“Initially I was excited to share my knowledge and talk to people about how to return health into their depleted soil and turn their country around – but I quickly learnt it was easier not to say anything,” Andrew said.
Today, it’s a different story – with the benefits of holistic grazing widely applauded, and farmers Australia-wide all ears as they too look to emulate Andrew’s successful system.
“The property had always been conservatively stocked, but despite this, stock set in the same paddock every year never afforded an opportunity to rest the country.”
Through word-of-mouth, Andrew discovered Grazing for Profit, an educational resource exploring production, ecosystems and business, and by 2004 had his first intensive cell up and running.
“We split two large paddocks into 28 and were astounded by how the country responded from rest,” he said. “For the majority of the year the paddocks are rested, and we could see the results before our eyes.”
“Experimenting with, and understanding the various systems and soil responses is fascinating – and splitting up paddocks certainly became quite addictive,” he laughs.
Of his 3,500 hectares Andrew, together with wife Meagan, now run one mob of cattle through 70 odd paddocks.
“Initially we had four mobs which we gradually reduced to one, and currently during winter we rotate the mob every couple of days.”
During the warmer months he admits things can get hectic, with the mob moved up to twice a day during the peak growing season.
The Maia Grazing App has helped Andrew more accurately forecast his feed budgeting and planning, and his stock days per hectare per 100mm of rain (SDH/100mm) was on a continually rising trajectory.
However, his venture has certainly not been without its challenges, “if it was easy, everyone would be doing it,” he chuckled.
Learn about the exciting benefits of using seaweed based feed supplement to increase feed efficiency by reducing methane emissions at RaboTV
While his benchmark is 26 SDH/100mm, Andrew said the property was currently carrying 13.5 SDH/100mm. His aspiration is to reach 38 SDH/100mm over time.
“Past experience has shown that in heavy soils, after a drought the carrying capacity should be halved. So much capacity was pulled out of the land during the drought, we are essentially still managing for drought conditions – it would take a good annual season before we would return to our full stocking rates.”
Currently experimenting with over 200 days rest for some of his paddocks, Andrew is pushing well beyond his previous average of 120 days rest during winter – and is not afraid to tweak longstanding structures.
“People can tend to get hung up on the principles of regenerative agriculture. Definitely use them as a guide and don’t lose the capacity to get inventive.”
Driving the future of sustainable agriculture
No longer in the minority, Andrew is now a leader in a farming movement tipped to sustain the industry well into the future.
Looking ahead, they are currently involved in a Land Restoration Fund pilot project, aiming to potentially profit from soil carbon, tree carbon and biodiversity offsets.
Acknowledging that regenerative agriculture may be the current buzzword within the industry, this quiet achiever believes a rebrand is in order, with the emphasis on looking forward, rather than back.
“I like to see it referred to as ‘generative agriculture’ – generating a viable industry for the future, and one that we can all be proud of.”
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