Case Study 2
Hamish Bailey from Wannon is one of the younger generation of farmers who have returned to the family farm, with the new challenge of adapting farm practices to manage the impact of a changing climate.
Hamish has a degree in agriculture from Melbourne University and has been back on the farm with his father, Bill, since 2004. Bill has lived on the property all his life.
Since being back Hamish has noticed the lack of once reliable winter rains and a gradually drying landscape that means fickle springs, poor pasture and crops, and less water in dams, creeks and the river.
The mixed farming enterprise comprised 60 % sheep and 40 % cattle was grazed continuously all year, had no pasture improvement and dams, creeks and the river were used for water supply.
"One of the paddocks now being cropped was often under water during winter and has therefore never been sown," Hamish said.
"The river used to break its banks regularly and flood the river flats for a couple of days. Now this only happens rarely – every couple of years."
Water availability was never an issue but now they are looking at reticulation to improve water distribution across the farm. Fluctuating dam levels have meant variable water quality.
The main issues being faced by the Baileys in this time of unpredictable climate are the lack of consistent rain, wind and water erosion and the Spiny Rush weed originally from South Africa that is threatening to overtake the waterways and surrounding farm land.
They find they have to be careful about conserving feed, not letting hay paddocks get grazed too heavily, so there is still enough yield come harvest time.
With the help of the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and Department of Primary Industries, they have started fencing off waterways, establishing shelterbelts and two years ago planted 12 hectares of lucerne on a recharge hill that had a landslip beneath it. Nearly two kilometres of landclass fencing has also been erected.
"Many fences still need fixing but this is a chance to put new fences in places to suit different landclasses and land use, for example, small grazing paddocks and larger cropping paddocks," Hamish said. "Fence placement will also be done to prevent erosion during large storm events and less predictable rainfall."
They cut 50ha for hay and sow 60ha for grain including oats and wheat. Depending on consumer needs, they might move more into prime lambs than cattle and wool. A whole farm plan done by Hamish through the DPI early this year will provide a blueprint for ongoing work and incentive to achieve the production and conservation goals. The work Hamish has already done with the CMA and DPI would possibly not have happened yet without their financial support and advice.
Doing the work has saved time with stock management and has improved the grazing management.
"The landclass fencing has improved our grazing and weed control (capeweed and thistles) by reducing stock camps and transfer of nutrients," Hamish said.
"Excluding stock has allowed preferred species to grow. We have gained back 2025ha of productive land."
They have also been able to grow grass and trees along the river bank to hold it together and stop erosion, particularly with the total exclusion of stock. The river has benefited from this work through increased flow and less nutrient run-off.
The 12ha lucerne paddock has helped with recharge and has stabilised the landslip. Hamish is now looking into the Landcare CarbonSmart program that involves landholders and corporations working together to offset carbon emissions.