NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Any questions or comments you have about Natural Sequence Farming processes. These could include general questions or ones about your personal problems.

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paul.hodgson
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NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby paul.hodgson » Sat Jan 15, 2011 11:51 am

Hello All,

My name is Paul and I am about to purchase approx 178acres (80% cleared) approx 60km south of Taree NSW on the Pacific Highway. I have never farmed; however, I am doing my best to study NSF and alike. My my aim is to improve the land through NSF fundamentals, soil fertility, hydrology (keyline) over the next 3-5 years (part time).

My intent is to one day start a small organic grass fed cattle and livestock farm. I am seeking information or guidance on the following:

Q1. The land has not been slashed for approx 6 years and there is numerous pockets of Bracken Fern and Blackberry scattererd with the bulk of grass comprising of Kikyu. The grass is pretty high and the bracken approx half a metre tall. Given I am buying a tractor (75hp)..... Should I consider a combo mulcher instead of a stand alone slasher. Is mulching a better althernative than a standard slasher? (Not withstanding price of equipment) Will the mulch effect provide a better ground layer than a lager cut?

Q2. Are there any key considerations I need to take into account before I commence slashing/mower mulching for the first time? i.e, type of slash, time of year etc

Q3. I am considering purchasing a Yeoman Plow in the near future in order to conduct keyline planning to improve overall hydrology. Do you think this method is beneficial and the outlay will be cost effective over time?

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Reagards, Paul

paul.hodgson
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby paul.hodgson » Sat Jan 15, 2011 2:14 pm

Photo of the Bracken

Image

ghosta
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby ghosta » Sat Jan 15, 2011 6:21 pm

My father conducted a decades long battle with bracken fern when he bought his property in the 1950s. The whole property was covered in bracken fern. These day spraying is the easiest way of geting rid of bracken but if you wish to begin an organic farm then that option is out. If you want to rid yourself of bracken slash it often...3-4 times a year if neccesary, and dont give up when the bracken thins out and grass grows. Each time you slash it it gets a little easier.

Be REAL careful on slopes and near gullies. My father had the rear wheels of the tractor roll over him when the tractor rolled over on a slope while slashing bracken fern, and he was extrmely fortunate to get away without serious injury. Watch out for hidden stumps, rocks and stump holes in the thick bracken, particularly the first time you slash it.

Good luck!

duane
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby duane » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:20 pm

Good advice ghosta.

Agree with you that:
1. dont spray
2. be careful

Add to that:
1. save your $$ on the Yeomans gear....it's not needed.
2. make obs re your farm
3. plants are indicators, use the thread that tells what the presence of certain plants are indicating eg blackberries indicate erosion sensitive areas being protected.
4. bracken indicates low fertility
5. best time to slash.....at the end of plants life cycle....why? you have captured the maximum amount of Carbon and its cost you nothing. This will help you rebuild fertility.
6. Study the landscape....inc high and low points, water movement patterns etc etc

This could be a great case study !!

paul.hodgson
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby paul.hodgson » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:42 pm

Thanks Ghosta and Duane,

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Very much apprechiated and excellent information. I will take on board what you have said and I will endeavour to consolidateand hopefully take the most appropriate course of action when I tackle it. It is great to be exposed to a group of helpful people. I will be recording my journey and I am so excited to be moving in this direction. Regards Paul

duane
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby duane » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:27 pm

Re NSF:
All Plants and the movement of water are two key factors in NS.

Water once moved across this flat landscape in ponded channels and was de-energised by wetland systems which allowed water in periods of high flow to spread out gently and slowly across the landscape, thereby rehydrating floodplains. This natural system prevented the minimum headwall cut and allowed for the unlimited maximum flow (like we are seeing everywhere).

It moved fertility to the high ground at the top of the flood and deposited it there on a contour system.

These are key features of our land and you need to be in tune with, if you are ultimately going to farm sustainably, organically and successfully.

And in order to build your farming system (ecosytem) you need to harness as much energy as you can from the Sun, in the form of plant biodiversity; capture and hold onto the water that falls onto your property and get it into the ground covered by permanent vegetation so that you protect it from evaporative loss; and finally recycle ALL matter-----animal, vegetable and mineral thru your system, so that you CAN build your system and NOT mine it!!

If you can achieve those outcomes, you will be well ahead.

matto
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby matto » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:05 am

G'day Paul,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r13x3lm ... F4C21DAA2F is a good video of David Holmgren revegetating the Spring Creek Gully. Might be useful if you have blackberry growing in gully's. He also notes that blackberry makes a great protective barrier for planting trees that will eventually shade out the blackberry. Works well in slopes and keeps animals from creating erosion while blackberry is still growing. And I guess steep slopes are better suited to your tree crops.
Although this is an NSF site, keyline cultivation is a great way to decompact and aerate soils, allowing for a quick succesion to a perennial, native pasture. Darren Doherty and Ben Falloon designed a Keyline super plow, which does the job of a keyline plow as well as introducing biological teas of bacteria and fungi into the rhizosphere. And can also insert shotgun seed mixes of native and medicinal plants. You can see some videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/TaranakiFar ... Jx3VKH0nZs
These methods have found to be some of the quickest turnarounds for soil carbon, because it is the biology that builds the humus in the soil. NSF practises will make the same progress but I suspect at slower rates.
But i believe that investing in your own plow may well not be a good economical choice. Done correctly, including Holistic Management in regards to cattle grazing plan, the Keyline Plow will be made redundant after 3 years. With the HM plan, your dynamic accumulaters, ie cattle, will maintain the fertility of your soil, contibuting to carbon sequestration for years to come.
I think there is or was, a Keyline rep in Taree that you could see about hiring one.
I live in Coffs Harbour, I would love to come down and help out at any time, if you need more hands on the job.

paul.hodgson
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby paul.hodgson » Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:08 am

Hi Matto,

Thanks for the response and links to additional information. I will review the videos and continue my research. Most importantly, thanks for the offer to come down and help out. That is a vey sincerce and genuine gesture. Thank you!

I agree now that hiring a yeomans plow is a better option, given the initial high cost to purchase and long term and continued use limitations. I hope to review the contract to the Farm this weekend; however, the banks are certainly making it hard to borrow the money. Anything above 50ha without utilities requires much security. I am hoping that the banks will support my loan request. If all goes well I hope to be a owner of a farm very shortly. I am very excited. At this stage, I dont think I will be running any cattle until a couple of years so I want to maximise soil fertility building and water hydrology. I am still working out priorities with considerations based on cash flow and resources. What do you think?

Matto, if I am going to slash, is a frail/mulcher better than a standard slasher in creating better qualitiy mulch? What do you think.

Once again, thanks for the response. I very much apprechiate people taking the time to respond.
Regards
Paul

duane
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby duane » Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:17 am

Hey Paul

A precautionary word.

You always need to be aware that farmers are always being approached to buy something that is going to make all the difference to their farms.

Information via the Net and your own observations costs you only your time.

If you look to follow Nature's instructions and not man's, you will succeed where Man has always failed.

In the end you have and will, make the choice.

This is an open forum and just because there are posts here does not mean that Peter Andrew endorses the information contained in them.

Matto is a confirmed permie....that's his agenda. As he says, this is an NSF forum. So the advice he will be giving comes from that perspective.

Peter only endorses the functions of the uniquely efficient processes in the Australian landscape.
Last edited by duane on Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

matto
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Location: victoria and southern nsw

Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby matto » Sat Jan 29, 2011 3:08 pm

G'day Paul,
All my permaculture teachers and mentors have used and recommend flail mulchers. Could't really tell you the difference, and never bothered to ask why. But thats what I would be looking at.
Duane is correct, I am a permie, and as such have looked at various tools to do the jobs at hand. It is interesting some of the worlds best regenerative farming practises began in Australia, ie NSF, Keyline systems and permaculture. HM came from Rhodesia, but from a similar brittle climate and farming history.
I see the benefits in other farming system, I just hope someday I can understand more of the NSF approach. I asked Darren Doherty if he would get Peter on board their RegenAg Workshops, but he said the team behind him are great, and he has other guys to promote. I hope some day to see Peter explain his techniques, out in the environment, and get to more example properties. Im still in my second year as a student so Ive got plenty of time.

Shirley Henderson
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby Shirley Henderson » Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:09 pm

I am curious, those dark patches in your photo amongst the flatter green, is that Blackberry?
Shirley

Stringybark
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Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby Stringybark » Sun Jan 30, 2011 10:53 am

I have been wondering about whether a mulching machine, would be better than a slasher myself.
The benefits of the machine that mulches, may be the production of a finer product. Is this better for the intended result?
Compare then, a conventional agricultural slasher. It will still make the grasses and leaves of bracken/blackberry into a fine mulch. But you may have coarse vegetation in longer lengths (Blackberry canes etc). I really can't see this as being detrimental to the process.
The mulching machine will most likely cost more and have more wearing parts. Will burn more diesel to operate and probably be more susceptible to damage by timber, wire and rocks that pass through it.
Slashers are pretty hardy farm implements, to an extent.
I lean to the slasher for it's ruggedness and lower capital outlay.
As Duane has said, there are plenty of people pushing their products at farmers. Don't rush out and purchase too much machinery. One of the things that draws me to NSF, is the lack of a percieved need for this or that product/machine. You might get the same result as someone who prescribes to a different method that requires the use of a certain machine. It might'nt take any longer to achieve it either.
As for Yeomans plows. I have used them and have seen positive results. HOWEVER, if you run grazing animals on country that you have cultivated with a Yeomans plow, they will undo the work done by the plow. They tend to walk along the rip lines and compact them.
So you have to repeat the process every few years.
With NSF, you construct your contour lines and they require less maintainence. Stock are still going to damage things as they wander about. But I bet you aren't going to burn a heap of diesel to maintain them. I read somewhere that NSF contours might need a bit of mechanical powered maintainence every 30 years? Even if it was every 10 years, it's gotta be cheaper than putting a ripper through a heap of your paddock every three years.
Although you might have ideas about what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it. Be aware of what the cost of each process is going to cost. Lifestyle blocks, like any farm, can easily overcapitalise.
Keep a business mind to the running of your property.

Shirley Henderson
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Location: Thirlmere

Re: NEW FARMER NEEDS ASSISTANCE- Braken and Slashing

Postby Shirley Henderson » Sun Jan 30, 2011 1:26 pm

Hello agin Paul,
As you answered 'yes' that is Blackberry on your property I will say what I think. The blackberry indicates moisture so if you look at where it is from up hill to down hill, its my guess that that is how the water is moving through your land. The bracken I believe grows on lesser nutrient soils. Correct me if I am wrong. Improve the nutrients and you will change what grows there. Do you need to work this area where the bracken is. Is it going to be a problem. You can work NSF prinicples if you study it and ask questions. I recognised the blackberry as I was looking past your initial question and looked at the rest of the landscape. Look at why and where to find what is best for your block of land. What uses you have planned and what needs to be done and what can be left to natural sequence self repair. I am just a poster and am not associated with NSF so Duane might like to correct what I have said.


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