All dry and mighty

All dry and mighty


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Tim Wright, “Lana”, Uralla, beside Roumalla Creek on his farm, where planned grazing has improved his pastures.

Tim Wright, “Lana”, Uralla, beside Roumalla Creek on his farm, where planned grazing has improved his pastures.

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TIM Wright's desire to drought-proof his Uralla farm led him to question the management regime of the family property.

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THE desire to drought-proof his farm led Tim Wright, "Lana", Uralla, to question accepted management of the family property on the Northern Tablelands.

Mr Wright said he had learnt about farm management in the traditional manner during his studies at the former Orange Agricultural College.

"I was in the first intake and I accepted what I was taught but it was because of my education that I began to question my stock and property management," he said.

Mr Wright said his experience during the 1980s drought led him to change.

"I went into that drought with full haysheds and silos," he said.

By the time the season broke, Mr Wright said they were empty, his finances were under severe pressure and his country took five years to recover.

"We thought we were right, but we weren't," he said.

There would be droughts in the future and a new strategy was needed - it was time to re-evaluate his program.

"I was open-minded and looking for something different, so when any new concept came along I was interested," he said.

It was about changing his management style and his way of thinking.

This year, during a period when most of the state is drought-declared, Mr Wright and his wife Karen have destocked by 10 per cent, but are not supplementary feeding any stock as they are in good condition.

Going into winter, he even had some extra stock on agistment.

Mr Wright said he didn't have a proper grazing program during the 1980s but followed the system that had been traditional in his district for many years.

He changed the game and his philosophy is now to graze paddocks for a certain time and relate that to the length of time to the next grazing.

"I call it 'planned-grazing' and the concept is simple ... you work out how long a certain paddock needs to be rested, you know the number of paddocks to be grazed during that time and it is then a matter of calculation," Mr Wright said.

If you have 30 paddocks and you need a two-month rest period, then each paddock is only grazed for two days.

The rotation is not fixed but depends entirely on the time of the year and the amount of feed growth.

"And how much you value your ecological environment," Mr Wright said.

He said he held dear the care of his country.

The change didn't occur overnight but was gradual as he was putting in a lot of pipelines and re-fencing his paddocks.

One highlight, Mr Wright noted, was the prolific growth around "sheep camps" due to the accumulated fertility transfer.

He fenced off those areas, and grazed them through particular periods, completely changing the growth and the nature of the plants grown.

"I have created a whole mosaic of sheep fertiliser across the property because I have not used chemical fertilisers for the past 10 years," he said.

Mr Wright continues a sheep and cattle mix of 20,000 dry sheep equivalent (DSE) on his 3340-hectare property in non-drought conditions.

In the past three years the rate was reduced to 15,000 DSE.

"This has eliminated the need to hand feed but I continue to use the imported high grade, mineral-rich Himalayan salt lumps at about 0.15c per DSE per annum," Mr Wright said.

He is committed to building the organic matter content of his soil.

"Carbon is humus and you don't get humus without groundcover," he said.

"We now have both cool-season and warm-season native plants as the exotic pastures have been replaced."

The story All dry and mighty first appeared on Farm Online.

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