Livestock, crops a good mix

Livestock and cropping a good mix for Seers's enterprise

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MIXED FOR SUCCESS: Glengower farmer Jake Seers said being a mixed enterprise was a key to their success providing the ability to overcome such events as frosted crops.

MIXED FOR SUCCESS: Glengower farmer Jake Seers said being a mixed enterprise was a key to their success providing the ability to overcome such events as frosted crops.

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Tough seasonal conditions have not stopped this farmer from lifting pasture yields and stocking rates.

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Glengower mixed enterprise farmer Jake Seers has defied tough conditions to record improvements in pasture yields and stock ratings.

The farm has 1500 breeding ewes plus lambs and first cross ewes and it crops about 400 to 525 hectares each year.

Being flexible, innovative and always aiming to farm sustainably has enabled the farm to overcome low rainfall in recent years.

The farm will be part of a tour conducted as part of the Grasslands Society of Southern Australia's 60th anniversary conference.

"Land value around here is pretty high so we need to be pretty intense with our farming but the main thing is about being sustainable. If we're sustainable farmers we will keep farming for many years to come," Mr Seers said.

The farm mostly grows canola, wheat and barley but has added more rotations of legume crops like faba beans as well as oats in recent years.

"We're sowing down more perennial pastures for the livestock so we can do more broadacre cropping with less area," he said.

"The farm is a "systems" approach where cropping and pastures complement the business for livestock output, weed control and maximum use of land types."

Historically the farm, owned by Jake's parents Roderick and Jodie Seers, receives about 550mm average rainfall but in recent years has been getting 450-500mm.

This year was looking thanks to a good, if late, break, with 130mm for May.

"We've been very proactive, taking on new methods and skills from other people and being involved within the community," Mr Seers said.

"We've changed machinery and use better seeders and precision equipment and talk more to agronomists, which is a key to improving yield and getting the most out of our pastures."

Despite the dry weather, most yields have improved. "Our canola is probably up about 1.5 tonnes on average and our barley has improved from five to seven and even in the tough years we've been getting good averages," he said.

"What we're doing is what a lot of other growers are doing; trying to improve pastures and get the best out of the country by being versatile and able to change and adapt quickly."

Mr Seers said being a mixed enterprise was a key to their success.

"If we have a frost we're covered with the sheep and we can use our grain to feed the stock," he said.

"There are a few broadacre cropping farms in the area but 80-90 per cent are now mixed."

The Grassland tour would cover nutrition for the pastures, including the use of urea applications, and look at soil classifications and how the farm had adapted to improve pastures.

"We do a lot of soil testing now to try to understand it a bit better; a lot of our country is heavy clay so it helps to know what is down below," Mr Seers said.

The farm's clover, ryegrass, winter canola were all crops but were utilised for grazing, silage, hay or finishing livestock

"Pastures are crops and it's time we dedicated inputs, weed control, grub control, insect control, slug bait and correct nutrition to get the most out of them," he said.

Just as the pasture yields have improved, so too had the farm's livestock operation.

"The livestock side is really good for us and we're trying to breed the numbers up a bit while still growing good crops," he said.

"We've been getting very good prices for sheep and even though we've had a fairly tough year, we've marked a few mobs of lambs so far and we're getting near 100 per cent. We've gone from about 80 per cent for our weaner markings up to 100 and across most of the flock we're averaging closer to 120pc, which is really good."

Mr Seers said it was important to pick the right breeds of sheep to suit the land.

"We're mostly Merino ewes and breed a lot of first cross new lambs for the special markets," he said.

The farm is also having success with improving its lamb survival and conception rates.

The fourth-generation farmer works alongside his father Rod, but also has a full-time job with IK Caldwell in Ballarat as an agronomist.

Mr Seers's farm will host the Grassland Society of Southern Australia bus tour in July as part of the society's 60th conference on July 17-18.

The Grassland Society of Southern Australia 60th anniversary conference will be held at the RACV Goldfields Resort in Creswick. Contact GSSA on 1300 137 550 or conference@grasslands.org.au

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