With the excellent season we're having, we have a big bulk of feed in front of us and surplus to the cows' requirements at the moment. I had sowed a paddock of early oats, ryegrass and clover that was intended for grazing but we didn't get round there. With the outlook of a wet spring, we took the opportunity to try and make some early silage. Part of the challenge this year was having paddocks dry enough to be trafficable (such a flip from the last couple of years where we had no grazing at all were feeding out at this time of year!!!). The paddock looked like it could have done with a bit more nitrogen and the wetter areas looked like growth had been affected a bit so we guessed that it would yield about 4-5 t DM/Ha. But when it was cut, we were surprised at how big the winrows were and when we started baling and got through the fourth winrow, we were getting more and more bales as we progressed into the heavier yielding areas of the paddock and realised our guess-timates were well and truly out the window. With the speed and efficiency of our contractor's new machines (big shout out to Luke Felmingham, LKF Contracting), the trusty David Brown tractor was not quite able to keep up and I had to call my neighbour to lend a hand for a few hours to keep in front of the wrapper. We worked into the night and the final result was a substantial 6 tDM/Ha - good work for an early cut. Touch wood, we managed to get the first lot off cut, dried, baled and wrapped without any rain on it. And there's more to come at our lease block so hopefully we'll be able to get that off just as successfully! Even better, there's a full soil moisture profile and everything has re-shot so tehre'll be a good grazing to follow up.
Millah Murrah Klooney heifers
Having used three Klooney straws at joining, we were lucky enough to get three heifer calves on the ground which is everything we could have hoped for. We saw some Klooney progeny during Beef Week last year at Witherswood Angus amongst 120 bulls by various sires that were on display. We were just there for a sticky beak but the Klooney calves really stood out and even though I didn't have intentions of using an Angus bull I saw the opportunity to bring in some outcross genetics and improve our herd. Our new Klooney heifers are GR1 but we aim to breed a GR2 bull so we can eventually produce purebred bulls with some genetic diversity. We consulted with our regular clients before going down this track in case they had concerns about our using an Angus bull. They fully supported our breeding decisions - so long as we keep producing the sort of structurally sound bulls they need, with big eye muscles, plenty of shape and softness.
The fun has begun!
We drafted off the AI cows at the weekend to join the earlies in the calving paddock and we are all pacing the house with binoculars in hand looking out for calving cows. Davo is on leave from work ready to tag and weigh and get some jobs done around the farm. There are four calves already - two of which arrived early in a further paddock so he had to weigh the calves old-style with the bathroom scales (thankfully his back stood up to the challenge). Stop the press! Make that five calves - Jasmine J22 just had a Keystone calf! We are using three new sires this year: Millah Murrah Klooney (Angus, AI), The Glen Keystone (AI) and The Glen Intensity. We will also have our first calves from Mount Major Peregrine, a Eylwarra Sands Falcon son. These bulls have been selected to bring in some out-cross genetics and maitain our goals of low birthweight calves with fantastic growth, big EMAs and high IMF.
On our way back from our road trip we picked up my new puppy from Finley - and we were very lucky we did, because a few days later the VIC/NSW border was shut for the first time in 100 years. She is a very clever little puppy and I chose her because of her no-fuss temperament. Nothing seems to faze her. Her breeder was recommended to me by another farmer who has a full sibling and says it is the best dog he has ever had. Sadly, we had to get Roger put down earlier this year and whilst Poppy, Maisie's dog, is excellent, I wanted another working dog and Nell will be all mine! I'm enjoying having another puppy and looking forwards to having another working dog around the property.
It was great to catch up with Geoff, Gaye & Tim Roberts. Geoff has been a major client since 2016: he buys four bulls a year which go in with 100 heifers and those four bulls are mated to the same mob of cows for the next 5 years. I always enjoy talking about farming and farming systems with Geoff and I was very excited to see how our bulls have fully matured. The research says that selling yearling bulls, as we do, is better than selling them as older bulls because they tend to last longer in the herd but for me this means I don't get to see them fully mature until I visit clients. And it was very special to see so many all in one place of different ages. Even though we do get every animal structrally assessed, I was rapt to see how well the feet on these bulls have stood up to the work. I was really pleased that out of the 16 bulls Geoff has purchased over the years, only one has left his herd, and that was due to injury: all the others are still working. Liquorice (pictured below) is Geoff & Tim's favourite bull. He has an EMA of +5.1 and is chock full of meat, as you can see. I'd say he is about a frame score 6. He is long and deep and full of meat!
Mount Major Liquorice DVD L7
In the first week of the school holidays, with restrictions still lifted, we went on a little road trip to catch up with some bull clients. Our first stop was Tumbarumba where James Bremner and his family farm. James has bought a few bulls from us over the years and has invited me to come up and look at his herd a few times, so it was good to be able to take up the offer. After a lovely lunch (thanks, Gemma!) James gave us a thorough tour of his farm and we got to see a couple of our young bulls and hear about his plans and improvements for the farm. The recent bushfires have been major setback for him but his hard work and enthusiasm for his farm are inspiring.
Visit from Charles and Janet Wallace
It's always lovely to have friends come and look at your herd and be able to talk cows but I hold Charles's opinion on cattle in very high regard and it was great to get his feedback and comments on my herd. Charles was really impressed with Rogialyn Jupiter and his progeny. Coronovairus restrictions had recently been lifted so this visit was even more special. Even so, Charles and Janet were facing two weeks of self-isolation when they returned to Tasmania. Pictured here is Katrina M3, first up for a pat and enjoying a scatch with the wiggle dance.
In 2013 we worked with two neighbours to link up two remnant stands of trees, including a seasonal creek. The CMA were advertising for suitable projects so we talked to our neighbours and put together a plan to set up a stretch of fenceline revegatation. In all, a bit of 10 km of new fencing was erected, nearly 2 miles North-South and another mile and a half East-West. There was a mix of planting of seedlings and some direct seeding (as a bit of a trial) and it has worked out superbly. There is now a lovely dense stand which is filling up rapidly with birdlife. The treeline runs along out western boundary, with our Northside paddocks on the right hand side of these photos, and so the trees are starting to provide shelter to the cows from south-westerly winds. The big tree you can see on the right of the first picture is the same as the biggest tree you can see in the second picture.
This time of year we turn our thoughts to maintenance work on tracks, troughs and gateways. Weather predictions are all pointing towards a potentially wetter winter and spring. I remember wet winters when cows were standing up to their bellies in mud for weeks, when it was hard to find an area to feed them that wouldn't waste tonnes of feed, and it was pretty much too wet for them or for tractors to be on the paddocks. I don't want to go through that again - or at least I want to be able to manage it as well as possible. So, I have laid down some rock to make an area right next to the hayshed that will give me somewhere to put feed that will allow the cows to be standing out of the mud.
We spent a damp Sunday morning planting trees to try and set up some shade for our two paddocks that need it. We have boxed off some sections of the fence line and have had a couple of attempts at getting trees going in here in the past but the dry seasons have been against us. This time we have sprayed out the weeds, used tree guards and mulched - we just need to remember to give these lttle trees some attention in summer but at least with the tree guards they will be easier to check on: in the past the little trees have been lost amongst the lucerne plants which were no doubt also competing for moisture. We have chosen Grey Box for the paddock with the heaavier dirt and Yellow Box for the other, both locally sourced. Yellow Box is Davo's favourite.
Well, we are 4 weeks into "Work from Home" and social distancing and somehow we haven't found time to update the news page. So what have we been up to, you might ask?
Bagging oats and gettng fertiliser ordered ready for sowing tomorrow. We've had some really good rainfall and have got some good soil moisture.
Rains in late March were enough to strike some pasture, the lucerne responded in spades as the conditions were still warm. Follow up rain in April has feed jumping out of the ground (at last!). Normally at this time of year our paddocks are dry - the break is normally around ANZAC day so we are about 10 weeks ahead of the feed curve. With some early green feed and the continuing warm conditions, we should be set up for winter quite nicely.
Repainting the grille on Sarah's old red tractor (an International 434) which is getting a bit of a spruce up: it's had a new ignition and solenoid on the starter motor. We mainly use it for slashing but it runs like a clock and is very handy to have around. I'm going to paint a little bit at a time - I'm not finished yet, but it's starting to look a bit flash.
With no football at the weekends there is a bit more time at the weekends so we've been getting ready for winter and getting a bit of wood in the shed. This year the old bloke on the chainsaw couldn't keep up with the young bloke on the log splitter. It must be nearly time to swap!
Mount Major Pongo was delivered to repeat clients, Andrew and Katrina Holland, today. He is happy to be out strutting his stuff with the ladies.
The cattle are tracking well through the long hot summer. Even though it's a tough season, the colours of the sunsets are beautiful.
Welcome to a New Decade - 2020!
Christmas holidays are a good time to get on top of some jobs. Davo has been teaching Maisie how to drive the tractor and has re-painted our cattle trailer. His dad bought the trailer in 1982. We keep it mechanically in A1 condition and it has been repainted probably every decade but it's starting to show its age. With it being low and wide, it is so good for delivering bulls. If there is no ramp, we can step animals out of the trailer and into the paddock which is just so handy.