A MORE wholistic approach to cattle grazing has lead one producer to think outside the box and convert a much loved piece of farming equipment.
Cam Laurie, whose family runs hundreds of head of Angus cattle at its Rawdon Vale property near Gloucester, decided to take the plunge on converting an old John Shearer cultivation drill into a double disc.
Used for planting pasture crops for his cattle, the device has not only provided new feed options, but has also allowed for a more holistic approach to soil health at Mr Laurie's properties at Rawdon Vale and at Winton on the outskirts of Tamworth.
Already incorporating rotational grazing and other regenerative approaches into his management structure, Mr Laurie said the double disc was the next logical step to help the soil at the Winton property to recover.
"It's an old Shearer 27-run trash culti-drill and all of the cultivating tynes were taken off years ago because I didn't see the need for them and I was just using edge-on tynes instead," Mr Laurie said.
"It was a lot bigger job than it looks, in fact, it's got about 10 kilograms of weld in it because we had to square it up.
"The reason we wanted to put double disc openers on was because there was melon vines and those sorts of things and we were finding we weren't able to successfully plant pasture crop.
"From that front it has certainly helped and our whole idea here is to try and build diversity."
Currently filled with a multi-species summer crop consisting of millet, sorghum, mung beans, ebony cowpea, red caloona cowpea, sunflower, sunhemp and corn, the double disc has already begun to prove its worth at the Winton property by going in with an inoculant.
"We've got two paddocks of multi-species winter crop, which was pretty impressive and now we are planting a multi-species summer crop as well," Mr Laurie said.
"All of the paddocks are of a similar size, about 25 hectares or so. The fact of the matter is, it may take a little bit of time to repay the investment we made creating this double disc, but it will allow us to seed into anything, regardless of how thick it is."
Having purchased the Winton property in the peak of the recent drought, Mr Laurie said soil health was one of his top priorities.
"One of the problems I found when we purchased this property at Winton was that one of the machines I used near Gloucester was a banana planter, which had row spacings of about 12 inches, was I think, too far apart," he said.
"That lead to too much bare ground, which I also think was caused by frequent weed spraying, which is something I don't do anymore. Instead we look to retain the ground cover and that's where this double disc comes in because it can go into the thick stuff.
"As a result, we will be able to retain sub-soil moisture and that is important because while the coast may be a higher rainfall area, it's not always the case, so it is critical to retain as much moisture as you can."
Helping Mr Laurie was Horsham-based RyanNT, Farm Agronomy's Ian Moss and Terra Firma Fertilizers.
"The whole regen-ag community is a really supportive one and those guys have been fantastic in helping me put this thing together," Mr Laurie said.
"I posted the finished product on a regen-ag Facebook page and the response was just fantastic.
"These kinds of things are always a little bit of trial and error and this project was no different, but I feel like it will open up some really exciting possibilities."
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