Pasture to give liv­ing space

Grower’s suc­cess­ful switch to trop­i­cals

Central and North Rural Weekly - - RURAL WEEKLY - KIRILI LAMB kirili.lamb@ru­ral­

SOME­TIMES, life can trig­ger busi­ness de­ci­sions for us.

Brad and Kirsty Zammit have run a cane op­er­a­tion at Vic­to­ria Plains, west of Mackay, for the past 17 years, but four years ago they were given a jolt.

“It will be less work­load, less trac­tor work – I also work at the mines seven-on seven-off, then I come home and work a full seven days here as well,” Brad said.

“Four years ago, we had an eye opener, Kirsty had breast cancer. There’s just more to life than work­ing ev­ery sin­gle day. It was time to slow down a bit, have a bit of a life, a bit of fam­ily time.”

Hap­pily, Kirsty is now clear of cancer, and is full tilt manag­ing the farm. The two have a son, Kasey, a thought­ful fiveyear-old in Prep.

In the past, they have had a few cat­tle on the 34Ha prop­erty, just enough for per­sonal use, but now they are tran­si­tion­ing into a rapid ro­ta­tion, small cell trop­i­cal pasture sys­tem. By the end of this year’s crush, the Zam­mits will have re­moved cane com­pletely from their farm, although main­tain­ing a lease for cane on a neigh­bour­ing lot.

Stand­ing armpit-deep in a lush pasture of cli­mate ap­pro­pri­ate mix of 35 per cent Mariner Rhodes grass, 20 per cent se­taria “Splenda”, and the bal­ance made up of G2 Guinea grass, gar­net bur­gundy bean, cav­al­cade cen­tro, green leaf


desmod­ium and des­man­thus, there is a deep mulching layer be­low, and Brad is ex­cited to see the ni­tro­gen-rich growth of legumes twin­ing on grass, and to see the pro­tein-rich fod­der that will both feed his grow­ing herd of Bran­gus and of­fer sur­plus for in­come di­ver­sity that is baled for hay and silage.

The move is pay­ing off, and Brad is enor­mously thank­ful for the guid­ance of Baren­brug’s CQ ter­ri­tory man­ager, Matt Lock­wood, whose years in the busi­ness of stock and now seeds has let him of­fer ad­vice on op­tions for beef pro­duc­tion as well as cre­at­ing a cus­tomised pasture seed mix for the Zam­mits’ coun­try over the past nine months. The higher harder coun­try on the prop­erty has other va­ri­eties in the mix like sig­nal and panic. Matt is also pleased with what they have been able to achieve.

“We’ve just pro­duced over 100 bales in silage, get­ting about 20 tonne to the hectare,”

Matt said.

“It’s a cus­tom mix of mainly good coastal grasses com­ple­mented with legumes for ni­tro­gen fix­a­tion, for soil health and bi­ol­ogy, and we are get­ting good re­sults al­ready.”

Planted only in Oc­to­ber 2019, the pasture is show­ing plen­ti­ful and pro­nounced ni­tro­gen nodes in the vig­or­ous root sys­tem. It fol­lowed on from a pi­o­neer plant­ing of oats, and vetch as a legume, that was both grazed and baled.

“The steers were putting on around 1.2kg a day on that mix,” Brad said.

Over time some cooler tem­per­ate sea­sonal species like oats and sorghum will be drilled down to main­tain pro­duc­tion through win­ters.

The next stage of the pro­duc­tion shift, to start in a few weeks, will be in­stalling the fenc­ing for small cell graz­ing ahead of in­creas­ing the herd. Nine­teen pad­docks across 90 acres will be cre­ated as stage one of the fenc­ing pro­gram.

Thumb­ing a dog-eared, note-laden and well-worn Baren­brug seed cat­a­logue he picked up a few years ago, Brad says work­ing with Matt has opened his eyes.

“Be­fore I got to know Matty, I would just plant grass, buy a cou­ple of steers and let ‘em go – that was it,” Brad said.

“But it’s all changed, and we are go­ing into it in a big way on a lit­tle place.”

Matt reck­ons part of Brad’s success lies in un­der­stand­ing of the coun­try and of grow­ing.

“When Brad was cane farm­ing with his fa­ther, they knew how to grow re­ally good cane and push the lim­its with pro­duc­tion, get­ting an av­er­age of 44 tonne to the acre, against a group av­er­age of 32. So, they know how to be pro­duc­tive, and I said, you can ap­ply the same thing to your cat­tle, it’s all there,” Matt said.

Cus­tomis­ing a mix to the coun­try and the pro­ducer is im­por­tant for Matt.

“You’ve got to talk to your client, you’ve re­ally got to get in­side their head and get a view of what they are try­ing to achieve,” he said.

“I al­ways think and say to them: it’s your pad­dock – you are the one that’s got to get up in the morn­ing and go out and have a look. Most peo­ple know what they want.

“Pasture is a long-term thing. In 10 or 20 years from now, you still want to see and step into the pad­dock and know that this is ex­actly what you wanted, and it’s what your thoughts and dreams were.”

Pic­tures: Kirili Lamb

GOOD GROWTH: (From left) farmer gra­zier Brad Zammit with son Kasey, and Baren­brug CQ ter­ri­tory man­ager Matt Lock­wood in the trop­i­cal pas­tures gen­er­ated for a tran­si­tion from cane to cat­tle on the Vic­to­ria Plains prop­erty.

Veg­e­ta­tion is cre­at­ing deep mulch and ex­cel­lent mois­ture and top­soil re­ten­tion lev­els.

Pic­ture: Con­trib­uted

The root sys­tem is show­ing well-de­vel­oped ni­tro­gen nod­ules.

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