Looking Back – Looking Forwards

2023 has been an interesting year in many ways.

We started selling meat direct to our community and thanks to you all it has been a great experience. We have had a friendly welcome to the Mulgowie Farmers Markets and have been generously supported and given grace by our community, as we get accustomed to it all and make rookie mistakes.

We have continued installing infrastructure on the farm, weathered the weather, grown bulk vegetable crops for the family, and continued this journey of massive learning, for we have yet to become comfortable with all the things a farmer does every day.

Our collective hats are off to those who have made this a sustainable, profitable way of life.

Below is a list of some of the things we have done last year and some we wish to complete in 2024.

  • Our farm rainfall was 696.95mm for 2023, the lowest rainfall since 2019 that we have recorded here. It is our third lowest total with the highest since 2019 being in 2022 with 1637.5 mm
  • As mentioned earlier, we have been attending the Mulgowie Farmers Markets since September 2023, selling beef direct. This has been a qualified success. We are planning out our processing for this year so we can provide a continuity of supply throughout the year. One of our goals for undertaking this lifestyle is to provide our local area with high-quality, ethical, and sustainable beef.  We are on our way to achieving it!
  • Last year we had some soil testing done in our front creek flat paddocks. Based on the results we need to add nitrogen for robust plant health and nutrition. We are researching organic natural forms of nitrogen fertilizer and will trial a couple during Summer (hopefully)

  • We continue to implement our water infrastructure plans and get the 125mm pipe joined and then buried, to service an irrigator in the front paddocks. This will help provide some drought resilience to the farm, allowing us to grow grass when there is little rain.
  • In 2023, we purchased our first stud bulls – a Senepol/Angus Cross. They have taken some time to get used to our country, but we have been getting calves on the ground and they are looking good. The goal is to have animals that finish quicker and easier on grass alone, with some resistance to flies and ticks.

  • At the end of 2023, Dominic was able to install another off-grid solar system onto the shed to run the freezers and fridges required to service the markets. This has taken a load off our house system and reduced stress levels enormously. Previously, the battery load had to be monitored and if it got too low, the generator had to be run for at least an hour. Generally, it was run for one hour each night and morning. This created noise pollution and used diesel fuel – not good.
  • This now means that Dominic can construct a small cold room that we can use to hang farm-processed animals for our own use. It is also the first small step towards an on-farm butchering room.
  • The orchard has been neglected for the last year. The objective for this year is to clean it up and make it easy to maintain and harvest from. This will require culling some trees, both seed-sown and older orchard trees, and looking into erecting a shade house where stone fruit and grapes can be grown under protection from fruit fly and possums. It would also be great to reinstate a small coffee plantation – the previous one was destroyed by the 2019 fires.
  •  A big thing we need is a hay shed – maybe this year? We have been enormously blessed by those we have purchased hay from. They have stored it for us which enables us to get it in smaller amounts that we can store on farm.
  • On the eastern side of the property there is a valley called “Bucannans”, this area has a large dam that we have been pumping out of to water the cattle when they are grazing there. This is not a long-term solution and we would like to run waterpipe from our main water tanks, over the ridge into a smaller tank that will feed water troughs. Not only is this drought resilient, but the quality of the water is much better.

  • Last year we did a test to see if having water up the ridges in the larger paddocks impacted cattle condition and use of the paddocks. The trial was a success and saved us from having to feed out hay during winter as the cattle utilized all the available grass in the paddock. Even with the costs involved in trucking water up every 36hrs, it was more economical than purchasing hay to supplement the cattle with. This year we would like to create some permanent infrastructure of tanks and pipework to feed water to the troughs in these paddocks.

  • Shade, the lack of it, is a big thing that we need to address in our front paddocks. As they were previously (1970’s) used for dryland cultivation there are very few trees throughout the paddocks to shelter under. Planting paddock trees is a big goal this year too, but even if we did it all tomorrow, it still wouldn’t solve our lack of shade. So, Dominic is going to fabricate some kind of movable shade that we can use in the meantime.
  • During discussions, generally, when we are bemoaning the fact we can’t make any income off the dairy cows or their milk, the idea has come up that we could host an “Introduction to Your House Cow” weekend for people who would like to learn a bit more about dairy cows before getting their own. This is still floating around in the ether – as we are so busy with everything else we NEED to do that it isn’t a priority. I have mentioned it here in this blog post, because it would be great to get some feedback from you all as to whether it is something you or a friend would be interested in.
  • Last year we provided a heck of a lot of food for our family off the farm. Many meals were fully sourced from our patch of land. We grew approx. 200kg of chemical-free, pastured chicken, harvested many dozens of organic pastured eggs, litres of milk and kilos of beef. This year it is an aim to raise a couple of pigs. other than the fact that we all love bacon, pigs are a great way to utilise the skim milk from the dairy herd. Skim milk is a by-product from separating the cream to make butter, which I make a lot of throughout the summer months. It takes around one litre of cream to make 250gms of butter. Currently, skim milk is clabbered for the chickens or made into mozzarella cheese, but the volume can be overwhelming. Using it for pigs would be a great way to subsidise the feed cost and dip our toes into growing pigs for meat.
  • Fencing was a massive undertaking in 2023, unlocking another 735 acres of grazing for our beef herd. This helped us get through the hard winter without supplementing with hay and provided the new land with a haircut to help with wildfire control and encouraged fresh new growth. In 2024, fencing is not so much a priority, maintenance will continue, but no new fencing has been planned.

Lots of plans and hopefully no pressure to complete them all!

Let’s see where 2024 takes us in our journey to look after the land, provide ethical beef for our community and create a life that we love.

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