Palarang, Bombala : Farms With A Future

Palarang Farm, Bombala, Case Study

Farm Overview
‘Palarang’ is owned and operated by John Walker who took over the farm after his father passed away in 2002. His father had originally purchased the property in 1960 and ran both sheep and cattle on the property.

Located 17km west of Bombala on shale and basalt country areas of the farm are typical ‘Monaro treeless plains’, it is generally high in phosphorus, with the shale being the poorer soil although the basalt is out of balance due to its high magnesium content.

It is 1273 hectares in size with rivers and ridges through the property running North-South. It spans 700m at the lowest point to 800m above sea level at the highest point, offering a cold temperate climate with extremes of temperature from -13 to over 40 degrees Celsius.

Rainfall is relatively solid at 19-23 inches (480-580mm) per annum and there are natural springs on the farm that deliver up to 10,000litres per day – these are piped into gravity fed troughs backed up by dams on the ‘back-creek country’.
The property is operated as a mixed sheep and cattle farm with approximately 120 breeding Hereford Cows and 1000 ewes plus cattle on consignment, to grow out for meat, from an organic farmer in Victoria.

Background of the farm
John’s father ran the farm with set-stocking at rates of around 12,000DSE (Dry Sheep Equivalent) throughout the 1970’s. This was achieved by ploughing and sowing down Phalaris by air dropped with Super Phosphate as well as Stipa and Poa every 10-12 years.

John believes this stocking rate was well above what the property could reasonably sustain.

Changes that have been made
John is passionate about native pastures, biodiversity and soil health, although he believes that real changes in this area on the farm are likely to take 10-20 years to see.

The biggest changes from when his father ran the property have been to reduce the stocking rate from 12,000DSE to around 6 or 7,000DSE. He no longer ploughs or seeds the pasture but encourages native pasture to grow by carefully managing grazing and movement amongst the 50 or more paddocks.

An increase in the number of paddocks through subdivision has enabled better grazing management, allowing paddocks and therefore the grasses to be rested. The cattle appear healthy and shiny as well.

Some of the shale areas have been fenced in and native trees planted for biodiversity, shade and subdivision.

Plans for the Future
Further increases in biodiversity of the grasses, and allowing them to better express themselves as a conduit for carbon into the soil which will improve the soil chemical balance and therefore increase the biodiversity in and health of the soil.
“I want to see an increase in expression of what we already have here” says John.

His most immediate plan is to fence an area of fairly typical paddock and establish a native grass ‘nursery’ area by collecting and growing seed from areas of grass already existing on the property such as Kangaroo Grass (Themeda), Stipa’s and Forbs.

Acknowledgements: SCPA-South East Producers, LLS, Palarang

When: Thursday 28 April 2016

Where:' Palarang', Bombala

Cost: $20, Lunch included

What’s On: Ground Work Day – topics will include:

  • Biodiversity enhancement
  • Native Grass Identification
  • Native Grass Seed Harvesting and Planting
  • Setting up an on-farm Native Grass Nursery

Bookings Essential