Myall Springs: Cattle, Sheep, Waterholes and Native Grasses in the Time of the Long Dry.
……………….Thanks to Ronn, Hubster at Ashfield for writing this Blog.
Harvest Hub caught up with “Livestock Producer of the Year 2013” Matt Carter early Monday to talk about Myall Spring’s farming methods and surviving the big on-going drought. Matt is a fourth generation grazier.
On a normal day Matt leaves home at 5.30am, motor biking by feel rather than sight because with daylight savings it’s now too dark to see. Work is herding cattle; there are six mobs* to rotate. As the day heats up they, like us, become harder to shift. After breaky, it’s running organic supplements to the herds. Then there’s careful checking of water consumption. With 2 tanks for 12½ thousand acres a leak would be a worry.
With lunch eaten, Matt reads or snoozes with the aircon on during the hottest part of a 40+ degree day.** Then from 3pm to 5-6pm it’s the worst time of day; with fencing and farm maintenance topping the ‘to do’ list. 5pm can also be a good time. His and his wife, Mel’s, four kids come in from school, eat, and then sometimes everyone heads down the road to his brother’s for a swim.
The constant fencing protects Myall Springs’ herds and watercourses, stops soil erosion, and encourages birds and native wildlife into the area. You can bird watch on the property and there are shepherd huts for hire. At the moment there’s more roos than sheep. The fencing gives the native grasses that feed his herds a chance to thrive. While there’s some 200km+ of fencing altogether there’s some 20km+ fenced off around the waterways for strategic grazing.
When Matt speaks of grass, it’s a bit like listening to an Inuit describing ice. He has a vast vocab for the Liverpool plains perennial varieties: wallaby grass, blue grass, red grass all feature in conversation. The reason for the constant rotation of livestock means that the native grasses and watercourses that Matt has encouraged rest up.
As Matt studied Farm Management he became interested in land care, but over the past five years he also is into land care and organic farming for his health – they mean he doesn’t need expensive, possibly harmful chemicals and costly soil top ups. Organic farming methods – and meeting the tough US Organic certification criteria – also mean that his grass, with the benefit of some November storm rainfall, is still providing food for his hardy South African Dorper sheep and British Short Horn, Hereford and Angus cattle. Certified organic oat top ups haven’t been necessary, in an area crying out for government fodder subsidies.
Myall Springs during Drought
However, the drought has meant that Matt has decided not to provide beef this season. Fortunately for Harvest Hubbers there’s lamb available. Good grass is essential to providing Matt’s best meat – and a little rain will go a long way. Severe drought is detrimental to any livestock producer, even ones as savvy about waterholes and soil health as Matt is. Myall Spring’s motto is: “from paddock to plate…the best tasting organic meat” and they’re well placed to survive what might be the hottest summer on record around Gunnedah.
*A mob is Australian and New Zealander for herd.
** The temp in Gunnedah has reached 47 degrees this January. Matt refers to it as “the hottest day on white man record”.