A desire to build organic carbon within his soil has driven Pine Lodge farmer David Cook to introduce livestock back onto his property for the first time in years.
After undertaking a holistic management short course program funded through Landcare Australia, Mr Cook — who runs a 14ha wheat, canola and faba bean rotation on his 1105ha property — made the decision to purchase cattle in an attempt to improve his soil.
‘‘All our farm operation and management is focused on building organic carbon levels, that’s become pretty much my focus in the last four or five years,’’ he said.
‘‘We say we focus on organic carbon but I think we can go another step and for me that was bringing livestock back into the operation.’’
The decision came after the continual cropping system failed to deliver the results Mr Cook was hoping for in the past eight to 10 years.
Mr Cook was joined on his farm last Thursday by Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Assistant Minister Luke Hartsuyker and Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum to discuss his operation and the Landcare program.
‘‘After attending the course, David was motivated to buy cattle and graze his cover crops to boost soil health,’’ Mr Hartsuyker said.
‘‘He also stopped growing monocultures and is now growing multi-species or companion crops across his entire property, and no longer uses artificial fertilisers.
‘‘It is satisfying to see farmers benefiting from Landcare, and transforming farms into highly successful business operations.’’
As part of his program, Mr Cook has purchased about 200 eight- to 10-month-old cattle for his farm, opting to focus on filling out the frames of the older cattle rather than start with younger and more time consuming cows.
His program has seen the cattle gain between 100kg and 120kg in 10 weeks, bringing them to an average weight of 337kg.
Mr Cook said in the future they may also introduce a small breeding program onto the farm to further grow their stocks.
As part of his program, Mr Cook has sown a variety of crops in with his canola, including oats, barley and corn. The crops will be harvested and graded together before being separated to allow the canola to be sold on its own, with the remaining crops to be sold as a food mix.