Embracing the chance to improve farming methods

The pressures of running a farm make it hard to take time out to learn about new methods and ideas, but for Foster farmer David Hall, it’s an essential part of his business.

Amongst the large number of local farmers who have been involved in the Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms program, West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) Project Manager, Tony Gardner, says David Hall is a great example.

“He goes along to everything and takes the things he feels are relevant to his farm and trials them. I describe him as a serial learner.”

The Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms program regularly holds workshops, trials and information sessions about soil health, and nutrient and grazing management, to build landowner knowledge.

“One of the key aims of the project is to support best practice and encourage innovation,” explains Tony. “We also want to help farmers to be as productive and efficient as possible.”

For David Hall, the program has provided a unique opportunity to improve his farming practices.

“I believe if I can learn one new thing, it’s worth the time and effort to go to a workshop or information day,” says David.

“I’ve incorporated quite a few of the things I learned, including fertilizer management, sod seeding oats, Petrik microbes, and most recently, setting up a grazing chart system.”

The new knowledge has changed the way his farm at Foster is operated.

“For years, I tried to run the maximum amount of cattle and I wasn’t providing enough nutrition. The quality of your soil and pasture is the major factor in achieving good results.  Now I focus on balancing the grass and the livestock,” explains David.

“I’ve taken a more biological approach to farming. My primary aim is sustainable production and to greatly reduce my reliance on fertiliser inputs.

“I have what I call a 4 x 4 plan. Each year I aim to have four weeks holiday, try four different things, attend four training days and spend four weeks (approximately one day a fortnight) working on the business, not just in it.”

The Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms project has engaged around twenty per cent of agricultural businesses in the region, with almost 1,000 landowners taking part in a range of events and workshops.

“We know that good management of nutrients, ground cover and plants will improve the health of animals and farm profitability,” says Tony.

“This is a great outcome for farmers. It also reduces erosion, salinity and nutrient run-off, which is important for the health of our rivers and waterways.”

David Hall recently hosted a group of representatives from government agencies and catchment management authorities across the state, to discuss and showcase some of the practices he has adopted.

The Healthy Soils Sustainable Farms program is supported by West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

For more information visit www.wgcma.vic.gov.au.

Farm visit Sustainable Agriculture Bus Tour
Tony Gardner – WGCMA and David Hall
Farm site visit Sustainable Agriculture Bus tour
David Hall with WGCMA Chair Peter Jennings