meat quality, and the vendor generally has to agree to the price achieved on the day. OVER THE HOOKS This is the term used for cattle ready for slaughter. It is a similar situation as the paddock sales, however the vendor pays for the transport and transaction fee, and change of ownership takes place at the


With paddock sales, livestock is viewed in and bought directly from the vendor’s property, usually on a dollars-per-head basis and with the buyer paying for the transport costs.

abattoir scales. Vendors are paid an agreed c/kg carcass weight rate and the actual price confirmed after the slaughter, with certain carcass traits attracting a discount to the rate. ONLINE AUCTION With online auctions, cattle are assessed and photographed on-property before being offered for auction online. Vendors can set a reserve price and buyers can compete from across the country. Payment is received before the cattle leave the property and transport costs paid by the buyer. The risk for buyers is in having confidence they will get what they thought they were buying, relying on trust in assessors. It is low-stress for stock and allows good competition, and is especially handy for producers not close to a saleyard. It also means vendors can reject prices received and sell again when rates meet expectations. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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The best of beef THE production of beef cattle has become more of a science as farmers fine-tune their production. Usually beef producers will either breed cattle for other farmers to buy or purchase cattle to put weight on them, or "finish" them and then sell. The type of beef enterprise you run, is usually one that fits best with your farm and seasons. Some farmers with fertile soil in a good rainfall climate that allows plentiful pasture growth are able to breed and finish their cattle. Many producers opt for producing cattle and selling calves at nine to 12 months. These calves are sold as weaners, either straight off their mothers or a

few weeks after they have been weaned. With the number of cattle going to feedlots, this type of operation can be a good option. In this sort of system, a beef producer has more cows and will try to turn off as many weaners as possible. Weaners should be well grown, but not too fat. If the same producer is going to keep some if not all the weaners and finish them, total cow numbers need to be kept down to allow for enough feed. If you think your farm is best suited to finishing cattle and you don’t want to be involved in breeding, there are plenty of opportunities to buy weaners or store cattle.

Ensure you work out how much you can afford to pay before you buy. As most finished cattle are sold on a cents-per-kilogram (c/kg) basis, work out how many cents per kilogram you can afford to pay in the saleyards for unfinished cattle. Cattle that may look cheap on a per-head basis can be expensive on a cents-per-kilogram basis. Take a calculator to the saleyards and if you can’t estimate the weight, ask your agent. Also, factor in the cartage costs. Cattle might look cheap at sales hundreds of kilometres away but when you add on the cartage costs, they can suddenly be more expensive than the cattle you saw at a higher price at a


If you think your farm is best suited to finishing cattle and you don’t want to be involved in breeding, there are plenty of opportunities to buy weaners or store cattle.

14 South West Queensland Farming Guide



nearby store sale. Lastly, only buy healthy cattle. Unhealthy purchases can mean ongoing trouble and wasted money. As a general guide, choose cattle that are full and rounded, move freely and have clear eyes that are free of discharge. The breed of cattle you buy is up to you. All breeds have attributes and drawbacks. MEET YOUR MARKET ln this world where the customer is always right, it’s best to work out who will actually be buying your cattle and ask them what they would like. If you plan to market your cattle in the saleyards, go along to a few sales and work out which breeds sell best. If there's an abattoir you would like to deal with directly, find out what it is looking for. The right breed will also be the one that performs well in your district, so ask some of your neighbours why they have the breed they do. Ask a lot of questions of a lot of people, attend - agricultural shows, talk to breed associations and research extensively on the internet before you jump into one breed or another.

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Choosing the right bull The choice of bull that you join to your herd has a dramatic effect on your farm over several years, especially when you plan to keep the offspring. Before selecting a bull, decide what market you want to target with their progeny. As a general rule, one bull can join about 40 cows. These joining rates may vary from 10 to 70 cows a bull. ' Deciding how many bulls you need depends on several factors including age of the bull being bought, size of groups they are to join, paddock size and topography, age of females being joined and length of joining season. Most bulls are sold from 12 to 24 months of age. Males that have not reached maturity 16 South West Queensland Farming Guide

(at least two years) should be joined to fewer females than a mature male. Take care when joining an older sire and young sire to the same group, as older sires can dominate the younger animal? Once bulls are six to eight years old there is an increased incidence of infertility, so they should be examined before mating. If you have doubts about how many bulls you need, it is generally better to


As a general rule, one bull can join about 40 cows. These joining rates may vary from 10 to 70 cows a bull. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


have one in reserve that can be used if another is injured during the mating season. Once you have decided the breed of sire you want and the number you require, you need to find the best animals available. You can obtain a sire by direct purchase, artificial insemination, leasing a sire or sharing a sire between farms that calve at different times of the year. BUYING A SIRE If you decide to buy a sire, there are several options including on-farm sales, a multi-vendor sale at a saleyard or show, or by private treaty on a farm. Information on studs selling sires can


be obtained from breed societies, newspapers, word-of-mouth or the internet. The first consideration when buying a bull should always be whether they can successfully mate with a female. Most studs will have performed a basic reproductive examination but you should check to make sure the sire is sound. The next consideration should be that this mating will not lead to birth difficulties. For example, don’t mate a highly muscled, large-framed bull over a small heifer as it will cause calving difficulties. It's then simply a matter of waiting to see the progeny nine months after

mating. A FULL BULL OF HEALTH It is important to assess your bull to see if he is capable of joining the cows. This should be done before each time he is put with them. A bull assessment should check capability of walking an adequate distance to mate cows in the paddock, ability to produce good quality semen, capability of delivering semen into the cow, and capability of maintaining an adequate condition score during the joining period (this also requires an assessment of how much feed is in the mating paddock). An assessment should be done by someone experienced, such as a vet.

South West Queensland Farming Guide 17


Common cattle jobs CASTRATING WHY: Castration of male animals is a common procedure for breeding herds. It reduces aggression in male animals and stops unwanted pregnancies. HOW: The method used depends on an animal’s age, testicular size, desired appearance postcastration and a host of other factors. As a rule, cattle should be castrated as young as possible, often within six to eight weeks of birth. There are two main methods. Surgery is where the entire testis is removed. The other, using small rubber elastrator rings, stops the blood supply to the testis, resulting in gradual loss of this tissue. 18 South West Queensland Farming Guide

OPEN SURGERY Before starting, ensure an adequate animal restraint, such as a calf crush. If working on older animals, you might need veterinary assistance to provide chemical restraint and a local anaesthetic. The surgical technique involves either removing the base of the scrotum, or making a large incision into each side of the scrotum to remove both testes. The testes are removed by tearing or


Before starting, ensure an adequate animal restraint, such as a calf crush.

cutting the blood vessels and spermatic cord. This is done with a sharp object such as a pocketknife or scalpel. THERE ARE TWO GOLDEN CASTRATION RULES: KEEP the area and your hands as clean as possible, and disinfect surgical equipment between animals. ENSURE a large cut over the scrotum. as this helps fluid to drain out, stopping swelling after the surgery. Seek assistance if you are inexperienced in open castration (there are contractors who specialise in this). Although there is technically no limit to the age at which open castration can be performed, it is limited by codes of accepted farming for the welfare of cattle, relevant to each state or territory. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide



Vaccination is a proven means of controlling many infectious diseases in cattle.

ELASTRATOR RING OR BURDIZZO METHOD Elastrator rings are small rubber rings put above the testes on the scrotum of the animal, using a set of elastrator pliers. Once the ring is applied, the blood supply to the testes is stopped and over a few weeks the tissue below the ring drops off. A Burdizzo clamp performs the same job as the ring, without loss of the scrotum. This is done by clamping the Burdizzo over the top of the scrotum, www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

hard enough to stop blood flow to the testes but not so hard it cuts the skin. This takes a considerable degree of practice so you might need instruction. Whatever method is used, castration should be quick and cause animals minimal pain. It is wise to vaccinate at the same time as castration. VACCINATING WHY: Vaccination is a proven means of controlling many infectious diseases in cattle. Talk to your vet about which diseases have occurred on your property and in your area in the past. Side effects of most vaccines are relatively minor, while potential benefits are large. HOW: Follow vaccine instructions and vet advice on vaccination frequency. South West Queensland Farming Guide 19


Common cattle jobs continued Most vaccines requiretwo doses one month apart and then annual booster, although Bovine Johne’s Disease vaccine is a single shot. Most vaccines are known as 3 in 1, 5 in 1, 7 in 1 or a similar name as they contain vaccine against a number of different diseases within the one product. They can also contain mineral additives or products to kill parasites. Almost all animal vaccines are given by injection and most are given under the skin, rather than into the muscle. In Australia, this is generally done by farmers but each vaccine has different regulations so first check with your vet. Vaccine is mostly available in multi-dose plastic pouches but some come as individual vaccinations in a 20 South West Queensland Farming Guide

syringe and can be bought from a stock and station agent or vet. Multi-dose pouches can be connected to a vaccination gun to allow hundreds of shots in less than half a day. Most vaccines need to be refrigerated, kept out of light and used before their expiry date.


Most vaccines are known as 3 in 1, 5 in 1, 7 in 1 or a similar name as they contain vaccine against a number of different diseases within the one product.

DRENCHING WHY: Drenching is done to avoid parasite problems in cattle. Cattle are exposed to parasites by eating grass. The larval or immature stages of many parasites live on the grass and are swallowed when the animal is eating. Once swallowed, parasites mature in the gut to fully grown worms. Adult worms pass more eggs in the animal's manure, to re-contaminate paddocks. The eggs hatch into the larvae that are eaten by the animal and the cycle continues. An animal can tolerate a certain number of parasites but large numbers can cause sickness or even death. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


One of the best examples of worm problems is in heifers, just before and after the birth of their first calf. Heifers can be infected by the brown stomach worm, or ostertagia ostertagi. When this parasite’s larvae reach the heifer’s stomach they can go into a period of "hibernation" in the stomach lining. If there are only a few parasites, this need not be a big cause for concern. However, some heifers can have more than 50,000 hibernating parasites in their stomach lining. When autumn or winter rains come, these sleeping parasites "wake up" and emerge from the stomach lining at the same time. This sudden emergence leads to tremendous stomach lining damage and in severe cases can cause death. As the parasites mature they also

reduce the animal’s ability to gain adequate nutrition for herself and her calf. The problem is compounded because the heifer will have only just cut her first adult teeth, so is unable to harvest grass as efficiently as an older cow. HOW: To avoid problems in first-calving heifers, administer an effective drench over summer or early autumn. There are three main types of drench: the white or benzimidazole group; the clear or levamisole group; and the mectins or macrocyclic lactone group. The most reliable for maximum control of brown stomach worm over summer and autumn are drenches from the mectin group, including any that have abamectin, doramectin,

eprinomectin, ivermectin or moxidectin as the active ingredient. The active ingredient is normally listed in small writing on the label. These products are available as pour-on, injection or via oral drench. All mectins kill a high percentage of brown stomach worm, whereas some products from the other drench families may be less reliable. When applying a drench, ensure dosing is correct for the animal’s weight. Using the correct dose reduces the risk of parasites developing resistance to the drug and guarantees cattle get the right amount to kill parasites. Cattle that have not received a drench over summer and are in poor condition, or are less than two years of age, are likely to develop parasite problems during autumn and winter.



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Cattle breeds When choosing a cattle breed there are so many considerations which must be taken into account. Determining your purpose is a good place to start, followed by some expert research.


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South West Queensland Farming Guide 25


The mating game It might seem as easy as a bovine frolic in the pasture, but there's a lot more to it for a Farmer involved in growing a herd.

BREEDING NEEDS Permanent infrastructure is needed when breeding cattle. If planning to keep a bull, a sturdily fenced bull paddock is vital. If using artificial insemination (Al), a decent shed with appropriate equipment to secure cows and heifers (young cows that have not calved) while insemination takes place is recommended. You might wish to supervise calving closely, especially in those breeds known to have problematic births, so a system of stalls, laneways and day yards will help to closely observe and intervene when required at calving. In many cases breeders wish to record animal weights from birth through the first year, so suitable scales are necessary. Young calves may be ear- tagged without special restraint, but older animals requiring branding, vaccinating or veterinary inspection need to be secured in a cattle crush, which can be combined with scales. Even small herds need substantial yards, races and gates for regular mustering and drafting. These need to be much heavier duty 26 South West Queensland Farming Guide

than those for sheep, with heavier section steel posts and rails, and posts deeply anchored in concrete foundations. It is not hard to spend the equivalent of the cost of a small car on a basic set-up for breeding. A shed would be an additional expense. WHEN TO MATE To produce cattle, the recipe seems simple. You take one bull and a number of females, put them together — and double your animals every 12 months by producing calves. However, it’s not this easy, and timing is vital. The standard age for joining animals varies depending on geographic region and individual property. In southeast Australia, the most common time for heifers to be joined is when they are 15 months old, and weigh


Even small herds need substantial yards, races and gates for regular mustering and drafting.

about 300kg, but weight can vary considerably between breeds. A general rule is heifers should be a minimum of 60 per cent of their expected adult weight at joining. Weigh some adult cows in moderate condition on your property to work out an average. Heifers need to continue to grow well after mating to ensure they meet the required calving weight. Some producers don’t mate heifers until they are more than two years old so they calve at three years. A guideline is to join sometime between 15 and 27 months, depending on the condition of the cattle , nutrition, time of year they calve and other factors. The main benefit of joining the heifer younger is she will calve sooner and be more productive long term. However, if she doesn't get fed well enough, she may suffer from dystocia — calving difficulties - a reason some producers delay mating. A later joining means fewer calves over the animal's lifetime, and may also cause dystocia because of being over-fat when calving at three years old. Regular monitoring of an animal's weight and nutrition leading up to www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


calving will reduce the chance of things going wrong. GETTING BULLISH In bulls, a scrotal circumference of about 30cm‘ indicates the male is ready for joining, although young animals are still growing so should not be joined too many females. They also require a high quality diet to ensure they keep growing. If they are half adult weight, it may be appropriate to join them with l0 to 40 females, but the number should reflect the male’s condition score, amount of feed available, size and topography of paddock and potential costs of increased time to pregnancy for the females. All males should be assessed at least a few months before the breeding period to ensure they will be capable of breeding and to allow improvements in fertility if needed.


In bulls, a scrotal circumference of about 30cm‘ indicates the male is ready for joining, although young animals are still growing so should not be joined too many females Appropriate nutrition will help maximise reproductive success. Good assessment of fertility and planning of the breeding cycle will help reduce dystocia and achieve better reproductive outcomes. MATING TIME There is no definitive rule on how long a bull should be left with cows. The shorter a bull is left, the shorter the calving period you will have in about 280 days (a cow’s gestation period). If all cows are heavy enough, have www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

been calved for at least a month or two months before joining and have enough feed, then most - more than 90 per cent — will be in calf after being with a fertile bull for six weeks. ‘ Many farmers choose to join for slightly longer than this, to ensure every cow is in calf. This does, however, mean the calving period is extended. ASSISTING THE BIRTH As calving approaches, it pays to gather together all equipment you might need for birthing. You will need a cattle crush (or at least a head bail) and cattle yards. If you decide to help the animal yourself, you need ropes or chains that can be attached to the calf ’s feet to help deliver them. Before using these ropes or chains, you must ensure you know your limitations — that is, how much to pull before deciding you should stop, and where to place the ropes. Excessive force can result in damage to the calf, and its mother. It is also best to ensure you can call on someone for assistance. Having two people present makes the calving easier and safer. You will need lubricant, disinfectant for your hands, a good water supply and a disinfectant for the navel of the newborn. Lubricant is useful when a birth has been going on for too long and is drier than it should be. A good disinfectant (such as chlorhexidine) protects both yourself and the animal and is diluted with water before washing your hands and the animal. A source of clean water close to the yards can be a water tank from a nearby shed or a drum in the back of a car. If cattle are giving birth under dirty conditions (mud and dust) apply iodine to the navel of the young. A premixed spray bottle of iodine can be useful.

BREATHING AID If a calf is not breathing after birth, use your fingers to clear any liquids or obstruction from the back of its mouth or over its nostrils. Sometimes encouraging the calf to sneeze will unblock any obstructions. This can often be done by moving a piece of straw in and out of one of its nostrils. IMPORTANCE OF COLOSTRUM Unlike humans, antibodies that fight disease are not transferred to calves until after birth. These antibodies are transferred to a calf via colostrum, the yellow coloured milk produced by its mother in the first few days after birth. If a calf has not suckled from its mother within several hours of birth it is important they receive some colostrum. Calves need one to 1.5 litres of colostrum a feed, three times a day. Colostrum from another animal is adequate if an orphan's mother has no milk, or can’t be found. When a cow is in the yards and has excess colostrum, some can be collected and stored in the freezer. This will keep for several months and be useful for an orphan animal. Apart from ensuring good immune function in the young (to fight off disease), colostrum is also a good source of nutrition. Amount of milk and timing of feeding for an orphan animal are important. Young animals should receive regular feeds of the appropriate type of milk and of a suitable volume for their age. Milk powder is available for calves so the appropriate powder should be given. Instructions for the mixing of milk powder, feed volumes and timing should be followed to maximise animal performance. With adequate housing, colostrum and the right feeding, raising orphan animals can be a rewarding experience for all. South West Queensland Farming Guide 27


Health watch Many diseases and conditions can affect your herd. Vigilance and ongoing precautions ore vital to success MASTITIS Mastitis is inflammation of the udder. In beef cattle, mastitis can take the form of a severe infection that can kill the animal, or a hardening of the udder, which usually forces the animal to be culled. It can be caused by various infectious organisms that produce a hot, swollen and dark udder that often discharges a bloody fluid. Treatment with antibiotics will sometimes save the cow, but she could lose the section of udder that is infected, which dries up and falls off. In daily cattle, most mastitis is a contagious infection of the udder caused by the bacteria streptococcus and staphylococcus, which are spread from cow to cow by milking machines. This is one of the most serious disease problems in dairy cattle. The udder becomes hot and swollen and the milk usually has lumps in it. In most cases the cow might not have obvious signs of infection, but there will be reduced milk production and a lot of infectious bacteria in the milk. This is called subclinical mastitis. White cells are one of the main ways in which animals fight infection, and the number of these cells that end up in the milk increases as the mastitis gets worse. Injecting antibiotics into the udder through the cow’s teat will improve clinical mastitis to a point where it is not obvious, but will rarely cure more than half the cases. Staphylococcus aureus, one of the main bacteria in mastitis, has a great ability to become resistant to antibiotics. Treating clinical mastitis by injecting antibiotics into the cow rarely does much good. Dry cow therapy, where antibiotic is injected into the udder through the teat at drying off, allows the antibiotic to work in the udder for a long time and will cure most mastitis. Remember that milk with antibiotics is not a wholesome food. 28 South West Queensland Farming Guide

Follow the withholding period on the label of any treatment you use. MASTITIS CONTROL Having to treat cows for mastitis means that you have already lost production. Prevention can avoid that. The most important aspect of mastitis control in dairy cows is the milking machine. If machines are not in perfect working order they will damage the teats and udders, making the cows more susceptible to mastitis and increase the flow of infected milk from one cow to another. The other important part of prevention is to perform teat dipping. After milking, the teat is open and bacteria can get in more easily than normal, and there are often bacteria from other cows on the teat from the cups. Dipping or spraying the teats after milking will kill most bacteria. Cull from the herd any cow that has a lot of mastitis. What is “a lot” will vary from herd to herd, but any cow that has clinical mastitis more than once in a lactation or has subclinical mastitis for two years in a row would have to be a pretty good cow to keep her place in the herd. It is not unusual in late spring,

summer and autumn to see cattle with weepy eyes. There are many causes, pinkeye being one of the most common. Pinkeye can cause problems in one or both eyes, with cattle unable to see to graze effectively, resulting in severe weight loss, and potentially death by misadventure, such as by falling into waterways. First you must differentiate pinkeye from other eye problems, such as grass seeds from plants and, less commonly, eye cancer, particularly in breeds without pigmentation around their eyelids or with eyes protruding more than usual. To do this, yard the animal, restrain its head and examine the eye closely. Get a firm grip on the animal, otherwise you might receive a solid whack from a heavy cow's head. If you haven’t ever dealt with pinkeye, get a vet to show you the difference. A cow's eye has three eyelids - an upper, lower and third eyelid. The third eyelid mostly sits hidden towards the middle of the head and can move across the eye as required. To examine a cow's eye, look at the surface of the eyeball (the cornea) to ensure there is no damage and to look under the top and bottom eyelids. It is www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


then important to look at the third eyelid as grass seeds can lodge behind this. Pinkeye generally appears with the middle of the eye going pink or white due to cornea damage. It is caused by the bacterium Moraxella bovis, mostly spread between cows direct contact, flies or dust. The bacterium has small pili (a bit like tentacles that attach to the surface of the eye). Once an animal is infected, it can pass the problem to herd mates quickly and more than 50 per cent of a herd might become infected. This is particularly likely in young stock not immune to the bacterium. TREATMENT If you have just one animal with mild pinkeye (the animals is still able to graze), it might be better to wait to see if it recovers without treatment, rather than bringing the whole herd in and risking disease transferral. Animals with mild pinkeye are generally treated with antibiotic ointment from a vet. This is applied to the eye at least once. It can also be helpful to apply an eye patch to reduce direct sunlight and to stop flies annoying the animal. If a number of cattle have severe pinkeye, a vet might suggest more aggressive treatment using anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. A longer term solution is to use a pinkeye vaccination — a single- shot vaccine best given about one month before the onset of pinkeye season. THINK PINK Using fly-control methods on your animals and reducing grazing on pastures such as thistles, which can damage the eye, will help reduce pinkeye problems in a herd. BOVINE JOHNE’S DISEASE Bovine Iohne’s Disease, or BJD,

causes cattle to lose weight and develop diarrhoea, and eventually leads to death. It is caused by the bacterium mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis. There is no commercial treatment for it and antibiotic therapy is generally ineffective and expensive. The easiest way to prevent the disease is to stop livestock coming into contact with it. It mostly infects animals early in life but symptoms might not appear for several years. The first visible signs are usually a small number of middle-aged or old cattle with diarrhoea, losing weight and scouring. This generally progresses to excessive weight loss and severe scouring, and eventually calls for euthanasia. In early stages, BJD may be confused with conditions such as parasite infection. If nothing is done to halt the spread, more animals can slowly become infected. BJD often infects calves in the first days of life. It is then unnoticeable until the animal is three to four years old, or even older. The older the calf, the less likely it will become infected, so removing it from infected animals immediately is the best control. These calves must be confined to areas where l adult animals haven't previously grazed, as they will pick up the bacteria via paddock faeces. There are tests for the disease, including blood testing or faecal testing, that a vet can perform. It takes just one infected animal to introduce the disease. Animals might look perfectly healthy but could be in the early invisible stages of BJD. The disease is common in dairy cattle but can occur in beef cattle and affect other livestock such as alpacas, goats and deer. The strain that infects cattle is different to the one that infects sheep. BJD is present in the southeast

comer of Australia from southern South Australia to NSW, including Victoria and Tasmania, mirroring major dairying areas. There is ongoing research into a vaccine for cattle, similar to the Ovine Johne’s Disease vaccine for sheep, but it is not yet available. BID is a notifiable disease, meaning if detected on your property it must be notified to the Department of Primary Industries. BJD CONTROL If BJD is on your property, restrictions apply on where you can trade your cattle. Rules on interstate cattle BJD regions are at animalhealthaustralia.com.au or at your nearest Department of Agriculture office. When you buy cattle, check their cattle health statement. Section 2 of this has information about the BJD status for beef cattle and Section 3 for dairy cattle. MAD COW DISEASE There has never been a case of Mad Cow Disease in Australia and it needs to stay this way.


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32 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Consultants and contractors RUNNING a farm can seem a lonely experience. With decisions continually needing to be made and work needing to be done, there is possibly just one main person to make those decisions and do the work - you. When it comes to farm decision making in these challenging farming times, it is no longer acceptable to base those decisions on gut feel. You need the odds to be in your favour, to be as certain as possible that your decision making will bring farming success, not a quick exit out the back door. That’s where experts come in, and there are numerous consultants who can help you make the right decisions, to maximise your farm’s full potential. Likewise, when there’s work to be done, hired contractors can be brought in to handle the day-to-day while you get on with the job of running the farm. But where do you find contractors? The biggest problem most farmers face when it comes to getting the job done, whether it be shearing, harvesting, spraying or baling, is finding reliable help at the right price. When it comes to hiring a contractor, you need to remember that labour and machinery are expensive and there is a duty of care on both sides to ensure any farm job is done smoothly and to each other’s satisfaction. There are questions you need to ask of anyone you are looking at employing, whether consultant or contractor.


The biggest problem most farmers face when it comes to getting the job done, whether it be shearing, harvesting, spraying or baling, is finding reliable help at the right price. Talk to neighbours, seek recommendations and be direct when it comes to the job and the price. You might feel like you are running an employment agency rather than a farm, yet it’s all necessary. Four experts who can help you avoid farming pitfalls so you can get on with the job of running your farm are listed below. FARM MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: A farm management consultant will be proficient across a range of farm activities, including budgeting, planning, purchasing and marketing. Often a bank will insist a farmer employs a farm management consultant to help them through the early years after property purchase. Typically, a new farm owner might call on the services of a farm management consultant for a day every couple of months for two or three years, until they really get a handle on things. Farm management consultants are often used to set up farm plans and are important for any business undergoing change. They analyse potential options, warn against www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

South West Queensland Farming Guide 33


What consultants can do for you pitfalls and tailor programs according to needs. A farm management consultant will likely hold degrees in areas such as agricultural science and have extensive farm management experience. A good farm management consultant will first determine if a farmer's existing business structures are sound and, if not, outline what needs to be done to get them up to scratch. A common observation such consultants often make is that clients know something is going wrong in their operation but are not willing to change. To get the most from a farm management consultant, be frank in what your aims are and be open to considering ideas that might at first seem out of the square.


Often a bank will insist a farmer employs a farm management consultant to help them through the early years. A good rapport is vital. Often farmers will employ a farm management consultant for one or two small projects to determine if they can work together before launching into major projects. Fees for a farm management consultant vary greatly according to whether work is done monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, annually or even on an hourly basis. SOIL SCIENTIST: Soil scientists are usually academically trained experts who evaluate, manage and measure soil properties to understand their potential and limitations. They can identify the source of problems or limitations in crop productivity, evaluate soils for

34 South West Queensland Farming Guide

irrigation potential, interpret soil tests and advise on the choice of fertilisers. In seeking the services of a soil scientist, you need to be aware of their area of expertise, because often, they will be specialists in certain areas. Importantly, find the right soil scientist for you and your farm. For instance, soil scientists can range from those who understand the biological properties of soils and their interaction with plants, to those who understand the chemistry of soils and can identify contaminants such as salt or heavy metals. Soil Science Australia (soilscienceaustralia.com. au) can recommend soil scientists with knowledge of particular regions and with specific skills. LIVESTOCK NUTRITIONIST: These are experts on the nutritional needs and taste preferences of animals, and how to use feed products economically to improve farm productivity and the health of animals. They can advise fanners from the start of a business, discuss desired calving times, recommend the sort of animals to suit a specific production system and suggest easier ways farmers might run their farms. A livestock nutritionist might consult every six to eight weeks, quarterly or annually. One of the most common questions lives tock nutritionists are asked concerns the most profitable intensity of product on a farmer should adopt. The answer is in evitable that all intensities of farming can be profitable, but that farmers need to be realistic enough to run their farms according to the most efficient model for their circumstances. Livestock nutritionists can be used on a fee-for-service basis, for a set number of visits a year, or an hourly rate. Feed

mills also make nutritionists available free if feed is bought through them. PASTURE AGRONOMIST: Pasture agronomists advise on everything from soil testing and fertilising, to controlling weeds and the best pas true seeds to sow for specific reasons, with the overall aim of boosting farm profitability. A pasture agronomist is best consulted from the earliest days of a farm venture, working through the basics to determine exactly what pasture a farm can grow. They might take soil tests and sometimes set up trial plots to di scover what grows well and what doesn’t' .



One of the most common mistakes pasture agronomists see farmers making is choosing the wrong varieties of pasture for their needs or planting an entire property in just one variety. Typically, pasture agronomists will suggest a variety of different grasses so there is one maturing early, one on time and one late. How often they are used is based on a farm 's needs. Some might be consulted monthly, maybe a couple of times a year or annually. Some pasture agronomists charge a set fee, some work on a charge for service basis and some are employed by seed companies and offer their services free when farmers buy seed. Before hiring someone, ask a few important questions. WHAT is their training and experience CAN they provide a selection of references? And yes, you do need to talk to those references provided.

ARE they happy to work with/for other members of your farm team if you're not around? IF THEY'RE a consultant, what qualifications do they have, do they have any interest in any commercial products (you need to know), will they provide you with written reports and how often, and do they carry liability insurance? Don't pussyfoot around on payment. You need to know exactly how much consultants or contractors will receive, and at what stage payments will be made. There might be some negotiation on price. Don't be afraid to negotiate if you think what they are asking is a bit steep. PREPARATION CHECKLIST KEEP your paddocks well-managed and safe, or your stock well-bred with good handling facilities, and your contractor will be happy to come back

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Contractor checklist

time after time. BOOK your contractor a few months in advance and keep him or her up-to-date as the time gets near. MAKE sure paddocks are clean and safe, with no wire left lying around or steel posts or rocks hidden in the grass. The contractor must be able to go in with full confidence. Breakdowns from such objects should be billed to the farm plus downtime. ASK the contractor to send you their public liability insurance company name and policy number, especially if they are harvesting in the middle of a hot and dry summer when fire is a serious risk. WHEN a job is completed, pay promptly. A contractor isn't a pseudo-bank who is so cashed up they can wait months to be paid. Usually, a contractor has debts on machines and a young family to keep. A contractor scratching out an invoice and you writing a cheque takes moments and has both of you parting on a positive note. If you are paying electronically, do 36 South West Queensland Farming Guide

it and email the contractor so they know it has been done. INSURANCE TRAP FOR OFF-FARM CONTRACTORS Farmers who accept off-farm contracting jobs, both for extra income and to make full use of expensive machinery, need to look carefully at their insurance cover. Extra public liability cover is often required after income from their off-farm contracting reaches a certain percentage of their total farm earnings. The best contractors are usually found by word of mouth, and remember you get what you pay for.


Make sure paddocks are clean and safe, with no wire left lying around or steel posts or rocks hidden in the grass.

RELIABILITY IS THE KEY The best way to find a good contractor is to do your homework. Ask fellow farmers or stock and station agents and view the contractor's work and the machinery they use. A good contractor will have been in business for five years or more, will be well known in the town or area, will have a reputation to uphold and does not have to travel far to get work. They will listen five times more than they talk, ask the right questions and if they say they are going to be there the next day, they will, or they will call you early and reset the time. Relying on a contractor's advertisement in the paper, online, as a flyer in the mailbox, a sign nailed on a roadside gum tree or the contractor's opinion of himself is highly suspect and often leads to disappointment on both sides. A TYPICAL SCENARIO A "blow-in" hay contractor from another state will move into an area www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


EMPLOYING FARM CONTRACTORS with cheaper rates to undercut the local contractor but will be found unreliable in arriving on time or doing quality work. The next year, they are gone and you are left to go back to your local contractor with cap in hand. PAY THE PRICE As a property owner making a contractor inquiry, it is important to be professional, direct, courteous and respectful. Trying to continually push the potential contractor down to the lowest price is not a good thing and it is even worse to offer him or her less when the job is done. It is better to be open and say, "I am just getting a few quotes. What would be the price for you coming out and shearing 20 sheep?" and then settling on a price. It is best to get a solid quote rather than a rate per hour, which could be open-ended and in favour of the contractor . HITTING THE PEAK www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

Many farm jobs have to be done within a time frame- sometimes it's within a day or two of crop maturity or before a weather event. This challenges the motivation of the contractor, who wants to line up as much work as he can with properties in close proximity. A strong, informed and respectful relationship with a contractor is the best solution. Having a contractor with fast and efficient machinery, capable of


Trying to continually push the potential contractor down to the lowest price is not a good thing and it is even worse to offer him or her less when the job is done

awesome workloads with a highly skilled workforce is essential. CALL AN EXPERT With the high cost of farm machinery, small or hobby farmers are often better off employing a contractor to do infrequent jobs rather than buying expensive machinery and doing the jobs themselves. Contracting costs The cost of hiring a contractor depends on a range of factors including distance travelled, expertise and the details of the job at hand. Here's a guide to help you get started. VETS: Vets can help when animals become sick and with preventative health and management, and a farm visit will be convenient especially for large animals. Members of the Australian Sheep Vets and the Australian Cattle Veterinarians have expertise in medicine and surgery South West Queensland Farming Guide 37


of farm animals, obstetrics, nutrition, vaccination program design, pregnancy diagnosis, fertility testing, parasite control, biosecurity and animal welfare The law varies across states, but there are some things only a vet can do, such as prescribing restricted medicines Unlike doctors. there is no set schedule of fees for vets. Vets typically charge based on how far they have to travel, the time it takes to do a job and the expertise and equipment involved. ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION CONTRACTOR: Artificial insemination contractors charge for each insemination plus about for each dose of semen. Travel costs may be additional and negotiated depending on the size of the 38 South West Queensland Farming Guide

job and the distance the contractor has to travel. If more labour is required for animal handling, an hourly charge can be expected. AGRONOMIST: Pasture agronomist services, which can include soil testing and advice about fertilising, controlling weeds and the best pasture seeds to sow for specific reasons, are usually


The law varies across states, but there are some things only a vet can do, such as prescribing restricted medicines

charged for each hour or for each hectare on the farm. Hourly rate depend on the agronomist’s experience and services offered. STOCK AGENTS: Common services a stock agent offers include selling livestock at auction, over-the-hooks, through private sales and by forward contracts. In addition to livestock sales, agents may also deal in wool, fertiliser, farm equipment and rural property. Stock agents generally work on commission, which, on average, is 5 per cent of the sale price of the stock, wool or property. HAY MAKING: Haymaking contractor rates vary depending on region and the size of the job. Baling is charged for each bale www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

CONSULTANTS & CONTRACTORS FENCING: Fencing contractors will charge per metre, plus for every fence break. Prices go up with every corner, additional wires and steep or hard to access terrain. To add a single electrified wire, the cost will increase. SHEARER: Shearers are paid for each sheep they shear and shearing contractors may also hire out wool classers,wool pressers and shed hands. Services include shearing, crutching, livestock handling and wool pressing. Rates are more for studs, rams, double fleece, long-distance travel and wool services. ALPACA SHEARER: Alpaca shearers charge a standard rate for 2 alpaca, prices become cheaper with each additional alpaca Often the price will include administering immunisations, drenching, checking teeth and clipping toes. Additional charges may be incurred for travel, long fleece and in the event the alpacas haven't been penned before the shearer arrives.


South West Queensland Farming Guide 39


40 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Cropping and hay WHEN it comes to cropping and making hay,cultivation of the paddocks raises some important questions. Should it be done at all and if so. when is thebest time of year to do it?

Then there is choice of equipment. Discs, tines, deep ripper, scarifiers, power harrows, plain harrows, offset disc harrow, rotary hoes, rehabilitators, prickle bars, chisel ploughs, mouldboard ploughs, Yeomans plows and so on. Even the terminology can be confusing with the words ripping, ploughing, scarifying, cultivating, Tilling and harrowing overlapping in meaning and even used interchangeably. So, where does that leave the farmer who wants to sow, perhaps for an improved pasture at forage brassica crop for summer feed or some lucerne for hay production? With some good local advice it is not too difficult to choose the appropriate equipment to get the job done. TIMING IS EVERYTHING The amount of moisture in the soil is an important factor when it comes time to cultivate. If it's too dry. even a single pass can drastically


Even the terminology can be confusing with the words ripping, ploughing, scarifying, cultivating, Tilling and harrowing overlapping in meaning and even used interchangeably affect soil structure, sometimes leaving little more than dust or powder, which can settle into a tight mass, excluding air and preventing drainage. Soil in this condition can set like concrete after rain and resist germination of all but the hardiest weeds. Cultivating overly wet soil also ruins structure, driving out air and leaving, again, soil that can set hard. Wet soil compacts easily,so tractor wheels can cause a lot of damage. Squeezing at handful of soil can give you a guide to the correct soil moisture level. If water comes out like a wet sponge the soil is too wet. If the soil doesn’t hold together after


South West Queensland Farming Guide 41


squeezing then it is probably too dry [very sandy soil might be an exception). If you can squeeze it into a ball that holds its shape in your hand but falls apart if dropped a few centimetres on to a bench, then it should be right. THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT The most common and cost-effective cultivation tool for larger areas will be one of the many types of three-point linkage mounted, non-powered or static cultivation devices. These include a range of ploughs, rippers and other tined implements. They are available in different widths for small or larger tractors. The right choice of equipment is not always obvious. If possible, hire a local contractor to do some initial work and assess the result before buying equipment. Local contractors, machinery dealers and farmers with experience of local soil are potential sources of information. The secret to success is to do a lot of asking around before taking the plunge. Often second-hand equipment is more than adequate. RIPPERS This category of implement has in common a heavier, stiff tine or shank designed to penetrate 300mm or deeper. Sometimes called sub-soilers, 42 South West Queensland Farming Guide

rippers will break up a compacted sub-surface, allowing air and water to penetrate while improving drainage. A single rip line is often put in before tree planting. Small areas can be ripped with a single tine to relieve compaction before using finer equipment to create a seedbed. Best practice is to rip in two directions at right angles. More sophisticated rippers have spring-loaded shanks that give way if they hit a stump or large rock. Ripper tines have replaceable wear points or teeth. SPRING· TINED CULTIVATORS The tines are thin, curved, flexible metal shanks with a replaceable wearing point. They are a good economical solution for preparing seed beds up to a depth of 150mm or so. (In heavier and compacted soils it is best to first break up soil to a deeper level with a ripper). The spring tines vibrate as they move through the soil helping to fracture and break up lumps. They also have some give if they encounter a rock or stump. YEOMANS PLOW


Best practice is to rip in two directions at right angles

This is a special type of ripper with heavy, spring loaded tines orientated at an aggressively raked angle. It has complex boots mounted on the tines that break up the sub-soil, creating sideways fractures and air voids while minimising surface disturbance. Many farmers use them to great effect in improving degraded pastures. They require tractors starting at about 50 to 60 horsepower, but only need to be used every few years. As they are relatively expensive, employing a contractor rather than buying a unit could be a wise move. CHISEL PLOUGHS These have heavier, curved spring steel shanks and wider teeth or wear points and often include discs, or coulters, placed in front of each shank to slice through trash or pasture to prevent the implement becoming clogged. This also allows a cover of vegetation to be left on the soil surface. CHAIN HARROWS Among the simplest and least expensive implements are chain harrows. While not used for primary cultivation, they are ideal for a range of tasks. Dragged over a recently cultivated area, they will control newly germinated weeds while further breaking up lumps and levelling the ground for sowing. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


They are ideal to cover newly sown seed and fertiliser. Once pasture has grown, harrows are often used to break up and spread animal manure, which assists in paddock management. DISC PLOUGHS These have two sets of discs angled away from the line of travel in different directions, which allows them to chop up larger lumps left after a tined implement has passed, or to chop up a light turf, pasture area or crop residues. The opposing banks of discs ensure the surface is chopped into small pieces without inverting the soil profile. MINIMUM TILLAGE Minimum tillage refers to minimal seed bed preparation with cultivating machinery, and the direct drilling of seed into an existing stubble or pasture. Trials show minimum tillage improves crop yields in most cropping areas in Australia, often by between 10 and 25 per cent. It allows more timely planting and increases soil moisture.

Labour and machinery costs are reduced, soil is more fertile and remains less disturbed, weeds are controlled with chemicals instead of cultivation, and soil organisms including earthworms increase in number. When tillage is combined with crop rotation, legumes and pastures, and fertilisers, farm profits generally go up. WORD OF WARNING Whatever implement is chosen, avoid anything that inverts or flips over the soil. The traditional plough, brought to Australia by European farmers accustomed to deep, moist, fertile topsoils, slices through the soil and turns it over so vegetation is covered and then broken down in preparation for more work to create a seed bed. In the shallow, more fragile soil found over much of Australia, this process brings subsoil to the surface, leading to loss of structure and fertility. Modern tined equipment avoids mixing topsoil with subsoil.

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 43


Disc or tyne seeders Sowing crops with a seed drill is an evolving science as farmers chase uniform emergence and abundant yields. The traditional method is to drag a tine or knife-point through the soil and drop seeds in behind it with a press wheel at the back closing it up. It's relatively cheap and simple and works just fine in tilled soil. However, no-till farming has brought new thinking to cropping and figuring out ways to sow into the stubble left from the previous crop has seen farmers tum to disc seeders. A metal disc rolls along the ground, cutting open a furrow like a pizza cutter. In most cases, discs are better able to handle stubble, but tines still have a strong following for a variety of reasons. No two farms are the same. Soil conditions, prevailing weather and farming preferences mean there are literally hundreds of different seeder set-ups, but there are some general rules of thumb. SEEDING DISC: In ideal conditions, where the ground is firm but not compacted, a disc machine will achieve more consistent seed depth. The disc cuts open a narrow slot and the seed is placed at the bottom against the wall, helping it achieve better germination. In less-than-perfect conditions, such as sticky mud or soft, sandy soils, discs are not so effective. TINE: In less-than-ideal soil conditions a tined seeder is capable of achieving consistent results. Even in no-till seeding, tined machines are widely used. Advancing tine seeder technology is achieving similar results to discs in seed placement. Tines are also better at incorporating pre-emergent herbicides and controlling grass weeds, so they're relatively foolproof. SOWING IN STUBBLE DISC: Zero-till farming is the main driver behind disc seeder technology with a disc able to either cut through the stubble and trash or avoid it 44 South West Queensland Farming Guide

altogether as it creates a furrow. The challenge for discs is that they need to penetrate the soil and trash so the seed isn't just dropped on top. As a result, seeders can be much heavier and discs need to be kept sharp. They also don't work so well in soft, sandy soils or wet conditions where stubble stems can fold around the disc and be pushed into the furrow, an occurrence known as hairpinning, which restricts seed germination. TINE: Tines are not as good at getting through heavy stubble where length and quantity can cause it to clump up on the tine, which leads to blockages. The operator then has to stop and lift the seeder to clear the blockage, then turn around to try to pass through that section again which can mean uneven seeding. Some areas will not be sown and full of weeds while another will be over seeded, which leads to clumps of straw. No-till farmers using tines will reduce stubble by grazing, slashing or baling before going through with the tine seeder. This means an extra pass with a machine adding to time and fuel costs. SOIL DISTURBANCE DISC: Generally speaking, discs have less soil disturbance because the channel they cut through the soil can be as narrow as the thickness of the metal, so in situations where low disturbance is desirable, better results will be achieved. Less soil disturbance also means closer row spacings because there is little impact on neighbouring rows. However, discs can also be configured to achieve more disturbance, if that's what is desired, by setting them at an angle or doubling them up. TINE: Dragging what is effectively a metal stake through the ground will disturb the soil and on average a tine will throw more out each side, meaning you can't have your rows too close together. However, tine design is also

advancing to reduce the amount of soil throw. They are also effective at cutting through compacted soil, making them good for farmers who don't use controlled traffic farming. Tines don't require as heavy a frame as a disc seeder to get through compacted ground. WEAR AND DAMAGE DISC: A disc is mounted on bearings that can wear quickly in rougher ground and the disc itself will Jose its edge. A disc seeder module is also more complex than a tine set-up, so there is more that needs monitoring. However, on rocky ground, the disc rolls over the stone rather than digging it up, which reduces impact and achieves better seeding. TINE: The knife point on a tine wears, but not as quickly and will still work effectively even when it's worn. They're also easier to replace. Breakout systems, which cause the tine to flick up when a rock is hit, also help to reduce damage, although this can cause the seed to be scattered out the back. Hydraulic breakouts reduce this effect. COST DISC: A disc seeder is more expensive than a comparable tined machine. The frames are heavier, the seeder modules more complex with rollers, gauge wheels and other contour-following technology. These costs are offset by the reduced amount of power (about 2hp per row less than a tined seeder) needed to haul a disc seeder and the speed at which it can operate. TINE: There is less complexity in a tined machine so they are by nature much cheaper. They are easier to maintain, wearing parts such as knife points are cheaper to replace and manufacturers are happier to provide a warranty on their machines. Some tined machine makers also offer disc kits so a farmer can swap systems depending on conditions to make it a cost-effective best-of-both-worlds www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Sow the right crops Sowing crops is an expensive exercise and everything from the local climate and international markets to your individual enterprise mix must be taken into account. When it comes to choosing a crop, climate and weather are all important factors, as are the availability of markets, returns and gross margin of each crop. Regions with rainfall averages of at least 400mm a year offer a wider choice of crop rotation as many oilseeds and grain legume species do not normally yield well in drier zones of the cereal belt. Cereals such as wheat, barley, oats and triticale can be grown successfully where rainfall is as low as 300mm on average each year. SOIL REQUIREMENTS Cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats have little preference for soil types, although they produce higher yields when moisture is better retained in the soil. Clay soil tends to hold more moisture than sandier soil, and

therefore tends to be better suited to cropping. Drainage is also an important consideration, particularly in high rainfall areas. Clay soil tends to be more prone to waterlogging, whereas sandier soil is generally better drained. Management practices such as cropping on raised beds and installing surface drains and contour banks help alleviate water-logging and promote drainage. Soil fertility is especially important, and regular soil testing is vital to ensure the crop has all the required nutrients in the right amounts. Clay and clay/loam soils with higher levels of organic matter are generally highly fertile. Sandier soil tends to be leached of nutrients, and generally requires larger amounts of fertiliser. PLANT TISSUE TESTING Plant tissue sampling, in which leaf or stem samples are crushed and analysed for nutrients such as nitrogen, is often referred to as SAP testing. SAP meters

are available to measure nitrate levels at critical growth stages. Compare your results with a set of standards for the particular crop to calculate fertiliser requirements. SAP testing provides an indicator of nutrient uptake and can therefore highlight nutrients which become unavailable (or leached from the profile) to the plant, even though they were applied before or at sowing. CROP ROTATIONS They are an important part of a sustainable farming system and commonly include legumes and pasture as well as grain cereals. Rotations need to be flexible enough to change midstream according to crop profitability and seasons. To assess rotation programs, their gross margins should be compared over at least a five-year cycle in terms of gross margins for each cropping sequence. The gross margin should be calculated for each sequence by adding up the total farm income from


Regions with rainfall averages of at least 400mm a year offer a wider choice of crop rotation as many oilseeds and grain legume species do not normally yield well in drier zones of the cereal belt.


South West Queensland Farming Guide 45


each crop sequence, and then subtracting the total input costs (variable costs) for each crop sequence. Good crop rotations maximise yield potential, especially in reducing build-up of diseases and weeds in continuous grain cropping practices. Another benefit is reduced need for weedicides. The pasture phases assume livestock grazing. The type of rotation chosen depends on factors such as rainfall, soil type, profitability and livestock on mixed farms. Farms that do not carry livestock tend to use fallows rather than pasture, or more intensive cropping practices. For example, in rotation B on the crop rotation table (above), the legume-based pasture would be replaced by a grain legume, and perhaps intensified as in rotation D. LEGUMES Incorporation of legumes into a cropping rotation can improve the nitrogen content of the soil and maintain fertility. Lucerne is one of the most productive contributors of nitrogen. It can be grown in a rotation as a pasture in the short or long term. Medics are also good pasture legumes but are more suited to long-term rotations in pasture mixes. Pasture and legumes tend to improve the soil structure as well (particularly 46 South West Queensland Farming Guide

after three or more years), which helps to improve water infiltration and storage of rainfall in drier areas. This in turn can increase crop yields. Grain legumes and oilseed crops such as canola, linseed, safflower and sunflower also provide a break from cereal diseases such a cereal cyst nematode, or CCN. The introduction of canola into crop rotations in southern Australia has had a major impact on disease and cereal crop yields. It has also proved a profitable break crop in terms of gross margins and improved yields in following cereal crops. Because canola plants have extensive tap roots, they can also draw moisture from greater depths than other crops. Profitable canola production depends on growing a high yielding crop, and adequate nutrition is a key factor in achieving high yields with a high oil content. Inoculation of grain legume seeds with a particular strain of inoculum is generally necessary before sowing to promote nodulation of the roots. Grain legume yields are particularly sensitive to frosts (during flowering), high spring temperatures and low soil moisture levels. Grain legumes such as chick peas and faba beans are popular in rotations, as are lupins and field peas, especially in southern regions. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide





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Making hay Round or square bales? That's the big question to ask when it comes to making hay, and there are arguments for both around cost and convenience. HANDLING ROUND BALES: Round bales are fairly simple to handle with a two-spike loader fork or bale grab but forget about pushing them around by hand. They are generally 1.5m from flat end to flat end, 1.2m wide and weigh about 350kg. Make sure you leave them on flat spots. They've been known to roll through fences and worse. SQUARE BALES: A three or four-spike loader fork is recommended for the large bales which usually measure about 1.2m x 0.9m x 2.4m long and weigh about 550kg to 600kg, 48 South West Queensland Farming Guide

although the small bales are easy to carry by hand. There are also bale packers that make it easier to handle multiple bales. STORING ROUND BALES: It's harder for water to penetrate a round bale so they're less susceptible to weather and can be left out in the paddock. Stacking them under cover is also an option, although there's a fair bit of wasted space due to the shape.


Round bales are fairly simple to handle with a two-spike loader fork or bale grab. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


stopping and starting as each bale is finished. SQUARE BALES: This is where square balers really shine. They can operate non-stop, pushing out bale after bale, if nothing goes wrong with the complex knotting system that can sometimes skip. WEIGHT /COMPACTION ROUND BALES: Newer round balers can get more compaction into bales, but by the nature of the baling process, they can only be packed tight. It's not such an issue for livestock farmers as round bales aren't for the export market. SQUARE BALES: You get a lot more hay in a square bale, which is a reason why export hay is delivered in that shape (easier loading for transport is the other). Baler manufacturers are racing to discover new ways to increase density, which adds value. POWER REQUIREMENTS ROUND BALES: A round baler is relatively small and will usually require a tractor of about 100hp to operate it

effectively. On hilly land, a bit extra might be needed, but this horsepower range is ideal for other farm tasks, so there's no need to buy another tractor. SQUARE BALES: Extra weight, heavier bales and more moving parts including a big plunger mean you're not going to get away with anything much less than 200hp to drive a square baler, especially on hilly land. This puts it in the realm of contractors and hay exporters. CONTRACTOR OR DO-IT-YOURSELF ROUND BALES: Some contractors and other farmers will sell bales, which can be cheaper than owning a baler. Lack of contractors at ideal haymaking times makes owning a baler attractive, although running costs can make it more expensive. SQUARE BALES: Given the costs and complexity of a square baler, there's not much benefit in owning one unless you want to sell hay. Many farmers opt to buy hay or have contractors come and bale their paddocks


SQUARE BALES: They're shaped like bricks so they're ideal for stacking in sheds and unless they're wrapped in plastic for silage, that's where they should be. Unlike round bales, rain will go right through a square bale and ruin it. FEEDING OUT ROUND BALES: Feeding large herds of cattle by running out hay in long strips from a trailed bale feeder is efficient and fast. Round bales are also good for dropping into large feed mixer wagons. It's hard to strip hay from the bale by hand so that can be limiting. SQUARE BALES: Those with horses or who are on smaller, less intensive properties prefer the small square bales because you can easily break off a biscuit and keep the rest neatly stored. They can also work with mechanical bale feeders. TIME/SPEED ROUND BALES: A round bale needs to be wrapped and unloaded, and unless you've spent the extra cash for a continuous round baler, that means

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 49


50 South West Queensland Farming Guide




A well-trained dog can be a farmer’s best friend. It’s generally agreed a smart-sheepdog isworth more than seven men and many times more effective. They say you only get one top dog in your lifetime–and the most personally rewarding way is to start with a pup. The secret is to work on and bring out a dog’s natural instincts. It pays to buy your pup from a reputable, experienced breeder, on at least three referrals. Look for a breeder with a farming operation similar to, or bigger than, yours–or a farm size that you aspire to. Talk to other farmers and stock agents, noting who breeds the top dogs, because inevitably they will be selecting for traits you have not even dreamt about. Once you have found a breeder, let them know the type of dog you are after. It might be a good dog to force sheep up and run over their backs, or maybe a dog for speed and casting ability. Top trial dogs might not be great farm working dogs, as they may have too much "eye" and careful control of a few wethers, rather than possessing the force and push required for bigger mobs. Talk to your breeder about this. If you already have an older dog, his working life will be extended another two years by introducing a new, agile pup for him to keep up to and impress. However, you don’t need another dog to teach your dog to work. You ae the "pack leader" and you will bring out their instincts as they develop


Caring for your farm worker Farm dogs, whether pets or workers, need ongoing care and attention like all other animals. Most working dogs will live tor10to 15 years, with their working life a bit shorteras they tend to slowdown with age. Working dogs need a high-quality diet. They are performance athletes and must replace a lot of energy. If you aren’t convinced of this, try to keep up with your dog the next time you round up stock. The amount of food your dog eats varies through the year according to workload and weather conditions. The best way to monitor their diet is to check their body condition. The Victorian Department of Primary Industries’ dog conditioning chart says 52 South West Queensland Farming Guide

an ideal dog will have: RIBS and spine that can be felt (the last few ribs may be visible). A WAIST when viewed from above. A BELLY that is tucked up when viewed from the side. GOOD muscle mass. A WELL muscled rump. It is possible to make your own dog food, but you must ensure your dog receives the correct nutrients. For most people it is simpler to feed a commercial diet produced specifically for a dog’s particular stage of life (puppy, adult or geriatric). There are three main commercial dog foods-canned, dry (kibble) and semi-moist (rolls). The main difference between these is the amount of water in each. Dry feed has the least, canned www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide



It is possible to make your own dog food, but you must ensure your dog receives the correct nutrients. increased chances of straying. De-sexing will reduce the dog's feed requirement, so body condition score should be evaluated in the month safter

surgery. If you do decide to breed from your female dog, it is important to keep her separate from dogs you don’t want her to mate with. This means some sort of a cage or room, because male dogs can be inventive in finding ways to get to a female on heat. Bitches can come into heat any time from six to 12 months of age and have up to two litters of pups in a year. Most litters will have three to 10 pups. Once a dog is mated, it is usually 63 days until you hear the pitter-patter of tiny puppy paws. The female needs more food in the latter third of pregnancy and particularly during lactation, which will generally be for six to eight weeks until the pups are weaned.

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has the most. The less water, the less feed you need to give the dog. AVOID THE PATTER OF LITTLE PAWS If you are not going to breed from your dog, consider de-sexing it to avoid unwanted pregnancies and

South West Queensland Farming Guide 53


Training your dog Experts believe training for top dogs should start eight to 10 weeks by working small mobs of sheep in the yards for a few minutes at a time. When a young dog is ready and keen to work, gather several docile Merino weaners (not pets or rams that will stand up to him and stamp their feet). Put the sheep in a round paddock with no corners to jam into - about the size of a netball court and have the pup use his natural instincts to bring the sheep to you while you stand at the entrance. GO ROUND, GO OVER: To teach the pup to muster to the right, gesture and tell him to “go round”. To muster the mob to the left, tell him to “go over". Round and right is an easy combination to remember. Teaching your dog to work to the right or left is invaluable when moving mobs off roads or creek embankments. Should he cast the wrong way, call 54 South West Queensland Farming Guide


To teach the pup to muster to the right, gesture and tell him to “go round”. “go over, over”. Once your pup brings them into the yard, close the gate and make a big fuss of him. PUSH: The next task is to “push” the small mob into the shed together, calling consistently and emphasising the “sh” part. Once the mob is in the shed, make a fuss of the pup with pats and cuddles. This activity might take several lessons to achieve but is the basis of all teaching. WAY OVER: For long distances where sheep are up to a kilometre away, call “way over”. OUT: Sometimes you will want your dog out of the shed or yard, to which you simply say, “out - get out". A gentle sweep with a leaf rake www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


as you say this also helps. THAT’LL DO: When you want them to stop working the sheep, call "That’ll do" or “Don’t worry about them” and begin riding or walking off in another direction. It is not hard to teach, but it is imperative to have the dog work sheep only when you want him to. To show your displeasure, utter “AARRGGH" in a low and aggressive tone. Remember, it’s the tone the dog picks up first, then the words. Importantly never leave your dog in a small pen with a few aggressive rams or bold ewes that might butt him. Even extremely bold dogs can become frightened of being rammed, which can lead to a serious loss of confidence. RIDING A MOTORBIKE Training and working your dog while you are on a motorbike goes together like lamb roast and mint sauce. However, some dogs such as young Border Collies with too much energy will not ride on the back of a motorbike. To fix this, take the dog for a decent run (up to 5km) and stop halfway up a hill. Get off the bike and gesture to the panting, exhausted dog, “Do you want to hop up?” and help him up. Praise him when he sits on the bike. Most dogs will sit on the back and have a good rest as you ride. Secure your dog in your ute when driving, as serious injuries can result if he falls out. ON THE SHEEP'S BACK To train your dog to run along the backs of sheep, place a sheepskin on a steady 44-gallon drum and get him to “hop up". Make a big fuss of him when he does. Occasionally roll the drum as he hops up. Later, progress to him hopping up on a tight pen of sheep. Encourage him to bark by saying speak www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

up The final call is to urge him to “go way up", hopping over their backs in a longer race and dropping down at the head of the mob. A whistle and “come back” will have him weaving his way back to you as the sheep head in the opposite direction. Kelpies are especially good at this. STOPPING ON COMMAND To teach a dog to stop on command, tie a light, 7m-long rope to his collar. As you go about normal duties deliberately stand on the end of the lead and call “stop”. He has to stop, of course, so tell him he is a good dog and pat him. Do it over again and again for a week or two. Watch that the cord does not become tangled around the dog.


Training and working your dog while you are on a motorbike goes together like lamb roast and mint sauce. MUZZLE TIME If your dog has a tendency to cut a single sheep from a mob (perhaps a flystruck one) in the paddock, fix a muzzle to him so he has to think of another technique to bring the sheep down instead of biting and hanging on. The call is “get him”. KEEP YOUR COOL Never lose your temper, throw sticks or strike out when working with your dog because it is a reflection on you and your lack of mastery training. The dog's whole purpose in life is to please you so teach him the skills he needs before the pressure is on. When dogs are young,

they must be tied up and fed at night so they associate tying up with feeding. HOW MANY DOGS? One good dog is 100 per cent effective in stock work, and two dogs (a male and female often get on well together) are 200 per cent effective but once you have three dogs or more the average handler will be back to about 50 per cent efficiency. NO NEED TO TIE As the top dog matures, tying it up is unnecessary because he will think the way you do and be at the back door ready to go at any time. He will know by the tone of your voice and the way you pull your boots on that it’s time to work. South West Queensland Farming Guide 55


Health watch It is important to monitor the health of your dog as they are in close proximity to livestock and, in many cases, close to family members, particularly children. Some diseases can be transferred from dogs to people. These are known as zoonoses, and preventative health care can minimise the risk of disease in your dog and maintain a reliable worker and happy, healthy member of the family. VACCINATION BASICS Ensure your dog has had a complete set of vaccinations, which should at least protect against distemper, hepatitis and parvo. Treatment for these diseases is expensive and not always successful, so vaccination prevention is the best choice. You might also wish to vaccinate against “kennel cough” if your dog has contact with other dogs or spends time in a boarding kennel. Recent scientific information has changed some vaccine schedules — some programs no longer require annual vaccination after the first year of 56 South West Queensland Farming Guide

vaccinations - so discuss with your vet how frequently your dog should be


Ensure your dog has had a complete set of vaccinations, which should at least protect against distemper, hepatitis and parvo.

immunised. GUARD AGAINST WORMS Dogs can become infected by worms, including roundworms or tapeworms, in their stomach or intestines. Both of these internal parasites can cause infection in people. There is no simple way to tell if your dog is carrying worms, so preventive treatment is generally the best option. Tapeworm requires treatment every six weeks with tablets containing praziquantel. This is particularly important for farm dogs that may come www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


lot. If this is a concern, visit your vet. HYDATID DISEASE: A THREAT TO HUMANS Hydatid disease can spread from wild animals to farm dogs, livestock and even humans. It might not be as common as it used to be, but it is still a threat. Also known as hydatidosis and echinococcosis, it is caused by the hydatid tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus. The adult hydatid tapeworm forms a cyst mostly in the animal’s liver or lungs. The juvenile stage can also affect people who have close contact with infected dogs. The adult parasite lives in the intestine and usually passes totally unnoticed, even though each dog may have thousands of these worms in them, as they only grow up to 5mm long. Each tapeworm has three to four separate segments and about every two weeks one of these segments is released into the faeces. It contains thousands of eggs that are infectious for several months. They can lie in the dog's coat, around the kennel or in paddocks.


TIP: If you suspect your dog is unwell from any of the above ailments, seek the help of a vet to ensure they return to health.

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When an animal or a person swallows an egg, the hydatid hatches and forms cysts inside the body — mostly in the liver or lungs. Each of these can contain millions of new infective hydatids. _ If a dog then eats this cyst (for example, when fed infected raw liver or lung from a sheep), the hydatid matures in the intestine to the adult stage over six weeks and the lifecycle is complete. If your dog is on a farm or visits any area where it might eat wild or domestic animals, it should be wormed with praziquantel every six weeks. Dogs should not be fed offal, and any meat fed should be cut into thin strips and frozen or cooked to kill the parasites. Prevent dogs from eating dead stock in paddocks and ensure children wash their hands after playing with farm dogs, especially before eating.

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into contact with animal carcasses. There are many roundworm products, with treatment needed every two weeks as a puppy and every three to six months for adult dogs. Coincide worming treatment for the family with one of these treatments for the dog. Importantly, wash hands thoroughly after playing with your dog to reduce the chance of parasite problems. PARASITE CONCERN Similar to other mammals, dogs can get parasites on their skin. One of the most obvious is the dog flea. A good flea-control program will save both you and your dog a lot of bother. Fleas can cause a dog to itch excessively and can give you a nasty bite as well. They are also responsible for spreading common dog tapeworm as the fleas swallow tapeworm eggs from dog faeces, the dog then swallows the flea, and the tapeworm then “hatches” inside the dog. Flea solutions include powders, tablets, spot doses directly on to the skin, and sprays. Other parasites such as mites can also cause dogs to scratch a

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Grass Seeds

Grass seeds can harm your dog and hurt your hip pocket. Running around the paddocks can be great fun for a dog, but when summer comes it can also cause much misery. Grass seeds can lodge in your dog’s skin and various other parts of its body, causing painful problems such as an abscess. Common weeds such as barley grass (Hordeum leporinum) and corkscrew (Erodium sp.) produce seeds that cause problems for dogs. Corkscrew grass seed is named for its curly shape. while barley grass seed is shaped more like an arrowhead. The shape of these grass seeds allows them to penetrate the skin and then continue to move underneath the skin. This means the grass seed can end up anywhere in the body. Most commonly, the seed will form an abscess under the skin. which appears as a lump. Grass seeds normally lodge in areas such as the feet — especially between the toes — the cars, nose, eyes. penis and vulva.

58 South West Queensland Farming Guide

If your dog has a shaggy coat, grass seeds can lodge all over the body. A dog with a grass seed will normally lick or bite the area where the grass seed enters, even to the extent of breaking the skin. Once a dog has a grass seed underneath its skin. you need to take it to the vet to be removed. Early removal and reducing the number of grass seeds on at farm makes good sense. PREVENT SEED PROBLEMS BY: GROOMING long-haired dogs at least every few days to remove grass seeds in the coat. REGULARLY checking between toes and in the ears for seeds. CLIPPING all the hair off the feet (a dog groomer or your vet can do this for you) of dogs that suffer from grass seed problems. REDUCING the number of grassy weeds around your property through a combination of grazing, mowing and some spraying. KEEPING your dog away from grassy areas.


It’s a tough decision because both breeds have amazing working ability. The answer will likely be whichever one you believe in. Border Collies are intelligent, obedient and easy to train. Kelpies work better and longer in the heat and are more adept at running along the backs of sheep because of their more compact size. The short-haired Border Collies are a bigger, more robust dog. Some farmers avoid the finer-boned, long-haired types, because when the pressure is on they will spend more time in the dam cooling than pushing mobs of sheep. Just ensure both parents are top dogs and, if possible, see them work. Yes, you might get a dud dog from a top line and hear reports that the dog’s sisters are absolute crackers. However, this is rarely the case.



Farm dog breeds Finding a dog that is a perfect fit for your family and farm life is no easy feat however, knowing your breeds and their temperment is a great place to start!








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Stop dogs becoming killers Almost everyone in a rural area has a story to tell about someone's dog attacking and mauling sheep. It is a tragedy that stirs emotions. There are two sides to a dog attack. On the one hand we have the sheep owner, who has professionally bred and cared for his stock for years, and on the other, we have an owner whose dog’s idea of an hour of fun can cause intolerable suffering for innocent animals. All it takes is a dog fresh off the chain with an evolutionary instinct to chase the neighbour’s stock. THE LAW By law, a farmer with a gun licence can destroy a dog that is attacking sheep on their property. A farmer is not allowed to destroy a dog that is simply walking across his paddock, nor is he permitted to deliberately wound the dog and have it hop back to its home or die a few days later from its wounds. It is a low state of affairs when deaths and serious injury to loved and valuable 60 South West Queensland Farming Guide

animals occur when they are doing what comes naturally. Rarely is the attack the dog’s fault it is almost always the dog owner's but it is the poor dog that could end up getting shot. In many cases, the loss of the dog is akin to losing a child for its owner. Several proactive measures by dog owners, farmers and municipal councils can make a world of difference. THE DOG OWNER Owners must be aware that dogs, given the chance, will chase, maul and kill sheep and goats. Dog owners’ most common fault is to believe their dogs will not wander. When dogs are minus their pack leader — their owner - to keep them in order, they have an urge to see the world. Neighbouring smaller and bigger dogs, of almost any breed, will pack together. They can travel up to 3km to round up a mob of sheep and start

cutting out one or two at a time. Sheep will charge through fences or jump into a dam to escape. But while dogs will rarely swim into the dam after sheep, a sheep will often drown because its heavy wet fleece weighs it down. Within days, drinking water becomes fouled by the dead carcass in the dam and the main mob goes thirsty. In another tragic ending, a chased sheep can run downhill to a creek or gully and be attacked on the legs or neck, to bring it down. Once a sheep is stationary in a collapsed position, dogs can open up the wool and rip flesh and intestines away at will. If the sheep stays still for long enough while being mauled, the dogs may well return to the mob and cut out a fresh sheep to chase. The dog returns home, and the next day the pattern is repeated, until someone notices the carnage. Any breed can cause terrible losses, but the most common culprits are www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

DOGS “bitsers” or half-breeds. Their owners may have paid little for them, and so do not value or care for them. THE FARMER The farmer is in the best position to predict a domestic dog attack. If you are farming within sight of a town or built-up area, there are always certain paddocks where there has been a history of sheep attacks by domestic dogs, so these should be checked daily. Keep an eye on neighbours’ dogs and note behaviours such as wandering around and not being tied up at night. Build up a friendly rapport with your neighbours and let them know of your concerns. If you feel you are getting nowhere


The farmer is in the best position to predict a domestic dog attack with negotiation and the “softly softly” approach is not working, contact the shire ranger and let him or her know of the situation. A sheep found dead and torn about in the middle of a paddock is often the


work of scavenging foxes. However, fences knocked to the ground by the force of a panicked mob being pushed, and wool left on barbed wire, are indicative of dog attack. The sobering reality is that the first knowledge you will have of a dog attack is usually dead and dying sheep found in fences, comers and gullies. THE COUNCIL Council rangers can take most of the credit for the decrease in dog attacks on stock over the past 10 years. They are far more proactive now in their surveillance and are professional and skilful in approaching and handling dog owners and dogs. They can wield a big stick and get results and long-term action quickly. However, many dogs remain unregistered and councils need to come up with a simple and effective system to monitor dog numbers. Random home visits and compulsory microchipping of all dogs are worthy strategies for consideration. DOG ATTACK - HOLD YOUR FIRE For legal reasons, it is wise to notify the shire ranger first and obtain permission to shoot the dog in the act of attacking your stock. If you and the sheep can safely wait until the shire

ranger arrives to catch the dog in the act, so much the better, because you will have indisputable legal proof of the circumstances. Most rangers are supportive of the farmer and have excellent follow-up. A report of stock loss and photos are essential; Heavy fines can be imposed on the dog owner, as well as the requirement for an assurance that no further attacks will occur in the future, plus compensation for loss of sheep to the farmer, based on their current commercial value. Often the local media will respond with “blood and gore” stories. So a few carnage photos in the local paper or on social media can go a long way toward educating dog owners and preventing further attacks - especially when big fines are inflicted. When stitching up sheep wounds, the fresher they are, the better — so inspect wounded sheep carefully and sew up with dental floss and a sharp sewing needle without delay. Young sheep can recover quickly in a fresh paddock of green grass. Consider a penicillin course for old wounds, which may fester, or are festering.

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62 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Farming infastructure FENCES, sheds, driveways and livestock yards — they are all big-ticket items that need to be built properly to ensure optimal farm operation. The following pages will set you in the right direction. FENCING There is an old country saying that is so true — good fences make good neighbours. Just ask a fencing contractor. They are the ones who often end up having to negotiate the details because the neighbours no longer speak to each other. Apart from the obvious function of keeping your animals where they belong, fences keep other people’s animals from eating your valuable pasture, damaging crops or introducing health threats. Most importantly, they prevent animals wandering on to roads and railway lines. The legal ramifications of a bunch of cattle wandering on to a busy highway don’t bear thinking about. By law as well as convention, neighbours evenly divide the costs of any fencing installation or maintenance. If you happen to have the government (the Crown) as your neighbour, you’ll pay for the whole fence on your own. Despite low material costs, fences can be costly. By the time end assemblies, gates, removal of an old fence, clearing and levelling and labour are added, the cost per metre may reach $10 or more, even for a basic fence. WHEN SMALL IS BIG On small properties, unit costs can be astronomical compared with larger properties. A grazing property of 1500 hectares may have an average paddock size of 40 to 80 hectares. If cropping is involved, paddocks can be even larger. This means long, uninterrupted runs with fewer strainer assemblies and gates. Contrast this with a 10-hectare property where the owners wish to keep some sheep and a horse or two. Several paddocks will be required along with a simple laneway system to make it easy to move animals. There will be numerous corners and many gates, each of which requires at least one extra gate post and strainer if located at a comer or junction, or two strainer assemblies if located along a run. Perhaps one of the biggest traps with fencing is that it looks easy. It's not. But it can be learnt and it is certainly to a landholder's advantage to know a little about how to keep a fence in good repair. THE RIGHT DESIGN Fences can vary greatly in design. With goats, for instance, fences must be solid and in top condition, while on a dairy farm, with much heavier animals, a single electric wire internally and a basic three-wire boundary electric fence is sufficient. The relative costs are quite different. The best strategy is to do your research. See how similar farms are fenced and ask local contractors and suppliers. Local terrain is important. Hilly versus flat country affects the number of strainer assemblies and style and frequency of intermediate posts, while deep sand calls for different equipment and end assemblies than extensive shallow rock. Fashion or local custom can also have a bearing on fence design, with local contractors and material suppliers catering to local styles. It is generally cheaper and easier to go with the flow rather "than import something entirely different. Not all fences on a farm have to be the same. Property boundaries, especially along roads, should be the strongest, while internal fences can be lighter. The different styles of farm fence can be divided into two general types - electric and conventional. Electric fences tend to be cheaper since the www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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deterrent effect of the mild and completely safe electric shock allows for a lighter fence construction than a conventional fence that depends on being physically stronger than the animals it encloses. MATERIAL WORLD Poor quality materials will shorten the life of a fence, no matter how good the installation technique. Spending an extra 20 per cent on materials can, taking labour into account, increase overall cost by just 10 per cent or less, but it can extend the life of the fence by decades. WIRE You generally get what you pay for. While virtually all fencing wire products are galvanised, the thickness and number of layers of the galvanised coating varies. Longer-life products with multiple layers perform better, particularly in coastal areas. The quality of the wire itself can also vary, so select products of known quality. Wire comes in three forms: plain, barbed and prefabricated mesh. Plain wire is usually called high tensile (high-carbon wire), meaning it has sufficient elasticity to be placed under tension without permanent elongation. Tie wire is low-carbon wire, which is easy to bend and twist. Barbed wire is used less than in the past. Its main application is to enclose cattle. Barbed 64 South West Queensland Farming Guide

wire is hazardous to wildlife and livestock. MESH END ASSEMBLIES Prefabricated mesh, such as hinge-joint and ringlock styles, is widely used in fencing today. While more expensive than plain wire fences, the savings in installation and maintenance costs combined with better performances have made it a preferred choice in many cases. Products come in a variety of sizes to suit different farming enterprises POSTS Posts can be treated or untreated timber, steel or concrete. Timber remains the most popular, with treated pine being common and relatively inexpensive. Pine is treated to different levels depending on use. Level H4 is suitable for fence posts, while H5 grade, although more expensive, is a good choice for strainer assemblies. Some native tree species are suitable for posts including some eucalypts and cypress pine. If posts are treated with creosote, take care to avoid skin contact.


The quality of the wire itself can also vary, so select products of known quality. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


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so are at a high voltage, but an extremely low current, which ensures there is no danger of electrocution. Modern systems operate at 12 or 24 volts through a transformer incorporated into the energiser. For the system to work effectively, the fence energiser is earthed by having its negative terminal connected to one or more earth stakes, which are simple metal stakes driven into the ground near the energiser. The positive terminal is connected to the fence wires intended to be "hot". Therefore, an animal, or unsuspecting person, receives a shock by completing the circuit and allowing the current to pass from the hot fence wire to "earth". ENERGISER OPTIONS There are three broad classes of energiser according to power source: mains, solar or battery. MAINS POWERED: Wherever possible, it's best to have a mains-powered unit housed in a shed or under cover. These can be combined with a back-up battery if power supply is unreliable. SOLAR AND BATTERY-POWERED: Such units are usually located in the field. Unless they are protected from the elements, they can have a shortened life as wire insulation and plastic housings break down in sunlight and metal components suffer corrosion. A small weatherproof box housing the battery and energiser is worth the extra trouble and cost. HANDY EXTRAS Energisers range from basic units with a power light to show when they are on, to sophisticated units with digital readouts, surge-overriders and the capacity to monitor fence condition. Whether simple or complex, energisers are sold according to output, from simple solar or battery units designed to operate a

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Galvanised steel posts provide some resilience against fire, although hotter fires will damage the galvanised coating. Star posts (pickets) are commonly used as intermediate posts. The difference between those made with high-carbon steel and cheap, low-carbon steel is dramatic. It is best to avoid the latter which are so soft they can bend when being driven into hard ground. Concrete posts are often used. They can be comparatively inexpensive and fire and termite-proof, but they are heavy to handle and can lose structural integrity in hotter fires. Droppers, which are used to keep multiple horizontal wires an even distance apart and to spread the load of stock impact among all the wires, can be made from steel, timber or plastic. While probably a little more expensive, galvanised steel droppers are more robust and long lasting. END ASSEMBLIES At each end of a length of fence there needs to be an end assembly, also called a strainer assembly. This provides a firm anchor so wires can be stretched tight. Exceptions include post-and-rail fences and fences made from pre-fabricated panels. End assemblies fall into two groups -box ends and diagonal stays. The stronger box-end assembly is more suitable in looser sandy soils or waterlogged areas. In most cases, diagonal stays are adequate GOING ELECTRIC Electric fencing can be a cheaper alternative as the electric shock substitutes for the heavier and more costly materials used in a non-electric fence. Electric fences are powered by pulses of direct current created by a fence energiser. Pulses every second or

phone: 07 4639 2824, 8 neil Street, TooWoomba www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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strip-grazing hot wire, to powerful units capable of managing hundreds of kilometres of fencing. One of the big benefits of the more sophisticated energisers that show fence voltage and, ideally, include a low-voltage alarm, is that fence condition is easily monitored. Without this, you have to take a handheld voltage metre around your fences from time to time to test voltage, or physically inspect the entire length of fence to look for shorts or breaches. THE BITS AND PIECES The main components of an electric fence are the energiser, wire or electric tape, insulators, insulated droppers, runout wire, switches and connectors. A handheld voltage measuring device is also useful to test the fence and can help find faults or breaks. The energiser is the most important item because, regardless of the quality of other components, unless the energiser works reliably, the fence will be ineffective. Quality components throughout the fence pay dividends over time. For example, ceramic insulators are likely to outlast plastic ones. Electric fences are usually constructed of plain, high-tensile wire that carries an 66 South West Queensland Farming Guide

intermittent electric charge or pulse. Synthetic tapes containing thin wire filaments are also used for lightweight and temporary electric fencing. THE RIGHT CHOICE Electric fences can also be more attractive, especially to DIY farmers, as they are lighter, don't require installation experience and can use manually installed lightweight end assemblies rather than those requiring a tractor-mounted post driver. A well-built prefabricated mesh fence is likely to require less maintenance and be more robust and flexible in terms of livestock choices than a lighter electric fence. Such a fence can withstand minor damage without losing general effectiveness. An electric fence can be rendered ineffective throughout its length by a simple short circuit, perhaps from a fallen branch or even a crossed wire. A good standard fence will not lose effectiveness or, at worst, only at the point where the damage occurs. Animals should be trained to respect electric fences when young for best results, however not all livestock are suited to this sort of fencing. Electric fencing is often chosen because it is cheaper than conventional www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Training Livestock fencing. However, the type of stock to be contained and whether it is "trained" for electric fencing has a big bearing on the effectiveness and genuine long-term saving. Animals bred on a farm can be trained to "respect'' electric fences when young, by placing them in smaller paddocks with well-maintained electric fences after weaning. Inquisitive, they will get a shock or two from touching fences and quickly learn to avoid them. This knowledge stays with them so they keep clear of fences even in larger paddocks or when a fence is not working. Properties used for finishing store animals (cattle or sheep raised by breeders and sold to farms to be grown to maturity) need stronger fences because the livestock might www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

not have electric fence experience. MOISTURE NEEDED A minimal level of moisture is needed in the soil to create a sound electrical connection. In dry times or type and with their speed and agility can easily climates use a more elaborate "earth return" systems. In addition to the earth stakes, connect the negative terminal to fence wires that are not hot. When touched it will complete the circuit between two wires, one hot and one earthed. This is recommended for most of southeast Australia. ANIMAL BY ANIMAL SHEEP If sheep are your only animals, an electric fence might not be the ideal choice. A thick, dry fleece can insulate a sheep from receiving any power

from an electric fence and, as any sheep farmer will tell you, a hungry sheep will always find the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Even shedding sheep with light winter-only fleeces, such as Wiltshire Horn and Dorper, seem to have some insulation against electric fences. HORSES Electric fences are not suitable for horses at all. Horses react strongly to shocks or surprises of any type and with their speed and agility can easily escape by jumping or have a high-speed and possibly disastrous collision after being "bitten" by an electric fence. The synthetic top tape often seen in horse paddocks is there as a sight line to help horses be aware of fence location rather than to be electrified. South West Queensland Farming Guide 67


CATTLE Ironically the biggest and heaviest of the livestock species can be fenced with a single electric wire. A simple three-wire electric fence on a property boundary is often adequate and, for strip grazing, a single hot wire internally. The light coat carried by most cattle means that an electric shock is felt to its fullest effect so, short of a stampede, cattle, particularly dairy cattle are easily controlled with an electric fence. However, a boundary electric fence needs close maintenance and must be quickly repaired if there is a short circuit or other malfunction. An exception is the bull paddock. A rather more substantial permanent fence will generally be needed to house an amorous bull. GOATS If goats are trained when young they can be contained behind electric fences, but in general a well-maintained permanent pre-fab mesh fence to a minimum height of 68 South West Queensland Farming Guide

1200mrn is necessary. PIGS If trained when young, pigs are easily controlled with an electric fence. ALPACAS AND LLAMAS These placid animals are well behaved and if no other species are to be kept, then a simple electric fence will be quite adequate. Modern energisers are highly unlikely to start a fire however, it is worth checking for small shorts that create sparks, especially before summer. Older energisers, the type of unit you might pick up at a clearing sale, may not be as reliable. While it can be good to use second-hand products, unless


Ironically the biggest and heaviest of the livestock species can be fenced with a single electric wire. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Can an electric fence start a fire? the provenance is known or it can be professionally serviced, an energiser is one item best bought new. BUILDING A DRIVEWAY To ensure your driveway handles the tough conditions of your farm, consider the materials and drainage that will hold up to heavy traffic. From the moment you drive into a farm there is infrastructure, often costly works and constructions that are vital in making a living off the land. The first and among the most important you will see is likely the driveway leading up through the property. A well-constructed driveway can cheer your country home, yet it needs to be built properly in the first place. The enemies of a farm driveway are steep hills, water erosion and fast cars -in that order. If your drive is on relatively flat land, the cost and maintenance will be a fraction of having it wind up the side of a hill. If you must have your home in an

elevated position with a steep climb (anything above 10 degrees incline), budget several thousand dollars for an asphalt driveway - at least in the steepest approaches. This is because whatever crushed rock you lay down, cars spinning their wheels and storm water rushing down will carve it up and need costly attention. TYPES OF DRIVEWAY Driveways are usually best constructed during summer and autumn when the ground is dry and firm. For a temporary driveway on flat to undulating land lay crushed rock road base straight on your land as the tipper truck drives along. A bobcat can smooth out and compact the material or you can do it yourself with a grader blade attachment on a tractor. If done every three years, this will be one of the easiest and cheapest driveway solutions.



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For a more permanent drive, have a grader contractor remove the grass on a strip up to 9m wide. Then cut the soil on the two outer 3m strips and have the middle path heaped up to encourage rainfall run-off. When you run a straight plank across your drive, its centre should be 75mm higher than its edges. ALL ABOUT THE BASE As road base, use crushed rock with up to matchbox size pebbles, with clay, sand or stone dust mixed through. This should be laid at least 50mm thick but preferably 75mm to ensure hard packing and that the undersoil or clay does not break through during wet times. The road base needs to be moist enough to compact. As a test, squeeze a handful. If it maintains its shape in your hand, it will compact and bind well. Most driveway road base mixes need additional water to aid compaction. Spray it with a hose wait for rain or hire a water cart. PERFECT COMPACTION Use your grader, bobcat or tractor to help grind and compact the moist road base. Those with steeper driveways can hire a mechanical whacker from a garden supply centre. MATERIAL CHOICE Stone from the nearest quarry is usually the best option as transport costs can be expensive. The ideal 70 South West Queensland Farming Guide

material is what is called '' 14mm to 20mm"- the biggest stones in these mixes are smooth enough when compacted to not trip you up, roll off or be rough under foot. The 40mm road bases are ideal for more robust farm tracks. Good road bases have sticky line clay particles that will cement around the bigger stones during compaction. As a rule of thumb. a cubic metre of crushed rock is about 1.5 tonnes and will make about four metres of driveway about 75mm thick. Sandstone with it’s orange to sandy colour is the most popular because it brightens up garden surrounds and the home itself. Bluestone or basalt ty pes are a cheaper road base. especially if you can buy the mix as a scalps mix. This is the first crushing’s of the rock, which is not strong enough for concrete but ideal for driveways. Scoria’s are attractive but need topping up every few years as they can break down more easily. Granitic sands make attractive


Good road bases have sticky line clay particles that will cement around the bigger stones during compaction www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


pathways and drives as they give a nice crunchy feel under foot. They are only suited to relatively flat drives where little dust rising during summer is not a concern. Others such as Lilydale Topping, are attractive as a topping only in flat situations as the stones move too much on inclines. Crushed bricks have a brilliant orange colour and can look crisp and smart. Get an earthmoving contractor to show you some well-constructed driveways and test drive them yourself. Remember to get three quotes and never be afraid to check. a contractor work. STORM-PROOF YOUR DRIVEWAY Rainstorms can carve gullies into driveways. Leaving them scarred and hazardous to use. These will need proper repairs- with added structuresto avoid a repeat of the damage with


Scoria’s are attractive but need topping up every few years as they can break down more easily. the next torrential rains. Ninety per cent of damaged driveways have been worn out by excess water, not traffic. Farm driveways will last for years once the water problem has been solved. because the consistent weight of vehicles will compact them down further. GRADER TREATMENT The best driveways are maintained with a grader blade attached to the three-point linkage of the farm tractor. A grader blade regularly put over your driveway will pay for itself in a few years because it saves on truckloads of crushed rock washed down the wad during heavy rain. Every farm should have a grader blade www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

because of its multiple uses. It can also be used for digging drains, ploughing contours, preparing ground for tree planting, pipe laying, pushing up logs, heaping up green compost piles, scraping up manure, forming vegetable garden beds, hilling potatoes, knocking down gorse and so on. CROWN OR CAMBER Putting a crown on your driveway allows water to roll away into side drains, instead of having it sit in potholes for your car tyres to grind into bigger potholes. Some driveways on slopes have a camber so water rolls over and off the road as a gentle, broad sheet. Unless you have a concrete or bitumen driveway, you need to ensure it's always maintained with a slight crown or camber. CARVE DRAINS Carved drains are the all-important conduit for taking volumes of water away before they flow over your driveway and start erosion. Drains should be up to 30cm deep and wide (an angled farm grader blade wiII do a great job). Spending time experimenting with angles on your grader is a good idea. Drains will block with sediment, so run your grader lade down regularly and keep them open in readiness for the next rain. BALLAST AND HEAVY ROCK Sometimes drains on steeper driveways will be eroded badly and become deep and scarred. To remedy this, hand-place rocks about the size of footballs in the drain to stop further erosion. Air spaces between the larger rocks allow the water to speed through without gouging the drain deeper. The 100mm ballast or 200mm surge-pile rocks from your local quarry work well, or simply hand select a few from your own paddock. WATER RUN-OFFS Many driveways suffer damage because water run-offs are bypassed through lack of maintenance. Placing

water run-offs every 20m to divert water away is probably the most efficient strategy. CULVERTS Culverts or pipes under a drive work well, as long as they are not allowed to become blocked with silt and debris. The key is using a culvert with a large diameter. Any pipe less than 450mm in diameter will eventually block. Cheap concrete pipes can be bought from pipe manufacturers as seconds. When laying your pipe under your driveway, ensure it is at the correct depth, and place a spirit level on top to get the right fall. You don't want pools of water lying around breeding mosquitoes. Always lay heavy pipes with gloves, a frontend loader and a chain to lift them South West Queensland Farming Guide 71


into place, and another sensible person to glide the pipes into place. Always put guide posts at the ends of your culverts to help prevent someone running off the edge and damaging their car tyres. SPEED HUMPS A speed bump placed at a 10 to 20-degree angle across your driveway to divert water into the drain is a cheap and effective investment. They don' t block, and they slow cars on your driveway. You can make them of clay and have them 10 to 15cm high. Grids, ramps and yards CATTLE GRIDS Hard to live without on a property with stock as they save time opening and closing gates. They come as a prefab unit or can be DIY constructed. They need to be wide enough to deter animals from jumping across. Some smart sheep have been known to roll across them. Avoid using them where horses are located because injuries can occur. LOADING RAMP Vital where cattle are being regularly transported. Cleats across ramp allow for a nonslip surface and a flat section at the top allows for easier movement into transport. The incline of ramp should not exceed 20 degrees and the ramp should be about 900mm wide. STOCKYARDS A good set of well-maintained yards makes handling stock far easier. Yards

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should be easily accessed by transport in all weather, have good drainage, shade, water and electricity on hand, and be far enough away from the house to avoid flies, smell and dust. Railings used should appear as a definite visual barrier to cattle, and don't use mesh if horned stock are being contained. Including a semicircle section with a gate in the centre leading to a ramp, and also to an exit laneway, makes moving stock out far easier as they will not be able to congregate in corners. Cattle yards need to be much stronger than sheep yards. With sheep, metal and wooden gates are best avoided as sheep will try to ramrod through and injuries are frequent. A good option is to construct gates using Riverina mesh as it has some give in it and sheep tend to bounce back when they hit it. CATTLE CRUSH Ideal when vaccinating, dehorning, pregnancy testing and a multitude of other tasks. Set up in a tranquil location. They come in various configurations, including portable ones, but should allow easy access for farmer or vet to carry out procedures. Ones that can be squeezed in and out from the side to better contain animals are handy, as are ones with a head bail. LANEWAYS

Ideal for moving stock around a property. Ensure they are wide enough to take tractors and vehicles, avoid corners and wet areas, and include plenty of gates. Sheds Sheds are like freeways. Build a freeway and it soon fills to capacity with cars. Build a shed and it soon fills up with stuff. But well-planned shedding will make managing a farm easier and add to its resale value. Buying a shed has never been easier. Products are available with the documentation needed for building permits and are generally available in kit form or erected. A new shed will probably be around for longer than you, so it's important to get it right the first time. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION A scale drawing of your property with buildings, fences, roads and other features marked, including underground pipes, is a great help when planning. Once the drafting is finished, mark the proposed location on the ground with pegs or paint. If the shed is to be open-sided, orientation is important. East-facing openings are best as easterly winds and rainstorms are generally less frequent. Next, jump on a tractor with your largest trailer or implement attached and check there is plenty of room to move around, especially when reversing. Mark with paint or pegs the interior layout of the shed. Then park all vehicles, machinery, trailers and so on within the boundaries. It could



save a lot of disappointment later. Door height, or clearance, is critical. Allow extra clearance in the event you buy larger machinery later. PROTECT THE CONTENTS Often overlooked is the installation of a condensation membrane over the rafters before the roofing iron is attached. This is called sarking or sisalation and is basically a foil insulation


East-facing openings are best as easterly winds and rainstorms are generally less frequent.

product. Sarking is generally not included in the base price of a shed. Don't be tempted to leave it out to save some money unless you are absolutely sure it is not required. While not a waterproof barrier, it provides insulation and prevents condensation from dripping on to the floor by catching it and allowing it to drain away. Sarking is more expensive to add later. CONCRETE FLOORS These are desirable but do not come cheap. The concrete thickness and grade of reinforcing mesh required for larger machinery can be much greater than that needed for a car or light truck Concrete can be added later and you can opt

instead for a compacted crushed rock floor. Another option is to concrete only the part that needs a smooth floor such as a section for a workshop. GUTTERS It is common for builders to allow roof iron to ex tend so far over spouting that it is difficult to clean them out, an essential fire safety measure. Ensure there is plenty of room for spouting to be easily cleaned, either by hand using a small trowel or with a jet of air from a long pipe connected to a leaf blower. The latter method can save time and avoids the need to climb a ladder. FINAL WORD Get the biggest shed you can possibly afford. You're going to need it.


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South West Queensland Farming Guide 73


Fire, floods and pests NATURAL disasters are an unavoidable part of life on the land. They can come in the form of floods, drought, hailstorms, cyclonic winds or bushfire. And when the weather isn’t a farmer’s biggest battle, there are always the foxes, kangaroos and rabbits to contend with. While they are all unavoidable facts of farm life, setting up protection systems goes a long way to minimising losses. SURVIVING A BUSHFIRE The first thing you need to know about surviving a bushfire is that you are probably going to have to do it alone. Knowing how is the next step. HONE YOUR FIRECRAFT 74 South West Queensland Farming Guide

Firecraft is ingrained in long-standing rural dwellers. But among the growing numbers of people who have made a tree change, some don’t grasp the concept. In the city, the expectation often is that the local environment is mostly safe from fire, that electricity and water is "on tap", that ambulance, fire brigade and other support is just minutes away and provided by paid government employees. Not having to face the possibility of life-threatening


While they are all unavoidable facts of farm life, setting up protection systems goes a long way to minimising losses. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


bushfire each year can lead to complacency. In the country, where most emergency services personnel are volunteers, it’s a lot different. Every summer has its tense days, weeks, sometimes months. Should a fire start, road access can be quickly lost, local fire brigades can be overwhelmed, wind can drive fires along at shocking speed, electricity supply can easily be lost –

sometimes for days - and turning on a tap won’t produce a drop of water. Whatever your level of experience and preparation, there is no cast-iron guarantee you can successfully live through a fire. Defending your home is risky – you could be seriously injured, suffer psychological trauma, or worse. The only 100 per cent survival strategy is to be somewhere else.

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 75


76 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Farm Machinery ONE of the biggest investments you will make on your farm will be machinery. You must plan this investment carefully to ensure you make the right choice and are not forced to use inappropriate equipment. When deciding to buy a tractor, or any farm machine, first write down what is important for your operation. ISSUES TO CONSIDER


Get as much technical information as you can about different models and compare their specifications with your own list.


● The Power required and speed range ●2WD or 4WD Weight needed? ●Features for type of work such as wheel size. ●Engine rating, speed and fuel tank capacity. ●Hydraulic capacity and ease of use. The checklist will help you narrow down your choices, and then it’s time to look at things such as running costs (compare fuel consumption figures) maintenance periods and the number and location of points that need to be serviced regularly. Some models require less maintenance than others, which will save you time. Visit local dealers and machinery field days in your area. Get as much technical information as you can about different models and compare their specifications with your own list. Another table should now be compiled on the relative running costs. It is also worth considering resale value and depreciation of various machines. because this can lead to large long-term savings. If resale value is higher, annual depreciation will be less. List servicing items such as oil filters. air cleaners and belts. Now write down the cost of major parts such as clutch plates, wheel bearings and “O” seals. Costs can vary, even though the parts are similar. Finally, look hard at fuel consumption figures and work out how long a tractor will run on a tank of fuel. Picking a fuel-efficient model will lift efficiency and productivity. It might seem a lot of work; you could be tempted just to go to your local dealer and buy an updated model of your current tractor. And you may do all the comparisons and still get the same answer. But you will never know if there is a better option unless you go through the process.

South West Queensland Farming Guide 77


Lease or buy Once you've decided on a piece of machinery, it's then worth thinking about whether to lease or buy. The method of finance can have a significant effect on overall farm returns during the life of the machine. Consider hire-purchase or leasing, as this will free up capital for other purposes. Of the two, leasing is normally regarded as the most cost effective method. LEASING ADVANTAGES NO upfront costs. FINANCE is available quickly. PAYMENTS are tax deductible during the whole lease period. Many farmers like leasing because lease payments, while constant, are tax deductible and worked into the budget easily. Make sure you shop around for the best leasing deal. Alternatively, paying cash means there are no ongoing costs, but the only tax benefit is depreciation. Machinery depreciates significantly in the first year, so initially there will be a big tax gain through reduction of taxable income. Some farmers don't favour leasing because they want to own their own machinery. That's fine but remember that ownership doesn't necessarily correlate to profitability. Unless the new machine is put to constant use, or even used for contracting work in your area, often the purchase means considerable capital being tied up, earning little income. A good example of this is with harvesters that are only used for a few weeks a year. DO THE SUMS It is worthwhile sitting down and working out the figures on the two options with someone such as a farm consultant or your accountant. It can save much money in the long run. The most important aspect of any machinery purchase is using it to increase returns to the farm. You may do the sums and decide it would be wiser to forego buying machinery altogether. Instead, consider hiring a contractor on an annual basis. Contractors are becoming more widespread across cropping areas. 78 South West Queensland Farming Guide

SECOND-HAND GEAR If you don't have the money to buy new machinery and you don't want to lease, buying second-hand equipment is an option. Make decisions based on the price of the equipment and its likely operating life. The availability and price of spare parts is also an important consideration. Look for classified advertising in rural papers for second-hand equipment, online or in specialised equipment trading magazines Look for second-hand equipment at


If you don't have the money to buy new machinery, buying second-hand equipment is an option

your local dealer. Clearing sales can also be a good source of equipment. Try to stick with recognised brand names that have been around for years, which have a good range of spare parts and are preferably still sold in Australia. Don't immediately discount older equipment. Parts from newer models are sometimes interchangeable with their older cousins. Older equipment built with lower technology can sometimes represent good value and can still operate after decades of use if serviced regularly. It is useful to obtain the history of operation and location of a second-hand machine. This can avoid possible problems down the track. MAINTAINING EQUIPMENT Buying machinery is a big investment so time should be set aside for regular maintenance. There is nothing worse than having a crop ready to come off and the tractor or harvester breaks down. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Regular maintenance, combined with a general overhaul of equipment before critical busy periods, could save a disaster. Accurate records such as log books are the first step in efficient maintenance. They may seem a waste of time, particularly when you are busy, but don't rely on your memory no matter how good you think it is. Know how many hours each piece of equipment has done and when service intervals have been reached. Ideally, a logbook should be kept for each item, but records in your farm diary are also a good way to keep track of hours of work or hectares completed during the day. This helps establish regular servicing schedules. SPARE PARTS Farming is hard on equipment and operators. Harvesting, sowing and ground preparation work all have to be completed within specific timeframes so breakdowns need to be rectified in a matter of hours rather than days. No piece of equipment has been built to run forever, so breakdowns are inevitable. They can be minimised by regular maintenance and servicing and buying and using machinery built for

the purpose. When there is a breakdown, the availability of parts locally can be a problem. Dealers seldom keep parts on hand for equipment older than 10 years. Parts for more modern equipment can usually be obtained after a quick phone call. If you have older equipment, keep some spares on hand, things that will keep your operation going in the event of a breakdown. Reputable dealers selling well-known brands will go out of their way to help a farmer with a problem, as they want to protect future business. GENUINE VERSUS NO-NAME PARTS Some manufacturers spend a lot of money promoting sales of genuine replacement parts for their equipment. In instances where special steels or high technology input is required, then this can be appropriate, but in general there is little to be gained by using parts that are neatly packaged in a box with the manufacturer's name. Significant premiums are paid by clients buying genuine parts that are often made in the same factory to the same specifications as cheaper versions.





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South West Queensland Farming Guide 79


Buying a tractor WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Nearly every farm has a place for a dependable do-it-all tractor. The range is vast and there is an array of labour-saving gizmos you can hitch up to your gleaming new workhorse. Before looking and deciding, ask yourself what your tractor needs to do. Is it just for mowing? Maybe grading the driveway, lugging feed around to livestock? Or is it more a broadacre machine needed for cropping? And how much land do you need to maintain? If the majority of your work is small scale, a lower horsepower tractor is for you. A 25-35hp tractor would be right for slashing, while 35-100hp is appropriate if a front-end loader is being used. Anything over 100hp is heading into serious farming territory, while the 300-plus monsters are for those heavily into the cropping sphere. SINGLE UNIT OR PACKAGE A question many face is whether to buy a basic tractor and add extras, such as slasher, grader blade and front-end loader, or go for a package deal that includes tractor and extras. Opinion is divided. There are good package deals 80 South West Queensland Farming Guide

available, but there are also inferior brands, maybe lacking in quality or dealer back-up, which use package offers as a gimmick to grab impulse sales. The bottom line for whatever you are buying is, do your research. Look at websites, check reviews, talk to others who own them and question dealers. 2WD OR 4WD Most tractors are now four-wheel drive so this is becoming a moot question. A four-wheel drive offers greater stability when using implements and evenly delivers more power to the ground. DEALER BACK-UP It's vital. Satisfy yourself that if something goes wrong, service and spare parts will be readily available. Be fully aware of what the warranty involves, and that it's legit. A 15-year warranty sounds brilliant,


Before looking and deciding, ask yourself what your tractor needs to do.

but it's worthless if there's no dealer or service agent around to meet your needs. It's also a good idea to check the costs of consumerable parts, such as filters, blades and belts, because at some stage you will need to buy them. LONG TERM The good news is that if you buy quality and look after them, most of today's tractors hold their value well and handle a lifetime of work, including those in the smaller range. Few well maintained secondhand tractors under 40hp come on to the market because most owners want to keep them. Tractor transmission choices SIMPLIFYING MATTERS No longer does manual or hydrostatic explain the way tractors transfer the power of the engine to the wheels. There are so many options, such as power shuttle, semi-powershift, powershift and continuously variable transmission, and different brands corning up with fancy names, that a would-be buyer can be confused. CRASH BOX OR CONSTANT-MESH A basic manual transmission that requires a clutch to change gears. Because the rotating gears are not www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


speeds. There is a range of different types with names such as IVT, TTV and Vario. The principle of them all is the same. And they are good for ground engagement work such as tilling. You can select your speed - 5km/h for instance- and the engine revs fluctuate to maintain that speed. If a CVT hits a hard spot it will automatically adjust the rpm to get through it at the same speed. RIGHT TYRES FOR YOUR TRACTOR Choosing the right tractor tyres can save dollars and time while helping protect the farm. While the exterior profile of today's tractor tyre differs little to 40 years ago, advances beneath the rubber are immense, allowing improved carrying capacity and greater speed to being able to run at lower, less damaging air pressures. Today radial tyres are the preferred choice for most tractors, because they are more flexible and have steel-cord plies and steel belts across the casing. Radials offer greater horsepower-to-ground capability, less wheel slip and reduced soil compaction, which in turn leads to less soil degradation via rutting and erosion. Generally speaking, a radial tyre has a softer sidewall, an important design feature that leaves a softer footprint, meaning less soil degradation. One instance where a radial tyre might not be suitable is in rough country where puncturing could be a problem, such as slashing along the side of a road where rocks can be a problem. Here, sturdier bias-ply tyres would be a better option. Likewise, bias-ply tyres, which are

generally cheaper, could make sense for small-scale farmers, maybe on 10 hectare properties where high-scale productivity isn't the main aim.

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synchronised before they are meshed together, it can cause a crunching sound, hence it is often referred to as a "crash box". SYNCHROMESH Similar to the manual crash box, but the gears will rotate at the same speed when selecting, making for smoother changes. HYDROSTATIC Basically a poor man's version of a CVT (see below). It might have two or three ranges and speed is regulated by engine revs. Because it uses a lot of power, it is not ideal for higher horsepower applications and is mostly used in ride-on lawnmowers and low-power tractors. POWER SHUTTLE Introduced about two decades ago, it usually has a lever, generally on the steering column, which enables you to go forward and reverse. With an inbuilt clutch, it removes the need for a foot clutch, which makes jobs such as loader work in the yard much easier. POWERSHIFT More complex than the power shuttle, it allows the changing of gears under various loads. What adds complexity is that powershifts operate within different ranges. There might be four speed ranges from slow to fast and these are selected with a lever, sometimes using a clutch (semi-powershift). Within each of these ranges is the powershift transmission's range of four to six speeds. So a four-range transmission with a six-speed powershift would have a total of 24 speeds. Often these are replicated in reverse, giving a 24x24 transmission. CONTINUOUSLY VARIABLE (CVT) This gives you an infinite number of

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 81


ATVs and UTVs Choosing an ATV or UTV depends on the job at hand and the terrain you need your vehicle to handle. The differences between UTVsUtility Vehicles and ATVs, or All Terrain Vehicles, can be immense, and the reality is there are enough farm versions of both today to make your head spin. An ATV or quad bike will quickly get you just about anywhere on farm. Highly manoeuvrable, it's best in the rough and relatively straightforward to use. A UTV or "side-by-side" is less manoeuvrable yet still quite agile for getting you, and maybe a workmate or two and a bit of gear, around the paddocks. With an ATV you sit legs astride, as a rider, using handlebars to steer. With a UTV you're a driver with conventional seat and steering wheel. ATV: Considered the modern day farm equivalent fenders front and back that can carry small amounts of the horse, they are highly manoeuvrable, able to Generally able to pull small farm implements such make tight turns, easy to get on and off and ideal for as sprayers or lawn mowers. jobs such as cutting animals from a mob and checking fences. Generally faster over paddocks and rough terrain, and narrower, they can get to more places than UTV s and have a smaller footprint on the ground. They come in two and four wheel drive in a range of engine configurations and demand a degree of balance and physical input from the rider. The innovation of power steering in many models makes for easier control, though it comes at a cost. USEFULNESS/EASE OF USE UTV: They offer a more comfortable ride, particularly for older drivers or passengers and over longer distances. The driver sits more upright and there is better leg room. Some come equipped with hard tops. While they have a larger footprint on ground and are less manoeuvrable, they are nevertheless quite suitable for getting around the average farm. Diesel models can be good on a beef property for example, but in the wet on 82 South West Queensland Farming Guide

a muddy dairy farm they might not gain enough power to get out of the bog. LOAD CAPACITY ATV: Fundamentally a one-person machine, although two-person vehicles are available. Usually limited in luggage capacity to load racks above the fenders front and back that can carry small amounts. Generally able to


Choosing an ATV or UTV depends on the job at hand and the terrain you need your vehicle to handle.

pull small farm implements such as sprayers or lawn mowers UTV: Usually longer and wider than ATV s, they seat passengers side by side. Most are two-seaters, although some now seat up to six. Generally able to carry bigger loads than ATVs via a cargo tray or box at the rear, where you can stow maybe a few tools, a bale or two of hay and an icebox to keep lunch cool. MAINTENANCE ATV: While usually smaller, some studies show there is little difference in maintenance time and cost between ATVs and UTVs. An ATV is lighter on fuel but not always lighter on maintenance. Both need regular oil changes, oil filter cleaning and replacing, grease jobs and www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


general checking. UTV: As farm UTV s experience many tough and wet situations, they need to be kept clean and dry when not in use. Rust is the enemy of farm machinery and it can quickly affect both UTVs and ATVs. COST ATV: They are usually cheaper to buy and run than UTVs. While there are various budget brands, often from China, more established brands, such as Yamaha, Suzuki, Polaris, Can-Am, Honda and Kawasaki generally cost more. In general, features such as fuel injection and power steering will push prices up. Some cheaper ATVs are perfectly good, but you need to satisfy www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

yourself that parts and service will be available and warranties honoured in the future. UTV: Being larger and heavier, they usually cost more to buy and run. UTVs tend to offer more addons such as stereo systems and even heated cabs, with prices going up accordingly. Considering their wider range of carrying applications, UTV s can be better value on some farms. As with ATVs, fuel consumption is geared to how they are used. There are now electric UTVs that reduce running costs. SAFETY ATV: Driver attention is paramount. ROPS (rollover protection systems) generally are not fitted. Being so

manoeuvrable, there is always the temptation to push them a little harder. They are fun to drive but must not be regarded as toys. Rear and aft storage racks/boxes are handy but must not be overloaded as they can raise the ATV's centre of gravity and make riding unsafe. UTV: Generally considered safer because they are wider and longer. They come with ROPS (rollover protection) and seatbelts. Care must always be taken, especially in hilly terrain. Likewise, care needs to be taken in resisting the urge to overload them. Managers of larger farms often prefer UTVs because it's easier to teach workers to use them safely. South West Queensland Farming Guide 83


Other farm vehicles THE FARM UTE Many farmers simply use their road-registered, everyday work vehicle for cartage and travel within their farm. More common these days are cab chassis bodies with flat bed, drop-side trays rather than the traditional Aussie ute body. Equipped with four-wheel drive, such a vehicle will go almost anywhere, carry just about anything up to a tonne in weight and to a decent trailer if needed. They will also carry a spray unit and, in summer, a fire-fighting unit. With sealed cabins, air conditioning, radios and proper seats, they are far more comfortable than just about any other option. Most important of all is that they are very safe. With vehicle-design rules geared to providing passenger compartment protection in a range of serious accident scenarios, a roadworthy vehicle is a safe way to travel on a farm. They are also a boon when you venture on to a road since third-party insurance provides automatic protection. RIDE-ON MOWER Why not? Sure, they are slow and not that "cool", but if the distances to be travelled are not large, a quality


With vehicle-design rules geared to providing passenger compartment protection in a range of serious accident scenarios, a roadworthy vehicle is a safe way to travel on a farm. ride-on mower with a trailer might be just the ticket. In many parts of the country there isn't much lawn to mow for about two-thirds of the year so the ride-on might as well earn its keep. When you think of how much you could pay for a quad bike or an ATV, you can buy at the top end of the ride-on mower range and still have plenty of change left over. At the high end, you can get four-wheel drive, PTO drive for small cultivation equipment, heavy duty and 84 South West Queensland Farming Guide


FARM MACHINERY fast mowing capability and reasonable speed in a well-established brand. For quick operation, newer zero-tum mowers are a good option. DRONES Unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs or drones, are fast becoming a tool of choice, an "eye in the sky" for checking crop health. But is there a place for one on your farm? As of 2016, farmers can fly UAVs weighing less than 25kg on their own properties without an unmanned aircraft operator's licence, as long as they are not being paid for it. Drones are ideal for looking at germination rates or hail damage and gaining an overall indication of crop growth. Into the future, however, with better sensors they will certainly be of greater benefit to farmers. As well as projecting standard colour images, UAVs have the potential to carry small, low-weight sensors for detecting particular wave lengths of colour that can pinpoint disease in crops. Thermal imaging will likely be used to determine crop temperatures, and therefore health.

Today many farmers are holding off purchasing, waiting for sensor technology to improve and/or be incorporated into drones. A good option if you need the support of a drone is to employ a specialist drone company to do the work for you. SAFETY FIRST When it comes to machinery and farm vehicles, safety must never be overlooked. One of the most common safety lapses is the widespread reluctance to wear motorbike helmets where recommended or mandated on farms. For some reason, employers and parents who are normally responsible allow themselves and their staff or children to ride two and four wheeled


One of the most common safety lapses is the widespread reluctance to wear motorbike helmets where recommended or mandated on farms

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 85


bikes (and horses) without helmets. Apart from the implicit irresponsibility in not insisting on the wearing of helmets, there could be significant legal issues in the case of accidents involving employees and third parties. Allowing children to operate vehicles on a farm requires special care. While the paddock bomb has a long history in the youthful exploits of farm kids, the combination of speed, rough terrain and possibly poorly maintained vehicles is a recipe for disaster. Most paddock bombs at least give some protection for occupants in a passenger compartment, assuming seat belts are being worn. Many part-time farmers and those new to the land lack the years of experience professional farmers have that imparts a "feel" and general aptitude for operating farm vehicles on variable terrain. A cautious approach and a realistic view of one's own abilities could be a life, or limb, saving policy. Older people also have some challenges in lacking the stamina to overcome unexpected events or enduring what for younger people might be relatively minor scrapes or bumps. 86 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Top 10 tools A good tradie never blames their tools, but a tradie without the right tools might find it hard to be good. Here's a rundown of l 0 tools that will make the job of running a farm much easier. WIRE STRAINER Perhaps the most common and simplest fencing tool is the chain wire strainer, invented by New Zealand engineer EE Hayes more than 100 years ago. The Hayes brand is still sold, as are other designs. Well-built farm fencing lasts for decades but requires regular maintenance. Wires break through many causes requiring repair, while end (strainer) assemblies need periodic restraining. A set of fence strainers gets a good workout over the years. WIRE CUTTERS A good pair of specialised wire cutters about the size of a pair of pliers are not cheap, but they are worth every cent. Such a pair will last decades and make the constant cutting of wire required during fencing a pleasure. WIRE SPINNER A device to hold a roll of plain fencing wire so it can be run out without becoming hopelessly tangled. Also useful to roll wire up tidily when dismantling a fence. Even if a single roll of wire (commonly 1500m long) lasts for years, a wire spinner is a worthwhile investment. Other fencing tools such as fencing pliers and strainer clamps for erecting pre-fabricated mesh fencing are useful if fencing is a major preoccupation, but strainers, a spinner and wire cutters are the main requirements for maintenance and the occasional installation. CHAIN SAW

Chainsaws are essential if you want to avoid routinely calling for help or spending hours with a hand saw cutting fallen branches and firewood. Firewood can be had for next to no cost if a chainsaw is available to cut fallen or found timber (subject to state and local government regulations). They are also handy for larger pruning jobs. Inexperienced users should attend a training course on using a chainsaw, if possible before buying one. Courses are often available through TAFE colleges or adult learning programs. CORDLESS DRILL This is probably the first cordless tool most of us buy. Both a drill and a power screw and bolt driver, its basic features include a reversible, dual-speed motor and an adjustable clutch to prevent overdriving screws. While a 10mm chuck size is common, a larger 12mm chuck is preferable. More powerful models may include a "hammer'' setting for drilling holes in masonry. IMPACT DRIVER Impact drivers have a hexagonal socket in place of a chuck. Rather than imparting forward pulses to the drill bit (hammering), impact drivers impart a force perpendicular to the drill bit - a rotational impact. The impact mechanism kicks in automatically .as the tool encounters more force. Impact drivers can be used to drill holes (expensive drill bits with hexagonal shanks are used), but their main use is to drive in longer bolts and screws. They are excellent at removing stubborn screws without stripping or damaging the head.

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 87


SABRE SAW A sabre saw will come in handy in tight spaces. A powered hand-held reciprocating blade, a sabre saw blade can cut most materials. They come into their own when the cut can only be made from one direction and there is no room to follow through using a circular saw, a panel saw for wood or a hacksaw for metal. Blades are flexible, allowing cuts to be made close to immovable objects. ANGLE GRINDER An angle grinder has many uses in metal working, removing troublesome bolts, preparing metal surfaces for paint, as a sander for rough removal before switching to orbital sanders for finishing and buffing metal and wood. Larger sizes driving discs up to 230mm diameter require mains power, while cordless units will drive discs up to 125mm. AIR COMPRESSOR On a farm with a tractor (or two), a ride-on mower, a builder's wheelbarrow, several trailers and


A sabre saw will come in handy in tight spaces. some rubber-tyred tractor-drawn implements, rarely more than a month or two will go by without a flat tyre showing up. A leaking tractor tyre might mean a house call from a tyre specialist costing several hundred dollars and it may still have a slow leak. It is simpler to add air every few months. A relatively small air 88 South West Queensland Farming Guide



compressor and a good-quality pressure gauge attachment will let you pump up everything. SOCKETS AND SPANNERS Often the smart thing is to put off a purchase until a clear need emerges, however this approach doesn't work with these essential workshop helpers. If you don't have the right spanner or socket on hand chances are you will reach for that trusty shifter, struggle to get it into a tight spot, round off the bolt head and skin your knuckles. Better to bite the bullet and buy a good set of sockets and spanners, the latter a combination ring and open-ended type. A selection with both AF ("across flat" an imperial measure) and metric spanners and sockets ranging - from 3/8 inch to 1Âź inch AF and 8mm to www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

32mm metric will cover most requirements. POWER AND PRICE The cost of power tools varies greatly and generally you get what you pay for. Higher priced tools suitable for trade or commercial use have longer-life motors with higher-quality bearings and metal gears, while cheaper models generally have lighter bearings and plastic gears. The more expensive models give years of trouble-free use and can be a sensible choice. Power options range from about 10 volts up to 36 volts. A good compromise for general use is in the middle. Battery size and weight are proportional to capacity so the more powerful tools are generally heavier. South West Queensland Farming Guide 89

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Floods, fire and pests


The first thing you need to know about surviving a bushfire is that you are probably going to have to do it alone. Knowing how, is the next step.


NATURAL disasters are an unavoidable part of life on the land. They can come in the form of floods, drought, hailstorms, cyclonic winds or bushfire. And when the weather isn’t a farmer’s biggest battle, there are always the foxes, kangaroos and rabbits to contend with. While they are all unavoidable facts of farm life, setting up protection systems goes a long way to minimising losses. SURVIVING A BUSH FIRE The first thing you need to know about surviving a bushfire is that you are probably going to have to do it alone. Knowing how, is the next step. HONE YOUR FIRECRAFT Firecraft is ingrained in long-standing rural dwellers. But among the growing numbers of people who have made a tree change, some don’t grasp the concept. In the city, the expectation often is that the local environment is mostly safe from fire, that electricity and water is “on tap”, that ambulance, fire brigade and other support is just minutes away and provided by paid government employees. Not having to face the possibility of life-threatening bushfire each year can lead to complacency. In the country, where most emergency services personnel are volunteers, it's a lot different. Every summer has its tense days, weeks. sometimes months. Should a fire start, road access can be quickly lost, local fire brigades can be overwhelmed, wind can drive fires along at shocking speed, electricity supply can easily be lost - sometimes for days - and turning on a tap won’t produce a drop of water. Whatever your level of experience and preparation, there fire. Defending your home is risky — you could be seriously injured, suffer psychological trauma, or worse. The only 100 per cent survival strategy is to be somewhere else. While you need a few summers at least under your belt to develop a sense of firecraft, there are strategies to improve your chances of minimising the effects of fire and surviving. TIME TO THINK Know what is happening. Mobiles have dead spots, electricity fails. If you are going to live in the bush, make it your business to know what is going on around you, including local fire activity, road closures water availability and the weather. Know how safe your property is if there is a fire. SO YOU PLAN TO LEAVE EARLY? When exactly will that be? No one can accurately determine in advance the point at which it ceases to be "early" and therefore stops being safe. Many have lost their lives attempting to flee a fire. Poor visibility from smoke, fallen trees, failing engines in the heat and raw panic spell disaster.

South West Queensland Farming Guide 93


The bottom line is you must be prepared to leave home well in advance of imminent fire. If this is your plan, you will probably leave home many times over the years without a fire having eventuated. It's better to be safe than sorry. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN Don't bank on the fire services being there to help. Incident controllers send resources (fire trucks, dozers and graders) where the need is critical for immediate fire suppression and strategic gains. Access to your place may be blocked or unsafe. If you intend to stay, put plans in place now to defend your own house and save your own and your family's lives. BUILD FIRE BREAKS Around all buildings, ensure there is a one to two metre margin made of soil, concrete, gravel or pavers which can be easily raked or cleaned with a leaf blower to remove flammable There is an incorrect perception that maintaining a well-watered lawn and garden around a house provides significant protection. This is nonsense. Unless they are vast, lawns do little to stop embers landing on a building, and most people can put the water to better use. Most flammable mulches, such as straw and bark, burn slowly because they are relatively compact, which restricts oxygen availability. However they can smoulder for hours. The wind can also whip up embers. Pebble and 94 South West Queensland Farming Guide

other mineral mulches or bare earth don't burn. Never site garden beds next to a building. LONG-TERM FIRE PREPARATION Capital works can include


Most flammable mulches, such as straw and bark, burn slowly because they are relatively compact, which restricts oxygen availability.

ember-proofing, roof sprinklers, underground water pipes, tanks, pump and generator installation, header tanks, landscape construction and back-up systems. The important thing is to make a start. Ember-proofing is a good place to begin. TIME TO ACT Embers are a major problem. They may be no bigger than a match head or several centimetres long. In strong winds they can travel kilometres before settling and starting a spot fire. They can settle on external surfaces on a building or penetrate through small gaps - under doors, under the floor, between roof tiles - and start a fire. A www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


house can largely be protected from ember attack by careful inspection and the blocking of gaps with non-flammable materials such as metal flywire. If saving your house and sheds is the main aim, then stationary pumps, tanks and possibly roof sprinklers are a higher priority than a mobile plant. If an ember attack is likely, it may be better to stay with the house rather than head off with a trailer to the paddocks to put out remote spot fires. FUEL REDUCTION Remove fuel that accumulates next to buildings, such as firewood, building materials, mowers, trailers with tarpaulins, garden furniture, doormats. Keep spouting clear- trim overhanging roofing iron and tiles that can restrict access and trap litter, then clear your gutters. WARNING SYSTEMS EARLY WARNING SYSTEMS Simply checking weather channels, listening to ABC radio emergency broadcasting and having landline and mobile phones that work no matter the circumstance, as well as support from neighbours via UHF radio, can go a

long way to cutting losses in a fire or flood. New technology can be a big help. For instance, setting up a commercial weather gauge on the farm that sounds an alarm when 50mm of rain falls in an hour can be a prediction of flooding. Yet rural residents should never be totally reliant on technology to warn of disaster- communication technology has been known to let people down just when they need it most. The relationships farmers build now with families and neighbours, as well as Landcare groups and other community associations, will have a larger bearing on the speed of disaster response and recovery, more so than technology or government promise of assistance. WARNING STONES The trouble is, many of us could be long dead when the next big flood hits or bushfire tears through the country. Yet each time a natural disaster hits, history seems to be repeated, with all its losses and heartache. After the tsunami in Japan, there were revelations of tsunami warning boulders - large rocks placed in

hillsides up to six centuries ago - with messages engraved: "Do not build below this level". The sad aspect is that after World War II most stone flood level warnings were ignored and villagers built closer to the sea to be near their fishing ports. A similar stone system could be helpful. Alternatively, permanent levee banks could be built around existing homes with exits that can be walled up within two hours by front-end loader, sandbagging or excavator. In the meantime, these levee banks could be used to grow plantations of trees. Tax deductions could be given to people who invest in natural disaster-prevention equipment, such as front-end loaders to build levy banks for floods or fire-fighting units for initial fire attack. PUMP PLAN Ensure all family members of a reasonable age know where all firefighting gear is stored and how to operate pumps. Starting small engines could be the most critical skill. It is easy to flood an engine in the heat of the moment.

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South West Queensland Farming Guide 95



Introduced vermin, such as foxes and rabbits, wreak havoc on farms, while kangaroos have become just as much a concern for a farmer's bottom line. A farmer's life is challenging enough, but it is made all the more challenging by a marauding bunch of vertebrate pests intent on reducing farm earnings. Sadly, as we all know two of the worst of these villains, the European fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), have wreaked havoc for decade after decade since being introduced. Foxes came to mainland Australia in the 1850s for recreational hunting and quickly spread to become a rural nightmare, preying on lambs and other livestock. Rabbits date back even earlier, arriving with the First Fleet before being released into the wild, again to satisfy recreational hunters. It's claimed the rate of spread of the rabbit in Australia 96 South West Queensland Farming Guide

was the fastest of any colonising mammal anywhere in the world, today making it the country's most widespread and destructive environmental and agricultural vertebrate pest. Every year it costs the agricultural industry about $206 million in losses. The spread of both fox and rabbit have followed a similar path across the continent, with rabbits gaining a foothold in Tasmania early on and


Rabbits date back even earlier, arriving with the First Fleet before being released into the wild, again to satisfy recreational hunters www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


more recently being followed by the fox. STOP THE SPREAD Competing for pasture of farmed animals and reducing crop yields via its voracious appetite, the rabbit is, along with the opportunistic fox, a declared established pest animal in Australia, with landowners obligated to stop their spread. While fox bounties and releasing rabbit-borne diseases have controlled the problem somewhat, both invaders continue to be a huge concern to many farmers. Add in Australia's own kangaroo with its pasture competing ways and the savagely destructive wild dog, distributed in forested parts of southeast Australia and elsewhere, and the poor farmer is understandably left shaking his or her head in dismay. CONSTANT ACTION DEMANDED Farmers can't afford to be complacent in the face of the ongoing threat from vertebrate pests. While no one weapon holds the key to eliminating the problem, an integrated arsenal of defences, from pest-proof fencing to fumigation, trapping and baiting, is available.


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Beating the bunny Despite attempts to wipe out rabbits in Australia, they still present an ongoing threat to farmers. After the introduction of myxomatosis in 1950, rabbit populations were annihilated, resulting in a huge boost for agriculture. But a proportion of rabbits were resistant, which led to a resurgence in numbers after 1970. Calicivirus, released in 1996, was less effective than myxomatosis yet reduced rabbit numbers significantly. Unfortunately, resistant individuals have led to the growing numbers resistant to calicivirus. A BAD IDEA Rabbits were introduced into Victoria in 1859 when Thomas Austin released 26 imported breeders on his Barwon Park property near Winchelsea so he and fellow shooters could hunt them. Some have estimated that by 1920 there were 10 billion rabbits in Australia. THE PROBLEM Rabbits remain a concern and can build up in numbers strongly, especially following years where rainfall is at or above average. In Australia, feral or wild populations of European rabbits are declared as established pest animals. State legislation requires landowners take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of rabbits and, as far as possible, eradicate them from the land. THE TASK Controlling rabbits can seem daunting. On average, a female rabbit can give birth to three to four litters a year, with anywhere from three to eight offspring in each litter. While they are often visible when hopping around, they don't present easy targets. There are a number of legal ways to control rabbits that are not too difficult to learn. One of the keys to success is to adopt a range of techniques rather than concentrating on just one method. It pays to work on a community-wide or at least neighbourhood basis. Stating the bleeding obvious, rabbits spread. Each year there are dispersal periods where younger animals will spread only relatively short distances. Unless neighbours work together, much of the impact of an individual's rabbit control 98 South West Queensland Farming Guide

can be lost as neighbouring rabbits recolonise. Timing is important. Rabbits have a high mortality rate naturally, with up to 80 per cent not surviving to adulthood. So in late summer to early autumn when breeding has naturally paused, populations are usually at their lowest and most static. This is a good time to "hit" them.


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heaps, building foundations and woody weeds such as gorse. These need to be cleared or, in the case of building foundations, rabbit proofed. FENCING It is also possible, although costly, to rabbit-proof areas with exclusion fencing. Heavy-duty wire netting should be used and can be installed on existing fences or incorporated in new fencing. The netting should extend about 90cm above ground level and either be buried about 20cm into the ground or laid flat for a similar distance on the outside of the fence and held down until the grass rows through it. While rabbit-proofing this way can be costly, if properly done it will last for many ears and can prove cheaper in the long run. Even if not 100 per cent perfect, rabbit -proof fencing


Poison baits are a good starting point in a program and are particularly effective when other sources of food are low greatly reduces re-colonisation rates. CHEMICAL USE All bait products must be used according to directions supplied with the product to avoid damage to wildlife and other non-target species. In Victoria, an Agricultural Chemical User Permit is a 10-year permit issued by the Victorian Government to appropriately trained chemical users, which authorises the purchase and use of "restricted-use" chemicals in Victoria. Visit agriculture.vic.gov.au for information about obtaining an Agriculture Chemical User Permit.


BAITING Poison baits are a good starting point in a program and are particularly effective when other sources of food are low. Pindone is a poison used with oats or carrots, while 1080, mixed with oats and carrots, is also used to control rabbits and other pests. In Victoria, an Agricultural Chemical User Permit with a 1080 endorsement or a commercial licence is required to handle it. RIPPING After baiting, the next step is to destroy warrens by ripping at the end of summer or early autumn. This has two impacts. Breeding starts at the autumn break and without adequate cover, new-born rabbits will not survive. Plus, after ripping, rabbits are left exposed and become much easier targets for spotlight shooting at night. Importantly, all warrens should be destroyed. Rip to a minimum depth of 70cm, with rip lines no more than 50cm apart and with the area cross-ripped at 90 degrees to the initial rip lines. Ripping should extend at least 4m beyond the outermost warren entrance Level the ripped area and wheel roll to minimise Level the ripped area and wheel roll to minimise erosion. Revegetate if necessary and watch to ensure no re-colonisation takes place. FUMIGATION Although more labour-intensive than other methods, fumigation can be used to control rabbits. It requires the rabbits to be in their warrens, so first disturb them in an area so they move into the warrens. Importantly, locate all entrances and openings using a smoke generator before applying fumigant tablets then sealing entrances. Like 1080, fumigants can only be used by those with an Agricultural Chemical User Permit. Apart from warrens, rabbits also use above ground harbour such as rubbish



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South West Queensland Farming Guide 99


Keeping kangas at bay The increasing kangaroo population might be causing grief for many farmers as they compete for valuable pasture and damage fencing, but there are ploys to minimise the problem. ROOS AND DROUGHT There is a misconception kangaroos stop, or significantly reduce, breeding during droughts and increase breeding during times of plenty. This logic is often used to explain apparent kangaroo gluts when pasture is abundant after heavy rains. Yet the reality seems to be that kangaroos are quite resilient and continue breeding under tough conditions, ceasing only when circumstances are dire. When there is a severe feed shortage, or when numbers reach critical levels in protected reserves, a crisis is reached and numbers crash, either through starvation or by a culling operation CULLING Kangaroos can be culled under relatively strict conditions with an annual permit. These permits allow up to several hundred animals per 100 South West Queensland Farming Guide

property to be culled. Culled animals can be used for pet food by the property owner. For culling to be successful it needs to be undertaken simultaneously by a group of neighbours covering a substantial areadepending on terrain, perhaps several


There is a misconception kangaroos stop, or significantly reduce, breeding during droughts and increase breeding during times of plenty www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


thousand hectares. Kangaroos are territorial, so provided the cull area is reasonably large, it will take several years for numbers to rebuild after a successful program. Carcasses should be buried where possible to reduce the risk of attracting dogs and foxes. FENCING Kangaroo fencing is often successful but expensive. A typical fence might be about 2m tall with 10 to 11 plain wires, with the bottom three or four wires electrified. Tall treated-pine box end assemblies and widely spaced posts supporting angled members can be used. The upper section of the fence can be constructed to lean towards the direction from which kangaroos approach. This disorients kangaroos and discourages them from jumping,

while the lower hot wires repel them and keep cattle inside the fence. Like all electric fences, it needs constant minor maintenance. A more expensive option might be a 2m-plus tall fence consisting of two standard mesh fences on top of each other. Tall treated-pine box end assemblies can be used with closely spaced treated pine posts and short runs to create a strong physical barrier. A mid-range option might be a fence constructed of prefabricated mesh taller than standard, specifically designed to contain deer. When combined with an aggressive bottom wire, either barbed or electrified (never a combination of the two), this will discourage most kangaroos from jumping and prevent them pushing through at the base. While such fences will prevent

kangaroos intruding on a property, they will do nothing to reduce overall numbers. ln the process, they might indirectly cause an increase in kangaroo pressure on neighbouring properties. GO WITH THE FLOW The easiest strategy for farmers who don’t graze cattle on a commercial level can be to reduce stock numbers and let the kangaroos do their thing. It can. even pay to remove non-essential fencing rather than having to continually repair it. Such a strategy combined with kangaroo-proof fencing around a house, orchard or garden. has been shown to work. ROO FACT While kangaroos share cows’ liking for lush pasture, they are also similar in that they chew their cud.


Kangaroos are territorial, so provided the cull area is reasonably large, it will take several years for numbers to rebuild after a successful program. Carcasses should be buried where possible to reduce the risk of attracting dogs and foxes.


South West Queensland Farming Guide 101


How to outfox the fox Of all feral pests in Australia, foxes rank number one in the destruction of native animal and bird species as well as lambs. Nationally we have about 15 million foxes. It's feared that foxes would be the main carrier of rabies if it reached Australia. ACTION PLAN All landholder need to consider a response to control foxes on their properties and to limit the spread to neighbouring properties or national parks. A combination of three strategies undertaken simultaneously seems to work best. STAND GUARD One of the best, low-maintenance protections against fox attack is an alpaca. A single, neutered, male alpaca placed with flock of 50 lambing ewes can be I00 per cent successful in keeping foxes away. Guard alpacas cost as little as $200 and are best placed with the flock a month before lambing starts. Darker coloured and larger animals appear to work for foxes best. Alpacas prefer the company of their own type, so don't have individuals in sight of each other as tend to just walk up and down the fence trying to get together. Should a dog or fox alarm the lambs, chances are the lambs will run to the 102 South West Queensland Farming Guide



alpaca instead of their own mum. BAITING Fox Off is known as a 1080 bait. Its potent ingredient is a natural substance that can be found in several species of Australian plants. Native animals, which have been exposed to such plants for millions of years, are relatively tolerant to the poison, while introduced animals such as foxes and rabbits are susceptible. SHOOTING A nightly ritual of spotlighting, especially at the peak of lambing season, goes a long way to a reducing fox numbers. The sound of guns going off gives the message to foxes to choose softer targets elsewhere. At the time of peak lambing, when baits are often ignored, it pays to introduce free feeding stations on

well-known routes they take across a property. Place "on the nose" ewes that have died during lambing in a low, flat area for fox scavenging. These should be well away from the main flock and lambs. The idea is to give foxes a free feed away from newborn lambs. These feeding stations should be within a flick of a spotlight and a well-placed bullet. Also consider organising a fox drive with your nearest field-and-game association. For a donation of $30 to $50 from each farmer, the field-and-game group might well clean up the majority of foxes on a Saturday afternoon in return for a few snags and drinks at the end. Importantly, notify local police before each shoot. FOX FACTS

AMAZING MATING FACT Due to the absence of sperm in the testes of male foxes from September to March, they are infertile during this period. According to Agriculture Victoria, vixens’ mate once a year and mating occurs over a three to seven-week period from min-June to the end of July. Pregnancy lasts for 51 – 53 days and litter sizes vary from three to five cubs per vixen. AS CUNNING AS ….. Foxes are difficult to control because, apart from being stealthy, having few natural predators in Australia and being highly suspicious of humans, they hunt alone and can travel up to 15km a night and don’t always return to the same site to rest. Sometimes in search of food they will visit the same site several times in a night.

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GOATS For most people, two thoughts come to mind when discussing goats: the first is they are fence-leaping, flower-eating, uncontrollable rascals; the second is an image of a lone, tethered and forlorn goat in front of a bank of weeds or scrub. The first is just not true, as anyone who keeps goats will attest. The second is appalling – goats and every other animal deserve a much better life than that scenario, including reasonable space to move, the company of their own kind and a decent diet. True, goats will eat just about anything, including the washing off the line, and escape at the drop of a hat. But on the positive side, they are handy at clearing weeds – just put them in a paddock of blackberries and they will do the rest. Goats are, in fact, among the most rewarding of animals to keep when the main aim is to enjoy interacting with your animals. People who have oats can be passionate about them, describing them as playful, affectionate and intelligent. It is also possible to generate income from them. FOOD FOR THOUGHT While feral goats have been mustered for export in inland pastoral areas for many years, goats have been a relatively minor player in Australian agriculture. But in many parts of the world, they outnumber sheep or cattle and globally, goat is the most widely consumed meat. While the cashmere and angora fibre industry has remained steady, meat and dairy breed numbers have grown in recent years. For an interested farmer, this provides the opportunity to obtain good bloodlines at reasonable prices and earn income through selling progeny to other farmers or to processors. For those with an interest in a more intense farming experience, the availability of quality dairy goats could lead to a boutique goats milk or goats cheese operation or simply a homegrown supply of fresh goat milk and related products. Along with meat, goats milk and cheese are staples in many parts of the world and are rapidly gaining popularity in Australia. CHOOSING THE RIGHT GOAT Goats are easy to look after, no harder than sheep, but you do need a decent fence. Goats are inquisitive and intelligent so they want to explore and will test fences more than other livestock.


South West Queensland Farming Guide 105


Goats continued FENCE THEM IN PROPERLY Fences do not need to be any taller than for most livestock — 105 to 120cm is fine — but a little extra care needs to be taken to remove weak spots. (Any livestock that is scared, highly agitated or desperate may get over what is otherwise considered adequate fencing. The cost of fencing to prevent these isolated events would be prohibitive.) The bottom of the fence should be firmly anchored and strained and follow the ground contour, otherwise goats will push through underneath. They will also push through lighter fences of parallel wires. Older fences can be improved with top and bottom offset electric wires, but they must be well maintained. The optimal solution is 106 South West Queensland Farming Guide

the refabricated mesh commonly used for sheep. This will prevent kids from pushing through and resist pressure from adult animals. FEED THEM WELL While goats will eat weeds, they are not exclusively browsers and need a broader diet. Putting goats into an area overrun by a single weed such as blackberries is cruel. Naturally they’ll eat the weed because they have no choice. Goats need a diet that includes


While goats will eat weeds, they are not exclusively browsers and need a broader diet. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


overt dominating behaviour such as rearing up on hind legs and placing their front feet on your shoulders. It pays to be aware of what is going on right from the start with young males and gently, but firmly, resist their attempts to control you. Don’t yield to their pushing and never let them rear up, no matter how cute or friendly it seems. Reward desirable behaviour with treats and never hit or stun animals with an electric prod, especially if you want to maintain regular close contact. Dealing with older aggressive males, perhaps those bought as adults, takes skill and patience. In some cases it may be best to simply avoid close interaction rather than risk being hurt or having to get aggressive. Exhibiting outright aggression to a mature and dominant male, particularly one "in rut" (when mating is taking place) will only make the animal more aggressive. Regardless of how confident you feel, do not turn your back on mature males and never leave children with them.

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pasture as well as shoots and leaves of shrubs and trees. As a rule of thumb, if sheep need supplementary feeding, so will goats. Goats will eat trees and shrubs if given access, especially when good pasture is unavailable, nibbling foliage rather than old, woody material. Care should be taken when housing them in paddocks next to garden areas, as many ornamental plants are poisonous to livestock. Goats must have 24-hour access to reasonable quality water. It has been said that goats can be stocked at higher rates than sheep. While this may be true in some situations, specialist knowledge and management is needed. The safest approach is to stock at the same or lower level as sheep. Dairy flocks in particular have higher feed requirements than meat flocks. MANAGING MALE ANIMALS Male goats — bucks — are, by nature, dominant within a herd and this becomes evident from a young age as they push and nudge other goats their own age and also their human handlers. As they grow they exhibit

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108 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Goat care

VACCINATION AND WORMING Goats are vaccinated and wormed (drenched) in a similar way to sheep and with similar products (as long as they are registered for use with goats). Owners generally carry out the drenching and vaccination themselves or use contractors for larger herds. While vaccination is not a difficult task to learn, first-time owners should seek the assistance of an experienced breeder or a vet to learn how to inject vaccine safely for animals and handlers. It is also best to get guidance on drenching from an experienced person. Ensure timing and withholding periods are observed. You may have to weigh juvenile and adult animals to ensure correct drench dose. MATING Goats can be mated at l2 months of age as long as they are well grown. Most goats are highly seasonal breeders, meaning it they are not pregnant at 12 months old, generally they will not kid until they are two years old. Males can be joined at a younger age than Females. Joining age in the male should be determined by size and tone of the testicles — something your vet can help you with. FOSTERING Most goats will have two teats, so if there are more than two kids, you may need to foster the third and fourth kids on to other does that have lost their kids or have a single kid. Alternatively, www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

some kids may need to be hand-raised if their mother cannot support them. MEDICINES Goats metabolise some veterinary drugs quite differently from sheep, so be careful administering them. There are relatively new products available to specifically treat goats, so you need to talk to your vet first. CHOOSING A BREED There are many goat breeds from which to choose depending on production objectives: fibre, dairy or meat Dairy and meat breeds generally have hair coats that do not require annual shearing. The meat breeds are ideal where a reasonably low-maintenance flock is required. As for dairy breeds, food, water and attention to health are always important, but these animals will need greater attention in all these areas to maintain milk production. If the aim is simply to keep a few pets, then breed is less important than temperament and health. Spending a little time with the parent flock will provide a good guide. ANGLO NUBIAN Developed in the UK from local dairy goats and Middle Eastern and North African animals, this dual-purpose (meat and milk) breed is large, robust and tolerant of hot climates. They are among the best suited of the dairy goat breeds for hot inland Australian conditions.

SAANEN One of the largest dairy breeds, Saanen come from Switzerland and are more suited to cooler coastal and mountain climates in Australia. They have a calm temperament making them suitable for children. BRITISH ALPINE A dairy breed developed in the UK in the early 20th century and suited to temperate climates. The Australian animals are often crossed with Saanen or Toggenburg to improve production characteristics. BOER GOATS Originally developed in the early 20th century in South Africa, Boer goats are a hardy, disease-resistant meat breed. They are a great choice for many smallholdings as they are docile, fast-growing and fertile with good mothering instincts. ANGORA Angora goats produce mohair fleece and can be shorn twice a year. Like all fleece-bearing animals, genetics are critical for the best fleece characteristics. Cashmere is the soft downy winter coat of goats rather than the name of a breed. Cashmere goat lines have been developed around the world. CASHMERE Cashmere is the soft downy winter coat of goats rather than the name of a breed. Cashmere goat lines have been developed around the world. South West Queensland Farming Guide 109


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Growing fruit and vegetables Sometimes it pays to change with the times but with regards to growing vegetables, fruit and berries, the most profitable strategies have largely stood the test of time. REQUIREMENTS - WATER The main requirements for growing fruit and vegetables are water and manure. It sounds obvious enough, of course, but how much water is enough? For a commercial vegetable venture, it is quite a lot. Vegetables consist mostly of water and it takes a large quantity, whether from rainfall or irrigation, to produce each kilogram of food. Consider tomatoes. It’s said 214 litres of water are needed to produce a single kilogram of tomatoes. This is a lot of water, especially if you are paying for it. Production density varies according to soil type, variety, seasonal variations and grower skill however, a reasonable tomato yield is about 20kg a square metre. This translates to a water requirement of more than 4000 litres a square metre spread over the life of the crop, perhaps four months. Each millimetre of rainfall produces one litre of water over a square metre. Crops use water already in the soil, so this 4000-litre requirement does not all have to fall on, or be applied to, every square metre. The method used for watering is also important for success. In general, drip irrigation is far more economical than overhead sprays and doesn’t encourage weed growth between crop rows. THE OTHER NECESSITY - MANURE In the 1950s, animal manure. along with green manure crops, was dug into the soil as a key source of nutrients for market gardens. The regular use of animal manure in this way helped maintain soil fertility and some nutrient supply in the demanding conditions of market gardens. The reality is that digging or cultivation breaks down soil structure and depletes organic matter and combined with the heavy demands of vegetable crops, can quickly cause soil to become exhausted. While water-soluble nutrients applied to a crop, as bagged or liquid fertiliser, will allow plants to grow, it can be costly and detrimental to soil health. Nutrients can also be supplied in a more natural way, through building up soil fertility and organic matter reserves before planting a crop. Traditionally this is done by spreading www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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animal manure to boost green manure crops, such as annual grasses or legumes, which are then ploughed in before planting crops. This adds substantial organic matter, which can then support one, or sometimes two or three vegetable crops before the land needs to be again rested and built up with a green manure crop. WHAT'S NEEDED For growing vegetables and many other crops, the best soil is at least 25cm to 30cm deep and loamy, that is open, free-draining and well aerated, rather than heavy and dense and will contain organic matter. A decent layer of well-drained, open soil is best for vegetable growing, preferably with a pH of 6-6.5, although some variation can be accommodated. DRAINAGE Even if the topsoil drains well, it is important to check below the surface. Often a layer of reasonable topsoil can sit on top of a difficult clay layer, which can hold water for long periods in the root zone. Such soils can grow grass and shrubs but cause problems for intensive cropping. Water applied to vegetable-growing areas must inevitably move through the soil. If there is an impermeable layer in the soil, water will collect and adversely affect plant growth. Dig some holes down below the topsoil, fill them with water and ensure drainage is satisfactory. If the water fails to visibly start draining away within 30 minutes or so, there may be a problem. SUNSHINE A productive vegetable-growing operation should receive full sun all day, every day throughout the year. Any shade at all means reduced productive potential. As well as maximum sunlight, plants also need to be free of competition from the roots of nearby trees. So plant crops on a completely open site. ROOS AND RABBITS Rabbit-proof fencing has long been a requirement for any vegetable farm, but now, in most rural areas, you also have to worry about kangaroos. Our iconic national animal is so numerous it is now considered a pest. The cost of truly effective protection is likely to be considerable, but regardless, vegetable growing areas must be protected because even a single invasion by a roo or two could ruin months of work. HAPPY HERBS Consider growing a few herbs. They might have been around for a long time but, thanks to foodie TV programs, there is now more demand than ever. It 112 South West Queensland Farming Guide

has been estimated demand is increasing annually by as much as 30 per cent. Herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow. Most will grow without any difficulty in many conditions and will thrive for years without much attention. As a rule, they require good soil that is friable and drains well. Select a site that receives at least three or four hours of sun a day. When herbs are established, most


Herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow Most will grow without any difficulty in many conditions. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

GROWING FRUIT & VEGETABLES only need watering in hot weather, and the occasional feed of fertiliser. Don't be tempted to add too much fertiliser as it can cause the plant to grow too many leaves, which will lack flavour and fragrance. The exceptions are parsley, basil and tarragon. GROWING HYDROPONIC GROWING If you plan to grow vegetables commercially, you might want to explore the possibility of growing hydroponically. Today most vegetables, from cucumber, eggplants and beans to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, as well as numerous herbs, can be grown hydroponically. While the set-up costs are normally a lot more, the margins and ability to produce year-round, sometimes with more than one crop a year, might be appealing. GOOD OPTIONS BERRY GOOD OPTIONS Australia's southeast is lucky in that there are very few berries that cannot be grown in the region. Most berries either love the cool, or they can cope with it fairly well. In fact, nearly all the bramble berries, including raspberries, loganberries and blackberries, do best if they have a good chilling in winter. The big exception is the strawberry, which doesn't mind if it has warm or cool conditions. Berries can basically be divided into two groups, those that belong to the gooseberry family (including currants and gooseberries) and those belonging to the rose family (blackberries, raspberries and strawberries). Most berries like reasonably good, well-drained soil. Both raspberries and strawberries prefer a sunny position. Strawberries cope better with mulching in summer and many growers use black polythene sheeting because it allows the ground to warm up quicker, thus encouraging early crops. Slits are




Specific varieties of berries are suited to particular areas. INCREASED mechanisation and use of remote sensing tools. COVERED cropping and design of climate ready orchards. CONSOLIDATION and integration of the orchard, packing and cool-store businesses to increase industry efficiencies. IMPROVEMENT in quality credence and branding of Australian produce. Fruit Whether growing fruit for home consumption or to sell commercially, the procedures are basically the same. The first step to growing fruit is to select a site that is in the sun for most of the day, is protected from strong winds, is well drained and has few other plants around it.




made in the sheeting and the individual plants are carefully drawn through. Raspberries appreciate plenty of humus in the soil and will start producing fruit after a year. Specific varieties of berries are suited to particular areas. To find the best varieties for your area, contact your local department of agriculture. FRUIT & NUT OPPORTUNITIES While almonds have been one of the big winners in Australian horticulture in recent years, with exports soaring, there are opportunities that could create openings for other crops. Six key opportunities have been identified for the fruit and nut industry. They include: RENEWED focus on export to take advantage of the growing Asian market. OPPORTUNITIES to benefit from irrigation reforms.

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If you have acid soils with a pH less than 7, digging in about 1.5kg of garden lime to each two square metres of garden bed before planting is wise. Adjust accordingly for larger areas. You will also need to dig in some phosphorus, often sold as superphosphate, which will help with the development of the root and stem systems. About 1.5kg to two square metres for sandy or light soils is the best, while clay or heavy loam soil requires twice this amount. The incorporation of well-rotted manure or compost will also help provide nutrients and improve soil texture. If the soil is not well drained or if there is clay subsoil within 30cm of the surface, raise the planting site above the surrounding area. This helps improve surface drainage and provides a greater area of soil for the roots to grow. PLANTING The best time to plant deciduous fruit trees is when they are dormant, from early July until early December. On the other hand, citrus trees are best planted in spring, after the danger of frosts is over. Don't be fooled by thinking a tree is dormant if there is no leaf growth. Root activity starts well before there is any movement in the foliage. It's best to plant trees to the same depth they were growing in the nursery. Check the roots for signs of damage or disease before you plant. If you notice gall-like swellings around the roots, reject the tree, as it is likely to have been infected with the bacterial disease crown gall. Damaged roots should be cut back to healthy tissue, while excessively long roots should be shortened to prevent them being bent upwards in the planting hole. After planting the trees, water them in well. Ensure you protect them from rabbit attack by wrapping them with aluminised building paper or installing guards. There are plenty of good commercial tree guards on the market. COMMERCIAL ORCHARD: If you are tempted to expand your fruit growing from the backyard to a more commercial enterprise, there are a few considerations to make. These include: TRAINING requirement- some trees need special management skills. Pruning in particular is an art and it's worth considering honing your skills with a course, or plan to call in experts. AVAILABILITY of advice- find out 114 South West Queensland Farming Guide

how much information and help you will be able to get from your local nursery or department of agriculture. TYPES of fruit grown in the area -


After planting the trees, water them in well. Ensure you protect them from rabbit attack by wrapping them with aluminised building paper or installing guards

this will give a good indication about whether your planned trees will grow and produce good fruit. WINTER temperatures - some trees are more frost-sensitive than others, while others may require a certain amount of cold hours. SOIL preparation and erosion control. PURCHASE, storing and handling of pesticides - there are strict regulations on pesticides that must be followed. MARKETING possibilities. AVAILABILITY of harvest labour. MACHINERY needs. STORAGE facilities. HUMAN factor - are you prepared to put the work in to keep your trees in good shape? www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Growing fruit and vegetables continued SOMETIMES it pays to change with the times but with regards to growing vegetables, fruit and berries, the most profitable strategies have largely stood the test of time. REQUIREMENTS – WATER The main requirements for growing fruit and vegetables are water and manure. It sounds obvious enough, of course, but how much water is enough? For a commercial vegetable venture, it is quite a lot. Vegetables consist mostly of water and it takes a large quantity, whether from rainfall or irrigation, to produce each kilogram of food. Consider tomatoes. It’s said 214 litres of water are needed to produce a single kilogram of tomatoes. This is a lot of water, especially if you are paying for it.






9 – 15


9 – 15










Production density varies according to soil type, variety, seasonal variations and grower skill; however, a reasonable tomato yield is about 20kg a square metre. This translates to a water requirement of more than 4000 litres a square metre spread over the life of the crop, perhaps four months. Each millimetre of rainfall produces one litre of water over a square metre. Crops use water already in the soil, so this 4000-litre requirement does not all have to fall on, or be applied to, every square metre. The method used for watering is also important for success. In general, drip irrigation is far more economical than overhead sprays and doesn’t encourage weed growth between crop rows.

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Guard animals Already common in many parts of the world, animals that act as stock guards, collectively called livestock guardian animals, are steadily becoming more popular in Australia. Research and word-or-mouth evidence show guard animals can be extremely cost-effective. Surveys in the US reveal each guard animal saves, on average, more than 60 sheep a year. A $500 alpaca, an animal that would cost the same as a sheep to feed, need only save a handful of lambs to pay its way. While guard animals are used to protect against bears, coyotes and mountain lions in the US, in Australia wild dogs, foxes and domestic dogs are the biggest enemies. GUARDIAN CHOICES Llamas, part of the camelid family like alpacas, are also effective livestock guards. While there are fewer Ilama stock guards compared with alpacas in Australia, they are just as effective. A purebred Maremma dog, perhaps costing up to $1000 (less expensive if adopted), can adequately guard a commercial-sized flock of free-range egg layers. Such a dog is a low-cost assistant for an enterprise that could generate more than $50,000 a year. In both cases, the alpaca and the dog will do their job for many years, greatly multiplying the financial benefit. It has been estimated that European farmers have used dogs to guard stock for nearly 6000 years. There are several other dog breeds that originated in central Europe as sheep guards, although these have not yet become as popular in Australia as Maremmas. These include the Pyrenean Mountain dog, the Kuvasz from Hungary and the Tatra from Poland. In all cases, success depends on choosing the best guard animal for the task, then training them and providing the right amount of space to do the job at hand. DONKEYS While donkeys are seen less and less on Australian farms, they make excellent guard animals. A single donkey will quickly adopt a flock of sheep, for instance, guarding them as fiercely as it would its own offspring. The secret with donkey guard animals is to allow a bonding period of a week or two so the donkey can become familiar with about 10-20 sheep, before introducing it to the full flock. Importantly, don’t allow two jacks into the same paddock or you risk violence.


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Alpacas and llamas Alpacas and llamas can be used to guard sheep and sometimes goats and poultry. No training is necessary as camelids are naturally antagonistic to predators. The best guard alpacas are wethers (castrated males) and aged at least 18 months old. By this stage their natural instincts have developed, and they are close to fully grown. Uncastrated males should not be used as they may attempt to mount ewes. While this activity will not be successful, it is disruptive. Female alpacas can have more refined guard instincts, but they are usually kept for breeding. Guard camelids can remain with the flock continuously, yet often they are separated out after weaning and kept in paddocks close to the house. There they can be managed separately for shearing and feeding and become familiar to the property’s working dogs without the distraction of sheep. Camelids are best introduced to flocks four or five weeks before lambing. This allows them to switch on to the job by first patrolling the paddock then bonding with the flock. By the time the first lambs arrive, the camelids have become established in the role of guardian. There is debate about the size of the flock each alpaca or llama can manage and whether they should be deployed singly, in pairs or small groups. Be prepared to experiment to find the best arrangement for your property and flock size. Camelid breeders can generally advise. Alpacas should be shorn every year while llamas can go longer between haircuts. Camelid shearing is different from shearing sheep and is usually done by specialist shearers. A good shearer will also vaccinate and worm animals when shearing. Vaccination is the same as for sheep and worming is carried out by injection. The propensity for camelids to spit makes worming with a drench gun a messy and often unsuccessful job.

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GOOD OIL ON ALPACAS ONE gelded, five to eight-year-old alpaca will do the best job of flock protecting, while two or more may tend to go off by themselves and keep each other company while ignoring the mob of sheep they are supposed to be guarding. DON'T have individual alpacas in adjoining paddocks, as they will likely buddy up with one another along the fence line instead of minding the sheep and lambs. DON'T place an alpaca with ewes and rams during mating, because alpacas have a tendency to protect ewes from the advances of randy rams. DO ALLOW an alpaca to stay with lambs and ewes right up to weaning time, when the mothers are drafted off. Alpacas from various paddocks can then be combined and retained with the weaner lambs. At this stage, the weaner lambs are generally too big for fox attack anyway. DON'T worry about trimming alpacas’ feet or drenching them, because they are as hardy as Merino wethers. WHEN shearing, tranquillise the alpaca 10 minutes beforehand, as if it is


a heavier ram. Shear it on its bottom while it is sedated, with a sock over its mouth so you don't get an eyeful of spit. Alternatively, make up a rope rack and stretch your alpaca's legs out while he is being shorn. DON'T fuss about shearing perfection. It is better to leave a few ridges than have an alpaca go without shearing for a few years. DRENCH and dip at the same time and in a similar manner to sheep.

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Breeding alpacas Alpacas might be a recent arrival to Australia, having been introduced in the 1980’s yet their numbers are increasing dramatically. In a short time Australia has become recognised worldwide as a leading force in the alpaca industry and the Australian Alpaca Association lists more than 2000 breeders as members. HEMBRA AND CRIA An alpaca pregnancy is about 11 months, putting the alpaca much closer to a horse than a sheep for gestation period. Adult female alpacas, known as hembra, weigh about 70kg while their babies, known as cria, weigh about 7kg at birth, which is about 1.5 times an average lamb. A hembra normally gives birth to one cria at a time — twins are a rare event. Most hembra will give birth in daylight hours, which appears to be an adaptation to the cold climate from which alpaca originate. Leading up to the birth, hembra often appear uncomfortable and will isolate themselves from the herd, similar to ruminant animals. The actual birthing process is relatively

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quick, about 30 minutes from the moment the water bag appears. The mother mostly gives birth to the cria while standing up, so the cria can have a rough landing to start its life. If a hembra does not give birth to her cria within half an hour, seek urgent veterinary attention. While it is unusual for an alpaca to have problems, when there are issues, they require urgent assistance. An alpaca has a relatively long neck and legs, so a malpresentation for birth can require assistance. It is also important that hembra don’t become overweight, as this is another cause of birthing problems. To assess the alpaca’s condition, feel its body, rather than assess it visually, as its fleece may hide the true story. Its condition score can be assessed in a similar manner to a sheep, by running your hands over the backbones and ribs, which you should be able to feel. Once a cria is born, it should attempt to stand and then suckle

from the hembra within a few hours. This allows the cria access to colostrum, the early milk, for protection from disease as well as important nutrition. BREED DIFFERENCE There are two alpaca breeds, Huacaya (pronounced wah-ki-ya) and Suri (pronounced soo-ree). You can identify a Huacaya by its fibre, which grows in a similar way to Merino sheep — the crimped fibres grow straight out from the body and do not droop down.


An alpaca has a relatively long neck and legs, so a malpresentation for birth can require assistance. A Suri has fibre which hangs in ringlets, has no crimp and tends to have a silkier feel. Huacaya alpacas are more common than Suri and while the two breeds look quite different, both live up to 20 years and their management is the same. CARING FOR YOUNG ALPACAS Cria are reasonably hardy as long as they are able to get up and suckle from their mother soon after birth. The hembra can be re-mated within a month of giving birth as this allows her to give birth at the same time each year. The young cria will feed from its mother and gradually start to eat feed in the paddock until it is weaned, usually somewhere between four and 10 months of age. Most of the health needs for the cria are similar to that of a lamb. If multiple alpaca are in the one paddock, they will probably need worming at weaning time. They should also receive clostridial vaccines before weaning to protect against clostridial disease. PREPARATIONS FOR BREEDING Hembras are not suitable for breeding until they weigh about 50kg -— normally l2 to 18 months of age. Male alpaca (machos) are ready for mating somewhere between 18 www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


and leg deformity, particularly during winter and spring. RIGHT FOR GUARD DUTY Male alpacas that are not suitable for breeding and are castrated can be used as guardian animals. These are generally sold after weaning, and mostly as adults. BAD HABIT: Alpacas generally only spit at other alpacas, although humans do sometimes cop a blast of what is generally air and spit and sometimes a putrid mix of green and acidic stomach contents. CAMELID ADVANTAGES: CAMELIDS are inexpensive and uncomplicated to own, eating the same feed as sheep or goats and, apart from shearing, requiring little additional care. THEY DO NOT require crutching (removal of fleece around the rear end) or mulesing (removal of skin folds near the tail) because they are not subject to

flystrike. TRAINING is not necessary for an animal to become an effective guard, although both alpacas and llamas can be easily halter-trained. Ask a breeder to explain how. THERE IS MINIMAL chance of fleece contamination as alpacas avoid touching sheep and do not shed their fleece. THEY HAVE a lifespan of 20 years or more. Very easily enclosed, they are not hard on fences. CAMELID DISADVANTAGES: GENERALLY, they need to be kept separate from farm dogs. SOME are less successful as guards and may need another career, perhaps as a pet or lawn mower. A SKILLED CONTRACTOR is needed for annual shearing, vaccination and nail trimming.


months and three years of age. At about three years of age, the macho’s fighting teeth may need to be removed to avoid injuries to other machos. FEED REQUIREMENT An alpaca needs a similar amount of feed to a large sheep, the equivalent of about one kilogram of quality hay a day. Growing or lactating alpacas require higher levels of protein and energy in their diet compared with a fully-grown alpaca. Alpacas also need supplements such as hay when paddock feed becomes scarce. RICKETS PRCTECTION Because of their thick coat, some cria may not receive adequate exposure to vitamin D. As a result, young alpacas may require a vitamin D supplement — either in the diet or via injection — to protect from rickets, which can cause lameness, reduced growth, tiredness







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Marevellous Mareemas Whether it's protecting free-range poultry, sheep or goats a Maremmas is an independent guardian that will settle in and live out its days with livestock. A BREED APART The Maremma dog breed, a native to the Abruzzo and Maremma regions of central Italy, is at least 2000 years old and has evolved over time to be a superb protector of sheep, guarding them from thieves and attack by wolves. In Australia they were initially employed to guard sheep and goats but, as their reputation has spread, they have become an almost indispensable staff member at free-range poultry farms producing chicken, turkey, duck and geese eggs and meat. Train Maremmas by placing newly weaned puppies with a small group of the livestock they will guard. Allow them to live with these animals exclusively for several months before being introduced to the larger flock (poultry or sheep) with which they will live out their lives. Maremmas have the ability to do well enough without daily feeding for a short period, however it is important their human family visit them frequently, daily if possible, to ensure they remain healthy and bonded to their human flock. They need to be properly familiarised with other farm dogs to avoid conflict and to allow other dogs to do their work. They have a life expectancy of about 10 to 13 years. BUYER BEWARE The growing popularity and uniqueness of Maremma dogs has attracted the wrong types of both owners and breeders. Fashion-conscious city dwellers looking for something different often buy Maremmas as cute little puppies only to find they grow into noisy big dogs that need a lot of exercise. They should not be left unattended day after day in a small backyard. Ethical breeders are unlikely to sell a Maremma to a suburban owner. Ignorant, sometimes unscrupulous breeders looking to make a quick dollar have crossed Maremmas with other breeds, to save money, or used animals with heritable faults such as canine hip dysplasia or poor temperament. The resulting offspring can have 122 South West Queensland Farming Guide

many inherent problems. Crossbred Maremmas may be ineffective guard animals and may even be hazardous to livestock. Prospective buyers should ensure bloodlines include healthy, purebred animals and should always eyeball their new puppy’s parents before completing a purchase. If possible, ensure the dog comes with its papers, including its stud record. A test of a good breeder is if they vet prospective owners. While being questioned at length about why you want a Maremma, how and where you live, and details of your dog-owning


The growing popularity and uniqueness of Maremma dogs has attracted the wrong types of both owners and breeders. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


experience may seem intrusive, good breeders will ask those questions before agreeing to a sale. WHY ARE MAREMMAS SO SPECIAL? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most notable is their independent disposition. In many respects they are the opposite of farm working dogs such as the Kelpie. A Kelpie will jump out of its skin to go, fetch, come, do this, do that - all at top speed and on command. Not the Maremma. It will certainly take your instructions on board but, depending on circumstances, may decide on another course. If a Maremma feels, for example, that a visitor needs closer inspection, or monitoring, it will do that rather than come the moment it is called. An experienced dog will not be overly

aggressive to a visitor, but will make it clear that caution is necessary. Owners soon learn to chill out a little and trust their doggy colleague. MAREMMA ADVANTAGES EXTREMELY intelligent. EASILY trained. THEY bond strongly to their human and animal families. EXTREMELY protective of children. EXCELLENT property guard dogs. MAREMMA DISADVANTAGES NOISY – barking is a normal part of their guarding behaviour. CAN tend to roam, so fences should be in good condition. They are not great jumpers but will go through a fence. DOGS need dog food, whereas camelids eat what their flock eats. A DOG that has lived its whole life

with sheep or poultry is difficult to give veterinary care: in the paddock it will treat a vet as an intruder and will refuse to get into a vehicle for trip to the vet. LATE maturity. Maremmas don’t fully mature until their third year so they may need some supervision and play up a little before then. CONSIDER ADOPTION: If the idea of providing a home to a dog rejected by their first owner appeals, there are Maremma rescue agencies across Australia. These intrepid band of helpers specialise in finding not just a new home, but the right new home for Maremmas. Expect to be questioned thoroughly as the groups aim to find the right owners for these unique dogs.


If a Maremma feels, for example, that a visitor needs closer inspection, or monitoring, it will do that rather than come the moment it is called. An experienced dog will not be overly aggressive to a visitor, but will make it clear that caution is necessary.


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Once, most of Australia’s farms were worked by horsepower – the real horse power, that is. Times changed dramatically with mechanisation but today the horse is still a regular sight on many farms. Whether breeding Thoroughbred horses, showing horses, agisting horses or merely keeping a horse or two for riding around a property, equine ownership comes with heavy responsibilities. Horses need to be groomed, fed, exercised and, like other farm animals, they are not immune from a wide range of problems and diseases. Even a single horse, maybe for a daughter’s pony club enjoyment, can make a sizeable dent in a family budget. It has been estimated that once farrier visits, feeding, veterinary care and all the accessories that go with owning a horse, including a float, are taken into account, a budget of $100 or more a week is needed to cover the costs. Plus, a horse is likely to be around for much longer than the family dog or cat – perhaps several decades. Horses can live well into their 30’s, and over 40 is not unheard of. GROOMING

Horses need regular brushing, de-burring and cleaning to remain nice to be near and free of skin problems, the latter so they can be comfortably bridled and saddled. Tail and mane need attention to remove tangles, and dried mud has to be removed from flanks and legs, especially in winter. From time to time, horses should be bathed, generally in warm weather. To avoid the growth of a long winter coat, a horse rug needs to be used throughout winter. This must be removed and replaced regularly according to weather conditions and will need regular cleaning. HOOF CARE Like our fingernails and toenails, horse hooves grow continuously. Without the natural abrasion from frequently moving over rocky ground in the wild, hooves need trimming every six weeks or so. This is not a job for a beginner and may be best left to a farrier. If the horse is shod, a farrier will need to visit every six weeks to remove and replace shoes after hoof trimming. Untended hooves can grow in a lopsided manner leading to tendon and ligament damage.


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Horses continued EXERCISE & COMPANIONSHIP Horses are herd animals accustomed to regular, vigorous movement in nature. They certainly can adapt to life on a farm but need regular balanced exercise for physical health and companionship. Ideally, horses should be with other horses, but at the very least they should be with other four-legged farm animals. Care is required to prevent horses becoming overweight especially on lush grass in spring when they can founder. This is a painful foot disease that causes extreme lameness and, unless managed promptly, can have serious consequences. Many horse owners maintain a "Jenny Craig" paddock, a smaller area with short grass where overweight ponies and horses can be held and fed controlled amounts of dry feed. A horse’s daily routine should involve some time with its owner-rider so that a bond of friendship and trust is built and maintained. The relationship between such a large animal and its rider needs regular attention to build confidence in both parties. PADDOCK CARE On large farms it is not such a problem, but small farms often don’t have enough land to graze horses on a long enough rotation to allow nature to take care of the prodigious quantity of droppings a half-tonne grass-and-hay eating machine can produce. It has to be picked up. While there are devices available for the job, a shovel and barrow are the usual tools. It is at least a weekly job when paddocks are small. Overgrazing and wear cause bare patches that can lead to weed infestation. So often, a healthy pasture in a small paddock becomes a cape-weed-infested mess after just a few months of intensive horse occupation. It is important to rest the ground to protect the grass cover and to prevent worm burden from rising too high. This means subdividing paddocks, preferably into half a hectare and matching horses to available land. In high-rainfall areas with deep topsoil, allow about one hectare for each horse. In much of southeast Australia, double this space is probably more appropriate. 126 South West Queensland Farming Guide

STABLES A weatherproof stable combined with a small day yard is essential. This provides a place to carry out grooming and to hold a horse for the farrier or vet. A stable is also helpful if a horse is sick, the weather is particularly bad, especially during thunderstorms, or the normal paddock is being rested or resown. The stable usually includes a tack room where saddles, bridles, blankets and other paraphenalia are


A weatherproof stable combined with a small day yard is essential. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


kept. FEED AND WATER The grass in small paddocks where horses spend most of their time should not be seen as providing a significant proportion of their food. A horse produces about 5 per cent of its bodyweight of manure each day. This is equivalent to its own bodyweight, about half a tonne, in manure every three weeks which is why. in their natural state, horses are continually moving to fresh grass. In many cases, horses must be hand-fed every day of the year. Fresh water must be available all the time in the stables, paddocks, day yards and any other area a horse is held for any length of time. Adult horses need from 20 litres a day in cold weather when not exercising to more than twice this in hot weather or when lactating or extremely active. For safety’s sake. if you're not visiting horses every day, it pays to have two troughs in each paddock. This has the added benefit of reducing foot traffic around each trough. One way to achieve this is to position troughs through fences so each trough serves two paddocks - each paddock has two half troughs extending into them. If one runs dry, the other will save the day. CHOOSING A HORSE Unless experienced, it is essential to

trouble down the track. Worst-case scenarios include serious injury if thrown by a difficult horse, or major injury to the animal if it panics and falls or escapes and causes an accident. A health check by a vet experienced with horses would be money well spent. When buying a horse, it pays to also have an exit plan. For example. a good horse for a young family member could be an older, quiet animal suitable for a few years until the rider either loses interest or moves on to a more active animal. It may be more than 20 years old when no longer wanted. If healthy it can still be ridden at that age. but not as frequently or as hard. So it will be more difficult to sell even though it is not much more than halfway through its life. You need to have a plan for your horse's retirement. HAPPY HORSE: Horses boast better senses of smell and hearing than humans and can express their feelings and moods through facial expressions.


For safety’s sake. if you're not visiting horses every day, it pays to have two troughs in each paddock. obtain some independent assistance when deciding on a horse. A poorly selected horse can mean all sorts of


First weekend of December Annually

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Health Watch Regular health checks can prevent you incurring expensive veterinary bills and ultimately have a happier horse. BEWARE OF PARASITES Parasites, such as worms and flukes, live inside horses and can cause serious disease or even death. The problem is often more evident in high-rainfall environments. In horses, a tapeworm lives at the junction between the small and large intestines and can cause colic, with the horse showing signs of abdominal pain. Protection is the best policy. For horses, all anthelmintics (drugs that dispel parasites) come as oral formulations – pastes, gels granules or liquid, so drenching a horse is often a two-person job but minimal facilities are required. The cost of these anthelmintics varies but is about $10-$20 for a dose. DENTAL TROUBLES If a horse develops eating problems, such as dropping food or not finishing hard feed, it might be time for the dentist. These behaviours, as well as a horse not wanting to take a bit, are signs of potential teeth problems. Horses need good teeth to extract nutrients from their diet, and mouth pain or disease can significantly reduce an animal’s welfare and bodyweight. A veterinary dentist should assess your horse’s teeth every six to 12 months between five and 20 years, with younger and older horses often requiring more frequent attention. FOUNDER – A MAJOR CONCERN Founder, or laminitis, is the bane of horse owners everywhere and often one of the first problems new horse owners encounter. One week your horse or pony seems fine, the next it is hobbling around in pain, looking sore and sorry. The most obvious sign is lameness, and it most frequently seen in spring, especially in ponies It also occurs when horses eat too much supplementary feed such as grain, after unfit horses exercise too much and following other problems, such as blood poisoning. Typically, when horses have unrestricted access to pasture in spring they can get so fat that the top of their neck looks swollen. 128 South West Queensland Farming Guide

This is sometimes called a "cresty neck". The swelling is due to fat being laid down in the neck area. Animals that become this fat are more likely to get founder. There are two types of founder – acute founder and chronic founder. Horses with acute founder become lame quickly, and appear extremely uncomfortable, trying to shift the weight from their worst-affected feet. They often stand with their back legs tucked under their body and their front legs forward as well. This is to take some of the weight off their front legs, as horses normally hold about 65 per cent of their weight on their front legs. They are reluctant to move, only taking very short steps. These animals generally look miserable; they stop eating and their


Founder, or laminitis, is the bane of horse owners everywhere and often one of the first problems new horse owners encounter

feet are hotter than normal. They may also seek out water to stand in, to reduce the heat and pain in their hooves. Sometimes the pain in their feet will also lead to muscular trembling. Chronic founder is not as obvious as acute founder. It happens over a longer time and is not as severe, but can still lead to significant problems, such as overgrown, "seedy" toe. These horses are often mildly lame, mostly in the front feet. Founder is caused by a breakdown between the horny and sensitive laminae of the foot (similar to the junction between our skin and fingernail). This breakdown is because of a change in the blood supply to the hoof, which can be caused by toxins in the blood. When these laminae separate, pain results. In moderate or mild cases of founder this separation is not severe, and animals recover quickly with treatment. In severe cases, this separation allows the foot (pedal) bone to rotate. If this rotation proceeds too far, there is little hope of saving the animal. As soon as your horse shows signs of founder, veterinary attention should be sought. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Delaying result in the founder becoming worse, leading to an increase in cost to treat the animal and a poorer chance of recovery. This treatment will frequently include anti-inflammatory care, special shoes or hoof trimming, and diet and exercise modification. Treatment regimes may have to last over some weeks. The best strategy for founder is to prevent your horse getting GIT. So don’t kill your horse with kindness by allowing it too much food, If it is getting too much to eat, restrict its diet and give it plenty of exercise. HENDRA VIRUS, BATS & HORSES It might be one of the world's rarest diseases, yet Hendra virus has become a major concern for Australian horse owners, after some well publicised outbreaks. First identified in 1994, it occurs in bat (flying fox) populations and is thought to be transferred to horses through

contaminated urine, faeces or foetal fluids. Humans can catch the infection from horses, and it can kill both humans and horses. The Australian Veterinary Association warns that 70 per cent of horses tested positive have died from the disease, and that 50 per cent of humans who are infected die. Human infections are believed to follow direct exposure to body substances from infected or dead horses. The Australian Veterinary Association suggests horse owners take the following precautions: PLACE all feed and water containers under cover. TRY to bring horses into covered enclosures or enclosed paddocks with no trees at night to reduce potential contact with bat colonies. REMOVE horses from paddocks where trees attract bats or fence off trees to prevent horses grazing

underneath. WHEN planting trees do not plant species that attract bats in or near horse paddocks. These include trees with soft fruit such as figs and stone fruits such as peaches, loquats and mangoes. SEEK veterinary advice before bringing sick horses on to your property. IF YOU have a horse that you suspect has Hendra, do not move any other horse off the property until cleared by the proper authorities. KEEP sick horses isolated from people and other animals. PLAN a quarantine area on your property where sick horses can be isolated. WASH your hands after and between handling individual horses to prevent the potential spread of Hendra virus infection.


When planting trees do not plant species that attract bats in or near horse paddocks. These include trees with soft fruit such as figs and stone fruits such as peaches, loquats and mangoes.


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Livestock health For anyone with a love of fresh county air and wide horizons, life on a farm running livestock might seem close to paradise. And it can be. But running livestock, whether it be cattle, sheep, goats or even chickens, is no occupation for the lazy, the indecisive or the business illiterate. To make a living, today’s livestock farmer needs to be in control, 24/7, making the right decisions and taking precautions to keep his or her stock healthy and productive. One wrong decision, such as overlooking a precautionary vaccination, can plunge a livestock business into steep decline. ADMINISTERING MEDICATION When you manage livestock, you need to know about administering medicine. The most common method is pouring it on to the skin (pour-on), via the mouth (drench) or injected under the skin (subcutaneous injection). There are, however, some products such as most antibiotics that might need to be given directly into the animal’s muscle. This is because the product can be inactivated or even cause illness if given orally, while some products may not be absorbed properly when injected under the skin. Several things need to be considered when giving intramuscular injections. For starters, what size needle will you need? A vet can advise, but as a rule you should use a thinner needle for a smaller animal as the dose is lower and muscle area smaller. You might use a 21 gauge needle for a sheep and an 18 gauge needle for a cow – the higher the gauge number the thinner the needle. Needle size will also vary for some products. A high-viscosity product may need a wider needle. For most injections, larger animals require a larger overall dose compared with smaller animals. Ensure you are ready to give all medications when you start to inject in case animals decide they don’t want to wait for a second injection. This might mean you use a 20ml syringe for a cow and a 5ml or 10ml syringe for a sheep. HOW MUCH The amount of product you should inject into each muscle area will vary depending on where you inject and product type. Usually 10ml is the maximum that should go in one site, and less for smaller animals. WHERE TO INJECT The best place to give an intramuscular injection is the side of their neck, in front of the shoulder. There is a large muscle area above the level of the spinal cord, a triangular area in front of the shoulder, above the level of the spinal cord and below the nuchal. You can feel the nuchal ligament in most animals as a thickening near the top of the neck. Use the syringe to push the needle into the muscle or remove the needle from the syringe and push it in by holding the needle hub. Do this in a single smooth action. Usually the needle is inserted perpendicular to the body and goes in for the depth of the needle. Draw back on the syringe to ensure you are not in a blood vessel, and then administer the medication. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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Three livestock problems you don’t need

INBREEDING If you run a small number of animals and intend to breed from them, you need to consider the risk of inbreeding. This arises when a sire mates their own daughters, or male progeny mate their dam, or siblings’ mate. It can even occur when more distant relatives’ mate. How quickly this problem presents depends on how long it takes the progeny to reach mating age. With cattle, when a bull is first joined to cows their calves are born a little over nine months later. Generally, it takes another l5 months before these calves are ready to mate. This means the bull can be used to join twice before he is likely to mate his own progeny, presuming he was not 132 South West Queensland Farming Guide

related to the herd when he was bought. This time can be shorter in animals with shorter gestation periods or lower age at first breeding, such as sheep, where it may only take l2 months. Inbreeding depression is when closely related animals that share the same genes are mated. This can lead to progeny with increased genetic abnormalities and reduced production. If there are harmful recessive genes in populations, these are mostly kept hidden, or at an extremely low level, by mating between unrelated adults. But if two adults that carry this recessive gene are mated, then their progeny will express that characteristic. This is not to say all closely related

individuals when mated will produce progeny with problems, but it is more likely to lead to problems. In general, the closer the relationship the more likely any genes present will cause progeny problems. This might be a slightly lower growth rate, or worse, offspring that are infertile. There are ways to reduce inbreeding. Work out how long it is before a sire can mate their daughter and then change sires at this time. This is probably the simplest method. Alternatively, if you have a few sires on your property and they are kept with a specific group of females, then all female progeny from one group could then mate with the sire of the other group. Another option is to use artificial insemination as this reduces the number of new males needed. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Ordinarily, when a ruminant such as a sheep, cow or goat eats grass, it is broken down in the four stomachs into various acids that can be used to produce glucose. When grass quality or quantity limits glucose production, the body must break down fat to produce glucose. This process produces what is known as ketone bodies, toxic to the animal in large quantities and resulting in rapid illness. The signs of pregnancy toxaemia include lethargy and lack of interest in food. If you drive the mob or herd, the sick animal will lag behind, stand by themselves and not move away when approached. At the terminal stages, the animal will become comatose and die, maybe within a few days or up to a week. TREATMENT


The signs of pregnancy toxaemia include lethargy and lack of interest in food.

The treatment for pregnancy toxaemia is to quickly administer glucose or dextrose followed by propylene glycol or glycerine. This gives the animal access to glucose, however it is unlikely to be successful if the animal is unable to stand. It may be wise to talk to a vet about inducing the animal to give birth.


PREGNANCY TOXAEMIAThis condition is better prevented than cured. It goes by many names, such as twin lamb disease, preg tox, ketosis and fatty liver syndrome. It could also be called "lack-of-food-itis", because the animal is unable to eat enough quality food to meet its needs. It usually occurs in the last month or two of pregnancy as the needs of the growing foetus or foetuses increase. In the last third of pregnancy, about two-thirds of foetal weight is added in most mammals. So the female has to find enough energy for her rapidly growing young as well as herself, while also readying to produce colostrum and milk. The closer to giving birth, the bigger her uterus gets, and the less room there is for her rumen to be full of food. A ruminant such as a sheep, goat or cow has to initially swallow food then mix it up in the rumen, regurgitate and then re-chew it. This can happen several times before food can go into the intestines. If the mother has more than one young inside her, it can exacerbate the problem.


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Ryegrass Stagger and vet care RYEGRASS STAGGERS Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) has been present in southeast Australia for many years with a range of new cultivars introduced in recent years. It is a vital pasture on many livestock properties as it produces a good bulk of high-quality feed and survives well in areas with moderate to high rainfall. Quite drought and pest-resistant, it contains an endophyte, a fungus called Neotyphodium, that lives between its plant cells. It can, however, have negative effects on grazing animals as it produces alkaloids, which cause perennial ryegrass staggers or toxicity. This disease is most commonly seen in sheep, but also occurs in cattle and other livestock. It usually occurs in late summer and autumn as sheep graze plants closer to the ground and where the pasture mix is mostly or entirely made up of perennial ryegrass. Endophyte levels tend to be worse when late rain is followed by hot conditions resulting in ryegrass being the main pasture plant. Early symptoms are mild, and include reduced growth, particularly in young stock, along with reduced milk production in lactating animals, reduced fertility, heat stress and scouring. Within a few weeks, small tremors stan, exaggerated by stimuli such as being moved by dogs. As the disease progresses, animals become less co-ordinated and eventually unable to rise. They need intensive nursing to survive as they require protection from predators and must be propped in a sitting position. TREATMENT Discuss potential supportive therapies with a vet and confirm the diagnosis is correct as some other diseases can mimic symptoms. Provide with food and water if they are unable to graze for themselves. There aren’t any treatments for perennial ryegrass toxicity. If animals 134 South West Queensland Farming Guide

show signs of the disease, the best thing to do is move them to a pasture with less ryegrass. If animals can be removed from infected pasture or fodder, they should recover with support in about a month. Move them slowly without dogs. Or, feed them in a containment zone until more green pasture becomes available, move them to a different property, or


If animals can be removed from infected pasture or fodder, they should recover with support in about a month

sell them. FEED FACT: To avoid pregnancy toxaemia in old ewes and ewes giving birth to twins, feed them a higher-quality diet as they are more likely to experience problems with pregnancy. Ewes should not be stressed leading up to giving birth, so minimise their time in yards. WHEN YOU NEED A VET: If you run farm animals, it’s inevitable you will need to call on the services of a veterinarian at some stage, maybe quite often. If you are new to an area or don’t know a vet, visit your local clinic to introduce yourself to the vet and clinic staff. Then if you need to call the staff in www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


an emergency, they will know who you are and hopefully how to find your property, or you will know where to bring your animals. You can also get an idea of what a vet visit will cost, in office hours, or if it is an emergency after hours. This is also a good time to get information on how to contact the vet if there is an emergency after hours, and also some suggestions on what constitutes an "emergency". CREDENTIALS Anyone registered to practise in Australia must have passed a number of veterinary exams before they can call themselves a vet. You can check if a vet is registered by visiting the website of your state’s Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board. QUESTIONS TO ANSWER When a veterinarian sees your animal, he or she will probably ask what has happened to the animal over previous hours, days, weeks or even months.

If the person who knows the most about the animal will not be home when the vet arrives, write down all the details about the animal’s diet (paddock and hand-feeding), paddock movements, previous treatments, behaviour and any other important facts. Once a vet has taken some history they will generally examine the animal. Depending on the situation, this might require the animal to be yarded or held, so it can’t get away. Ensure you have adequate facilities for your own and the vet’s safety when your animals are being handled. The vet will probably listen to the animal's heart, lungs and gut using a stethoscope. When someone is using a stethoscope, it is hard to hear someone else speaking, so stop talking while this is happening. Examination of an animal can take 15 minutes or more. Depending on the illness, a vet might need to take samples of blood, faeces, urine or other

things. At this stage, if you have not already done so, discuss the total expected amount of the bill. Diagnostic tests cost extra, as there is no animal Medicare to pick up part of the tab. If a diagnosis can be made without results from further testing, then treatment will normally be given immediately. QUICK VET CHECKLIST ENSURE you can provide your vet with some history about the animal. HAVE adequate facilities and people available for the animal, so they can be examined safely. A VETERINARY exam may take some time. When a vet is using a stethoscope, try not to talk too much. MAKE sure you understand what tests need to be done and how much this will probably cost. FOLLOW directions from the vet regarding animal treatment. KEEP in touch after the treatment and let your vet know how the animal progresses.

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Animals and the law

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW It’s not just good farming practice to look after your animals’ welfare, it's the law. There are two common terms frequently used regarding the keeping of animals, as farm animals or pets: animal rights and animal welfare. These terms seem similar, yet they are distinctly different. ANIMAL WELFARE The concept of animal welfare came to prominence in Western society in the early 1800s. Before this, the general view was that animals had little capacity to suffer, so could be used as their owners wanted. The idea of animal welfare has changed dramatically over the past few hundred years and now governs how we treat animals. It includes concepts such as the five freedoms promoted by the RSPCA: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom to express natural behaviour; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease, and freedom from fear and distress. On a global scale, the Treaty of Lisbon, governing the European Union, states: "Since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to their welfare requirements." Animal welfare allows animals to be used for farming or as pets, but it sets certain parameters for their care. ANIMAL RIGHTS Animal rights is a more recent concept. Essentially, it assigns rights to animals, defining that they are not just the property of people. Peter Singer's 1975 book, Animal Liberation, was one of the early texts that encouraged people to consider the interest of animals, while authors such as Tom Regan suggest animals should have "moral rights". In recent years, animal rights groups such as PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, established in 1980 — have attracted media attention. In general, animal rights groups do not believe people have the right to keep animals, on farms or as pets for their own entertainment. For most people, however, the keeping of animals is acceptable and our legal system has guidelines to ensure they are kept to a standard. Minimum guidelines for animal welfare have been generated from good farming practice, consultation with industry and input from animalwelfare groups. These "model Codes of Practice" have been produced by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council, with 136 South West Queensland Farming Guide

representatives from each state and the Commonwealth. Some states also produce their own codes of practice. In Australia, there are individual codes of practice covering amphibians, birds, cats, cattle, deer, dogs, emus, goats, horses, pigs, poultry, rabbits, reptiles and sheep. These cover management practices such as tail docking and ear tagging, surgical procedures and a guide to humane destruction. KEEP TO THE CODES All Australian farm animals also come under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and its regulations. Most farmers will already exceed the codes, because they know healthy and content animals are likely to produce a better product. Every farm office should have copies of relevant codes of practice and the POCTA and everyone who works on a farm should be aware of the regulations and ensure they keep up to date. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Feeding livestock in dry times Droughts are all too common in Australia and at some stage farmers will need to buy in supplementary feed to keep stock alive. If you need to supplementary feed, first plan a diet that will maintain stock in good health until there is enough grass in paddocks again. A FEED PROGRAM BUDGET Calculate how much it will cost you to feed your livestock over summer. Work out how much food each animal will eat and how much this feed will cost. Weigh sheep or cattle and check your state’s Department of Agriculture website for recommended amounts. Estimate the length of time you might need to feed by checking your region’s historical rainfall from the Bureau of Meteorology. CHOOSE FEED TYPES Consider the cheapest feed in relation to each unit of energy. The most common feed types are cereal grains, such as wheat, barley and oats, along with roughage or fibre such as www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

hay, straw or silage. Sheep and cattle need at least 10 per cent roughage so you must feed them some of this, unless freely available in the paddock as dead grass. The cheapest way to buy is based on its cost for each unit of energy. Wheat straw might be more expensive than wheat grain, because wheat straw has about 5-6 mega- joules of energy a kilogram and wheat grain have 13MJ/kg. The grain is only two-thirds the cost of the straw calculated for each unit of energy. Understand too that stock need a certain quality of feed wheat straw on its own is inadequate for energy needs. Young, pregnant and lactating animals also require a diet high in protein, so legumes (peas or lupins) or clover-Lucerne hay might be needed. CONSIDER HEALTH PROBLEMS All stock going on to grain feeding should receive a clostridial vaccine (five in one, six in one or seven in one) and a drench to kill parasites if they have a

positive faecal egg count. AVOID SUDDEN DIET CHANGE Ruminants’ stomachs are not designed to cope with sudden changes. This is particularly important when feeding grain or other feeds high in starch, because these produce a rapid increase in acid that can make an animal sick or even kill it. This is called grain poisoning or acidosis. Slowly increase the amount of grain given over two to three weeks. Start feeding stock before they are desperately short of feed. Start sheep on about 50g of grain day and cattle on lkg. Increase this every third or fourth day so after three weeks a complete ration can be fed. ADJUST REGIME Any change in grain type should be blended with old grain so the ruminant can adapt to the new feed. Changes in weather can also increase or reduce the feed requirement, especially in cold weather when a higher fibre diet might be needed. South West Queensland Farming Guide 137


Ear tags for identification Ear tags are one of the quickest, cheapest and safest forms of identification for many livestock and cause minimal pain on application. They come in plastic or metal and in different colours, some are pre-printed with numbers and letters and some are blank so you can write or stamp on them.Some ear tags are mandatory. Cattle, sheep or goats must have a National Livestock Identification System — NLIS - tag applied in their right ear before they leave the property. Some animals must have an eight alphanumeric Property Identification Code — PIC — tag in their ear. Its colour denotes the year of the animal’s birth. Stock movement is retained in a national livestock database, so if Australia had an exotic disease outbreak, stock movements can be traced, and the risk of disease transmission reduced. Different ear tags require different methods of application. Using an incorrect applicator can damage the tag and the ear. Some ear tags come as two pieces, usually referred to as a male piece and a female piece, while others come as a single tag. Some tags have a sharp point that


Stock movement is retained in a national livestock database

pierces the ear while others rely on the tag applicator to pierce the ear. Tags and applicator must be kept clean during ear tagging and disinfectant applied to both to avoid ear infection. To apply an ear tag, hold the animal's head firmly to prevent it jumping. Some applicators push the tag straight through the ear. Others cut or punch a hole, so the tag can be pulled through. Small animals such as sheep can be straddled or held during application, while large animals such as cows are best restrained in a head bale. To guarantee stock are permanently identified, use two ear tags — one in each ear — as some tags can fall out or be torn out, particularly when stock graze through fences. 138 South West Queensland Farming Guide



Lick blocks and feed deficiencies While cereal grains will support cattle when feed is short, more is often needed for good health. An excellent way to discover what your cattle or sheep might be lacking, particularly in the form of minerals, is by trialling a block indicator system. One of the best tests for mineral deficiencies is to lay out five different combinations of mineral mixes and your stock will begin licking whatever their body requires. Blocks should include multi-nutrient protein supplement, a mineral supplement, a by-pass protein supplement, a bentonite supplement and a seasonal condition supplement for bloat or grass tetany. (Some nutritional supplements companies supply such blocks.) Some blocks will likely be almost untouched while others will be licked down to the size of a tennis ball within days. The same experiment in a new season may give different results. Once you know what is lacking, it’s simply a matter of making available appropriate supplements. PROTEIN PACK: Copra meal, made from coconut extract, is one of the best protein sources for ruminants. It’s high in all-important by-pass protein (60 per cent) that partly lasts through digestion in the rumen. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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Marketing and selling MARKETING is an often-misused term. People will say they are going to “market” something when really, they mean they are going to sell it. But, sales is only part of the marketing framework. While there is a large body of academic theory about marketing, including many university courses, it is a process anyone can apply to selling produce with positive results. Often termed the “marketing mix" by professionals, the process consists of the four Ps: product, price, place and promotion. THE FOUR Ps: The use of the word "mix" is quite deliberate. The activities overlap and entwine, each affecting the other. The starting point is not to list what you want to produce, but what your customers want to buy. You will not be successful unless the two overlap. If, for example, you are growing vegetables, you need to grow vegetables that people want (product), make them available where people who want them are going to be (place) and ensure they represent good value (price). The final jigsaw piece is to make sure the target audience knows about the other three pieces (promotion). Before ploughing headfirst into a business, it pays to do some research. Marketing jargon aside, the process makes sense. There are only two things you need to know to make money from farming. For instance. if you are growing vegetables, you need to know how to grow them and how to sell them. Nothing to it. Growing them is the easier of the two. Sure, there is weather and disease and just plain old bad luck to contend with, but the biggest obstacle — lack of knowledge — is relatively easy to overcome You can ask others, read books. search the internet and give it a red hot go. You can start small and iron out the bugs (literally and figuratively) before committing the larger resources of time, land and money. The big challenge is getting rid of what you grow and getting paid for it. PRODUCT CHOICE: There are two main considerations in deciding what to produce. The first is to work out what you can successfully produce on your farm depending on its soil type, water resources and your skills and equipment. The second is to predict what is likely to be popular. For example, a farmer may be able to grow okra successfully, but is anyone likely to buy it? Finding answers to these questions requires two different areas of inquiry - farming research and market research. With a little persistence and planning, both can be done by anyone. MARKET RESEARCH: Market research covers all the Ps - product, price, place and promotion. Create a list of things to produce- potential productsby looking at what is already being sold in a range of different outlets and what is being written and talked about in the media. If you are producing a food product such as vegetables, the food scene is a popular part of modern culture and there is plenty of useful information circulating. Identifying media channels that talk about any aspect of www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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fresh vegetables will also help develop personal selling strategies, which can include advertising and promotion. The major supermarket chains and, at the other extreme, farmers' market stalls are valuable sources of market intelligence. Other outlets to visit include roadside vendors in fruit and vegetable-growing districts, traditional greengrocers, and specialist larger scale fruit and vegetable retailers. Of the vegetables sold at each location, you can record the in-season varieties that you could grow, including prices for all product options on your list, such as per kilogram, per bunch, by the bag and in bulk. Similar principles apply to all farm products. By going through this process you will benefit from all these sellers' market research because it determines what they sell and how it changes from week to week. For little more than a bit of your own time, you can take advantage of sophisticated market analysis carried out by major retailers. For many products, local farmers' market vendors may be among the most important sources of information, especially if you plan to sell at markets. It is worth chatting to them about their range, plus it helps you to get to know the competition. From these fact-gathering activities you can end up with a list of potential

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products to provide, and possibly a few to avoid. This kind of market research is a year-round undertaking because your range might change with the seasons. It’s one limitation is that it is not especially predictive- it can only tell you what is popular right now. As your record of information builds, you should see some patterns emerge in the way different types of business operate. When you have compiled a list of what to produce, it doesn't hurt to run it past friends and family. Their honest, off-the-cuff reactions can be helpful. COMPLETING THE P WORK: If you follow the above steps you will have covered just about all of the first P: products you might produce; a good part of the second P: place, or more likely places, you will sell your produce; and made a good start on the third P: price you will charge.


Before ploughing headfirst into a business. it pays to do some research. The fourth P, promotion, is a topic all on its own. In the early stages of growing and selling vegetables, for example, it might be best to keep

promotion low key- the last thing you need is huge demand when you are just starting. Your market research will provide a month by month list of varieties to sow and harvest. This list will be the forerunner of your production planner. By this stage you will be thinking about setting production targets so you can generate income throughout the year. SELLING DIRECT TO CUSTOMER: There are thousands of farmers bypassing traditional markets and selling direct to customers. The happy fact is that customers will deal with you if they know you, like you and trust you. Farmers who deal directly with customers estimate the vast majority of their orders are from those who know their farm, their products and maybe even families. Generally, the remaining tiny percentage, who order online or see an advertisement in the local paper, do so as they love knowing whatever they’re buying has been locally produced and comes direct from the farmer. OPEN DOORS FINDING MARKETS Never underestimate the value of quizzing representatives of rural government departments and licensing bodies on potential markets for your produce. They spend their days talking to producers just like yourself and inevitably know the best markets.



Good oil on selling at farmers' markets them yourself. Offer samples to people. CONSTANTLY restock bins and containers to achieve maximum display and be aware that it is better to have a small container overflowing with produce. CREATE a website so customers can buy online if they can't visit the market. ATTEND other farmers' markets to see how others are doing it and check out the top sellers. GIVE people a little time to browse before going into selling mode. SHOW loyalty to your customers by seeking out those products they might be looking for.

TRY TO avoid price-cutting wars. IF YOU are selling organic products, let your customers know with signage. SEEK rare and unusual items for those customers who like something different. REALISE that farmers' market customers are generally looking for an alternative to traditional outlets. So avoid having your stall looking like a glitzy shopping centre outlet. SELL the sort of items you might buy. You'll do it with much more passion and enjoy it more than if selling things you don't like. Use your passion and purpose to further yourself.

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PRODUCE quality products. NEVER display substandard goods. ALWAYS put on a happy face. People generally don't like buying from grumps. NEVER skimp on signage, but keep it readable, informative and fun. SHARE your story. Display stories and photos of your farm to convey the excitement and passion you have for the venture. TRY TO sell as many value-added products as possible. You can likely get far more per item if, say, you turn those eggs into cakes and gourmet products. IF SELLING edibles, be seen eating

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Organic Farming Organic farming means different things to different people To some it is simply playing it smart by reducing the amount of chemicals they spray around the farm, maybe learning to use a little less fossil fuel and avoiding growth hormones. To others it is more a holistic choice that goes well beyond the farm and into their lifestyle decisions. Still others are following the organic route because it makes good business sense to produce for a market that has become so organically aware. Whatever the reasons, organic farming in its many variants is here to stay and with each generation assumes greater importance. SO WHAT EXACTLY IS ORGANIC FARMING A common definition is that it’s production and farming that is sustainable and harmonious with the environment, without the use of synthetic chemicals. In Australia there are several certifying organisations. The two main certifying organisations, the Biological Farmers of Australia, BFA, and the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture, Australia, NASAA, demand farmers abide by the highest standards. Becoming certified acknowledges a farm’s organic integrity, while giving it access as an organic producer to markets both in Australia and overseas. Certification is a process that can take many months and sometimes years and involves regular inspections and reviews. Certified organic producers can generally expect to sell for higher prices, although there can be greater costs involved in labour. After nearly 12 years of discussion, in 2016, the Organic Industry Standards and Certification Council, OISCC. and the Organic Federation of Australia, OFA, launched a National Organic Mark, a logo to be used on organic certified products from Australia. Similar to America's USDA Organic and the European Union's organic seals, it is expected to become an international trademark for Australian organic produce. Of course, some will argue that organic farming is nothing new, that it's merely a rebadging or formalising of traditional farming methods used pre-1950s, before the introduction of mass chemical and fertiliser use that came with the so-called "green revolution". In some ways this is true. Beyond organic farming, there are numerous newer, and sometimes older, farming philosophies and ideologies of which Australian farmers are being made aware. FARMING WITH MINIMAL CHEMICALS: Chemicals are great. You have to wonder where farmers would be without them. But many landholders would prefer to minimise or even avoid chemical use altogether, whether or not they want organic www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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certification. The difficulty often is finding reliable advice about how to farm successfully without waging chemical warfare. THE RIGHT ADVICE: Farming has become capital intensive and labour averse, more agribusiness than agrarian lifestyle, and the type of advice available has also changed. Much of the advice from sources such as sales staff and government agriculture departments tends to be more about farming with chemicals than not. Ask how to avoid chemicals and you could get a wry smile. On a bad day you might be labelled a fool or worse, a greenie! If you want to steer clear of chemicals it is necessary to dig a little deeper. CHEMICALS GOOD AND BAD: The word chemical is loaded. Everything farmers use on their paddocks and crops, and which they give to their animals -from compost tea to seaweed lick- is made of chemicals and it is impossible to produce food in any meaningful way without using chemicals. The distinction between a chemical to be avoided and an acceptable one for those who wish to farm "chemically free" hinges on numerous things. These include toxicity, biodegradability, environmental damage before, during and after application, potential to develop resistant strains of target pest and weed species and, last but not least, user hazards. Organic certification schemes can give some guide to safer or approved sprays as they include lists of approved materials. Interestingly there can still be debate. For example, while copper sulphate is generally regarded as an approved and safe fungicide, it can be hazardous to users and continued, heavy use may contaminate soil. Some have argued it should not be approved for certified organic produce. USING CHEMICALS: Before jumping on that treadmill and dousing paddocks and plants with expensive chemicals, it might be best to step back and reflect. Is it really essential, or is the target pest not really a big problem and may soon fall away naturally. Understand what the chemical does to everything it is likely to hit, not just the target organism - is the result worth the collateral damage? If in doubt, don't spray. 146 South West Queensland Farming Guide



The good stuff

of many plants and is a strong broad-spectrum insecticide with low mammalian toxicity. It is highly dangerous to fish. NEEM OIL extracts can repel unwanted insects while not being harmful to birds, mammals or earthworms. MINERAL OILS including summer and winter oil are light, petroleum-derived oils used to smother surface-dwelling pests. BIOLOGICAL CONTROL agents are organisms, generally predators, which prevent pest numbers from building to problem levels. Pesticides, including "approved" ones, can also kill biological controls, so careful planning and lifecycle knowledge are necessary before spending money on biological controls. PHEREMONES either attract (to sticky traps) or confuse insects by mimicking natural male and female chemical mating signals. For more information visit nasaa.com.au 7027598af

Here are some pest-control measures generally approved in certified farming systems. They should be used in a targeted and limited fashion and not as a regular blanket spray as many can still kill natural predators. FUNGI AND BACTERIA COPPER-BASED SPRAYS such as Bordeaux and Burgundy prevent fungal and bacterial infection, but will not cure an existing problem. LIME SULPHUR SPRAYS control fungi, bacteria and some insect pests including mites. SULPHUR DUST is used to prevent or minimise fungal problems especially in orchards. MILK (mixed with water) can assist in fungal and insect pest control. INSECTS AND OTHER CHEWERS AND PESTS PYRETHRUM is an effective contact poison, although it must contact the insect when sprayed. It has low mammalian toxicity and breaks down quickly in sunlight. ROTENONE is derived from the root

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Five financial reasons to go organic The Global organic market is worth close to US$100 billion. Organic opportunities are opening up for Australian exporters because, according to the peak industry body Australian Organic, production in North America and Europe has not kept pace with organic demand. With the Chinese middle class growing rapidly and expected to reach 950 million people by 2030, demands

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for healthy organic produce, such as Australian beef, will likely soar. The organic industry is one of the nation's fastest growing industries with an annual growth of about 15 per cent over recent years. This is far greater than 3.4 per cent for conventional food. The export value of the Australian organic sector has increased to more than $340 million.

CHEMICAL RESIDUE AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATION If you intend to seek organic certification for your farm, it is important to understand the history of chemical and industrial use on the land. Some chemicals perhaps now restricted or banned, such as DDT, persist for many years and may prevent the land meeting certification requirements.



Organic thinking Think carefully before you introduce unsustainable and expensive seeds and fertilisers to bare soils. Before planting your first organic crop, prepare the land with the use of stock rotation and paddock rest, inexpensive indigenous plants, dead plant matter and a deep ripper and recycled fencing materials to boost surface plant litter by up to 200mm. GATHER trailer-loads of dead branches, rotting logs, pruning’s from other places on your property or the local green recycling depot and lay them at right angles across the bare ground to give shelter to soil biota. Avoid weed stock such as gorse. Once set up, stock will avoid the area, grasses will grow, water penetration will soar up to 10 times and organic carbon in the soil will double within a few years. DEVELOP surface roughness -deep-rip soil on contours every year when the ground is soft. This allows rainwater to take nutrients down with it and stores the moisture in the ground for several weeks. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

WHOLE-FARM planting - trees planted evenly spaced over the whole farm- with native and indigenous trees such as chinese mining bush, prickly wattle and black wattle will give you a quick supply of organic matter to cut and lay on the ground. If you can lightly plough the ground beforehand, throw a mix of cocksfoot, phalaris, rye grass and clover in. CONTOUR fence and rotate stock. Animals are fertiliser factories, so place them where their hooves will grind their droppings into the surface layer. Crumbly soil will appear in the compost-like surface in a year or two. GIVE the paddock a long rest from grazing so grass can grow and decompose into the soil. WHERE ORGANIC FARMING ORIGINATED: Many of its ideas stemmed from farmers of old and experimentation, yet it was not until 1940 that people actually started referring to "organic farming". The credit goes to Englishman Baron Northbourne (Walter Ernest

Christopher James) who wrote about it in his book Look To The Land. He appealed for the land to be looked after as a "living organism", casting doubt on the increasing use of artificial fertilisers and pointing out there had been a rapid fall in real fertility in the first part of the 1900s. He warned that chemical farming would only make the situation worse. Over the following decades, others converted to organic farming and soon scientific tests comparing chemical to organic farming were undertaken. In 1962 many of the theories were brought together with American marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, which revealed the alarming effects of the pesticide DDT. Carson's book prompted the US Government to become active in preventing water and air pollution and the misuse of pesticides. TIME magazine named her among the 100 most important people of the 20th Century. South West Queensland Farming Guide 149


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Perfect Paddocks Whether growing feed for stock or crops for export, paddocks are only as good as the soil they contain. Maintaining good soil health and fertility, and farming using sustainable management practices, are all vital elements in achieving good profits from crop and pasture production. SOIL NUTRITION Many Australian soils are naturally deficient in nutrients essential for the growth of plants. Soil fertility declines as crops are produced and harvested, with nutrients removed via produce grown on the farm. It has been calculated that for every tonne of wheat harvested, about 60kg of nutrients may be removed, while beef cattle can remove up to 45kg of nutrients from each hectare. Nutrients such as nitrogen can be lost in other ways such as leaching and de-nitrification. De-nitrification occurs when nitrate nitrogen is converted to gaseous nitrogen (ammonia) and lost to the atmosphere, especially in poorly aerated or waterlogged soil. Extremes of soil acidity or alkalinity may also make nutrients unavailable to plants. Healthy plant growth depends on the soil’s ability to be supplied with air, water and nutrients from the soil. Mineral nutrients may be supplied from soils or from organic matter (decomposing plant and animal material). Some elements are required by the plant in large amounts and are known as macro-nutrients, while some are required in small amounts and are known as micro-nutrients or trace elements. Macro-nutrients include nitrogen – N, phosphorusP, potassium – K, sulphur – S, calcium – Ca, and magnesium – Mg. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the most are the most likely nutrients to be deficient in Australian soils. Micro-nutrients include zinc – An, boron – B, molybdenum – Mo, iron – Fe, cobalt – Co, aluminium – Al, and copper – Cu. These trace elements are likely to be deficient according to soil type, pH and the type of plants grown. SOIL TESTING The first step in improving paddock soils is testing. It is vital to measure soil nutrient levels to determine fertiliser requirements for crops and pasture. Different soil types need to be sampled separately. Avoid areas of the paddock such as stock camps, tracks and headlands. Take samples covering all parts of the paddock.


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What your paddock needs NITROGEN: Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for yield and grain protein in crops. About 20kg of it is removed from the farm soil in every tonne of grain grown. Nitrogen fertiliser is the main source of nitrogen in higher-rainfall areas. while pasture legumes are important sources of nitrogen in drier areas. Common nitrogen fertilisers include urea, sulphate of ammonia and anhydrous ammonia. Legume species such as clovers and medics have the ability to "fix" much of their own nitrogen in root nodules containing the bacteria rhizobium. For example, lucerne grown in crop rotations can help maximise nitrogen input and provide rotation benefits such as weed and disease control. 152 South West Queensland Farming Guide

Organic matter levels in the soil determine the levels of mineralised nitrogen available to plants, in addition to other sources of soil nitrogen. The combination of all these sources of nitrogen inputs needs to match or exceed all forms of loss for farming to be sustainable. The main symptoms of nitrogen deficiency are reduced growth of plants. and a yellowing of leaves. Regular fertiliser test strips can help determine any yield potential available. PHOSPHORUS Phosphorus is a vital nutrient that is deficient in many soils, particularly in the northern cropping areas of Australia. Soil erosion causes depletion of phosphorus, as it's generally concentrated in the topsoil. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Phosphorus is chemically reactive in the soil and readily becomes "fixed" to soil particles, making it unavailable for plant growth. Superphosphate applications over many year can build up in the soil, making the phosphorus more available to plants. Those deficient in phosphorus have poor root development, reduced growth and a reduction in seedling vigour. Common phosphorus fertilisers are superphosphate, rock-phosphate, MAP and DAP. POTASSIUM High-production areas with high removal of nutrients, such as dairy farms, are the most common areas for potassium deficiencies. It mostly occurs on light, red loamy and sandy soils. A mild deficiency is difficult to distinguish from nitrogen deficiency although, as the severity increases. white or yellow spots can develop in older leaves. Light brown spotting occurs on sub-clover. In cereal crops, yellow lesions can appear inside the margins of the oldest leaves, which eventually cause the edges of the leaves to die. The most common potassic fertilisers

are muriate of potash and potassium sulphate. SULPHUR Sulphur levels decline markedly in cropping areas that are cultivated annually. The element is readily removed in grain and other farm products and is inherently low in more basaltic type soils. Soil erosion hastens its decline. Sulphur deficiency is indicated when plants, especially the younger leaves, are pale green. The older leaves generally remain green. Sulphur can he applied in the form of sulphate of ammonia and potassium sulphate, and is also contained in gypsum. ZINC Zinc can become deficient in soils with high pH levels. This occurs because of the zinc becoming less available to plants. Annual cultivation and soil erosion hastens its removal. Reducing pH levels with lime can remedy the problem and increase its availability to plants. Zinc can be applied in foliar sprays (zinc sulphate heptahydrate) and in many starter fertilisers.

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Fertilisers FOLIAR SPRAYS In foliar fertilisation, a diluted solution of fertiliser is sprayed on to the leaves at a relatively low rate to prevent leaf burn. Foliar sprays are an efficient way of applying trace elements such as zinc, and can often be mixed with herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. HIGH ANALYSIS FERTILISERS Fertilisers that contain higher concentrations of the desired nutrients than are normally found are referred to as "high analysis" fertilisers. Lower application rates are required, and therefore savings can be made in transport and application costs, even though the product is often slightly more expensive. PELLETED FERTILISERS These fertilisers have been treated to form pellets of a uniform size. There is therefore less dust present, greater uniformity of flow when applied, and absence of particle segregation. Composite fertilisers such as ammonium phosphate nitrate and urea ammonium phosphate are generally available in pelletised form. GRANULAR FERTILISERS These fertilisers have been screened to remove fine particles. They are like pelletised products but contain a wider range of particle sizes. It is usually only possible to treat conventional fertilisers such as urea or superphosphate in this way. GET THE BEST PRICE The cost of the fertiliser can be assessed by looking at the cost of each nutrient present. It is useful to compare different fertilisers to assess which product contains the nutrients you require, at the best price. By performing the below calculation for various fertilisers containing the same required nutrient, the lowest price of the nutrient can be assessed. The cost and practicalities of application must then be considered. The cost per tonne of fertiliser product ($/tonne divided by 10 times the percentage of nutrient) gives the cost per kilogram of nutrient, in $/kg. CONSIDER FACTORS OTHER THAN THE COST OF THE PRODUCT Ask these questions before buying fertiliser. WILL the nutrient be readily available to plants? CAN the product be applied effectively? That is, can it be sprayed, spread, banded or injected? 154 South West Queensland Farming Guide

WILL application of the fertiliser have other effects such as increasing acidity of the soil? DO I have access to the necessary application equipment? DOES the timing of application coincide with plant requirement? DO weather conditions allow fertiliser to be available to plants? DOES it require rain to wash it into the soil?


The cost of the fertiliser can be assessed by looking at the cost of each nutrient present www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Establishing new pasture Few sowed pastures pay for themselves within five years, but there are some plants that are cheap and easy to establish. The cost of establishing new pasture can be hard to justify unless you are involved in a highly profitable enterprise. Few sowed pastures pay for themselves within five years -or even survive- because of droughts, unsuitable soil or climate type, low fertiliser inputs or continual stocking. The cost of the seed and fertiliser, plus the contractor's seed drill and tractor hire (maybe $300 a hectare), mean many property owners are not enthusiastic about the cost or benefit of sowing. However, the good news is there are a few quality and palatable pasture plants that are easy and cheap to establish and may naturally regenerate and thicken with wise management. These pastures can simply multiply in an established pasture, self-seeding in late spring summer. Later in autumn-winter- when moisture and

temperatures are ideal- these seeds will sprout strong seedlings that become healthy pasture at no cost. The key with natural regeneration is seed and soil contact. A good general rule is to cover a seed to its thickness with fine soil and press in. You will also need moisture in the soil, minimum weed competition and a huge amount of seed. The trick is to get the pasture established in the first place and then follow up with careful management: either soil tests and lots of fertiliser or organic sprays, or high animal impactmouths to eat mature grass to let in sunlight, droppings to fertilise and hooves to press the seed into the ground. Opt for short grazings with long rest periods afterwards. The best place to find suitable species is on the side of the road beside your paddock. A walk through the grass with a local farmer who knows the species will show you what species thrive in your soil and climate. Typical opportunistic species include phalaris, clovers, ryegrasses, fescues, cocksfoots

and tonic plantains, as well as natives such as weeping grass. Then find identical cultivars from a pasture seed stockist. SPECIES TO TRY PHALARIS Phalaris is a wonder grass. Tough and able to produce huge amounts of feed, it keeps the soil together and increases carbon above and below the ground. It is easily managed, as long as you have the stock to graze it at specific times. There are now a few tolerant varieties such as Atlas PG and Holdfast GT that are easier to establish and persist longer with heavier grazing. Rotational grazing will extend the life of the pasture and allow it to withstand dry periods especially if you avoid grazing it during spring. Even direct drilling without fertiliser or removing stock will give up to 100 per cent coverage on bare ground. Bare ground is preferred because weed competition hinders new pasture establishment. TONIC PLANTAIN


The best place to find suitable species is on the side of the road beside your paddock. A walk through the grass with a local farmer who knows the species will show you what species thrive in your soil and climate.


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This often thrives on roadsides so can be direct drilled. It is a highly nutritious and fattening herb and one of the most persistent perennials. It can be rested during spring to drop its seeds and regenerate even more. It has the ability to grow in all soil types and provide excellent nutrition. It also helps prevent scours, or diarrhoea. Curiously, tonic plantain seeds germinate and thrive among dead litter and grass up to 200mm high. The dark green leaves of the mature plant suggest superior health and fattening properties. RYEGRASS It has come a long way from the old Victorian perennial version that causes ailments such as ryegrass staggers. Crusader is by far the better choice of ryegrass as it establishes easily with direct drilling and gives masses of fattening-type growth in highly fertile climates with more than 600mm rainfall. Expect three years out of it before you have to reseed. NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK There are several newer perennial species showing promise in terms of nutritional value for finishing off livestock. These are hardy, tolerate dry conditions and stand up well to 156 South West Queensland Farming Guide

grazing. They are worth including in a conventional seed mix along with typical ryegrasses and clovers to see what survives in five years. SUBTERRANEAN CLOVER This clover seems to appear naturally in paddocks that have been well grazed - with adequate fertility from manure and devoid of high dry grasses so adequate sunlight can penetrate. One of the newer clover varieties, Riverina, has 20 per cent hard-seed content. This means if you get a false autumn break in mid to late summer, not all of this variety will germinate at once and then shrivel and die in the hot sun like most clovers do. Instead, up to 20 per cent of it will germinate later in autumn and winter when it has a better chance of surviving. Subterranean clover is easy to establish in autumn-winter on heavily stocked bare earth by simply casting the seed by hand and using your dog to


There are several newer perennial species showing promise in terms of nutritional value for finishing off livestock. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


run a flock of sheep over the area to grind it into the ground. Simply scatter the seed beside the grain feeders by hand and let the sheep eat it and scatter it themselves. There is no need to withdraw stock while the clover is germinating or establishing. UPLANDS SPANISH COCKSFOOT Tolerates dry and cold conditions and is suitable for low-rainfall areas (350mm to 500mm a year). It produces high quality feed through autumn to late spring and is dormant in summer. FLECHA MAX P TALL FESCUE Dormant in summer and an ideal alternative to phalaris, Flecha Max P Tall Fescue has outperformed phalaris in terms of yield and grows well in low-rainfall zones, down to 350mm. It also hangs on year after year, although should not be fed to horses either fresh or as hay. ARROTAS ARROWLEAF CLOVER A late-maturing clover that produces quality, late season feed for lambs or beef. This deep-rooted annual tolerates drought and cold conditions and has a digestibility of 70 per cent. Just 30 per cent of the dry matter is waste, compared to standard grasses that can have a digestibility of about 50 per cent.


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Top pasture tips NOTE what grows freely on roadsides, because it could establish and persist well in your paddock. Phalaris, cocksfoot, wild oats, demeter fescue and plantain often thrive and even become a fire hazard. They are telling you the local climate and acidity are just right. ASK your seed specialist about new varieties to replace old ones. For example, new tall fescue is more palatable for cattle. ANALYSE your style of farming and your current pasture. If you are a "set stock and forget it" farmer, don't consider sowing new perennial pasture, as your stock will preferentially grub and flog it to death and you will be left with hilltops of capeweed. However, if you are serious about managing your new investment by monitoring leaf stage, with rotational grazing over several paddocks, go ahead with a small trial. The new pasture may take several years to pay for itself. IF YOUR current pasture is covered with annual weeds such as barley grass, capeweed or the winter-dormant bent grass (such as a couch, which spreads as a thick impenetrable mat above and below ground), consider sowing. By doing this, you could increase production three-fold as well as cut down on supplementary feeding. Another method is to use the spray and graze technique, which involves spraying a herbicide, followed up by grazing. This knocks the bent grass, making the plant sweeter to eat and allowing the better species, such as clovers, some sunlight. Some farmers plough and sow an oat or fodder crop to loosen up the thick bent grass mats, and then sow down to perennial pasture the next year. LOOK for highly productive native grasses that respond well to summer storms. Identify them and be grateful you have them, as they fetch the minerals deeper down and are a wonderful buffer against erosion and salinity. Rotate stock to keep the grass in these paddocks maintained at no

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less than 5cm ground cover. INCLUDE some clovers, which put nitrogen into the soil, in a mix. There are new safe perennial ryegrasses with nil or novel endophytes, to stop the disease of ryegrass staggers, as well as new phalaris and fescue varieties. Ask a seed merchant for details. CONSIDER direct drilling - that is, sowing without ploughing - because your results are likely to be better. Direct drilling is done about 10 days after glyphosate spraying. The beauty of it is that it doesn't activate millions of weed seeds like ploughing does, and

the drill furrows attract moisture. Get a soil test done so you know what fertilisers to add. A WORD OF WARNING Be wary of introducing new pasture species that are either ridiculously high-maintenance or not an improvement. While some farmers may get higher dry-matter production from their so-called improved pastures, it can come at the price of high fuel and herbicide, pesticide and fertiliser inputs, while producing an unnatural diet for animals



Green manure crops So, for little more than the cost of seed and some tractor time, you end up with a mass of organic matter in the soil. After a green manure crop has been processed, it is possible to grow a cash crop with little or no added fertiliser. Green manure crops are best cut down and ploughed as they begin to flower. Either cut down plants first or plough them straight into the ground before seed set. Dense and bulky green manure crops are best mowed or slashed before turning in to avoid clogging up ploughs or cultivators. A mulching mower is best as it breaks up plant material into small pieces aiding decomposition. A slasher can be used although it can take a little more work to incorporate the un-mulched green material into the soil. PERMANENT GREEN MANURE While most green manure crops last only a few months until they are incorporated into the soil, sometimes permanent grass cover is established to build and maintain soil fertility over the long term. In orchards and vineyards, for example, the grass growing between trees and vines is mowed regularly, but not grazed. Each time the grass is mowed, the root system will also reduce in volume to match the reduced above-ground foliage. Both the unwanted root material and the grass clippings decompose to enrich the soil. Between each cut, sunlight powers photosynthesis to produce more plant material using carbon from the atmosphere. In this way, many orchards and vineyards can do well on little or no added fertiliser.

WHEN TO SOW Green manure crops can be sown at almost any time of year depending on location, climate and the type of farming situation. Market gardeners are heavy users of green manure crops. Many sow green manure crops throughout the year as harvests of each cash crop are completed. By avoiding leaving soil bare for any length of time, weeds have less opportunity to grow. Seed agents can advise on the best green manure crops for your needs.

Ann LEAHY MP Member for Warrego


One of the most righteous acts a farmer, or gardener, can do is to grow some green manure. Like the snake oil of times gone by, green manuring promises to heal many ailments and promote health and wealth, if not wisdom. Unlike snake oil, it actually works. Annual crops that generally germinate quickly and grow aggressively to maturity in far less than 12 months are ideal. Once turned into the soil, annual plants won't regrow from their roots unlike many perennials. Ideal crops include cereals and legumes such as broad beans, field peas and lupins. Green manuring in simple terms is the practice of growing a crop for the sole purpose of enriching the soil. This is achieved by ploughing the green manure crop into the soil before it flowers. The result is that all the bulk of the plant, roots and above-ground parts, decomposes and adds organic matter to the soil. This, in turn, allows beneficial organisms such as earthworms and soil fungi to thrive. Ultimately the humus content of the soil is raised resulting in a richer, more fertile environment. SOMETHING FOR NOTHING You rarely get something for nothing in life, but green manuring goes pretty close. As the green manure crop grows, generally without fertiliser or irrigation, sunlight-powered photosynthesis uses atmospheric carbon to build plant tissue. Water and smaller quantities of soil-based elements are also used, but most plant dry matter, what is left when you take the water away, is made from carbon.

Shadow Minister for Local Government

Roma OfďŹ ce

74 Wyndham Street, Roma Qld 4455 PO Box 945, Roma Qld 4455 4570 1100 or 1800 814 479

Dalby OfďŹ ce

129 Cunningham Street, Dalby Qld 4405 PO Box 262, Dalby Qld 4405 4519 0700 or 1800 625 430



Authorised by A. Leahy. 74 Wyndham St, Roma Qld 4455


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Pasture problems Invasive grasses and weeds are horrible pests that can spell disaster for paddocks and livestock, but there are ways to conquer them. BENT GRASS BENT GRASS (Agrostis spp.) or brown-tops is an invasive couch that is summer active-winter dormant and has only a fraction of the nutritional value of healthy pastures. It gives the illusion of wonderfully productive pasture offering a mass of feed during mid-summer but becomes a horrible pest when grazing stock lose condition over winter. Not to be confused with kangaroo grass from a distance, which has a similar brown top, it thrives across much of the country. It is estimated that bent grass dominates up to two million hectares of Victoria, causing lost production in the hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Bent grass has a flat, prostrate habit in winter, grows lush during mid-spring, then sends up thin stems with flower heads in early summer. It favours wet, low-lying areas with clay soils with a pH of 4.3 to 6 in rainfall zones as low as 500mm per year. It is rare in highly fertile, well-managed paddocks or hilly areas. Giant patches of the weed can dominate a paddock. During winter, when the green plant is dormant and the old plant material oxidises above and smothers clovers and other grasses from sunlight, bent grass can have less than 3 per cent protein and be of little more benefit than cardboard. When cut for hay, horses usually only eat it if they are extremely hungry. Cattle seem to handle it better, particularly when they need "packing" or roughage as the colder months come around. Sheep will often sniff it and walk away, especially if it has been rained on and bleached during the curing process and then baled without green stems. Saturation with molasses will entice stock to eat it. ON THE RUN Bent grass grows as a mat of grass and roots so thick that it is almost impossible to dig out with a shovel. A 160 South West Queensland Farming Guide

small snip of root or leaf will easily begin a new independent plant. Its seeds spread easily in the wind, but this drought-tolerant perennial may not seed if well grazed during dry seasons. TACTICS SUBDIVIDE your farm into smaller paddocks and manage-rotate the animal impact and get an independent soil test done. The only thing bent grass hates more than fertile soil is a mob of cattle or sheep grazing it down defecating over it and using their hooves to grind the urine and pats into the roots. This also allows sunlight in so other grasses have a chance. Stock should be rotated on and off and fed hay as often as desired. UP THE competition - direct drill better species or, use glyphosate at the manufacturer's recommendations on a sunny spring day to booms pray and ultimately kill the bent grass. Then, seven to 10 days later, direct drill better seeds into the root mass. A fodder crop such as hunter or rape - alone or with a few grasses and clovers - is one of the best mixes. It is hard to completely kill bent grass in the first year. Two years of direct drill cropping will have the bent grass root mass well into decay and conducive to alternative seed establishment. HARROW in chicken manure during late winter- apply seven to 10 tonnes per hectare responsibly (far from waterways). Smudging it on to leaves and stems will boost nitrogen levels and soil nutrition to achieve a few positive outcome. Other grass species will begin to outgrow the dormant bent grass and proliferate with more sunlight being available. But be aware that the use of chicken manure can cause bloat in cattle and prolapse in ewes. ANNUAL WEEDS In paddocks that have been cropped or grazed, and particularly around yards, many types of summer weeds can be a problem. In summer, Bathurst burr¡ can grow to a metre with its aggressive spikes

and velcro-like burrs. Nightshade, with its black berries, is poisonous to hungry stock but sheep will ignore it if they have plenty of other feed. The drought resistant and perennial horehound will become metre-wide bushes within a few years if not controlled. If you have brought in fodder over the past several years, there could be other nasties there as well. The key is to get rid of them before they set seed. Ride over the farm on a motorbike with a small mattock and dig out any nasties by their roots. If you have left it too late and your weeds have set seed, take the whole plant and dispose of it responsibly. Throw the whole plant (while carefully picking up seeds that have dropped on the ground) into a plastic bag and seal it. The message: there will be nasty weeds out there about to seed (one year's seed set results in seven to 20 years of weeds to annoy you), so know your enemy, plan your attack and take action. PERENNIAL WEEDS Gorse and blackberry can erupt after drought years. Summer rain equals faster growth. Spray these woody perennials when they are growing and follow up with are-spray every two months. Where gorse is impenetrable, consider cool burning (outside the fire-danger period) or slash it to ground level and spray the re-growth several weeks later. (Remember to notify your local fire authority if you plan to burn). If you do burn, slash or bulldoze, you must have a plan to handle the regrowth or you will have a bigger problem than you started with. EROSION Heavy rain can carry away tonnes of nutrient-rich organic matter. Reduce the problem by deep ripping along the contours (at right angles to the gullies) of each paddock so the storm water is spread out along the contours of each gully.


Tree rewards

Trees can improve habitat, provide shade and shelter for grazing animals and crops, add income through the sale of timber or firewood, improve the appearance of a property and add to its value. PLANTING Generally trees are planted by first ripping the soil with a ripping tine on a tractor. The tine should penetrate at least 40cm. If trees are to be planted in rows, for example to create a shelterbelt, wildlife corridor or windbreak, then rip along the planting lines. If intending to plant on a wider spacing then cross rip at each planting site. This is done by ripping a two-metre or three-metre line in one direction and then crossing that line at right angles with a similar rip line. The tree is planted where the lines intersect. It is best to rip when the soil is reasonably dry to achieve widespread cracking of the subsoil. Of course it is difficult to rip when conditions are dry, so more than one pass might be needed. Where ground is super hard or rocky, it might be necessary to hire a contractor with heavier equipment. The expense will be worth it in the long run. WEED CONTROL Removing weeds, which compete for moisture, will benefit trees in their first year. This is best started. early in the process either by spraying herbicide or using non-chemical methods at planting sites. Follow-up work will be required before planting. BED PREPARATION It is not strictly necessary to form beds over rip lines although it can speed up the planting. If bed forming equipment is not available, it is possible to plant along rip lines using a hand-held implement called a Hamilton Tree Planter or even just a shovel. A Hamilton Tree Planter has no moving parts and consists of a tee handle atop a 90cm-long stem that has a tree tube-shaped hollow "spade" at www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

the base below a foot rest. The tool is pushed into the ground and when withdrawn leaves a neat hole just the right size to take a seedling grown in a forestry tube. The plant, minus the pot, is dropped in the hole and the soil is gently firmed around it. Rather than planting right on top of the rip line, when a bed has not been formed, plant trees to one side within 30cm of the rip line. Roots soon find their way into the fractured soil and subsoil. Planting is best done during winter in time to catch the late winter-early spring rains. PROTECTION If planting locally sourced native plants, fertiliser is not essential, but a shot of a slow-release fertiliser in the hole at planting time will give trees an initial boost. Tree guards and mulch mats are worth the time and expense. Large scale plantations are often baited to control pests, but for smaller jobs, tree guards do a great job protecting against rabbits and wind. A mulch mat made from biodegradable cardboard or fibre will give up to two years protection from weed competition. MATERIALS AND TOOLS Borrow or hire these. Landcare groups are an ideal resource. Experienced members can offer advice and contacts to buy seedlings, while many groups own a range of hand and tractor-mountable tree planting implements for member use or hire to the general public. WHICH TREES TO PLANT While certain species make better farm trees than others, it is always advisable to seek advice locally. A tree that grows perfectly well in one location might struggle in another just 20km away. WHY SHELTERBELTS WORK A good shelterbelt is designed to effectively slow the wind as it passes through, rather than act as a barrier to stop the wind. Use local native trees and shrubs, ideally with at least three


rows, with the tallest trees in the middle row and shorter understory trees either side. The outside rows should be set back 2m from the fence to minimise damage from livestock reaching through. Large trees need more space to establish and thrive, so the internal spacing between the tree rows could vary from 2m to 4m. Allowing a 10m-wide strip with a fence running down either side should provide for a three-row plantation, but don't hesitate to increase it for larger species. Shelterbelts should be sited according to prevailing winds. Ideally, they will be perpendicular to the worst winds. There is no way they will protect from all winds so it might be necessary to plant further shelter belts. In summer, shelterbelts can reduce moisture loss in soils caused by hot winds. Australian native tree species are generally the best choices as they stand up better to tough conditions.

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What is holistic management? Holistic Management was developed over several decades by South African biologist Alan Savoury to rehabilitate degraded rangeland and farmland and maintain healthy pasture. It is much more than a land-management protocol. Under this system, animals are used as a tool to manage and rehabilitate land by grazing at extremely high stocking rates for short periods. It relies on electric fences. Stocking rates, depending on an assessment of the land condition and climate, can be up to 5000 DSE a hectare with animals being moved more than once a day. (DSE stands for "dry sheep equivalent", a standard unit used to compare the feed requirements of different grazing animals. One DSE is the amount of feed required to keep a 45kg wether at a constant weight. Therefore, a 45kg wether has a DSE of one. In some cases it refers to a 50kg wether.) THE OBJECTIVE: Use the intense animal pressure to graze all plants quickly and evenly while trampling taller, dried stems. Hoof pressure breaks up compacted ground creating a seedbed, while seed, litter and manure are mixed and incorporated. The old orthodoxy that maintains hoofed animals cause compaction has been debunked by the research under Holistic Management. Under such high stocking rates the herd or flock represents, in effect, a considerable composting machine. It delivers a 162 South West Queensland Farming Guide

significant quantity of fertiliser and beneficial micro-organisms in the form of manure and urine resulting in a surge of pasture germination and growth. Benefits after just one grazing followed by a decent rest and recovery period include the coverage of bare ground with new plants, recruitment of perennial grasses and suppression of the weeds. GETTING STARTED: Fence some trial plots on different parts of your property and intensively graze each once. Plots don't have to be large. An area of 10sqm to 100sqm is sufficient. These need to be fenced to keep animals contained and must remain fenced to exclude stock for up to 12 months. As noted, a specific high-impact stocking rate for a given property is hard to find. A good guide for a trial, however, is the high grazing pressures recommended under Holistic Management. A grazing pressure equal to 5000 DSE a hectare (or 50 DSE on 100sqm) for a period of two or three hours will lead to all available feed being evenly consumed while all litter is trampled, the ground broken up and manure and seed incorporated. It is essential to observe the activity and remove the animals when the area has been evenly trampled. Check the way each area recovers with monthly observations over 12 months. Recovery periods vary according to the climate, soil, pasture species and annual rainfall

variations. It is useful to photograph the same small area every month. Comparison of the images and the ground with areas just outside the trial plots will form a picture of the improvements resulting from heavy grazing and the time required for an area to recover.



Rotational grazing Cell or rotational grazing can be the key to improving your farm, if you know how to split paddocks and stock your land. It is the practice of moving stock systematically through relatively small paddocks and, when properly managed, provides higher stocking rates, improved pasture performance and use, and gives total control through extensive laneways and cartwheel paddock layouts. SET STOCKING - THE TRADITIONAL WAY The traditional approach to grazing is "set stocking", where a fixed number of animals, generally sheep or cattle, remain in the same (larger) paddock for much or even all of the year. For much of the history of grazing in Australia, set stocking has been the accepted approach and is still preferred by many. In some situations, such as the extremely large pastoral properties in drier parts with huge paddocks and low stocking rates, it remains the only real option. It is simple, inexpensive to establish and requires little labour. It has some shortcomings, though, especially in more heavily stocked farming areas of temperate Australia. Importantly, set stocking fails to allow for different volumes of grass growth through the year. This favours less desirable species: when grass is limited, stock tend to overgraze


desirable varieties reducing their ability to compete. And when grass is plentiful, less palatable varieties are left untouched allowing them to shade out grazed plants. MOVE IT OR LOSE IT Rotational grazing systems work by concentrating animals into smaller paddocks where they remain for a limited time grazing the entire pasture evenly before being moved to the next paddock. They are not left long enough to overgraze to the point where plants cannot quickly recover. By the time stock return, a paddock has had suf ficient time to recover. Desirable species are not grazed out and perennial grasses, often native species, have time to regrow deep and large root masses. Soil structure is improved and pastures are better able to survive dry conditions. HEDGE YOUR BETS A good way to start rotational grazing is to use temporary electric fencing. While the fences will need to be moved frequently, it allows for experimentation and reacting to changing feed availability, which has occurred due to seasonal and rainfall variation. Some successful systems rely entirely on electric fencing and they can be inexpensive. Cattlecan be controlled within a property with a single hot (electrified) wire, which is

easy to relocate using lightweight push in stakes. Sheep generally require a three-wire system and need to be trained to an electric fence. This can be done by keeping weaned lambs enclosed using an electrified fence so they experience a few shocks and learn to avoid the wires. SOME CAUTION NEEDED On paper, such systems can look attractive and relatively foolproof. Yet many is the farmer who has spent large sums establishing cartwheels -circular paddock systems allowing for multiple paddocks serviced by central water points and laneways -or other intensively fenced arrangements of paddocks, only to find results don't meet expectations. There are many reasons why. An expensive, permanent fence is inflexible and does not allow for poor seasons or changing stocking levels. In a perfect year, for example, a layout of 50 paddocks each of half a hectare may allow 300 or more sheep to be rotationally grazed, spending one to two days in each paddock, according to the time of year. But even in a good year, heavier grazing of preferential species can lead to declining pasture quality if animals are left even for a day too long in one place.

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For many people the thought of pigs conjures up an image of a quarter of a tonne of smelly, blunt-nosed, beady-eyed, grunting, snorting, wallowing, mud-encrusted monster ready to gobble up small children or unwary pets. However, pigs are definitely the flavour of the month – keeping them , eating them, butchering them, smoking them and loving them, so they can’t be all that scary. Many farmers keep animals for food production, either just for themselves or as producers, perhaps servicing processors or farmers’ markets. This is not to say their livestock is unloved or disrespected, but it has to earn its keep. Pigs bred for commercial purposes are intended to grow rapidly in the first five to six months. If left to grow to maturity, they can weigh in at 250kg or more. With properly planned nutrition, commercial crossbreeds can gain an average 0.5kg or more a day after weaning at three weeks and may reach 90kg after 18 weeks, or more than 100kg after five months, when many will be sent for processing. While most pig breeds grow quickest in their first 12 months, many traditional breeds are slower-growing, and some will not exceed 70kg or 90kg. FREE TO RANGE As in chicken meat and egg production, one person’s definition of free range may be quite different from another’s. Commercial free-range production commonly involves sows that live outdoors in paddocks equipped with mobile shelters. They are generally artificially inseminated about every five months, producing 10 or more piglets in a litter. Piglets are weaned at about three weeks and spend the next 20 to 25 weeks in large shelters being fed on blended rations before being sent for slaughter. The growing areas are on concrete covered in deep litter straw and are open-plan allowing for movement. Small-scale free-range production usually involves all animals spending their lives outdoors with shelters, either mobile or fixed depending on farm layout. While pigs will forage for roots and other food, they will require daily supplementary feed. They will also be rotated through paddocks to give pasture time to recover. FEEDING Pigs have a single stomach and so require a higher-protein food compared with grazing livestock. Pasture must be supplemented with daily prepared feed concentrate. Pigs are also adept at completely and quickly digging over an area looking for roots and other subterranean food. Care must be taken to ensure there are no poisonous plants present. It is illegal to feed pigs any animal matter at all. SHELTER A dry weatherproof building is a must. If permanent, a concrete floor will aid in cleaning and www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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keeping dry. Dry straw is suitable as a bed and can be changed as needed. The building must be well ventilated in summer because pigs need to get out of the sun and, since they sweat very little, need airflow and shade. A shaded mud wallow will help keep them cool. A wheeled shelter can save the cost of building individual shelters in every paddock. If breeding, install low guard rails to prevent piglets being squashed by the sow. Plans for suitable farrowing (birthing) enclosures and piglet care can be sourced from experienced breeders. WATER An adult pig can drink 15 litres or more each day in hot weather so an abundant supply of potable water is essential. Drinking troughs should be small to prevent pigs from climbing in and polluting the water. A wet area where pigs can roll and wallow in mud is of great benefit. Apart from helping them cool down, it helps them keep free of skin parasites and provides sun screening. HEALTH AND WELFARE Pigs require vaccination and regular worming. With experience it is possible to administer these yourself. Initially, engage a vet who will assist with instruction and advice. Like all our four-legged friends, pigs require company, preferably of their own kind. NO SWEAT: While humans often complain they are “sweating like a pig”, 166 South West Queensland Farming Guide

the reality is that pigs sweat very little. They have minimal sweat glands and have trouble coping in hot conditions. One of the reasons they are regularly seen wallowing in mud is that the mud cools them down. In some commercial piggeries sprays of water are directed down on then in hot weather to keep them cool. SANITATION Pigs will, if given sufficient room, allocate different areas for sleeping, feeding and defecating although they tend to urinate when drinking. They produce about 1.5 per cent of their body weight in manure each day so a regular routine of removing manure and replacing bedding straw and ground cover near drinking points will ensure shelters remain fresh and largely free of unpleasant smells. FENCING Well-maintained fencing of a standard to enclose sheep will work for pigs. Electric fencing is effective with pigs if they are trained to it from a young age and allows paddocks to be cheaply and quickly subdivided for rotation and recovery. If you aren't in


An adult pig can drink 15 litres or more each day in hot weather . www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


an area zoned farming, you should check with the local council before keeping even a small number of pigs. If you intend to become a producer, there are regulations governing many aspects including animal welfare, landscape management and watercourse health. A planning permit may be required once sow numbers reach a certain level. Check with your state government department concerned with agriculture and land management. BUYER BEWARE When buying pigs, ask to see the stock and infrastructure of the breeding establishment. Look for a calm environment and pigs that look bright and alert. Check the size of the parents of the animals you are buying to confirm health, body shape and that the mature weight of the parents is consistent with the size you want. The latter point is especially important when choosing piglets to become pets or breeding stock. If you plan to keep pigs as pets, think about how you will manage the life of your pet in much the same way you would plan for a pet dog. Your pet pig can easily live for a decade, will need training and patience in abundance while young, and will need a routine that keeps it engaged and exercised as it grows and matures. In all cases it is advisable to have the animal desexed at a young age. PORK PRODUCTION If your aim is to sell pork products, you will need to obtain a Property Identity Code -PIC - and comply with regulations relating to the transport of live animals from your property to a licensed abattoir, and the transport and storage of meat products. THE PROBLEM WITH SWILL The practice of feeding pigs swill, or food scraps, is illegal in Australia. It follows the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK in 2001 that cost

Britain billions of pounds. The outbreak was traced back to a piggery that fed its pigs swill comprising meat and dairy products. Pigs are the animals most likely to pick up foot and mouth disease in this manner. More people now have a pig or two on their farm and it is vital they are not fed swill. This means not feeding pigs any meat or dairy products, or food that has been in contact with or prepared in the same area as meat and dairy. This rules out many household

“scraps” and includes leftover food from supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants. Every property with one or more pigs has a Property Identification Code, or PIC. These are an important part of disease monitoring and allow the Government to respond rapidly in the event of an exotic disease outbreak, such as FMD. PICs are free and don’t require a lot of paperwork.


“Building a sustainable future for the goat industry and supporting the revival of sheep production in Queensland”

Lot 60 Warrego Highway, PO Box 646, Charleville, Q, 4470 AU

Email: enquiries@westernmeatexporters.com.au


Tel: 0746 54 33 11 South West Queensland Farming Guide 167


Pig breeds Knowing just what pig you require can be a tough assignment. Below is a snapshot of some of Australia’s best pig breeds to help you begin your research.






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Choosing a pig There are about eight main pig breeds regularly farmed in Australia, from the common Large White to the rare Berkshires and Wessex Saddlebacks. LARGE WHITE Claimed to originate from the crossing of a small Chinese pig and white English pigs, it first gained popularity in the late 1700s in England. Today it and its various crosses, comprise the most popular commercial pig class in Australia following its introduction in the 19th century. Sometimes known as the Yorkshire or English Large White, it is hardy and copes well in most climates while boasting an outstanding feed conversion ratio that allows it to put on good weight. The male generally weighs 350kg to 380kg. The female generally weighs 26Okg to 300kg.

LANDRACE A Danish pig bred from native pigs and the Large White, it is notable for its white skin, its lop ears and no black hair. Introduced into Australia from Ireland in 1958, it produces good meat. HAMPSHIRE Mainly used in breeding programs, it is now the most critically rare breed in Australia. It has a lean muscular carcass making it well known as the “The Thin Ring Pig” and can be more nervous than other breeds. Calm, quiet handling works best. DUROC A compact animal originating in the US, it was introduced into Australia in the 1920s, but didn’t become popular until reintroduced from Canada and New Zealand in the 1940s.

It is generally crossed with other breeds to produce a bigger animal. BERKSHIRE Produces a marbled meat likely to appeal to farmers’ market customers and restaurants. LARGE BLACK A docile breed ideal for a free-range environment. Regarded as rare, it produces large fitters. WESSEX SADDLEBACK A slow-growing breed, black with white forequarters, often featured on lifestyle and cooking TV programs. A good choice for the small operator. TAMWORTH An old breed also regarded as rare. Said to be hard on fences, it has a longer snout than many breeds and is an excellent forager.


LANDRACE A Danish pig bred from native pigs and the Large White, it is notable for its white skin, its lop ears and no black hair. Introduced into Australia from Ireland in 1958, it produces good meat.


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Poultry No matter whether it’s chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys or guinea fowls, or whether they are being raised for meat, for eggs or for the sheer joy of breeding them, poultry assume a big part of the Australian farming landscape. Nowhere else is there such a contrast in farming endeavours – from the vast operations producing eating chickens by the millions to the small landholder running a few chickens for eggs. It has been estimated that chicken meat production alone could prove a bonanza for primary producers if export markets throughout Asia are fully realised, and with eggs no longer generally seen in an uncertain light by the health fraternity there is also huge potential. For many farmers and producers, public concern that the welfare of poultry should be considered has brought big changes in production methods, with far more importance placed on stocking densities, free-range systems and the amounts and types of medications and feeds being administered to birds. CHICKEN OR THE EGG For the small-scale chicken keeper (and there are hundreds of thousands of them around the nation), there is the choice of buying birds or raising your own from scratch. If you choose the latter, a rooster will need to be part of the equation. You don’t need to have a rooster to get eggs – but you do need a rooster for fertile eggs. The downside is that roosters do make a lot of noise, especially in the early morning, and if you have close neighbours this can be a huge problem. The quiet option is to obtain already fertilised eggs. Whether fertilised eggs or a rooster, the inevitable result is that about half of the offspring will be males. One rooster is enough for 15 to 20 hens. So before proceeding, determine what you will do with all those roosters. HOW TO SET UP A COMPOST FACTORY: A good chook-powered compost factory can be established using two compact areas. Allow the chooks to work over the first area as materials are added for two or three months. Then exclude them from that area and allow them into the second area while the first matures. After two or three months, spread the contents of the first area on the garden, start adding fresh ingredients and let the chooks back in to start work while the second area matures. ON THE FLY: The answer is yes, with the qualification "not very well". While the original wild chickens were able to achieve quite good flight, domestication seems to have bred much of the ability out of the backyard variety, although they can still flap over the odd fence. As a general rule, birds lighter in weight are better flyers.


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Caring for your chickens It takes 21 days incubation for eggs to hatch and during this time, the eggs remain under a broody hen. After eggs hatch, hens from the flock compete to look after them. Select one or two for the job and enclose them with the chicks in a secure area within the chicken run surrounded by fine mesh. Provide a small weather-proof enclosure, chick feed, water, bedding and the full range of adult chook food. The "mother" hens will stand watch during the day, popping chicks under their feathers at night and when danger threatens. Hens also teach the young chickens to scratch and feed. It is delightful to watch the process unfold as the chickens grow. HOME Chooks need a safe and secure place to sleep. Birds must be protected from foxes, and even many domestic pets love a feed of chicken. Birds of prey such as goshawks, sparrowhawks and whistling kites and others including 172 South West Queensland Farming Guide

ravens and currawongs can trouble young chicks. A good idea is to see what works for neighbours, anything that has kept their chickens safe should work for you. Unless going in for large-scale poultry raising, the weather-proof "house" or coop should be in a yard or run enclosed with walls and a roof constructed of heavy—grade chicken wire over a sturdy timber or steel frame. The mesh should extend about 30cm into the ground as foxes are good climbers and diggers. While it is possible to manage chooks by letting them out of their coop in the morning into a yard and then locking


Birds must be protected from foxes, and even many domestic pets love a feed of chicken. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


them up at night, at secure wire enclosure will keep birds safe at all times. The coop needs above-ground perches and nesting boxes inside. A removable or hinged roof assists with the periodic cleaning of small coops. It can have an earthen floor, but for a permanent set-up, a concrete floor makes maintenance and pest control easier as well as helping keep the coop better insulated. The floor should have 10cm to 20cm of straw or sawdust to collect droppings. This is changed every two to three months and makes good mulch or compostable bulk. Popular today for free-range birds are "chicken tractors" or moveable coops. These are small ' enough to move around, allowing the birds’ house to move with them around a property. Commercial chicken tractors can be bought or here are many designs to be found on the internet. Old caravans, buses and trailers are an ideal starting point for construction. If you are keeping birds for eggs, flaps that allow you to extract the eggs from laying boxes without entering the coop are advised. WATER Chooks require a constant supply of good quality water. There are a number of different styles of self-filling watering devices available. One or more dishes of water, placed in the shade inside and outside the chicken run, provide good insurance against the failure of an automatic waterer. Support their edges so larger birds don't tip them over, keep the water shallow and place a flat rock or piece of wood in the dish so young chickens don't drown. FOOD Chooks are omnivores. That is, they eat meat, mostly in the form of insects, grubs and worms, and plant material such as green leafy matter and grain. Almost any vegetable scrap or leftover is


Chooks require a constant supply of good quality water perfect for chooks. They are great recyclers and can be fed almost anything you would put in the compost. Chooks should have regular access to some ground so they can graze on the grass, scratch in the dirt to find natural meaty materials such as worms and insects and indulge in dust baths that help control skin parasites such as lice. Chooks benefit from some commercial feed to ensure a balanced diet and to compensate for variations in other food sources. Options include manufactured pellets and blends of seeds and grains. Commercial

chick-raising mixes save the hassle of preparing special feed when hatching and raising chickens. Like most well-managed farm animals, chooks are good at regulating how much they eat, so pellets and seed mixes can be supplied in feeders they can visit as needed throughout the day. Different styles are available including models the chooks open by standing on a platform. This style helps avoid food waste and protects against unwanted freeloaders such as rodents, sparrows and other birds. Choose a model that can hold two or three days’ worth of food for your flock for the times when you are away. Provide chooks with shell grit. It is also fine to throw eggshells in with the kitchen scraps.

Nest Egg Too Small? Call Advisers Jane or Carla to see if we can help you with some retirement strategies to build your nest egg. First consult obligation free www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


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South West Queensland Farming Guide 173


Poultry for your farm Whether it is chickens you are looking for or turkeys, or if you are just in the beginning stages of deciding on your farm’s poultry, take a look below for some breed inspiration.


ISA BROWN CHICKEN 174 South West Queensland Farming Guide

DUCKS www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


GUINEA FOWL www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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GEESE 176 South West Queensland Farming Guide

PLYMOUTH ROCK CHICKEN www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


Guinea Fowl Guinea fowl are a native of Africa and are considered to be a noisy bird if confined, because of a sharp, shrill call that it makes if disturbed. They therefore can make a good "watch dog". Guinea fowl are excellent foragers and ideally suited to free-range conditions. If run in the garden, they only need feeding as an inducement to be locked up at night. There are three main types available in Australia - the Pearl, which has purplish-grey plumage dotted with white, the Lavender, which is a lighter grey, and the White. Don’t count on a guinea fowl to produce lots of eggs: they are best described as a "fair" layer, producing between 50 and 100 small, hard-shelled eggs, usually from September to March. Breeding your own replacement guinea fowl can be tricky as they have a reputation as bad mothers. As soon as some of the chicks (or keets) hatch, the hen is likely to leave the nest, and may even attack and kill its

offspring for no apparent reason. Best results are usually obtained by artificial means. Use the same incubator temperature for guinea fowl as for ordinary fowl eggs, but don’t expect the chicks to emerge as quickly: it takes 26 to 28 days compared with 21 days for hens. For the first 21 days, more moisture is needed and the eggs need to be turned two or three times a day. From day 22 onwards, lower the temperature. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you are using a bought incubator. Another way of hatching guinea fowl is to use a broody hen. Between 20 and 28 eggs can be put under a normal-size hen. After hatching, the keets should be kept in the brooder for about five weeks in a similar management regime as for chickens. Use a circular cardboard guard to keep keets near the brooder for the first

seven to l0 days. PEST CONTROL: Guinea fowl make ideal insect eliminators. They love little more than a good feed of creepy crawlies and won’t give up until they have foraged every single within an area. They are also useful in orchards to ward off pilfering birds.


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Other birds

PHEASANTS Most species of pheasants originated in Asia. They can be divided into two main groups — the game, or true pheasant, and the ornamental, which includes most of the exotic species. They are considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world and make a spectacular sight in the fowl yard. There are a couple of things to note with pheasants before adding them to your chook run. Because of their nervous and flighty nature, they can hardly be considered domesticated birds and require pens or aviaries that are quiet and offer privacy. When disturbed, they fly vertically so confined sheds need a false hessian roof to avoid injury. Space is also an issue as confined pheasants are more prone to cannibalism than fowls. On the positive side, game pheasants are one of the few poultry species whose hens maintain production for more than one season. Hens will lay at a reasonable level for three years, with a peak in their second season. Pheasant hens lay for three to four months usually from October to January. Average production is between 40 and 50 eggs for each hen, though some can produce up to 80 eggs. It is likely that pheasants come from a small gene pool. Special care should be taken in breeding them It is felt that interbreeding could be causing lower egg numbers and poor hatching rates. It is usual to keep one male with seven hens for game pheasants, but only one to two hens for ornamental species. Don't expect pheasants to lay eggs in a nest. Rather, look in corners or scattered under cover. Free-range pheasants will lay in the open or under bushes. Pheasant fertility is generally good, although it can drop late in the breeding season (January). PEAFOWLS A wonderful sight around a farmhouse is the peafowl. There are two main species - the blue (or Indian), which is the more common, and the green. It's best to try to keep peafowl in a 178 South West Queensland Farming Guide



free-range environment, which is a natural way for them to live. They are good foragers but their diet should be supplemented with some whole-grain and pellet layer ration. Peafowl mature slower than other poultry species. Hens don’t usually lay until their second year, producing four to eight eggs in a ground nest in spring. To get two batches of eggs, confine the birds, remove the first set of eggs and a second lot is almost always laid. If you want to incubate the eggs, it takes 27 to 30 days. Pea chicks can be brooded artificially or by the peahen, which will raise the chicks with minimum fuss. Chicks can perch and fly a short distance at an early age. Peacocks (the male of the species) do not develop a full plumage until three years old. Contrary to what many people believe, the long feathers of the peacock’s train are not its tail feathers. The train is made up of 100-150 tail covens which, when spread, are supported by stiff rectrices or strong feathers at the tail of the bird. Peacocks can breed at two years old but are not usually able to attract hens without the train for courtship. They may also be dominated by older males.


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Spread your wings For the discerning breeder seeking a bird that offers something different there are many versatile fowl options in the poultry family. TURKEYS Turkeys are a native of North America and are renowned for their meat characteristics. They are quick-growing birds and as long as they are attended to when they are very young can be relatively easy to keep. Females should be at least two years old at their first mating and males should be at least one year old. The best mating results are usually achieved by running one male with eight to 10 females. Turkey hens lay their eggs in clutches of 10 to 20 at a time and one mating should fertilise all of these Fertilised eggs can be hatched by a turkey hen, a broody hen or in an incubator. If you decide to use the turkey hen, then note that if it is early in the season, the hen will probably not lay for the rest of the season. 180 South West Queensland Farming Guide

After hatching, the chicks can be raised artificially in a brooder or with the turkey hen. The best way to run turkeys is free-range, but they can also be raised in confined spaces as long as it’s not too crowded. Chicks require one-fifth of one square metre in their first six weeks. This must be increased to one-third of a metre in the next six weeks, and double that for their adult lives. TALK TURKEY: Not all turkeys gobble. It is primarily the mating call of the male turkey aimed at attracting a hen, especially in spring, and a warning signal to other males to stay away.


The best way to run turkeys is free-range, but they can also be raised in confined spaces.

Female turkeys make a clucking, chirping sound. DUCKS Don't rule out running a few ducks in the backyard just because you don’t have a pond or dam. It's a misconception that water is mandatory for ducks, though ideally a duck should have a place to swim. There are several breeds available, depending on the purpose for keeping them. If you are looking for an excellent meat bird, consider the Aylesbury. The Khaki-Campbell is an excellent egg layer as is the Indian Runner. Other good breeds include the Cayuga, Rouen, Pekin and Orpington. Probably best known by many is the Muscovy from South America, although technically it is not of the duck species. Provide your ducks with a good basic diet of grain or grain and liquid mix known as mash, allowing about 60g a day of mash and the same amount of grain. Fresh grass and vegetable scraps www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


should be given in addition. Ducklings should be given duck starter pellets for the first four weeks, and grower and breeder pellets can usually be bought from a feed merchant. To keep your ducks safe, house them at night for protection from attackers and keep them out of the weather. Provide a dry well-ventilated weatherproof area and your ducks will be happy. Even nesting boxes do not need to be complicated for ducks. Simply place some straw on the floor and keep it in position using bricks or planks of wood. GEESE While poultry are not renowned for their intelligence, many consider the proud and aristocratic goose the smartest of all domestic fowl. They are reasonably easy-care birds, performing well on a basic diet and having a high resistance to disease and parasites. They are big birds, none bigger than the Toulouse, which, as its name suggests, is originally from France. It is the heaviest of all geese, with the gander weighing a massive 14kg and the goose 9kg. Thankfully, it is generally a quiet breed in free- range conditions and in confinement. They rarely wander great distances. The best strains produce more than 60 eggs for each female, of which half usually hatch. Another big breed is the Emden, which originates from Germany. It has many attractive characteristics, including a reputation as a prolific breeder, good mothering ability and its quiet disposition. Chinese geese are also popular. This breed is easily recognised by the knob or protuberance on its head. These geese can lay 50 to 60 eggs a year. Chinese geese are the best “watch dogs”, quick to hiss and honk at a stranger. Some consider it best to let the goose raise its own chicks as, in general, they are excellent mothers. PATE DE FOIE GRAS: The Toulouse goose comes originally from Toulouse in southern France where it was bred specifically to satisfy the demand for goose liver pate and similar delicacies. In France the goose is generally force-fed to enlarge its liver, although in many other countries, including Australia, this practice is prohibited as being cruel, although the importation of pate de foie gras is still allowed.


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Health Watch Vaccinating your birds is crucial to prevent life-threatening diseases spreading or causing illness in anyone who may eat infected products. Chickens can be affected by a range of infectious diseases, many caused by viruses. Common viral diseases include Marek’s disease, fowlpox, infectious laryngotracheitis, or ILT, infectious bronchitis, or IB, and Newcastle disease. Bacterial diseases include fowl cholera and salmonella. All viruses and bacteria can have significant effects, particularly in young birds. Some, such as salmonella, can also affect anyone eating infected chicken products. When a flock has not previously been exposed to disease, a high percentage of birds can become infected and a large number may die, as many as 50 per cent in some circumstances. COMBINED DEFENCE NEEDED While bacterial diseases can be treated with antibiotics, to protect your chickens against viral diseases, a combination of vaccination, biosecurity and sanitation is necessary. Biosecurity is about managing what enters the area where your chickens live and what you might potentially transfer to other 182 South West Queensland Farming Guide

properties. This area might be a chicken coop, or the entire yard if your chickens roam free. While transfer of disease by direct contact with domestic or wild infected birds is generally the most common way diseases spread, most viruses can spread via contaminated equipment, water, food, clothing, via the air from nearby infected poultry or insects, such as mosquitoes. It is important to manage biosecurity. This can be as simple as changing clothes, washing boots thoroughly and washing hands if you have visited another" property with chickens. If you know another breeder has disease problems, reduce your exposure to their chickens, or to your own, to reduce the chance of disease spread. CLEANLINESS IS VITAL If the chicken coop and surrounding area is clean and chicken roosting area dry, then there is less chance of disease getting into the system. When chickens are well fed and healthy, their immune systems can respond more effectively to vaccination and disease. The sanitation required for each chicken operation varies dramatically, depending on the number of chickens www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


and style and size of housing. If chickens are having problems with disease, discuss this with your vet. Avoid mixing different age groups, breeds and species of birds, because this can increase disease spread across the flock. VACCINATION PLAN Most chicken vaccinations are made for commercial chicken farms and come in dose packs for 1000 or more chickens. This presents a problem for the backyard breeder. Vaccines are not expensive per bird when applied over 1000 birds but can be relatively expensive for 10 birds. Many vaccines are modified live vaccines and must be used within a short period of time, then must be discarded. Many are also required to be given when chickens are a particular age, such as Marek’s disease vaccine, which is given by three weeks. This can make it difficult to spread the cost of vaccination across an entire flock. If you aren't interested in breeding your own birds, consider buying young birds that have been vaccinated before arrival on your property, as most vaccines are given in the first few weeks of life. Ask your vet about the most relevant vaccines. In some areas it may not be necessary to use all available vaccines and in others it is extremely important. MAREK’S DISEASE First identified in 1907 by Hungarian vet Dr Josef Marek, Marek’s disease can destroy unvaccinated chickens. The virus has various symptoms and attacks the white blood cells and leads to cancer and tumours in the body. A common sign is severe lameness from three weeks up to laying age. Sometimes birds appear depressed and die quickly with no other obvious signs. If your birds appear unwell, seek veterinary advice to ensure the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Disease prevention involves


vaccination of day-old chicks or eggs. Never buy chickens from a commercial property without checking they have been vaccinated. STANDARDS YOU MUST MEET With recent welfare concerns over the raising of poultry, fanning practices and codes are continually under review. Often what once was considered acceptable is now no longer the case. Before setting up or extending a poultry operation, it pays to check out Agriculture V1ctoria’s Code of Accepted Farming Practice for the Welfare of Poultry. The code outlines minimum acceptable standards. Requirements for poultry include: READILY accessible food and water to maintain health and vigour. FREEDOM to move, stand, turn around, stretch, sit and lie down. VISUAL contact with other members of the species. ACCOMMODATION that provides protection from the weather and neither harms nor causes distress. PREVENTION of disease, injury and vice, and their rapid treatment should they occur. The code notes that perching, the ability of a bird to fully stretch and to lay eggs in a nest is currently not possible in certain (caged) poultry housing systems and that this issue is under review. VACCINATIONS Some vaccinations are injected under the skin, some via eye drop, some via a “wing stab" method and some via drinking water. One way to reduce the vaccination cost is to incubate eggs at the same stage as another breeder so the cost of vaccines can be shared — but this process requires good attention to biosecurity to avoid spreading disease between the two flocks.

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184 South West Queensland Farming Guide




Australia might have grown up on the sheep’s back as a nation but those days of the golden fleece are long gone. Whether wool or meat, today’s sheep farmer must be smarter, cannier, more open to change and far more aware of where he or she is going. Yet, despite the pitfalls being immense, the dedicated farmer on top of basic management practices, health issues and marketing can make a decent living out of sheep. BUILDING A FLOCK The golden rule in starting off in sheep is “don’t buy trouble”. “Trouble” is diseased or unhealthy animals. Whether buying from saleyards, flock dispersal sales, breeders or agents, know exactly what you are buying, the ages, the bloodlines, wool quality, and that health checks have been regularly taken in passed. Where possible, talk to vendors and seek guarantees of good health.If a vendor won’t talk to you or in’t prepared to provide results of health checks and guarantees, walk away. If you can’t recognise the presence of common complaints such as footrot, lice or bloat, employ someone who can. It will be money well spent. The future of your sheep business is too important to risk an outbreak of an illness such as Ovine Hohne’s Disease that could put you out the back door. BREEDING GOALS Chances are once you have your business plan in order, you will want to breed your own sheep. It will make smart business sense. A top flock begins with quality breeding ewes, before you invest in the best rams. Instead of buying from the saleyards, consider buying the best cast-for-age ewes, those no longer suitable for breeding, from a breeder. If you can't buy these, ask for the culled one-year-old ewes. In a top flock, chances are these lesser-grown young ewes have only been faulted because they are one of a twin or born a little later than their sisters. BUY THE BEST RAMS Quality is vital. Research the breed and the commercial performances of top breeders. Today there are accurate and timesaving tools or ram selection. In the prime lamb industry there is Lambplan, and in the wool industry there is Merinoselect. Lambplan and Merinoselect are national breeding programs that select sires based on the objective measurement of their progeny’s performance. Traits measured include birth weight, weaned weight, wool weight, fibre diameter and eye muscle depth. These measurements are referred to as Australian Sheep Breeding Values, or ASBVs. In a nutshell, choose the highest indexed rams to suit your breeding objectives, as rams account for 90 per cent of the genetic improvement of a flock. In other words, look for the studs with long histories of performance recording and industry benchmarking, together with the highest estimated breeding values. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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RAM OR SEMEN? Your cheapest option — as long as you start with superior ewes — is to buy the best ‘semen you can afford. Do this year in, year out for five years under the guidance of the stud principal, who will advise on such factors as corrective mating. It will be the biggest bang for your buck. If you artificially inseminate 20 of your best ewes, costing about $70-$80 per ewe, you will get a 150 per cent lambing percentage, resulting in a range of ram lambs to choose from, plus a heap of top young ewe lambs to breed on with. You will be better educated and appreciate your own stock and the early work of stud breeders more, if you spend time and effort on your own artificial insemination program. If you buy in rams, for example every 186 South West Queensland Farming Guide

second year, it can take up to 15 years to reach the genetic performance of the parent stud over the whole of your own flock. This can be reduced to half the time by using superior ewes. The more superior indexed rams will bring the fastest improvements to your flock. By focusing on your own artificial insemination program, you will be better educated, and appreciate your own stock more and the early work of stud breeders. Shearing and crutching An indicative price paid by farmers for


The more superior indexed rams will bring the fastest improvements to your flock. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide



shearing is $2.95 for each sheep plus another couple of dollars for at wool classer and shed hands. Under these arrangements, wool can be profitable at prices of $10 a kilogram, for example, for a fleece weighing 4-5kg (approximate figures and not including other costs). However, the system will not work unless you can offer a shearer 150 or more sheep fora day in a well-equipped shed. Hourly rates including travel time will need to be paid. A quick back-of-an-envelope calculation soon shows the figures often don’t add up. Many farmers choose one of the shedding breeds and avoid shearing and crutching altogether. Dorpers, Wiltshire Horns, Van Rooys, Wiltipolls and Damaras naturally shed their lightweight fleeces in late spring, leaving a hair coat over summer. While their wool is of no value, it is possible to come out ahead by focusing on meat production. Another way to make a profit from shearing a small number would be to co-operate with a farming neighbour to access a bulk shearing rate. Consumer trends and the clip weight need to be assessed carefully before deciding what sort of wool enterprise you want to run. WHAT IS DSE? DSE stands for “dry sheep equivalent”. One DSE is the amount of energy consumed by a wether or non-pregnant ewe during a single day to maintain its body weight. A DSE is generally based on a 45kg sheep requiring about 7.6MJ of energy per day. A pregnant ewe is rated as 1.5 to 3 DSE. Once you establish how much energy one sheep needs in MJ per day, you can use this principle across an entire flock. DSE is also used to assess the carrying capacity and potential productivity of a farm or area.

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Wool versus meat There are many formulas and assessments required when calculating how to get the best returns from your Hock. SHEEP FOR WOOL If you are going to run sheep for wool, the Merino is the superior breed. While consumer trends vary all the time there is a general push for lighter weight, more casual clothing. If the wool industry wants a part of this market, finer clips are required. It's dangerous now to rely on wool as the major income earner in a sheep flock. Surplus sheep now also contribute greatly to the returns for wool growers. They can be sold in store sales or in the prime lamb trade as young, prime ewes or wethers. Sit down and work out the returns you would like to have. If a fine wool sheep cuts a couple of kilograms of highly priced wool, the returns may be outdone by medium-wool sheep, which cut 7kg to 9kg of wool at a more moderate price. Many experts have been leading the push to finer wools and they certainly seem to be the way of the future. But many also fail to mention the high price penalties you can face if your fine wool has high vegetable matter content or has too much dust. 188 South West Queensland Farming Guide

All these things need to be assessed before deciding what sort of wool enterprise you want to run. SHEEP FOR MEAT The traditional prime lamb production formula has involved the use of a terminal sire (such as a Poll, Dorset, Southdown, Suffolk) over a first-cross (Border Leicester-Merino) ewe. Terminal sires are those rams which produce lambs destined for the market (terminated), whereas lambs sired by breed ram are usually kept as flock replacements. This is a tried and tested breeding program producing lambs that are ideal for both domestic and export markets. Securing first-cross ewes has become increasingly difficult as producers move away from Merinos and into prime lamb production. Animal health issues are also encouraging prime lamb producers to buy privately or even breed their own


Many experts have been leading the push to finer wools and they certainly seem to be the way of the future. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


prime lamb dams. If first-cross ewes look too expensive, another option is to look at a well-grown medium wool Merino. This has been an increasing trend in the past few years for prime lamb producers who want better wool returns from their prime lamb dams while producing a good lamb for sale. Be aware of the leaner tendencies of a Merino crossed with a terminal sire, which will make the lamb harder to fatten. But with increasing price penalties for overfat lambs, this may actually work to the producer's advantage. Good presentation is important for prime lambs. If selling in the saleyards, lambs should be clean, with no dags. If the lambs are showing a small amount of soiling, a quick “key hole” crutch (just below the tail) will make a difference. lf a full crutch is required, then take those lambs out of the draft, as they will spoil the look of the rest. If your property is best suited to turning off suckers (lambs straight off their mothers), try to sell as many as possible as early as possible. Any leftovers can either be shorn and sold in the autumn or sold as store lambs for another farmer to fatten. Try to organise your production so you are not selling in late spring, when there is a flush of lambs on to the market. While the season obviously determines when


you can hope to have lambs ready it‘s a good idea to look at price trends. Prices invariably dip in late spring so avoid selling then. MARKING LAMBS Marking generally involves three procedures ear-tagging, castration and tail-docking. For convenience, vaccination of Gudair for Ovine Johne’s Disease and clostridia (to prevent clostridial diseases) is usually done at the same time. Ear tagging is done so lambs can be identified, castration stops reproduction and tail-docking prevents blowfly strike. Marking is usually done within three months of birth, ideally when lambs are four to six weeks old. EAR TAGGING: There are two types of Property Identification Code, PIC, tags – visually readable and electronic ones. A good practice is to have all non-breeding and terminal lambs with a tag in their left ear, and all breeding ewe lambs being kept with a tag in the right ear. It is a good idea to brand your property or initials on the lamb’s back because all PIC ear tags are the same colour each year for all lambs in the country. CASTRATION 8: TAIL DOCKING: Castration and tail-docking should be bloodless and are achieved by placing elastrator rings on the tail and scrotum of young lamb s to prevent dags and extra crutchings, to improve saleability

of young stock and to avoid breeding programs going into chaos with extra rams. With the lamb sitting and restrained securely at a 45-degree angle with half its bottom and the tail dangling over the edge, slip a ring over the scrotum while checking that the two testicles are down. If there is only one testicle, don't mark. Within a month, the other testicle will drop and the lamb can be easily marked with a ring. Now the tail can be done as well. The ring works by restricting blood flow. VACCINATION: Automated guns can be used for vaccinating. All injections must be given with the lamb totally restrained because if the lamb bumps the needle and it sticks into your arm, painful hospitalisation may result. Lambs marked during spring, summer or autumn must have a 12-week fly-protection fluid spread into the wool and skin to prevent flystrike. Lambs and ewes should walk through a sterilisation footbath of 10-20 per cent zinc sulphate to water to prevent abscesses and footscald. AFTER MARKING: Once 20 lambs are marked, they should be put with their mothers for rebonding. Freshly marked lambs will have an itchy-bottom gait and will jump about and lie down for an hour or so before settling and rejoining their mothers. Tails usually fall off within a fortnight.

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10 steps to improve lambing across Australia IMPROVE nutrition. Ewes need to be maintained throughout the year in what is called "score-three condition" — weighing about 60kg to 70kg, not overly fat, but not skinny. Achieve this through paddock rotations to lush pastures, supplementary feeding and worm control. MOVE to late winter-spring lambing. It is commonsense. FEED ewes with lupins. Feed 150g for each ewe every day for nine days before joining. PROVIDE shelter. Fence off sheltered gullies and creek flats and plant with tall wheat grass or wattles. Remember, strong wind and rain will kill exposed newborn lambs, whether it be rain with wind on a summer day of 17C or an early spring Antarctic sleeting-hail blast. 190 South West Queensland Farming Guide

However, a new-born lamb will survive a frost of -5C. Wind alone will not kill lambs, nor will rain alone, but the combination is deadly. " ORGANISE chronological lambing. Each week, mark rams with different coloured crayons, then mark freshly mated ewes with the corresponding colour. This way, you will know which ewes will lamb each week, and which


Each week, mark rams with different coloured crayons, then mark freshly mated ewes with the corresponding colour

rams are performing best. A week before lambing, draft the mob, check udders for late pregnancy, inoculate with long-acting drench and place into well-grassed, sheltered paddocks with self-feeders. Monitor twice a day. TARGET foxes. Add an alpaca to the mob a month before lambing, set fox baits two weeks before lambing, and go spotlight shooting for foxes. CHECK lambing ewes up to three times a day and once at night. Pull lambs where ewes have dystocia (difficult lambing). When a ewe isolates from the mob (beginning of labour) allow about 15 to 30 minutes for birth. If the lamb’s head is seen but not moving out, catch the ewe and move it to a warm shed with hay bedding for an assisted delivery. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

SHEEP SELECT good mums. Breed for strong maternal instincts. REVIVE frozen lambs. Place the new lamb’s torso into a bucket of warm water (39C-50C) and wash and massage its whole body for an hour. Change the water every five minutes and keep the lamb by the fire for up to two days. Give the lamb away to some children to raise as an orphan. FREE feed. Allow new lambs and their mothers access to supplementary self-feeders. The ewes will teach the lambs to eat from it. GET READY The use of teasers (wethers injected with testosterone) can be a useful way of ensuring a tight lambing period and high percentages. Teasers put with the flock up to three weeks before the ewes are joined will ensure ewes are cycling when the rams arrive. You might get some questioning looks when you ask the vet about buying testosterone, but most are willing to supply it once they know its intended use.


Allow new lambs and their mothers access to supplementary self-feeders

1 www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

1918 - 2018

1919 - 2019

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SHEEP BREEDS From Merino to Lincoln, the vast array of sheep breeds on the market are as numbered as they are interesting.


ENGLISH LEICESTER 192 South West Queensland Farming Guide

CHEVIOT www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide



LINCOLN www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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Self-shedding sheep Sheep can be expensive when they need to be shorn. It you ore in the business of raising sheep purely tor meat, then sheep that shed their fleece can be the way to go DAMARA This is an old breed, dating back 5000 years or more to East Asia and Egypt. The Damara found its way to Australia via South Africa less than 20 years ago. It is called a fat-tail sheep because it carries fat reserves in its short, thick tail and hindquarters, a characteristic common in arid-area 194 South West Queensland Farming Guide

breeds. Damara sheep are suitable for low-rainfall pastoral country, such as that in southeast Australia's


Damara sheep are suitable for low-rainfall pastoral country, such as that in southeast Australia's wheat-growing regions www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


wheat-growing regions, and can walk long distances and eat feed that is distant from watering points. DORPER A recently developed breed originating in South Africa about 80 years ago to cope with the drier conditions and wide range of herbage common in that part of the world. The Dorper results from crossing Blackhead Persian ewes, a fat-tail shedding breed, with Dorset Horn rams. The result is a shedding, polled (hornless), fast-growing meat sheep. They can have either a black or white head with a white body. WILTSHIRE HORN Another old breed, thought to have been taken to the UK by the Romans more than 2000 years ago, Wiltshire Horn sheep have a short fleece, which is naturally shed from late spring to

early summer, leaving a light-coloured hair coat that protects against sunburn. It is a quick-maturing, large-framed animal with a tendency for multiple births and a generally smaller percentage of birthing difficulties than other breeds. The ewes make fine mothers, often aggressively defending their lambs. Wiltshire Horn sheep can thrive on lower quality herbage and can cover larger areas seeking food. WILTIPOLL This breed was developed in the 1990s in Australia from the Wiltshire Horn breed. Wiltipolls are created by crossing a ewe from a polled breed with a Wiltshire Horn ram with the resulting ewes then backcrossed successively for four generations with pure Wiltshire Horn rams. As for their characteristics, Wiltipolls are similar to Wiltshire Horns but without the horns.


WOOL SHED What happens to the wool that is shed? Do you pick it up? Is it worth anything? Does it make a mess? The answers: you don’t pick it up; it is worth nothing, but there will always be plenty of cosy bird nests and other animal homes around the place. What remains simply disappears over a few months. ORGANIC PRODUCTION A further advantage of the shedding. or hair. breeds is they suit organic production systems. They are generally hurdier animals. either through centuries if not millennia of natural selection or breeder selection for hardiness. They rarely require medication or chemical drenching for fly or louse control and thrive on a wide range of unimproved or natural pastures. With no requirement for tail docking nr mulesing, they suit many organic certification schemes.

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Sheep psychology Understanding how sheep think can make handling them so much easier. The two basic instincts of sheep — mobbing up and racing from danger — should be always kept in mind, to make the job easier and safer tor you and the sheep. MUSTERING Mustering is best done in the less stressful early morning or evening. Get the sheep to mob up, with a few yells from a distance. They will try to go in the opposite direction from the shed and yards, which they associate with danger. A good dog is invaluable. Sheep move best uphill and worst downhill, as the former implies safety. Sometimes, when you push sheep too hard, weaker ones will begin to splinter off, so it's time to slow down. 196 South West Queensland Farming Guide

It is often easier to drive a mob of 300 sheep for 3km than three sheep for 50m. To get sheep into a shed, splinter off a small mob of about seven. With the help of a dog, push them into the shed while in panic mode. Next, bring up a slightly bigger mob. DRAFTING & LOADING Sheep run better around curved


To get sheep into a shed, splinter off a small mob of about seven. With the help of a dog, push them into the shed while in panic mode

comers and away from the shearing shed towards the drafting race. because they think they are escaping trouble. They must see others escaping also. One or two good dogs will keep the sheep up to you, as long as you stand still at the gate and don’t move the drafting gate until they are right on it and it is too late to stop. Then they will just follow each other. IN THE YARDS Sheep mob together when pressured and will even jump on top of each other to escape, as seen in photos of bushfire-blackened torsos piled up along fence lines. Recent bushfire lessons demonstrate that sheep need to be moved to safety hours before the smoke and flames hit. Mobbing in yards leads to sheep www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


going down and smothering, so always look for the telltale sight of an odd sheep standing on its forelegs over others’ backs. Yards that are not level, and have downhill corners, can be lethal. Lambs are especially prone to smothering. A periodic walk down to the lower corner to check will save many lives. Care should also be taken with sheep ramming headfirst into a steel gate to escape. They think it’s time to bulldoze their way through, as if the gate was bracken or branches. Concussion and death can easily follow, so the key is to avoid this happening in the first place by standing near the gate to break a sheep's run while the dogs do the pushing work. Take your time and have patience. The benefits of having escape-proof yards should bring rewards. NOT SO SILLY A small mob of sheep kept around the house quickly work out the weaknesses of humans and even the pet dog and can bluff them when it comes to mustering.


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Health watch There are numerous problem creatures that can seriously affect sheep, including flies, worms and lice. Ignore any one of these and your farming future could be in jeopardy. FLIES THE PROBLEM The Australian sheep blowfly (Lucilia cuprina) can maim or kill 25 per cent of a flock of lambs within a fortnight of summer rain. In humid conditions, the wool stays wet, and blowflies lay eggs from tail to neck. They can even lay eggs in sheep just a fortnight shorn. Rams can be struck at the base of the horn and lose fertility. The only warning of fly-wave might be a few dead sheep for starters. TREATMENT/ PRECAUTIONS Dip lambs in late November with the blowfly treatment Vetrazin and the entire flock in early January. This gives up to 12 weeks protection. Some farmers “jet" sheep early with a product such as Vetrazin or use a “backliner”, a spray-on treatment such as Clik which gives up to 24 weeks protection. The key is to go from a habit of treating struck sheep (which are often dying) to 198 South West Queensland Farming Guide

preventing fly strike in the first place. Following summer storms, jet, dip or backline within days whatever the expense. Flystrike prevention can also involve mulesing, where flaps of skin around a sheep's rear end are cut to produce a bald patch that will no longer attract blowflies. However, the practice has drawn controversy, targeted by animal welfare groups as cruel, with fewer farmers now mulesing sheep. WORMS THE PROBLEM Worms are internal parasites of various types that infect sheep. Larvae are generally ingested as sheep graze. They live in the gut and multiply rapidly. Worms can cause many ailments from reduced weight, lower wool growth and


Worms are internal parasites of various types that infect sheep. scouring and anaemia to reduced

carcass quality and death. The signs of a worm problem are snotty noses, anaemic skin colour, unhealthy membranes around eyes and tapeworms in droppings. Younger sheep and autumn/winter-lambing ewes are more susceptible. TREATMENT/PRECAUTIONS The best prevention is drenching, with the worming liquid squirted into the back of mouths. There are various drenches, such as broad spectrum (for all problem worms), narrow spectrum (a few species) and mid spectrum (parasites in the sheep’s fourth stomach or upper small intestine). Speak to an expert to determine the best drench. A vet can take a faecal sample to analyse the problem. Consider lambing in spring when high-protein grass fights worms naturally. Avoid housing breeding sheep in short, heavily stocked, continuously grazed paddocks. It's a recipe for disaster. LICE THE PROBLEM Lice are insects, both biting and sucking, and about 3mm long by 1mm wide, which live on the skin of sheep.



They are most active in cooler months when they mainly breed and lay eggs in the wool. The biggest problem is the biting Damalinia ovis lice that infest the sheep’s body. They spend their whole life on a sheep but can transfer to other sheep by direct contact. One lousy sheep can spread lice throughout the whole flock. About 20-30 per centof Australia's sheep are infested with lice. The first signs of lice can be a sheep itching itself, rubbing on trunks or posts or biting at its wool. To check for lice, tum a suspect sheep on its bottom, separate the wool around the shoulders and neck, and look for a tan-coloured insect near the skin. A magnifying glass is handy. The lice will crawl around in direct sunlight. Sheep with lice can cost $10 or more each in lost production and are harder to shear. Wool is often yellow and cotted, or felted, and may need


About 20-30 per centof Australia's sheep are infested with lice machining before spinning. TREATMENT/ PRECAUTIONS There are numerous anti-lice chemicals. Options are “backliners" applied immediately after shearing or a wet dip for full control. Spray-on organophosphate and insect growth-regulator backliners are also applied immediately after shearing. Some products provide protection against reinfestation for up to 12 weeks. Withholding periods for lice-control chemicals must be observed, regarding time between treatment and sheep being shorn, slaughtered or their milk being used for human consumption. Disposing of lousy sheep at saleyards is illegal. With nearly a third of Australia’s national flock being lousy, all newly bought sheep should be quarantined for www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

up to four months after purchase, to ensure they are lice free. Once lice have been identified, treat the whole flock and every animal, including lambs, rams and pets, must be effectively treated within the first 24 hours after shearing. BACK IN TIME To raise money for the war effort, American President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Margaret, grazed a flock of sheep on the south lawn of the White House. They saved on the cost of mowing and when their wool was auctioned it raised $52,823 for the Red Cross. Trim sheep's hooves Trimming any animal's hooves can be a challenge. This is particularly so when they weigh almost as much as you and are not particularly inclined to stay still. Most sheep fall into this category. But regardless of how many sheep you run, at some point you will need to trim their hooves. Sheep rely on having their hooves function at 100 per cent to walk normally. Any problem with the hoof can lead to pain, lameness and inability to forage for feed. There are certain diseases and problems that can lead to changes in the growth of the hoof, which will then require trimming to improve recovery. Some problems might require medication. Sheep will often need a trim if they are on soft ground and the hoof overgrows. Most of the overgrowth occurs on the outer part of the hoof, so your goal is to trim back to the hoof base. You will need a pair of sheep-hoof parers, available from a stock and station agent or livestock supplies store. If you are trimming a small to medium sized sheep (less than 60kg), tip them on to their rear end to examine each foot. Do this from behind the sheep or have someone hold the sheep while you trim the feet. For larger sheep, you might need to trim their feet the same way as a horse or cow by picking up each individual foot. South West Queensland Farming Guide 199


SHELLY HOOF Shelly hoof is when the outer wall of the hoof separates slightly and a “pocket” is formed, a bit like having a lot of dirt under your fingernail. This can pack with mud, faeces or stones and find up making the sheep lame. It can resemble problems such as a foot abscess or footrot, but a simple trim with foot parers and the problem will most likely disappear. The edge of this pocket needs to be trimmed to allow the packed material to come out and the foot to return to its normal shape. If a large number of your sheep have this problem, move them to drier ground and start a preventive foot- paring program. FOOT ABSCESS These often occur in rams or heavily pregnant ewes as they have a lot of pressure on their feet. It is common during wet periods when it is easier for stones or other sharp objects to damage the hoof and leave it exposed to bacteria. This can cause an infection that produces pus that breaks out at the top or bottom of the hoof, causing severe lameness. The abscess needs to be opened and drained to reduce pressure, and often antibiotics are required. Trimming can aid recovery. Although a management plan is a better option long-term. This includes foot trimming, bathing and 200 South West Queensland Farming Guide

possibly antibiotics. Discuss these options with your vet. MASTITIS Controlling mastitis in sheep requires an understanding of the early signs. You have probably heard of mastitis in dairy cattle, but mastitis can be a problem in any mammal. Sheep mastitis is an inflammation of the udder most commonly caused by bacterial infection. It tends to occur usually in the first month of lactation, towards or after weaning and during adverse weather conditions or where feed is particularly abundant or scarce. Any problem causing damage to the end of the sheep's teat is likely to lead to mastitis. If the teat is closed, then millions of bacteria on the outside’ of the teat will not cause a problem, but a few hundred bacteria 2mm inside the teat will probably lead to the death of the sheep unless they receive treatment. CAN BE FATAL Mastitis in its worst form is a severe infection of the udder that causes


Controlling mastitis in sheep requires an understanding of the early signs. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


death of the mammary tissue and is often referred to as black or blue mastitis because of the colour of the udder. This change in colour is because of a loss of blood supply, and the udder then falls off, if the sheep survives. Sheep with early mastitis may appear lame because of the pain in the udder. Surviving sheep will frequently lose their wool because of the elevated temperature during illness. It is often impossible to get any milk out of these ewes when they have this disease, or you may be able to milk out a small amount of blood-tinged fluid. Unless the ewe’s lambs are fostered or raised on formula, most will die. Other forms of mastitis can result in a swelling of the udder or changes in colour and consistency of the milk. Milk may appear clotted or have


flecks in it, similar to what can happen to milk left for too long in the fridge. These ewes may look reasonably well or may go off their food. Another form of mastitis is sub-clinical mastitis. This form is not able to be identified by looking at the sheep or visually assessing their udder or milk. It requires further testing to identify the problem. To do this, you need to collect milk from your sheep and get a count of the number of cells in the milk. This test is similar to what is done on cows milk to assess how healthy the cow’s udder is. This may not be an immediate problem in your flock but could result in lambs growing more slowly or some lambs dying. SEEK VET’S HELP If you think your sheep's udder or her milk is not normal, then treatment may

be needed. Thankfully Australia doesn't have Maedi-Visna virus or Mycoplasma that causes severe mastitis, but the forms we do have can still be life threatening. You should discuss the best treatments with a vet. Usually this will require collecting milk from your ewes to check which bacteria are causing the disease. Treatment is generally in the form of antibiotics administered either into the muscle or into the udder. Rather than treatment, many producers would prefer some form of preventive steps. For many diseases there are vaccines that reduce the rate of infection or the severity. Unfortunately, there is not a vaccine to prevent mastitis in sheep or in any other animal.

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To the table

The age—old farm skills such as making your own butter and killing a sheep for the table might not be as well-practised as they were a century ago, but more and more farmers are now seeking to revive them as they rediscover the joy and health benefits of farm-raised produce. Whether keeping a house cow to provide milk. butter and cheese or butchering a beast for the deep freeze. these skills are worth considering. Home butchering Home butchering in particular is back in fashion partly because of the paddock-to-plate movement so evident on today's tv food programs. Although some still baulk at the practice, home slaughter of farm animals is entirely legal in Australia. with just one caveat - the meat must not be sold. There is nothing illegal about consuming the meat yourself, but once it’s destined for commercial sale, it must be slaughtered at a licensed abattoir where compliance with Australian food safety and animal welfare standards are monitored by government regulators. The technique may vary from one beast to the next. but the overarching principle and the order in which the organs are removed are roughly the same. Using a pig as an example, the aim is to break down the carcass and transform the cuts to starring roles in stews, sausages, terrines and roasts, but long before the various cuts are plated up comes a lot of hard work. It starts with the home slaughter. First off, shield other animals from the kill. Pigs are intelligent animals and become distressed, so it pays to use a sectioned-off, shrouded area. A typical method is to use a .22 rifle with a solid bullet, shot straight between the eyes in the frontal lobe. This allows the pig or other animal to be killed, but the heart will still be beating, at which point the farmer should bleed the animal by rupturing the carotid artery in the neck. In the case of pigs, the animal should then be transferred to the scalding tub, set at 68C, to help remove the hair follicles. With beef or lamb you need to skin the beast. This is much easier with a sheep or pig than with a steer (or beast), purely because of the size of the animal. Cattle usually requiring a mobile professional butcher at least. With a pig, you must use a hoe or the back of a knife to remove the hairs. Once the animal has been humanely killed and skinned or de-haired, the butchering process can begin. BUTCHERING PIG Hang the carcass so the internal organs fall away cleanly into a wheelbarrow or similar nearby. Cut down around the rectum with a sharp boning knife and cut around the bowel area, being careful not to


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pierce the bladder. Once the bowel and intestinal areas have been cut out, tie them off with string to prevent contamination to the rest of the pig. The abdominal region should be cut out next, followed by the remaining organs, including the heart, lung and liver; and finally the oesophagus. Pierce the lungs and the liver once they are removed and look for parasites to ensure the animal isn’t contaminated. Put the pig in the freezer overnight at less than 4C. Cut up the pig according to how you wish to use it, such as ham or prosciutto, or alternatively a roast. If you want it as a ham, start by taking off the hooves and slow roasting them for 48 hours with onions. Next, section 204 South West Queensland Farming Guide

off the legs and forearms for use in sausages or as roasts and cut the neck off and stew it down to become a lovely slow-cooked pork. The back loins can be cut off with a fair degree of fat retained for roasting or as one really long chop. Then cut off the pork belly fat to tum into streaky bacon, or you could keep it as pork belly. The ribs can be sectioned into two, with the top half hand sawed for chops


The back loins can be cut off with a fair degree of fat retained for roasting or as one really long chop. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


versa if left-handed. Mark with a boning knife between the fifth and sixth ribs, then cut towards the breast. Turn the knife and cut between the ribs toward the backbone. Using a mutton saw, saw through the breast bone then through each bone. REMOVE LEGS: Tum lamb hindquarters around so legs are held in the left hand. Make a cut about 4cm


To cut shoulder chops, start at the neck end. Remove the end of the humerus through the blade bone.

below the pelvic bone on an angle toward the top of the tail. Saw through cup joint. Cut through remaining meat, separating chumps for legs. FOREQUARTERS: From this you can prepare chops, roasts or steaks. Chops and roasts are the most common. The forequarter can either be boned and rolled or jointed with a mutton saw. Take care, as too deep a cut will result in loss of moisture and drying of the meat. JOINTING A FOREQUARTER: Saw through vertebrae between each rib. Saw across the ribs in two places and joint the shank to enable the roast to fit into a baking dish. BONING AND ROLLING A FOREQUARTER: Remove ribs, breast and vertebrae. With a sharp, pointed



and the bottom half rolled for roasting. Nothing need be wasted. The blood can be collected to turn into black pudding, leftover meat minced, and the intestinal skin set aside for use as sausage casing. Even the head can be cut off, with the tongue used in a terrine, the ears deep-fried and the cheek cooked as a delicacy. LAMB CUTS Lamb is one of the most commonly home butchered animals in Australia. The process for creating various cuts is as follows. REMOVE THE FOREQUARTER: Lay the lamb on its back on a solid bench, allowing the neck to hang over the edge. If you are right-handed, hang the neck over the left-hand side, and vice


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boning knife, mark down alongside the blade bone, then lay back flesh, cut down the other side and dislocate. The bone should be able to be pulled out. Remove the shank and humerus bones by cutting either side of the bone. Remove excess fat and gristle. Shape forequarter and pin together with skewers, tie with six strings. Remove skewers. CUTTING FOREQUARTER CHOPS: Cut with the knife parallel to breast across humerus, then saw through. Repeat three or four times. In the final saw cut, cut with the knife down on to the ribs, then saw through. Cut chops away from rib bones and separate into individual chops, leaving a shank and breast. To cut shoulder chops, start at the neck end. Remove the end of the humerus through the blade bone and repeat to the end of the forequarter. 206 South West Queensland Farming Guide

With a steak knife, cut through the eye on to the backbone. Remove chop with a saw or chopper. Repeat. You should have eight or nine chops. The neck can be jointed for soup. LOIN AND CHUMP From this piece of meat, several cuts can be obtained. The three cuts discussed next are cutlets, loin chops and chump chops. Remove the fell or skin from the loin by pulling it back


The bone should be able to be pulled out. Remove the shank and humerus bones by cutting either side of the bone. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


from the rib end toward the rump. The loin is divided into three parts. Remove the neck by cutting between either the tenth or eleventh rib or by removing at the thirteenth rib. This will give you eight lamb cutlets. PREPARING RIB LOIN FOR CUTLETS Remove fat and meat from over ribs about 3cm past the eye. All meat between ribs should be removed. This is a rack of lamb. Cuts can be made between each rib down to the backbone. Sever these with a chopper to produce cutlets. CUTTING CHUMP CHOPS Follow the same method as for forequarter chops. Cut through meat on to the ilium or pin bone. Mark between chops on to the sacrum bone.

Cut through with a chopper. Repeat on remaining chops. CUTTING MIDDLE LOIN CHOPS Some preparation still needs to be done. You may have to remove one or two ribs as well as the channel fat. Roll tail up, then proceed to mark the loin into chops. Cut through the bone with a chopper or saw. Excess fat may be removed from each chop. PREPARING LEG OF LAMB Generally only the shank is jointed once or twice. Removing the pelvic bone makes the roast easier to carve after cooking, but this is not essential. A NEED FOR SAFETY Care needs to be taken in regard to food safety and meat contamination. You need to be able to identify tapeworm or parasites and know how

to remove enough of the meat to ensure the rest of the animal is suitable to eat. Problems can emerge if you share the meat with friends and neighbours. If it is contaminated and then passed to other people, or animals, there is a real biosecurity concern. If you are not confident, it could pay to take the animal to a licensed abattoir, most of which will allow you to submit a single animal for slaughter. Some farmers use home-kill or mobile butchers, however, these may not necessarily meet food safety, biosecurity or disease risk management standards.


Care needs to be taken in regard to food safety and meat contamination. You need to be able to identify tapeworm or parasites and know how to remove enough of the meat to ensure the rest of the animal is suitable to eat.


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Keeping a house cow Regular fresh milk is the big benefit of a house cow. Smaller breeds may produce less than 10 litres a day, while larger ones can produce much more. As well as milk and cream, you can make cheese and butter. Cows need calves to lactate (produce milk), so this inevitably means producing a calf, usually every year, although longer periods between calving are possible. Calves can also be slaughtered for meat. A well-grown one-year-old will put a big dent in a family's meat bill. Cows also produce manure, and the output of a cow and calf is enough for a decent sized vegetable garden. Dairy cows seem to enjoy the daily rituals of coming in to be milked and interacting with humans. While commercial dairy cows are moved on 208 South West Queensland Farming Guide

after a few years, domestic cows can live for 20 years, producing milk for much of that time. Cows produce milk once calves are born and are milked beyond the time of their calf's weaning. Milking begins a few days after birth. Give calves some milk in a bottle until weaned off milk completely, from about four months. If milking is not interrupted, a cow can be milked continuously for several years. However, to give a cow and the farmer a break, cows are dried off


Cows produce milk once calves are born and are milked beyond the time of their calf's weaning

regularly by stopping milking. If a calf is desired every year, a cow can be joined about two months after giving birth. Milking will continue through the first seven months of her approximate nine-month pregnancy. About two months before a calf is to be born, dry the cow off, allowing her to build reserves and rest her udder before her next lactation. A farmer can expect two to three months each year of no milking. It is also feasible to milk just once a day. To milk even less frequently, leave calves with their mother. They will do the milking for you on days you don't want to milk. Feed some milk on the days you do milk. Calves can be left with their mothers for more than six months. Hand milking is best learnt by



experience, ideally after tutoring from an experienced person. There are also machines to milk just one cow. State agriculture and health agencies warn about the dangers of handling raw milk. Hygiene is important. Thoroughly wash and disinfect all milk containers after each use. Refrigerate fresh milk without delay. Clean teats before each milking with a disinfectant. Your cow will need time with a bull, or be artificially inseminated, to become pregnant. Keeping a bull for that annual brief encounter is not feasible, so borrow or lease someone else's. HINTS FOR HOMESTYLE CHEESE Cheesemaking is not difficult but a few basic rules need to be followed. Cleanliness is vital. Everything that comes into contact with the cheese must be cleaned thoroughly. Use household bleach (with active ingredient sodium hypochlorite). Dip all utensils and equipment used into this solution. Wash your hands in this solution. For a bleach containing 4 per cent sodium hypochlorite, make up a solution containing 7ml for each litre of water. Heat milk to 68C and hold for one minute (pasteurisation). This will kill all pathogenic bacteria (those harmful to humans). Cheese starters should be fresh when used. The success of your cheesemaking depends on this, especially at home where you don't have any way of measuring its activity. Rennet is a proteolytic enzyme used to coagulate the milk. Two types are available: calf rennet and vegetarian rennet. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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Water With growing populations and changing climates water has never been so important. Any farmer, whether established or just getting started, must know how much water he or she has, where it’s coming from, how good its quality is, how it’s being saved and distributed to crops or animals, and what the likelihood is of supply being there in the future. Will the farm be able to survive a drought of six months, a year or even a decade or more? Once water was considered to come free from the sky. While that is still fundamentally true, for many farmers water comes with a big price tag. Money needs to be spent on building dams, piping it to where it’s needed, buying tanks to store it, testing its quality and maybe paying for rights or entitlements to take it from a river, aquifer or other source. Some water might require a pump and a bore (for which a licence must be paid) to be collected, and in dry times, water might need to be brought in via water carrier. In some parts of Australia, farmers are even being charged for water they store in their own irrigation dams. Water costs can be immense, and all these things need to be included in a farm budget. Some water contains too much sodium, minerals or contaminants. These impose limits on how it can be used, or even if it can be used at all. Costly desalination treatment might be needed. Costs like these can put a farm business out the back door unless they are properly considered and planned. KNOW YOUR WATER NEEDS Drought will always be a huge unknown ‘hanging over the viability of Australian farms. No amount of planning can completely drought-proof a property. Yet knowing how much water your farm needs to prosper provides the basis for setting up infrastructure to collect and store enough water in the good times to carry you through the bad. You need to determine how much water each part of your operation requires, and at what times of year it requires it most. You need to nail down specifics with your water audit - stock needs, crop needs, household needs, garden needs and firefighting needs. Commit these figures to computer or paper. At the same time, if not before, you need to determine exactly how much water you might have at your disposal at any one time, whether in dams, tanks or from water entitlements or elsewhere. You also need to know how much rain might be expected to fall, based on meteorological records, predictions and your own water gauge readings. Once you have your figures, incoming water versus outgoing water, you will be able to see whether you


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are in front or behind. If behind, you might need to reduce stock numbers, or boost water collection or diversions. Then you must make a contingency plan of what you will do if something goes wrong, if suddenly one source of that water isn't available. It might be the result of drought, a breakdown in storage or collection infrastructure, or even the water being fouled by algae build-up. SOBERING WATER PREDICTIONS It has been estimated by Farming First, a global coalition for sustainable agricultural development, that by 2050, the proportion of the population facing stressed water supplies is expected to increase by 500 per cent and the 212 South West Queensland Farming Guide

number facing full water scarcity is expected to increase by 800 per cent. The organisation, made up of farmers, agronomists, scientists, engineers and various industry representatives, warns that climate variability is expected to impact many major crops, cutting productivity in key food crops like irrigated rice by as much as 27 per cent, rain-fed wheat by 25 per cent and rain-fed maize by 15 per cent. Among the ways farmers can protect themselves, it says, is for them to farm smarter, be more open to more water-efficient cropping techniques and be more diligent in water use and management.

TOO MUCH WATER Of course, too much water in the wrong place can be as big a problem as too little water. Waterlogging, especially over winter, can lead to compaction from livestock, or pugging, and cause soils to become toxic. Waterlogged soils and anaerobic conditions make some crops difficult or impossible to grow, and in some cases, they encourage weed growth. This is when drainage is needed. Surface or subsurface drains need to be dug or installed, and plans need to be in place as to where this excess water will go once drained off. It's not good enough to push it toward your neighbour's boundary. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

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Getting drainage right Excess water needs to be drained quickly and properly to avoid flooding and damage to infrastructure

Where land is farmed or used for any human activity, excess water must be drained from above and below the soil surface. Different methods are used for each situation. Surface water, usually called stormwater, accumulates, often rapidly, as a result of local or nearby rainfall. It needs to be drained away quickly so paths, driveways, paddocks and other farm surfaces remain useable and buildings are not flooded. Below-ground or sub-soil water is a problem when the soil profile is too wet to allow plants to grow or is too soft to take traffic or to support buildings. Sub-soil water is less obvious and moves more slowly than storm water, but it can still be present in large volumes. DRAINAGE FOR SHEDS Generally drainage is included when 214 South West Queensland Farming Guide

designing a house and a drainage plan is usually needed for a building permit. Sheds can be different. While councils need structural plans to issue a permit to build a shed, drainage details including spouting and downpipes may not be required. It is worth the expense to engage a site works contractor to incorporate drainage provision when creating the pad for a shed. This will include managing overflow from tanks and surface flow during rainfall periods from surrounding higher ground. The plan may include grated pits that allow surface run-off to enter underground pipes or surface channels that direct water to where it can collect in a dam, run into the stormwater drainage system or spread

out over a suitable area and soak into the ground. UNDERGROUND ACTION Even sloping sites may need extra drainage, particularly sub-surface drainage. Plant roots need air as well as water and soil type determines whether or not the root zone might be waterlogged because of poor drainage. Sub-surface water flows are often not related to surface water flows immediately above. Water may soak into flat, higher ground and flow many metres downhill below the surface on a layer of heavy clay. So, while water on top of sloping ground might ¡ quickly disperse after rain, conditions underground can remain waterlogged. Soil type determines the distance between drainage pipes and their depth. In lighter soils, water will flow a little www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


further and quicker than in heavy clay soil, so pipes can be further apart. Depth is often determined by the level at which a layer of clay occurs. Usually agricultural drains are installed just on top of an impermeable clay layer. This prevents water from accumulating and creating waterlogged conditions in the root zone. The final depth and spacing of agricultural drains will vary according to soil type and profile. If local knowledge is unavailable, some trial and error might be called for. Local councils can be a good source of knowledge on conditions and drainage designs. AGRICULTURAL DRAINS Once called tile drains and often made of terracotta, these take away undersoil water and today they are made with perforated plastic pipes backfilled (covered) with crushed stone


called screenings. Screenings consist of individual stones, all about the same size. Sometimes a trench can be filled directly with screenings without the need for a pipe. Water can still flow within the open structure of the screenings. START AT THE BOTTOM To build a good drainage system, start at the bottom. Every farm, hopefully, has an obvious place where excess water can exit the property in a legal and responsible way. This point is called the drainage outfall. There could be more than one outfall and in flat country it might be necessary to use surveying equipment to accurately locate an outfall. Once this point has been located, begin installing above and below-ground drainage infrastructure. While it may not be possible to start constructing a farm drainage system at

the outfall and systematically build every aspect of it as the ground level rises, knowing the location of the outfall means different segments can be designed and built as needed, ensuring the drainage water is ultimately headed towards the appropriate point or points. WATCH POLLUTANTS Drainage water can carry pollutants from fertilisers and pesticides. If applying chemicals, make certain there is no rainfall and apply only the minimum required using recommended rates. Animal manure from yards and intensively grazed paddocks must also be controlled with regular clean-ups especially if heavy rain is forecast. Contaminated drainage water can also affect dams within your property, your neighbour's property and local waterways.

South West Queensland Farming Guide 215



A dam is a valuable resource and must be well-built and properly maintained. Few farms can exist without dams to store water. Stock and domestic dams do not require a licence, but you will need a licence if the dam is to be constructed on a waterway or used for irrigation or commercial purposes. If uncertain, contact your local rural water authority. Likewise, the builder or landowner of a dam must notify the rural water authority if the bank is 5m or more in height with a storage capacity of 50ML or more, the bank is 10m or more in height with a storage capacity of 20ML or more, or the bank is 15m or more. The most common cause of dam failure is poor planning or construction, so it makes sense to employ an experienced dam engineer. Always seek recommendations from others before choosing a company to undertake your dam construction. Many soils are not suitable for dams and generally local contractors will have the best knowledge of your soil and be able to advise. The best soil to seal clams and to form banks is impervious clay. Open and friable volcanic soils are useless. 216 South West Queensland Farming Guide

REPAIR WORK Before repairing or working on a dam, first check with your local council or catchment management authority. Generally you have the right to restore a dam to its original and safe capacity, but not the automatic right to extend it or raise the dam wall which could increase the water storage. Once you notice a dam is damaged, a close If this happens, there won't be a hard, impermeable clay surface and the dam could break Compaction should be maintained at the top of the dam wall as many leaks generally start there. Once you notice a dam is damaged, a close inspection with an earthmoving expert should reveal the failure reasons. It can take months or a season or two before work can start, so early detection of any problem is paramount. An earthmoving contractor can quote for the job. Get three quotes and research companies' past work. Most often, the dam will need to be drained for safety reasons. If there is a breach in the wall, dig it out. And dig out any silt in the bottom of the dam until a solid bed of clay is reached. Some of this clay can be used to fill in the breech. Sometimes clay may need to www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


be brought in and the whole dam wall demolished and rebuilt from scratch if it was not made correctly in the first place. This specialised work could take days. Sufficient moisture should be within the clay or added to the clay. COMPACTION Generally only 200mm of clay should be layered on the dam at a time by the earthmover. Experienced dam builders will continually drive up and down the banks pushing in relatively small amounts of clay. Larger amounts, such as up to a metre thick, can trap air below the surface. For the average farm dam, the overflow should be, about two metres below the top of the dam and up to three metres wide so water slows down as it exits to avoid erosion. Large rocks- medicine ball to bean-bag size can be used to help slow the overflow. EMBANKMENTS AND DAM WALLS The embankment or dam wall should be at least two metres above the waterline for small farm dams so floodwater does not go over the top. Line it with topsoil and silt from the first excavation and plant a tough creeping grass, such as. kikuyu or couch Keep sheep and cattle out for a few months so the grass gets a grip. Don't allow trees to grow on the dam wall.



South West Queensland Farming Guide 217


Choose the right pump Today there are pumps for every farm job involving water. Knowing the job requirements and the power source available will help when it comes to choosing the right one. PUMPS FOR HOUSEHOLD USE Pumps for homes are usually mains powered and provide constant pressure for taps, showers and other household needs and appliances when mains water is not available. The "constant" pressure is maintained via a pressure reservoir, which contains an air-filled bladder allowing pressure to be stored to even out variations in flow as the pump starts and stops. It's best to buy the biggest domestic unit your budget will allow. PORTABLE PUMPS It is hard to beat a portable, petrol-powered pump, particularly for firefighting. In this situation, compatible fittings on water-tank valves and hoses 218 South West Queensland Farming Guide

are vital, so connections can be made quickly. If pumping from a dam, a suction hose equipped with a foot valve is needed, and a bucket kept handy to prime the pump. Portable pumps are suitable for filling tanks or transferring water from one dam to another. A double impeller model can pump useful volumes through an elevation of up to 100m. They can also be used for irrigation but be sure to open valves before


Pumps for homes are usually mains powered and provide constant pressure for taps, showers and other household needs

starting the pump because once the engine is running, they begin pumping and can blow apart fittings and hoses if the water has nowhere to go. STATIONARY PUMPS A farm-water reticulation system generally needs a stationary pump to either pump water directly on demand when a valve is opened - or to keep a header tank filled, which, in turn, charges a gravity-fed system. Such a system can provide water to garden taps, deliver drip or sprinkler irrigation to crops and orchards and keep livestock water troughs with automatic float valves full. The source of water could be a dam or a rainwater tank and should always include a well-ventilated shelter to protect the pump from rain and direct sun. Once the required pump capacity is determined, choose the model with the most suitable power source. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


PETROL Small, portable petrol-powered impeller pumps are satisfactory as stationary pumps. Instead of being fitted with a carrying frame, they can be bolted directly to a sturdy base. A disadvantage of small petrol-powered pumps is that they are not equipped with automatic start, so must be started by hand each time. They are therefore best used to fill header tanks. Larger petrol-powered pumps, often with automatic ignition systems, can deliver much higher volumes of water, but can be expensive. DIESEL As volumes to be pumped become larger and are required over longer periods with automatic starting, diesel-powered pumps are a better choice, being more economical and reliable. SOLAR These are useful when pumping is required some distance from power and farm buildings. An ideal application is lifting water from a dam to a header tank where water demand is not high or erratic. When there is abundant sunlight in summer they operate for longer each day and pump more water, while in cooler months they do less work, generally matching water demand. www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

Solar pumps are low maintenance and have extremely low running costs but are expensive to set up. They are normally not chosen where large daily volumes can be required, such as in horticulture. ELECTRIC Electric pumps can have single or three-phase motors with the latter capable of much higher output. Despite the ever-increasing rise in tariffs, they are usually cheaper to run than petrol pumps of equivalent output. Substantial savings are possible by running pumps during off-peak periods, easily achieved with weatherproof timers. Electric pumps have the added advantage of easily starting automatically from a pressure switch. They are the best choice to deliver water on demand for a variety of farm needs, in a similar way to a domestic house pump. Another advantage of electric pumps is their low-maintenance requirement, provided they are adequately protected from the elements. They have two disadvantages - installation of electric power supply over any distance is expensive, and they are only as reliable as the local power supply. Electric pumps should not be relied on for firefighting purposes. PUMP PRIMING

Where a pump is above the level of water being pumped, priming consists of removing a plug and pouring water in. Where the pump is below the water level, for example when water is pumped from a tank, it's only necessary to open the pump outlet before starting to let water flow through the pump by gravity. In this case the pump is said to be flood-primed. PRESSURE The way pump pressure is expressed can be a stumbling block for many. The most common unit used for pumping is "metres of head", or just "metres head". It is the weight of a column of a given height of water. Head pressure can also be expressed in other units, such as kilopascal- kPa or pounds per square inch- psi. GET A START ON PUMPS Small petrol engines that power pumps can be frustrating for some to start, especially if you don't understand small motors and how a carburettor can easily become flooded. The best advice is to ensure motors are well maintained and, silly as it may sound, practise starting them. Where pumps are for firefighting purposes, it is important all members of the family practise starting and running pumps regularly throughout the fire season. This improves starting skills and ensures pumps remain in good working order South West Queensland Farming Guide 219


Water bores Groundwater or bore water can be a huge asset to a farming property, particularly during drought.

Water, whether underground or falling from the skies, must be used carefully and its use monitored. A bore can only be sunk under strict conditions. Australia has more than 870,000 bore locations according to the National Ground Water Information System. Underground areas where water is located are known as aquifers, and the first thing you need to know is whether there is plentiful good water below you to ensure a bore is worth sinking. There is little point going through the procedure to discover the water you pump up is unusable. A drilling company or a local water authority can assist with this and also gaining a licence to construct a bore. Only after a licence has been obtained can a licensed drilling 220 South West Queensland Farming Guide

company start drilling. Some drilling companies will not charge for a farm bore being drilled if no water is found. While it might sound a good offer, most companies will have a fair idea if water is present. What can't be guaranteed is the precise depth at which water will be found and its quality. Because of depth uncertainty and the possibility of hitting rock, drilling companies will often only give an estimate of cost. Drilling can take from a few hours to a few days. A pump should not be bought until after good water has been found, because the depth of the bore and flow rate can affect the type of pump needed. If bore water is to be used for

anything other than domestic or stock use, a Licence to Take and Use Groundwater must be obtained. Immediately a bore is operating, water samples should be taken to determine the quality of the water. Apart from the hole, a bore generally consists of a delivery pipe (usually poly), a power cable, and a cylindrical submersible pump that hangs from a stainless-steel cable toward the bottom of the bore. BORE PUMPS Once windmills supplied the lifting power for bores. But that's no longer the case. Submersible electric bore pumps are the go. They are relatively compact, available in a range of capacities and can pump water from deep bores. Of course, they need electricity. An option when electricity is not www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


available is a solar pump. They are powered by the sun via solar panels without the need for electricity, generators or batteries. Compressed-air-powered pumps are also ideal for remote locations. With these, air is delivered to the pump via poly pressure pipe from a central air compressor. POINTS TO CONSIDER WATER quality of bore water can be affected by a septic system nearby. ACROSS Australia, the water from some bores is suitable for stock use but not for plant use. Poor quality water can be partially improved by mixing it with fresh water in a tank. SOME bore water is adversely affected by excess iron. The iron can be removed by storing the water in a settling tank, or through the use of a reverse-flushing filter. IF A BORE is no longer wanted or damaged and can't be fixed, a decommissioning licence must be obtained and the bore must be properly decommissioned to prevent contamination reaching the groundwater.

DESALINATION Some bore water can be highly saline. Removing salt is a viable option, and the cost may be deemed acceptable, especially when tanks and dams run dry. A typical small to medium desalination unit can produce between five and 10 litres of good quality water per minute using 1kW of electricity, the equivalent of a one-bar radiator. If used only during off-peak periods, or using solar power, the resultant water can be inexpensive and, even if paying peak electricity tariffs, can be less costly than “town" water. While the volume may seem small, a significant quantity of water can be produced. A production rate of five litres a minute will yield more than 50,000 litres each week if the desalination unit runs around the clock.


Across Australia, the water from some bores is suitable for stock use but not for plant use.

LICENSED TO DRILL A bore is not just a drilled hole in the ground through which water is pumped. Legally, a bore can be a well or sump from which water is taken or which can store water. A licence, called a Bore Construction Licence, needs to be obtained by anyone before they can dig, drill or alter a "bore" deeper than three metres.


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South West Queensland Farming Guide 221


Hone up on piping

You need to know the difference between poly pipe and PVC pipe, and when to use which on your farm. PVC PIPE PVC pipe has been around at least since World War II but was really only widely available in Australia about 40 years ago. The full chemical name is "unplasticised polyvinyl chloride", formally abbreviated to uPVC. It comes in a variety of grades based on wall thickness and internal pressure and the external physical forces and conditions it must withstand. Uses include stormwater drainage, sewerage, fresh water reticulation, irrigation systems and electrical and communications conduits. Colour can be a guide to intended use. White is for general storm water, sewer and common pressure grades, orange is for electrical conduits, and orange and sometimes grey is for communication conduits. If you encounter an orange PVC pipe when digging, take care as it may contain a live electrical wire. JOINING PVC PIPE There are many fittings available to allow pipe to" be joined including 45-degree and 90-degree elbows, 222 South West Queensland Farming Guide

sweep bends, straight joiners, tees and junctions, and fittings with male and female threads to allow valves and other types of pipe to be joined. Apart from threaded fittings and some specialist cases where rubber ring joints are used, PVC pipes and fittings are glued together with PVC solvent cement. Joins consist of a smooth, square-cut end which slides into a closely fitting socket. After wiping the surfaces to be glued with a primer solution, both surfaces are covered with glue then pushed together. PVC pipe can be easily cut to the required length with any hand saw used to cut timber. Make a clean, square cut and rub off any burrs with sandpaper. PVC pipe is semi-rigid, so while it can be curved a little, it is generally installed in straight lines. Its rigidity makes it suitable for above ground installations that include valves and filters. PVC pipe is relatively expensive by the metre compared to poly pipe of the same diameter. However PVC fittings are considerably cheaper than poly fittings. POLY PIPE

Polyethylene pipe is commonly available in two broad categories, low-density polyethylene- LDPE - and high-density polyethylene- HDPE. LDPE is commonly used for drip irrigation systems and DIY home garden sprinkler systems. The pipe and its fittings are not suitable to resist constant pressure so are used only where water can escape through a sprinkler head or drippers. Polyethylene is resistant to many solvents and so the joining technique is mechanical in nature. The pipe is joined with push-on barbed fittings that can then be further secured with ratchet clamps. These are available in most hardware outlets. HDPE pipe is commonly used on farms for pressurised water supply and compressed air lines, the latter for both workshop air reticulation and compressed-air bore pumps. Both types of poly pipe are joined with mechanical fittings. There are many fittings available with the most common being joiners, 90-degree elbows and tees. Some are for joining one piece of pipe to another and therefore have only compression fittings, while others have a threaded section that permits a valve or www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide


some other threaded component to be joined. JOINING POLYETHYLENE PIPE Cut the pipe with a wood saw or hacksaw. Smaller diameter pipes can even be cut with a sharp knife. The end should be cut square with any burrs rubbed off. Fittings have components that are easy to assemble once you know the technique. Compression fittings are normally hand-tightened, while a spanner or wrench is best to tighten threaded fittings. Pipe made from LDPE and HDPE is flexible, making it ideal to run wherever needed. It is flexible enough in many cases to go around comers without needing an elbow fitting. When grey water is used for irrigation, lilac poly pipe and fittings are used to indicate the contents are unsuitable for human or animal consumption. WHICH PIPE, WHEN AND WHERE Most farm applications involve water under pressure, often up to about 50psi or about 344 kPa. Both PVC and poly pipe will do the job, but circumstances generally indicate one is better than the other. With PVC, a pressure grade such as class 9 or class 12 (the difference is pipe wall thickness, with class 12 being thicker) suits general farm jobs, while www.suratbasin.com.au/farmingguide

for poly, the "rural" grade is suitable most of the time. WHEN COST COUNTS Which pipe to use? A major cost consideration is the number of fittings, such as joiners, elbows and tees, you need. Poly pipe is much cheaper per metre than PVC pipe, and the price of poly falls dramatically if you buy it in rolls. These can be 50m long for larger sizes such as 50mm diameter, up to 200m rolls for 25mm pipe. PVC pipe can be more than five times the cost of similar sized poly pipe. Another point to consider is labour. PVC pipe comes in 6m lengths that have to be joined, whereas you can run up to 200m of poly pipe without joins. Fittings are probably the biggest trap if you make a poor choice. Poly fittings can be 10 times or more the cost of PVC fittings. If many fittings are needed for a project, it pays to use PVC fittings. WHEN TO CALL A PLUMBER In many cases it is a legal requirement to employ a registered plumber. This can be for sewer work, household or other building fresh-water reticulation, hot-water services and reticulation, air-conditioning work, fire sprinkler systems and high-pressure and high-volume applications, such as in

dairies, and post-harvest processing installations, such as packing sheds. But frequently, with some research, practice and patience, most people can do their own work, especially around dams, tanks, garden sprinkler systems, stock troughs, drip irrigation systems, mist systems, water transfers from dam to dam and from dam to tank, garden taps and paddocks for casual irrigation, stock needs and even firefighting. It is generally permissible for non-plumbers to install plumbing connected to mains-supplied water so long as a back-flow preventer, also called a check valve, is installed by a plumber on the supply line. A gate valve should be installed to ensure the added piping can be isolated in the event of a leak. DIG DEEP When burying a pipe, don't skimp on trench depth. A good minimum soil cover for pipes is 200mm. If in the future you might want to install paving or to re-grade an area, you might bury the pipe deeper. Record accurately where you have buried all pipes. Record how deep they are buried and their horizontal distances from permanent objects such as fences and buildings

South West Queensland Farming Guide 223







SHEEP Nursing ewes on dry feed





Prime lambs on dry pasture





Mature sheep on dry pasture





Prime lambs on irrigated pasture





Mature sheep on irrigated pasture





Dairy cow, dry





Dairy cow, milking





Beef cattle




















Brood sow





Mature pig





Grower (25kg-90kg)





Laying hen






































224 South West Queensland Farming Guide




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South West Queensland Farming Guide 2019  

South West Queensland Farming Guide 2019