Sheep perfect pasture harvesters

30 Jun, 2004 10:00 PM
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MOBRUP farmer Rob Warburton produces about 250-280 bales of wool each year but he does not see himself as a wool producer.

He saw himself as a grass grower who used sheep to harvest pastures, and it was in this context that he was included in the Beef Improvement Association Australia's (BIAA) workshop tour.

The workshop focused on wealth creation and aimed to provide examples of how this could be done through a low input or a high input operation - which related to Mr Warburton.

He became involved in the family farm in 1995 when it was mainly a sheep operation with a 10pc cropping program.

However, in the past three years cropping has been increased to 50pc with sheep numbers maintained on half the land through better pasture management and increased fertiliser.

Mr Warburton used annual pastures, grassy perennials, as well as lucerns and clovers, to even out feed demand and maintain grazing through the year.

Perennial pastures helped extend the grazing season and provided opportunistic grazing if there was rain in the summer.

Pure clovers were also used to fix nitrogen for canola before rotation on the property with a 550mm annual rainfall.

Dry sheep were put onto canola stubble in summer to help plug the green feed gap and if any green feed was available it was used for young sheep or sheep needing more condition.

"It is all very integrated and is part of a long term plan of what is and isn't going into pasture," he said.

"We are trying to turn a six month growing season into an eight to nine month growing season."

Trees are also planted on some areas not suited to cropping.

Mr Warburton pregnancy scanned all his sheep and ran ewes, dry sheep and twin bearing sheep in three separate mobs.

He mated 6500 ewes a year and carried 4000 dry sheep.

Liquid fertiliser was applied on paddocks, due to its ease of application, after sheep were moved from a paddock.

Lambing is in August to match pasture growth with ewe nutrition.

"Pasture is as tight in spring as in other times of the year," he said.

"We do not get a spring flush because we have matched our lambing with pasture growth."

He said there was no point in putting fertiliser over the farm and only getting 50pc utilisation.

"If you get that 70-80pc, which is as much as you are going to get, you are going to get that extra 30pc.

"You are using that money you are putting on the ground."

Mr Warburton said cereal cropping taught him he was not getting the best out of his pastures.

He said the only difference between pasture and cereal crops was the method of harvesting.

"We harvest our pastures with sheep instead of headers," he said.

Mr Warburton said while crops provided most cash the sheep were the most profitable part of the operation due to less capital depreciation.

He said his operation was also sustainable and that more money was spent on more productive land while unproductive land was being taken out of the rotation.

All his creek lines are fenced off to 40 metres of the fence line and were re-vegetated with native pastures.

He said that he used agricultural consultants and intended to meet with them all together in future, similar to the running of a board.

"I can't be an expert on everything," he said.

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