Reflections on Positive Planning for Dry Times

This day came about from ideas put forward at a grazing strategies planning meeting hosted by Boorowa Community Landcare Group, NSW Farmers and partners in August 2023. The attendees from across the region identified that connection with people & communication between all groups was essential to support land managers to make positive plans for dry times.

Sixty proactive farmers gathered at Allendale, Boorowa on 24th October 2023, to grapple with the idea of getting ahead of the impending dry season and hearing about the experiences of the Marsh family over the fifty percent of below average rainfall years since 1999, when they adopted the principles of Holistic Management.

 Many people shared their own stories in what Judy Carmody of Rural Adversity Mental Health Program called the most positive day she'd been to in years.

 After introductions and morning tea we headed up onto the land.

We viewed adjoining paddocks that had been grazed (by a mob of 200 cows and calves), 14 days ago; 7 days ago; and saw the mob move into a new paddock that had been grazed 90 days ago.

Then we had an exercise and demonstration of how to measure grass and to work out how many grazing days you have and how to work out how long that grass will last the stock you have.

Doing these simple calculations early and adjusting stock numbers early can almost eliminate our anxiety, financial distress and feelings of depression at how the land is looking as the dry weather tightens its grip. David Marsh said the family had not spent any money on feeding stock since 1999. Adopting the principle of matching the livestock to the grass had been fundamental in achieving this result leading to a debt free operation.

We heard Andrew Dowd of RCS echo these sentiments and reinforce the importance of doing this planning early. As you notice growth slowing down, annuals turning a straw like colour, that is the time to start measuring grass, don’t wait till all growth has stopped. Reducing mob numbers and moving stock to a plan makes this possible.

 One of the heartwarming features of this day was the many little groups of people talking to each other and connecting with others, sharing stories and hearing that using these principles, Allendale had maintained full ground cover in all the dry times since 1999 and species of native perennial grass were spreading rapidly from a low base of 1ha in 1999 to being present in over 400ha in 2023.

 The partners in the day (Landcare groups from Boorowa, Harden, Mid Lachlan, Mid Murrumbidgee North & Young, NSW Farmers, Local Land Services, Resource Consulting Services & Rural Adversity Mental Health Program), spoke briefly over lunch and the atmosphere was convivial. The guests were encouraged to take a stroll around the very restful garden before we walked down to view a site where scattered young yellow box and Blakeley’s red gum seedlings had established from seed fall from scattered remnant trees. Since 2010 when the Marshes first observed this exciting regeneration there are 1400 new generation youngsters growing to take the place of the gradually dying older trees. This is an example of the power of renewal that resides in living communities if our management allows them to express their potential. 

  The day was well received, with 90% of participants reporting that they got really valuable information from the day. Testimonials included:

 “We left feeling more confident learning how to calculate how many DSE’s we can run on the feed we have in the paddock ahead of us.”

 “I liked the field demonstration of making a grass budget, useful handouts & meeting people”

 David Marsh said “As always it was a pleasure to have people come and hear our story and our Local and Regional Landcare coordinators proved again how important they are as partners in farming communities. Without their skills these days would not happen.”

 Post event media Boorowa Community Landcare Group 13th November 2023