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TAS Country : August 19th 2010
ust 20, 2010 17 COMBINATION: Farming and forestry operations provide a number of opportunities. SECURITY: Mr Dickenson stands alongside his game-proof fencing. few years. Replacement heifers are kept out of the herd and steer calves are normally sold at the autumn weaner sales. Some heifers are run on and sold into the trade market. The sheep flock is made up of Border Leicester Merino and Romney Merino cross ewes. Mr Dickenson will lamb about 2200 ewes this season. He said he aimed for a lambing rate of about 130 per cent each year. The lambs are turned off at carcase weights of about 22kg and some are sold under forward contract. With the North Esk River running right through the property, Mr Dickenson said flooding was an issue at times. Parts of the farm were flooded last week after torrential rain fell on the East Coast. Irrigation water is stored in two large dams with a capacity of about 570ML. Situated higher up on the property, water can be gravity-fed to both linear and centre pivot irrigators on the river flats. Mr Dickenson said having the ability to gravity-feed the water reduced irrigation costs significantly. Most of the forestry production on the property is aimed at producing saw logs which can take up to 30 years to grow. To ensure top quality timber, the plantations have to be well maintained and thinned periodically. Mr Dickenson said some farmers were reluctant to establish plantations on their farms due to the time frames involved. But he said the returns from timber were significant and there were many benefits from having trees on the property. ''I just don't think large areas with wall-to-wall pasture are very attractive, I prefer to see a mix,'' he said. ''It's certainly much easier to sleep at night when there's a raging storm going on and you know your stock have plenty of shelter and they're well fed.''' Forestry has had a long history in the Blessington area and Mr Dickenson said many years ago a large sawmill used to be located on the property. But looking at native forests that have recently been selectively harvested on Mr Dickenson's property, it is difficult to see where the foresters have been. ''Things have certainly come along way from when I first became involved with forestry and the harvesters now are very professional. ''As a landowner and a farmer I can see both sides of it and I completely understand where people with private forests are coming from. ''It's your land and you have to look at it all the time, so things have to be done properly.'' Mr Dickenson said a big part of his operations involved reducing risk. ''There have been times over the years when the forestry here has really kept us afloat,'' he said. ''When you have four of five different enterprises on the one farm there is always a compromise of some sort, but is does help spread your risk because if there's a major downturn in one commodity, chances are the others are still going OK.'' Wildlife has an impact on pastures at Elverton too and a herd of wild deer is running on the property most of the time. Mr Dickenson said while he did not mind a small number of deer, in larger numbers they could do considerable damage to pastures and crops. To help prevent deer numbers increasing too much, Mr Dickenson has erected about 3km of game-proof fencing. The extra tall fencing includes wallaby-proof wire at the bottom and normal wire at the top to stop the deer jumping the fenceline. Two hotwires are also placed on the outside of the fence to prevent stags rubbing on the fences and getting caught. Mr Dickenson said the fencing had been fairly economical to establish and it worked well. Mr Dickenson said he was optimistic about the role farmers would play in the future. He said with an increasing focus on carbon emissions and trading, forestry could play an important part in helping farmers remain viable. But he acknowledged more research was needed. ''I suspect we're going to find some significant challenges, but also opportunities in agriculture,'' he said. ''But if we want to take this to the wider community we have to keep the message fairly simple. ''We're at the point where more people are starting to think about where their food is actually coming from.'' Mr Dickenson said changing attitudes towards land use and a move away from 'lock it up and leave it' strategies was good news.
August 12th 2010
August 26th 2010