Farm Management Training

ACT Natural Resource Management (NRM) works with the rural landholder community, industry, government and others to support resilient and profitable farms in the ACT and region. We have selected a number of examples of training and rural grants we have offered since 2014.

insert alt The ACT RLF aims to offer a range of training which targets and supports landholders with varying levels of land management experience and history in farming, to manage their farms sustainably. Better Grow Better Graze is targeted at more experienced landholders who have been running their properties for a number of years and have already done some training (Prograze, Landscan).

Better Graze Better Grow was delivered over six sessions over 2015-16 to refresh and update Landholders skills and introduce them to the latest information on soils and pasture management. It included classroom/workshop sessions and field trips to local farms, including the farms of the participants.

Evaluation of the Better Grow, Better Graze of the course was conducted on the final session, five landholders participated in the evaluation and all five landholders reported that they had implemented changes to their property as a result of attending Better Grow Better Graze.

These changes included:

  • starting to be more aware of plant phenology when rotationally grazing.
  • improving pasture measurement and rotational grazing
  • improving value of paddocks by decreasing size and sowing oats or brassica
  • changed grazing decisions and timing of movement and management of stock
  • greater application of the knowledge gained in managing pasture inputs
  • changed fertiliser management
  • improved pastures and rotational grazing
  • destocking or limit grazing in parts of his property.

The ACT Regional Land Facilitator (RLF) sponsored three horse agistment property owners to the attend the Sustainable Horse Keeping Conference organised by the Greater Sydney Local Land Services, in May 2016. Since that conference the owners of a Murrumbidgee corridor horse agistment property has started introducing practices learnt at the conference. For example they have introduced dung beetles onto the property and trialed a new approach with agistees to managing horse worming problems. Previously, all their agistees were required to use vermicides to worm their horses every 6-8 weeks, regardless of the worm burden their horses were carrying. Since attending the conference, the owners have have trialled faecal egg count testing with a couple of agistees, as an alternative to routine administration of vermicides.

Under this approach horse agistees send horse dung samples to an accredited lab to determine the faecal worm burden, and only administer vermicides if required. The initial trial was a success and and now all agistees on the property have the option of providing an acceptable test to the owners as an alternative to routinely administering vermicides (without knowing the worm burden).

By reducing vermicide use, they have:

  • reduced the development of chemical resistance in horses, thus improving horse health; therefore improving soil health
  • deduced damage to dung beetles - thus reducing the buildup of horse faeces across the property; thereby reducing nutrient loaded run-off washing into the Murrumbidgee River

As a result of the success of this approach, the owners hosted a “faecal egg count” workshop/field day in March 2017 on their property for horse agistment properties owners, organised by the RLF. This is part of a broader engagement strategy that the RLF is rolling out to horse agistment property owners in the ACT to engage them in natural resource management.

insert altSoil for food, fibre and the environment day – a full day workshop held in late 2015 to celebrate 2015 as the United Nations International Year of the Soils organised jointly by the Regional Landcare Facilitator and the NSW Department of Primary Industries. It involved presentations from an impressive variety of soils experts including farmers, scientists and advisory officers. 100 people from across the region attended.

There was also a soil pit demonstration and the opportunity for participants to bring along a soil sample from their property and have it checked for levels of electrical conductivity, carbon, pH and structure. Feedback from participants who attended the day was very positive.

Presentations from the day are available here.

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Case study -  On-ground funding - cropping and pasture establishment to address weed infestations

Three southern ACT rural landholders were supported under Round One of the ACT Rural Grants to trail best practice cropping and pasture establishment to address heavy infestations of African Lovegrass. Landholders are sowing  several cycles of fodder crops such as oats or brassica, using the crops for  stock feed and allowing the African Lovegrass seeds to germinate at different stages of the cropping cycle. Between each cropping cycle, the landholders do extensive weed control in order to reduce the African Lovegrass seed store in the soil. Once the African Lovegrass seed store has been reduced substantially, all three landholders will sow permanent pastures of Phalaris and Clover.

Two of the three landholders have also received support to subdivide paddocks and provide stock water, improve grazing management inside and outside the cropped paddock; and protect native vegetation. Gross margins are being measured across the life of the projects – to see what impact these interventions have on paddock income and productivity.

ACT Natural Resource Management supports landholders to access expert advice enabling them to mange their properties better.

Advice was provided to owners of a commercial horse agistment property. After meeting the owners and walking the farm, experienced agronomist Chris Houghton identified the following issues:

  • severe sheet erosion at some horse watering points and along farm tracks
  • poor quality and degraded native grass-based pastures susceptible to horse trampling and uneven management leading to both under- and over-grazing
  • weed incursions from African Lovegrass and St Johns Wort, threatening pastures and animal health into the future.

Chris recommended actions, which the owners are implementing at their own expense, including:

  • fencing out erosion to allow pastures to recover
  • tree planting in erosion areas with Greening Australia, to stop soil loss, create more shade and improve farm biodiversity
  • better fencing to improve stock water access, herd management and grazing and allow pastures to rest and recover
  • spreading of lime and fertiliser on selected highly degraded paddocks, to improve soil fertility
  • improvement of farm tracks to reduce erosion and soil loss into the Murrumbidgee River.

insert altIn the Capital region, there is a growing number of smaller properties which border the ACT. Many of these properties are managed by individuals who also work ‘off farm’ and have limited experience in natural resource management.

Working with Weeds Workshop (a partnership between the ACT RLF and the Small Farms Network- Capital Region) was an entry-level weed workshop targeted at people new to farming and those with small holdings of land. The purpose of the workshop was to give participants tools to understand, identify and manage weeds on their properties.

Topics covered included:

  • weed identification
  • improving soil health, soil organic carbon and addressing nutrient deficiencies
  • how soil tests can help to inform decision making
  • developing a 5-10 year weed management plan- where to start?
  • maintaining groundcover
  • integrated weed management.

The day was very successful, landholders provided the following feedback:

"The workshop was fantastic, it has encouraged me to view weed management as an ongoing project over several years to help preserve the native plant growth. There are lots of tools available for managing weeds the best thing to do is to develop an understanding of weeds (how they grow, when they seed, the soil they like etc.) and your goals for your property whether that be using natural methods or chemicals it's about having a plan." Kay

“I just wanted to say thank you very much for organising the weed day with Alison.  It was such a great event and so well organised. The fabulous lunch made it even more enjoyable!  I now need to work on developing my weed management plan.”  Nadia

“Thank you for the excellent workshop yesterday.  Alison Elvin is an  inspirational presenter who is able to condense complex material into a simple message... - Preparation (id of flora, knowledge of soil capacity and landscape limitations), Planning (what you want to achieve and the tools particularly time and money to do it) and Perseverance for several years. I found Alison's coverage of all these very helpful. #4 was her advice re management of Vulpia which I have a lot of in my paddocks and #5 was Paul’s use of both Vulpia and wild oats for hay making”. John