Investing in the land and ensuring the sustainability of their family owned property near Bombala, has been the priority of the Maslin family for the past several years.
The property has been in the Maslin family for over 100 years. Around 10 years ago, it started to experience variations in profitability. In previous years, the property had been managed by adhering to set stock numbers, using dams and rivers for watering animals, and trucking in feed during dry years.
In 2007, the family agreed to participate in a Meat and Livestock Australia trial to make an assessment of the property. The trial identified concerning problems.
One of the problems was a less than 70 percent ground cover on the property. Additionally, a neighbour who had collected rainfall records since 1858 showed that the only consistent pattern over this time was that for every above-average year of rainfall, there would be a correlating two years of under-average rainfall.
This information led the Maslins to take action to improve conditions on their property to ensure that it was more drought-resistant and capable of making returns in drought periods.
They identified two areas to address:
1. The property needed increased ground cover so as to provide more consistent pasture for stock. The Maslins planned to address erosion on the property to improve soil quality. Weeds also needed to be managed to encourage the growth of grasses.
2. They needed to improve their water storage capability to make the most of abundant rainfall years. The Maslins decided to conduct earthworks that would impact positively on the flow of water across the property. They also worked to preserve the health of their natural waterways by reducing the impact of stock and the effects of erosion in times of flood.
To address the issue of ground cover, they invested in extensive fencing and began controlling stock movement with the creation of cell paddocks, within which animals were regularly rotated. They also introduced goats to control weeds.
Both techniques proved to be very effective, with the property seeing great improvement in the quality and quantity of ground cover. There has been an increase in coverage of native and introduced grasses from 70% to 85-90%.
To address the issue of unreliable water supply, the Maslins studied the ideas of Natural Sequence Farming. They decided to build leaky weirs throughout the property. Extensive earthworks were conducted using graders which cost about $2500 for the first works and then $200-$400 for each weir following that. These weirs created a very different course for water to flow through and across the property, from that which previously existed. The weirs helped trap silt, that would otherwise run off in rainy periods, which greatly improved the quality of water. The weirs slowed the pace of water, so that the flow continued for weeks following a rain event, rather than a matter of days, as it had previously. The buildup of silt has greatly improved the quality of soil, where it is being deposited.
Other extensive works conducted on the property involved protecting the river ways from stock, by building fences and laying down water reticulation , so that stock no longer had access to dams and rivers, but were watered at designated pumping stations. The pumps are all gravity fed, reducing the need for power. This technique has also vastly improved the health of their waterways, providing clearer, more abundant flow for longer periods of time.
The cost of fencing and earthworks was an investment that the Maslins believe has been well worth making and they are very pleased with the improvements which they are already experiencing.