“You have to graze for the landscape,” is Charlie Massy’s approach to maintaining production of his Merino flock on the family property “Severn Park”, south of Cooma in the heart of the Monaro.
The country is mostly a combination of granite and red/black basalt which was traditionally farmed from the time of European occupation with Mr Massy thinking the paddock was last ploughed ‘thirty-odd years ago’.
“I’ve been holistically grazing it for probably 15 years, and we can see lucerne volunteering in,” he said.
On the rocky outcrops which have never been disturbed by the plough, Mr Massy was pleased to point out the spread of kangaroo grass, native clovers and other native species along with sub-clover spreading between the rocks.
”This has been grazed three weeks ago, and you can still see the cover we are trying to keep in a tough year like we have had,” he said.
“We never try to knock down more than about 50 per cent of paddock growth just to keep the photosynthetic capacity going.”
Mr Massy is seeking a medley of plants to ensure soil health and ultimately sheep health.
“Essentially, we are after diversity, natives and exotics, it doesn’t worry me as long as it’s diversity,” he said. “And deeper more moisture absorbent soils and healthier micro-biology in the soils.”
When discussing the rainfall across his land, Mr Massy said a rolling 12 month average is more relevant than the commonly accepted 12 month calendar period.
“That is more meaningful than the annual record, and we are only sitting on half our annual rainfall [at the end of October],” he said.
Yet he was able to say he expected to be able to graze the 15 hectare paddock by the end of November, and anticipates a fair bulk of feed.
“At the moment we wouldn’t put in anymore than 1500 DSE for two days,” he said when explaining the process of his grazing management.
“We don’t usually graze any longer than that, and within reason try to get as much animal density as we can.”
Mr Massy said he continues to subdivide paddocks to increase that density factor and to better drive the ecology of his farm.
His stock numbers have definitely not decreased, even though he no longer spreads fertilizer and with virtually no chemical use, as any ‘pasture improvement’ is done through a ‘no-kill’ approach.
For Mr Massy, the concept of holistic grazing is a ‘game-shifter’.