Aeration the key to pasture


Stock and Land Beef
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WEST Gippsland farmer and business consultant Martin Vogel is passionate about productive, sustainable and successful beef production. Both individually and as a mentor and guide in the RMG (Resource Management Group) Beef network, Martin practice

WEST Gippsland farmer and business consultant Martin Vogel is passionate about productive, sustainable and successful beef production.Both individually and as a mentor and guide in the RMG (Resource Management Group) Beef network, Martin practices what he preaches and can demonstrate the outcomes on 28.33 highly productive hectares at Heath Hill south of Drouin. Mr Vogel normally fattens about 200 steers each year for the Japanese export market, producing up to 1000 kilograms of beef per hectare in recent years (982kg/ha in 2005) and more in years past. In the decade prior to this season, Mr Vogel averaged a $317/head margin with minimal supplementary feeding. Normally he would buy steers in March at 300kg, selling the first to reach 500kg at the end of July and repeat the process in late August. “The main thing is pasture- the more you grow, the more cattle you can run and the higher your production.” But just how does one produce enough pasture on 28.33ha to produce 28,330kg of export quality beef per year? Broadly Mr Vogel attributes this productivity to the emphasis on soil aeration, rotational grazing, and getting the basic balance of soil nutrients right.Building topsoils, reducing soil compaction, and increasing soil organic matter and microbial activity are significantly enhanced, Mr Vogel believes, by effective soil aeration.“Aeration reduces the compaction, allowing the aerobic bugs and fungi to get going and do all the work growing the grass for you,” he said. The technique preserves water, improves soil health and fertility and develops highly productive and sustainable pastures, evidenced by Mr Vogel’s beef yield. The 36ha property retains 8.1ha as a conservation block, with the remainder sub-divided into 18 paddocks and all pasture is fully utilised. “We run the cattle to eat the pasture down to two or three inches in two to three days and then rotate. This also creates our weed control,” he said. When seasons are favourable, he returns to graze paddocks every two to three weeks or five to six in winter. Every year, six paddocks are worked with the Agroplow in late spring – which improves aeration and moisture holding capacity of the subsoil- and all paddocks are covered by the Aer-Way at least twice when soil moisture is at an adequate level.The Aer-way, a simple box steel frame holding a 2.3 metre horizontal rotor with knife like tynes, is pulled along by Mr Vogel’s 58 horse power tractor at 8-10km/hour. The process creates slits in the topsoil- 10cm is the minimum depth for optimal effect. For full story see this week's Stock & Land

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