How landholders can make the most of their pastures – to improve soil health, livestock production and overall farming systems – was the main topic at the second field day organised by Western Australian Regenerative Livestock Producers (WALRP) on 8th May 2023.
This was the second in a series of events aimed at offering landholders and livestock producers practical information, ‘hands on’ activities and the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge, to aid in the adoption of regenerative livestock systems.
Hosted at his ‘The Lakes’ property, 60km east of Perth, Steve Meerwald shared his journey of adopting regenerative agricultural practices after an ‘epiphany moment’ in February 2020. His epiphany happened after seeing a ‘sea of green surrounded by dry, parched farms’ during a visit to another property that was utilizing perennial pastures. That property was also able to sustainably carry more than four times the number of stock animals of the neighbouring block of the same size. Since then, Steve started integrating similar principles on his own land, converting pastures and merino stock to 265 ha of kikuyu pastures and mixed-breed shedding sheep.
One of the main concerns livestock farmers have when considering transitioning to regenerative agriculture principles is how to manage feed gaps. This was covered by Phil Barrett-Lennard, agricultural consultant at AgVivo, who delved into how to minimize these gaps by using a system that includes a mix of crop stubble, annual pastures, crop grazing, fodder shrubs, fodder crops and confinement feeding. The end goal of these management options is to increase stocking rate and animal production, while also reducing stress levels, supplementary feeding, labour and production costs, with the additional benefits of increasing groundcover and improved soil health.
An introduction to natural capital on farms and how it can be beneficial to farming systems was covered by Bonnie Jupp, RegenWA Program Manager at Perth NRM. The measurement of natural capital is currently underway on farms across WA, and Bonnie also detailed how the information could be used to make more-informed decisions on farm planning, demonstrate implemented risk mitigation to financial institutions, and to meet future market requirements.
Regenerative farmer Blythe Calnan dived into the world of carbon and the carbon cycle, detailing how soil and its management can be an important asset when it comes to managing the world’s carbon levels and carbon stores. Organic soil carbon can improve the soil’s overall health and water holding capacity, while also improving the landscape’s carrying capacity and yield, ecosystem resilience, lowering costs and helps to mitigate the risk of drought.
Dr Adrian Baker shared the availability of new and novel pasture species for livestock, their nutrition and potential for toxicity, and the management of biosecurity considerations for pasture and livestock systems in Western Australia.
In addition to hearing these presentations, attendees had the opportunity to participate in practical demonstrations on electric fencing (Murray Green from Gallagher Fencing), body scoring of sheep (Dr Adrian Baker from RAW Animal Health), assessing pasture health (Phil Barrett-Lennard from AgVivo) and investigating soil biology (Ellen Walker from Earthwhile).
A final panel discussion on the regenerative agriculture journey allowed attendees to ask questions and share their own experiences. These connections and conversations also continued throughout the delicious regeneratively-produced BBQ lunch.
Images by Bonnie Jupp and Kallista Bolton.