Making More from Sheep Australian Wool Innovation Limited Meat & Livestock Australia
MODULE 5: Protect Your Farm's Natural Assets
Procedure 5.4
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Background
information

Sheep producers have many resources to manage, such as money, people, sheep and other livestock, machinery and land. Many sheep producers regularly check the performance of these resources, particularly money, as part of normal business management.

The monitoring tools and management recommendations in procedures 5.1 , 5.2 and 5.3 , and other modules, will allow to you add your natural assets, weeds and pests to this list and track your progress towards your vision for your grazing enterprise. They may also allow you access to markets for environmentally assured products.

At a Glance
Track your progress towards your vision for your grazing enterprise

pt Work with your family to regularly monitor and document the condition of your natural assets, weeds and pests

pt Carefully record and store your monitoring results
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Key decisions, critical actions and benchmarks

Maintain a photo record

Monitoring progress is critical in long term projects because it is impossible to remember what things were like at the start and how much ‘progress’ is being made despite the ups and downs of the seasons.

A sequence of photos taken over a period of time can provide a rich source of information to monitor short and longer term change resulting from management decisions, climatic conditions/impacts and natural events. Use tool 5.8 to establish and maintain photopoints.

Tool 5.8 and Quickchecks (see signposts) can help you set up photo sites to record change over time. The “before and after” photos in tool 5.9 show how well photos can visually record progress towards your vision over the years.

Label (date, location) and file your photos so you can find them when you need to:

  • Locate the site to take another photo at regular intervals
  • Prove the multiple benefits arising from your improved management.

Commit to regular monitoring

Define the best month/s to assess the condition of your natural resources, pests and weeds, then take measurements (photos, assessments, counts, etc) at that time. The timing will vary according to your rainfall pattern (see procedure 8.1 in Turn Pasture into Product):

  • Winter and uniform rainfall zones: late autumn (before the break) is often the ‘worst’ for vegetation, groundcover, birds and insects, while mid spring is the ‘best’
  • Summer rainfall zones: spring and autumn can also be the most appropriate periods, but autumn will sometimes be ‘better’ than spring.

Seasonal variations can modify the times, but experience has shown that the twice-per-year / stronger-and-weaker approach is fairly robust over time.

Use the tools suggested in this and other modules to monitor change in soil, pastures, salinity, soil pH, remnant vegetation or any of the key resources you have identified.

Whichever tool or combination of tools you use, clearly identify your monitoring sites and come back to the same areas each time you monitor.

Monitor long-term impacts

Use the monitoring tools repeatedly over time to determine if the condition of your key resources is moving towards or away from your vision. Collect information over a number of years so you can clearly see trends over time.

Don’t commit to a program that is too demanding over time. Quickchecks (see signposts) can help you determine the priority sites and monitoring methods according to your vision for your grazing enterprise. The most important thing is to monitor the priority sites at about the same time each year to establish trends. Write these dates in your calendar or diary and commit to implementing your strategy over time.

Explore market opportunities

New markets are likely to emerge for environmentally assured sheep products as domestic and overseas consumers continue to demand greater confidence in the way a product (meat/wool) is produced.

Procedure 2.2 and tool 2.5 in Market Focused Wool Production explore market opportunities that may be available for environmentally assured wool. These markets may want proof of your farms environmental credentials.

Use AgriSure (see signposts) or one of the self-assessment tools listed in tool 5.11 to document your farm’s environmental credentials.


Signposts Signposts

Read

Quickchecks: Natural Resource Monitoring Tools for Woolgrowers – tools to measure the health of your pastures, soils, woody vegetation, farm watercourses, paddock production levels and birds. Download your free copy (2.27MB) on-line at: www.wool.com/on-farm-research-and-development/production-systems-eco/environment/biodiversity/ 

The MLA Pasture Health Kit: a field kit for producers to assess pasture health in the paddock. The kit can be ordered from MLA by:

View

Target 100: MLA has developed the Target 100 program to showcase the red meat industry's environmental and animal welfare credentials. Target 100 consists of the website, social media and events to enable discussions between industry and people interested in finding out about sustainability in the Australian beef and lamb industry. Visit: http://www.target100.com.au/Home 

Attend

The MLA EDGEnetwork® program is coordinated nationally and has a range of courses to assist sheep producers. Contact can be made via:

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