From a somewhat scalded landscape to one brimming with vibrant saltbushes, strong fences and new opportunities for stock, a landmark program has helped the Hegartys of Bourke transform their property.
They now have more confidence to withstand grazing pressures and droughts in the future.
The Hegartys were part of a two-year Land Services Program offered by Western Local Land Services (LLS) that has made their farm more profitable and sustainable.
The two-year scheme that offers free and subsidised on-farm advice and entry to programs is now open for new applications, with the closing date June 13.
Dave and Tracey Hegarty at Bellenbar, Bourke, became involved in the Land Services Program through a program mentor - Glen Humbert.
In the first year of the program, the Hegartys went to four workshops where they identified how they could transform Bellenbar.
As a part of the program they received a three year subscription to FarmMap4D and a 50 per cent subsidy for training activities and consulting services.
"At Bellenbar there were large unproductive areas of scrub and scald. The Hegarty's aim was to rehabilitate and increase productivity in these areas," the LLS said.
They improved grazing and water management.
"Despite the drought, to improve their pastures they planted 5000 salt bush plants that were hand watered when necessary. These have survived and will be an important feed source and provide soil protection in the future. They used their training budget to attend the KLR Marketing School, Grazing for Profit and engaged Hugh Pringle from Ecosystem Management Understanding (EMU™)."
They then completed 59 kilometres of external hinge joint fencing with an apron and three barbs on top as well as a further 53km of internal fencing to create 16 paddocks to be rotationally grazed.
"Additional water infrastructure including tanks, trough and extensive poly pipelines were also installed.
"This has improved their ability to manage both feral and domestic grazing pressure and prevent further degradation of their landscape. Onground earthworks including ripping scalds, constructing contour banks and improving farm roads have been used to increase water infiltration and effectiveness of natural water flows rather than it running off and not being utilised by pasture species."
The Hegartys also joined in with neighbours to talk about the program and share advice and what it is was doing for them.
The LLS said there had been "a noticeable increase in groundcover and pasture quality at Bellenbar since completion of the works".
"Over time, the number of desirable plant species and species diversity has increased, resulting in major production benefits for their business. This can be attributed to increased water infiltration and the ability to control grazing through fencing.
"The fencing allows pastures to be rested, improving the ability for desirable species to spread as well as increasing the availability of quality feed for stock.
"The improvement in pasture growth is contributing to reducing areas of scald and restoration of the landscape, soil and natural processes on Bellenbar, which is evident in the growing presence of wildlife and birdlife on the property.
The Hegartys plan to complete additional fencing to reduce paddock sizes. "This will also allow them to graze more intensively and increase their production."
In the first year of the program, participants complete a series of workshops to get a holistic view of their operation and identify areas of improvement to work towards throughout the program.
In the second year participants receive a $10,000 training budget, mentoring opportunities and support to implement improvements.
Expressions of interest close Monday 13 June. To register your expression of interest please contact Claudia Bryant, Land Services Officer, on 0448 796 109 or email email@example.com .
journalist and author
journalist and author
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.