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TAS Country : January 24th 2013
16 Tasmanian Country Friday, January 25, 2013 The Stock Report Crop rotation under scrutiny ROGER HANSON HOME ON THE FARM: John Ramsay and his son Alexander ISSUES with soil structure have led to a review of cropping rotation at a Bothwell farm. John and Annie Ramsay, of Ramsay Agriculture, farm 3800ha on three separate properties at Bothwell, Dysart and Bridport. They are trialling management changes to improve soil and yields as one of the case studies in the Making Good Better soil carbon project, run by Macquarie Franklin through the Aust- ralian Government's Caring for Our Country Program. Mr Ramsay has been working full- time on the farms since returning home in 2001. In that time massive changes have taken place. He used to have 300 cows, 5000 ewes and fattening 500 lambs; with wool being the dominant enterprise. Lamb meat is now the dominant enterprise with 9000 ewes (1000 wool, 5500 composite and 2500 Merino cross White Suffolk) and fattening 6000 to 7000 lambs. He has one centre pivot, three linears, six travelling irrigators and 800ha cropped, with poppies being the cornerstone of the cropping operation. The Bridport property is for grazing only. Cereals are more recent, having a dual purpose with winter wheats and barleys. He has a triple disc drill and is increasing the use of direct drilling. The typical rotation for the past 10 years has been poppies sown in Sep- tember and harvested in January and February. After harvest, dual purpose wheat is direct drilled then harvested the following February. Barley is then direct drilled July- September, harvested February and the ground fallowed until poppies are sown again. Cereal stubbles are gener- ally burnt or grazed. Most cultivation is done in winter/spring with wet ground. Mr Ramsay has noticed changes with soils during the last 11 years of increased cropping. Cropping soils are shallow duplex (top soil 200-250mm) with top soil varying from sandy loam to clay loam. Sand blows are an issue on lighter soils under cropping ''The sandy loams are showing an increase in organic matter and improv- ing productivity. However, the clay loams are now less forgiving, have poor structure and drainage with obvious cloddiness. Waterlogging has become a major issue due to poor soil structure and poppy yields are suffering.'' Mr Ramsay said production and profit are tied to soils. Poppy crops are the mainstay of the business income for Ramsay Agricul- ture and in the last three years they have been declining --- ''to the point where something needs to change. So we have changed management to improve soils and yields.'' During the Making Good Better project, Mr Ramsay trialled the use of feedlot manure and compost, to see if they would have any affect on improv- ing some of the soil structure/health issues at the Bothwell property, Ratho. ''In the one year of the trial, neither of the treatments had any affect on soil structure measured using Bill Cotch- ings' soil structure scorecard,''Mr Ram- say said. ''However, the manure treat- ment did appear to promote microbe numbers.'' The poppy yields weren't measured, however, there was no affect of either treatment on early growth (height) of poppies. ''The main result highlighted by the trial is that there is no silver bullet for improving soil health. It all comes back to good management of crop and pasture rotations to sustain soil health for profitable crop yields. ''The rotation is being changed so that it will still be poppies one year in three, but the two off years will be under rye grass. This will mean that when poppies are harvested grass will be direct drilled and left until being sprayed out the May before poppy sowing in August/September.'' He said the aim will be to allow enough time for root release so poppies can be direct drilled, although in some cases a light cultivation may be needed to prevent smearing when direct drill- ing. Cultivation has changed to autumn's drier soils, with a long-term aim of less cultivation overall. ''Changes to the rotation means rye grass will be able to work its magic.'' It is expected to return up to 10t DM/ ha to revitalise soil health. It also means burning stubbles will no longer be needed, and damage from culti- vation will be minimised. Mr Ramsay says potential issues with the change to the rotation could have far-reaching implications for the farming system. ''Grass needs to be well managed to ensure it doesn't set seed and spring growth must be able to be grazed. ''To use the spring flush will mean a shift to more breeding stock instead of a focus on fattening. ''This may make the business vul- nerable to drought.'' He said gross margins from the new rotation of grass, fat lambs and wool, poppies will need to at least equal those for cereals otherwise he may consider dairy development. ''We are aiming for a 20 per cent increase in poppy yield.'' Poppies are the critical crop in the rotation and the whole rotation is geared to improving soil health and maximising the returns from poppy production. Permanent pasture can have major positive benefits for soil structure, but needs to work it into a profitable rotation. Check out the project blog at http:// soilcarbontas.blogspot.com with Bronnie Grieve, Consultant Environmental, Macquarie Franklin Exports spring back as low cost stimulates record growth From Page 15 While most of this growth was in traditionally lower-valued cuts like breast, flap, neck and manufacturing meat, exports of shoulder also lifted. There was also a recovery in exports to the traditionally higher-value mar- kets of North America -- the US was up 7 per cent and Canada up 22 per cent, although the cuts that dominated the increase tended to be cheaper. The MLA says there was a signifi- cant jump in the broken carcass trade to the US, made up of at least three of the major lamb primals. Exports of shanks and shortloins were also up on 2011 levels. The greater availability and lower prices facilitated a strong resurgence in lamb exports to Papua New Guinea. As with China, most of this growth was in breast, flap and neck, although there were also increases in shoulder, leg and manufacturing exports. The most significant declines in lamb exports last year were to the EU (down 6 per cent), where weak econ- omic conditions, especially in the first half of the year, limited buyer activity, and South Africa (down 39 per cent), which competes mainly on cuts such as breast, flap and shoulder. You don't have to a whiz kid to work out that if China is mainly taking breast, flap and neck then we have to find a market for the rest. In general terms the lightweight lambs going to the Middle East are going as whole carcasses, which is a blessing, but we now need to find some more markets that will take whole carcasses and the leftovers. My understanding is the MLA and the exporters are working on this and hopefully the Chinese may start to like a chop on the barbie or a Sunday roast. I can just hear the beef exporters thinking: ''If only we could sell full carcasses!'' 2021919-130125 Friesian Heifers 250+ kg $1000+gst Chance mated Friesian Heifers $1100+gst Nigel Pedley 0428 568 472 Kent Tyson 0428 318 272 29 -- Angus Friesian cross heifers 260kg $480+gst Nigel Pedley 0428 568 472 100 head Smithton area Nigel Pedley 0428568472 • Qty of Friesian bulls $1200 - 1500 +gst • 2 Jersey bulls3 yr old $1000+gst • 30 Jersey bull calves $330+gst • Autumn calving cows Friesian and Friesian cross • 18 Brown Swiss heifer calves 140 kg $400+gst • 125 Cross bred Heifers calving 1st August some A.I bred very well grown $1050+gst • 40 Cross bred heifers calving 1st March to jersey bulls Nigel Pedley 0428 568 472 Kent Tyson 0428 318 272 DAIRY LIVESTOCK WANTED BEEF CATTLE FOR SALE AGISTMENT AVAILABLE DAIRY LIVESTOCK FOR SALE LANDMARK MERCHANDISE Statewide Delivery & Competitive Prices Call us for a quote on your upcoming requirements 6452 1034 1-3 Rubicon Street Smithton 6452 1034 6391 8751 1-4 18 Johns Street Western Junction
January 17th 2013
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