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TAS Country : August 26th 2010
ust 27, 2010 17 ng up the highway before the recent rain. Now he hopes for follow-up rain -- maybe even the trout will come back. Pictures: JENNIFER CRAWLEY I love living here. We are secluded yet we are 15 minutes from Oatlands and an hour from the East Coast. I can be fishing in the Western Lakes in two hours. Anyone else in Australia would love to be able to do that.' onable drought Ceres, and another son has a property west of Oatlands. Corriedales have been the sheep of choice on Ceres ever since Michael's grandfather bought the property. Michael's younger brother Graeme has switched over to Merinos. ''We're not in fine-wool breeding country here,'' Michael said. ''Our rainfall is slightly better. ''We have had fine-wool sheep but when we get a wet winter and spring we have some shades of green wool and all sorts of problems with the Merinos.'' The family started increasing their numbers by buying five-year-old Corriedale ewes from Kuranda at the Tunbridge sale and now they have come full circle. ''We have got to the stage where we are self-replacing and we are starting to sell one-year-old Corriedale ewes,'' Michael said. Shearing happens on Ceres at the start of the second week in June. ''It probably is a touch early compared to a lot of people who pre- lamb shear, but we have consistently found that you don't get foul weather, freezing cold, in the start of June that you do in July-August,'' Michael said. They might get the odd cold day but they have not have lost more than 20 sheep due to the cold weather in the last decade, he said. ''It's unusual if we lose more than two in a shearing season,'' he said. The Isles lost very few lambs in the snow earlier this month.'' Lambs managed to stay warm in clumps of grass in the snow. ''It's quiet beautiful here in a proper snowfall, when there's no wind, but we only want it the once,'' Michael said. A covenant placed on 35ha of Ceres six years ago protects what Michael calls ''a solid block'' of the property. He had intended to fence and protect the land but was offered funding to help with the fencing and management. ''That block of bush is worth a lot more to me in its natural state,'' Michael said. ''It adds to the farm.'' They look for rain on Ceres ''anywhere with a bit of east in it,'' he said The rain comes from the southeast to the northeast. ''We will get rains out of northwest and even southwest but we wouldn't get 75ml out of the west, which is what we got last week from the east,'' he said. The headwaters of the Tin Dish Rivulet rise just behind the Ceres shearing shed. The Tin Dish is one of the few rivers in the Southern Midlands that flows north. It flows down to the valley and joins the Blackman River, the other north-flowing river, at Tunbridge. The trout in the Tin Dish had long disappeared, Michael said. It went from an unknown and secret little fishing spot to nothing, ''a dead system with not afishinit'' . ''We haven't had the consistent seasons, the winters where we'd always get the rain,'' he said. ''When I first took up fly fishing there were fish six to seven pounds in the Tin Dish further north. [2.7kg to 3.1kg] ''There might be one big water hole with one or two fish in it, and every little hole had beautiful trout in it but then the drought came and that dried up for years and years. ''Hopefully, the rains of last year would have got a few coming back up out of the Macquarie and the Blackman. ''I think I'll give them a spell for quite some time and let them build up.'' Flood watercourses on Ceres fill rapidly when the rain comes. ''Last year in late winter it was phenomenal,'' Michael said. ''You'd think there's nothing there but they were 10m wide and a metre deep. ''The rain has done a lot of good, people are positive again.'' But the farmer repeats the golden rule of farming. ''Farmers have been saying this for years,'' Michael said. ''The last rain is a start but we will need follow-up. You have to have follow-up.'' The frosts have yellowed off the grass on Ceres and it's greened up again after the rain. But Michael said it won't be long before the growth uses up every bit of the 75ml of rain they got earlier in the month. ''If we don't get any more it will only prolong the agony for another six or eight weeks and we will be back into needing more rain again,'' he said. Michael said he is intent on improving Ceres soil after attending several NRM South field days. He uses pasture cropping to change soil condition and to get the microbial activity going again. He said he was shocked to learn of the condition of Australian soil at the field days. ''It has been going downhill basically since we got here,'' Michael said. ''The nutrients in vegetables are about half of what they were.'' NUTS AND BOLTS THERE are 1800 ewes plus their replacements on Ceres. There used to be 1300 ewes and 250 breeding cows. We were down on numbers but we have gradually been building up since the drought,'' Michael Isles said. said. We will do some trading in cattle depending on the seasons but unless they consistently drop back into a pattern where we are having reasonable seasons I can't see us having breeding cows again.'' Three shearers work over five to six days to clip the flock. The wool is usually sold though Roberts auction system but this year Michael sold privately through the Australian Wool Network where it went directly to Japan. Michael checks the Bureau of meteorology and Weatherzone websites for long range forecasts before planting.
August 19th 2010
September 2nd 2010