The EAAA is in the process of collecting stories of farmers who are doing it – i.e. farming ecologically. Vince Heffernan from Dalton (near Yass, NSW) is our first contributor. Vince has a degree in ecological agriculture from the University of Sydney and is a practising biodynamic (Demeter) sheep meat grazier.
The following highlights some of the facts behind Vince!
- Near Dalton on the southern slopes. One hour from Boorowa and Canberra. 3 km frontage to the Lachlan River.
- 1200 Ha or 3000 Acres
- Sheep only; Texel breed for prime lamb production (Texel is an old Dutch breed renown for the quality of the meat (http://www.texel.org.au/)
- 2400 ewes joined. Occasionally up to 3000. Self Replacing Flock.
- 800 acres of basalt soil. Remainder either alluvial or duplex shales.
Mindset towards farming
- In the early days Vince was interested in Joel Salatin and his approach.
- He believes in biodynamics and is a member of Demeter certification. He maintains that super phosphate kills the fungi in the soil which affects phosphorus uptake. He believes through evidence based research that the soil is enhanced by using biodynamic preparations.
- He utilises high density short rotations with long rest periods all of which is a derivation of Holistic Cell Grazing.
- He is keen on encouraging biodiversity and plants 4000 tube stocks a year. So far 50-70000 trees have been planted. The number of birds has increased significantly as have insects and wasps. He is planting aquatic plants to bring back the water birds. Glossy Black Cockatoos will only eat Casuarina Verticulata seeds so that is what he plants.
- Chemicals: hasn’t drenched in 12 years. Uses rotational grazing to prevent the worm larvae hatching and being eaten by sheep.
- Aboriginal: There is an aboriginal ceremonial site on the property and Vince is interested in improving the property to a state equal to what it must have been like when they owned the country. He visited Cape York in 2015 to study aboriginal management techniques particularly around fire.
- Marketing of lambs: Formerly all lambs went to the abattoir. This has been replaced with direct marketing. Lambs are killed at the abattoir. They are then packaged for delivery to customers. This normally happens at Farmers Markets particularly in Canberra. He writes a monthly newsletter to his customers so they understand the background to all that happens on the farm.
- Breeding: 50% of stock culled to ensure improvement in the genetic base.
- Believes the property is now more resilient as a consequence of his management approach and that given the climatic changes the country faces then resilience will determine who stays and who goes.
In summary, Vince is holistic in his approach to farming. He understands the systemic nature of forces on his farm and works to ensure they are maintained. He engages with his clients and informs them so that they understand who he is and what his approach to farming is. By this approach Vince creates a community of people based on his biodynamic approach to farming and his focus on increasing biodiversity.