Grazing camels with cows, and other creative management ideas were the focus of HMI’s Australian Open Gate on July 4th at Glenrock Farm in Cloyna, Queensland. A diverse group (both full and part-time farmers, relatively new and more experienced) gathered to see the changes occurring on Glenrock Farm after only 14 months of Holistic Management planned grazing. Many of the 63 participants were impressed with how quickly the changes are taking place and how little time the Kapernick family spends moving their herd.
The camels drew a lot of interest; the primarily cow/calf operator attendees enjoyed seeing firsthand the behavior of camels, what they eat and their effective coexistence with the cows. There was a lot of discussion about improving the health and capacity of the soil, and also creatively marketing direct to consumers and starting other innovative farm enterprises.
Not only were successes discussed, but also how trials that didn’t work as planned were used as learning experiences. Holistic Management Certified Educator Jason Virtue explained, “Managing holistically is not about creating a magic farm, It’s about getting things approximately right instead of dead wrong… ‘cause I’m sure we all know what dead wrong looks like and we’re sick of it.”
Craig and Claire Kapernick, owners of Glenrock Farm, and hosts for the day, discussed how they have used Holistic Management to reap almost immediate positive changes. Even though they have only been planning their grazing for about 14 months, participants could already see improvements in the health of their soil, its capacity to store water, and more desirable plants growing on their farm. Where there was high animal density in just one previous grazing, the dung had been evenly distributed and the soil was much more friable. Planned grazing has enabled them to make good decisions for their 480 acres, and despite inconsistent rainfall, they are seeing higher productivity even during hard times.
Some of the day’s activities included:
- Craig Kapernick showing their planned grazing charts and how they identify where their herd has been, where they plan to move next, and a demonstration of moving the herd
- An interactive exercise measuring the forage available in the pasture and budgeting feed for the animals throughout the season led by Jason Virtue
- Jason leading a group exercise to evaluate and monitor the health of the ecosystem processes by looking at the amount of bare soil and other key indicators. Participants counted at least 10 different grasses and forbs in the pasture
- A demonstration showing the effects of planned grazing on the soil by the ease of pushing in a screwdriver on the pasture (7 inches) versus an area that had not been managed using the mixed cow and camel herd (only 2 inches)
- A group exercise on how to test a decision using the Holistic Management testing questions
Damien O’Sullivan, Government Extension Officer, and farmer (beef cattle and share cropping) explained the advantages of using holistic grazing planning to control African love grass. In the past, he says, “I have ploughed, poisoned, burned it, hit it with a stick and even swore at it and nothing worked.” The only result was “the local fire brigade and my neighbors were not impressed by the burning.” But planned grazing using animal impact and herd effect have changed the species mix, increasing pasture diversity and productivity. Damien also shared figures on the dollar costs of poisoning, ploughing, and planting new species. Financially, these conventional treatment methods don’t stack up.
Jeff and Sue Trott have been managing their property, Thooruna, land that has been in Jeff’s family since 1968, for the past 5 years. They learned about Holistic Management in early 2014, and simply by changing the numbers in their herd and regulating how the herd moves through their land, they have created amazing changes to their landscape. Their creeks and water holes are holding water for months instead of weeks, they are experiencing better weight gains on their cattle, and are seeing more native animals and bird life on the property than ever before. They shared challenges they’ve had with managing a large herd of 400+ animals, problems with portable fencing and cow conception rates, but also talked of how using Holistic Management has changed their lives by allowing planned time away from the farm (previously quite rare) to include fishing trips, laughing and enjoying themselves together.
Kylie Carr and her family began farming in 2010 on 211 acres of land that is a 2 hour drive away from where they live. She, her husband Mick, and their 2 teenage sons spend weekends and school holidays there, managing a beef cow herd and concentrating on soil health. By using holistic planned grazing (no other inputs), they have doubled the organic carbon content in their soils in less than 2 years. Their sons helped create a comprehensive holistic goal, which provides the context to test all of their decisions both on and off the farm. They then monitor, control and re-plan as needed.
Using Holistic Management practices, they have come up with some creative solutions like:
- automatic gate open devices (batt latch) which open a spring loaded gate each day, double checked by their kind neighbor on his morning walk
- a mobile back rub for fly control and free choice mineral trailer
- a flock of virtually independent Guinea fowl that roost high in the trees and roam freely during the day to help control tick levels and maintain a chemical free herd
Here are some of the comments from participants:
Terrific – enlightening.
Very interesting & informative.
It was an amazing event, speakers great.
Very informative and well organized. Was good to listen to other people’s stories and what they’ve seen as successful and what was not.
Very informative day. Lots of good information.
Excellent, reassuring on right path, rebooting enthusiasm.
Very impressed & appreciated all presenters inputs, frankness, experience and for sharing.
Well presented, good speakers, good selection of information.
Enjoyed discussions and learning about others’ experiences.
A very good day. Good food. Enjoyable & interesting speakers.
Thanks especially for sharing the failures and the lessons learned from those failures.
Thanks for taking the time to explain how grass grows after the animals graze, and how the process of over grazing works and why it is bad for both the land and the hip pocket!
Here are the outcomes for the day:
|Overall Satisfaction of this event (rated good to excellent)||100%|
|Facilitator’s effectiveness (rated good to excellent)||100%|
|Presenters’ effectiveness (rated good to excellent)||100%|
|Intent to complete or modify an enterprise analysis as a result of today’s event||89%|
|Intent to complete a biological monitoring on your land as a result of today’s event||88%|
|Intent to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned in this event||89%|
|Expanded network by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you||100%|
|More confident in ability to determine plant recovery||60%|
|More confident in ability to monitor & analyze ecosystem health||55%|
|More confident in ability to determine land health||55%|
|More confident in ability to improve ranch profitability||45%|
|Would recommend this event to others||100%|