Farming for the future with new technology at Struan Demonstration Farm
Australia’s farmers understand that long-term profitability depends on how they optimise the performance of their land. That means conserving and investing in that asset for the future.
Elders shares this commitment with Australian producers.
Our goal across the network is to benefit the whole farming system – from soil health and water conservation to biodiversity and animal welfare.
Head of the Thomas Elder Institute (TEI) and Thomas Elder Consulting (TEC) consultant Dr Michael Wilkes has built a career on the principles of increasing profitability and efficiency on-farm without compromising scarce primary resources – delivering value to clients.
“For me, working with clients starts with managing pastures for year-on year performance, which leads to high volume and quality output leaving the farmgate – and that is something Elders advisors pride ourselves on,” Michael says.
As part of his role with TEI, Michael oversees the implementation of the Struan Best Practice Demonstration farm, part of a strategic partnership between Elders and Primary Industries and Regions South Australia. This project will demonstrate how new technologies can improve production efficiency in a commercial livestock enterprise.
A primary focus is on soil health and how it can maximise feed growth and pasture production and manage grazing.
“Healthy soil is a key to a more environmentally-conscious farming operation as it improves water-holding capacity, increases organic matter and carbon sequestration, promotes plant health and growth performance,” Michael says.
“At Struan, we are working with a range of different soil types to optimise our outputs.”
Elders’ network of agronomists and Thomas Elder consultants supports more than 6,000 clients across Australia in managing the productivity of their farms, facilitating up to 9,000 soil tests every year.
Understanding the cyclical nature of the environment, and how to optimise pasture growth through the seasons, has played a crucial role throughout south-east South Australia and southwest Victoria, where Michael has been advising for some time.
With winter-dominant rainfall patterns, Michael works with producers to optimise pasture utilisation when feed is at its highest quality and manage stock throughout periods of feed deficit to preserve soil and pasture health for the following growing season.
“Many clients are now confinement-feeding ewes over the summer and early autumn, utilising a centreless auger feeder system to deliver grain and mineral supplements,” he says.
“This process gives the greatest control over the animal’s body condition, allowing reproductive performance to be optimised whilst conserving the natural environment.
“Over grazing has a lasting negative effect on the land. This program focuses on maintaining a healthy level of ground cover, while not over-compacting the soil – protecting it from the sun, increasing organic matter levels and promoting water infiltration.”
While this process has a positive environmental impact, it ultimately increases business success, too. Confinement feeding, and the control it allows, helps livestock’s weight and condition to be managed for optimum health, and allows pasture to recover more effectively after the season break, ready for lambing.
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