Case Study 1
Since Ewan Read's father bought their Pura Pura property in 1973, Ewan has seen the seasons change to such an extent, he has had to adopt new management techniques and implement whole farm planning activities.
Ewan has been managing the 880 acres of mainly black volcanic loam soil on a limestone base for four years since returning to join the family partnership.
The soil is at risk from salinity because of some highly saline lakes, and it also dries out very quickly.
This has been exacerbated by the lack of good spring rainfall over the past few years, reducing soil cover and creating soil erosion by wind on the bare dry soil, and salt from the dry lakes blowing across the property and killing trees.
Ewan said that in the past the property was continuously grazed by their Merino wethers with no de-stocking, when feed was short, but because it had been so dry for so long, they now had to de-stock from December to April to conserve some cover for the soil.
"The sheep would camp where there was bare soil and this was causing it to erode and blow away during summer," he said.
"Erosion would be down to the limestone base."
About 13 years ago the paddocks would often flood over from the salt lakes which meant salt deposits on pasture, causing stunted growth.
Despite the salt lakes, bores on the property tap into a good aquifer that holds excellent quality water, and there is a natural wetland of about 40ha that sheep were allowed into all year.
To manage the salinity, overgrazing and protection of wetlands, Ewan has used a whole farm plan and extension advice from DPI to divide the property into three paddocks based on landclass for rotational grazing, fenced off the salt lakes and started growing and managing Tall Wheat Grass and native vegetation around them. He now also keeps the sheep off the wetland during winter for protection of native bird habitat.
Bushbroker is also doing an environmental study on the wetland.
This organisation provides a system where offsets can be located on a different property to where native vegetation is being cleared, through the purchase of native vegetation credits.
Ewan could clearly see the significance of erosion on his property and said to help stop the salt lake erosion, 200 bales of barley straw were placed on the banks to stop wind drift and to build up organic matter in the soil. Tall Wheat Grass seeds were spread on the bales and smaller salt-tolerant shrubs were planted.
Another 2000 trees will be planted this year and one kilometre of fencing around the salt lake will be erected with funding from Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority.
This work is not being done for short term profit, but to adapt to changing climate conditions and to make sure the long term profits include a healthy ongoing future for the property.
Ewan has a longer term vision and sees this first stage as a 10-year plan that will eventually allow him to increase his stocking rate by up to 20 per cent and to graze rotationally all year.
The rotational grazing and pasture improvement will not only give better pasture species composition with deeper root systems, fewer weeds, and reduction of sheep camps but also ensure more ground cover over summer and autumn and much better growth response after rain.
He has been grateful for the support from the Department of Primary Industries and Trust for Nature with information, and labour through Langi Kal Kal prison. With these agencies working together to support him, Ewan was able to create and start to implement his whole farm plan, and get going to erect fencing and plant trees. He said the whole farm plan gave him more of a long term vision and focus on conservation of the different types of landscape on the property.
"I still would have done the works on the property due to capital improvement for capital gains, even without the funding, but the support from DPI definitely helped in making it happen sooner," he said. "Labour assistance was also invaluable. The Langi Kal Kal prisoners were and are useful. Their help with tree planting and fencing has significantly reduced my labour costs.
"Whilst the funds helped make the projects more valuable and attractive the ongoing support from DPI will be reassuring to have as the plan progresses and options and decisions are considered for pasture species and management."