Cell Grazing and Pasture Management
Below is a summary of our management practices in relation to our pastures by way of rotational grazing and the benefits, particularly on small farms. We have recently hosted a North Coast Local Land Services Field Day on our farm. See article below:
Ghinni Ghi Angus (via Kyogle) hosts local field day
Prior to the recent storms and heavy rain it seems implausible that two weeks ago we were still experiencing an Indian summer at Ghinni Ghi with daily maximum temperatures of 29 degrees and minimums just reaching into the single figures. We were crying out for moisture with less than half our average rainfall for each of January, February, March and April. Our field day was to showcase pasture management, Angus genetics and sustainable farming practices including diversified income streams on small farms. At the time we had plenty of green growth receiving our first frost on the day of the field day.
On Wednesday May 25th a bus load of enthusiastic farmers arrived at Ghini Ghi Angus after having spent the night in Casino during that town’s Beef week celebrations. The visit was organised through Geoff LeMessurier, Senior Land Services Officer from Local Landservices Kempsey and Nathan Jennings, Senior Livestock Officer, Northern Rivers Landservices based in Lismore.
At the outset it was explained that the property sustained 120 breeders and calves, 20 Yearling bulls, 20 two year old bulls, and 20 replacement yearling heifers, all this on 225 acres. This has been gradually achieved by husband and wife team, Mark and Carol Gillett, who work full time on farm. Examples of each of the stock groupings mentioned above were on display for the participants in the field day and discussions were conducted on 5 two year old bulls being prepared for the 2016 Casino Primex display late June.
With advice from Nathan Jennings, the past 5 years has seen the property transformed from growing Parramatta grass and thistles to now strongly focussing on managing Kikuyu pastures with legumes and the occasional herb.
Soil tests each year have shown gradual improvement to the point where limited additives are required. All 100 acres of alluvial creek flats are now weed free and the Parramatta grass controlled. These same alluvial flats are divided by 2 strand electric fences into 5 acre paddocks with one paddock only measuring 15 acres. We have laneways to the north and south of the property facilitating cell grazing. Perhaps the biggest infrastructure consideration before embarking on this project 5 years ago was the supply of shade and water in each paddock.
During the establishment phase Mark and Carol established a paddock to plate meat business where we sold our beef at Lismore and Alstonville farmer’s markets on Thursday evening and Saturday mornings. As the farm has been developed, the time off farm and the income the meat business provided had to be balanced with development of the property and the Angus stud and stud bull sales. Over time we have reduced our off farm commitments to the meat business and applied those hours to further development on farm.
All of the 5 acre paddocks are strip grazed all year round using electric fences and a back fence in each. Usually this means 4 electric fences are changed daily. In summer the stock returning to the same paddock can do so in as short a timeframe as 10 days, whilst in spring and autumn that time-frame can go out to 28 days depending on growth. The process we follow is firstly to graze with a width between the two electric fences determined by the stocking rate and growth of the pasture, secondly to slash high (boot height) to remove weeds and stolon from the kikuyu in order to produce more feed at 4 or 5 leaf stage and lastly fertilise and irrigate. We are lucky to have a 240 megalitre irrigation licence and our water comes straight from Toonumbar dam via Iron Pot Creek along the property boundary, making the property drought proof. Each of the paddocks has white clover and Shaw’s Creeping Vigna and some have Haifa and chicory and plantain. In some of the paddocks we could harvest the vigna it is so prolific and the ideal legume to compliment the kikuyu. In winter these paddocks are sown to rye grass and strip grazed in the same way as summer Kikuyu grazing. Each area is provided with dry hay daily in round bale feeders whilst feeding on rye grass.
The 15 acre paddock is sown with Cow peas and Millet in late spring and baled as balage (not as dry as hay and not as wet as silage) and wrapped for feed in winter. We usually bale between 100 and 150 wrapped bales in the first cut. Instead of a 2nd cut we graze this paddock in summer and autumn. We plant this paddock in late March with tetilia rye grass and oats - when planted in March some millet comes up in this crop. As the rye and oats develop we begin feeding this paddock using an electric fence and back fence starting late May and continuing through until October. By the time we get to the end of this paddock the beginning is ready to be grazed again. This paddock under this system has sustained 50 cows and calves each year from May to October. These cattle are supplemented with dry hay daily, all of which is grown on the property.
We use a single 5 acre paddock of Lucerne, and a 5 acre paddock of Rhodes grass to fill the hay sheds each year with dry feed for winter. We start winter with 200-250 wrapped bales and 120 dry bales all produced on farm.
At present we have yet to develop the majority of the hills on the property. Most have Wynn Casia and shelves of Kikuyu with one having a designated 5 acres of Setaria.
As one beef producer who attended the field day commented ‘can’t be more impressed than seeing rotational grazing in action. Also sustainable farming practices at a high level. Work smarter and what you put into your business will show in your stock and property’.