Pascoe's view on investment

Pascoe's view on investment

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BRIGHT MIND: Northern Victoria primary producer Dusty Pascoe, Rosedale, Raywood, has created a feedlot for his lambs to increase carrying capacity. Photo by Joely Mitchell.

BRIGHT MIND: Northern Victoria primary producer Dusty Pascoe, Rosedale, Raywood, has created a feedlot for his lambs to increase carrying capacity. Photo by Joely Mitchell.

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Dusty Pascoe is a fourth-generation farmer.

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Northern Victorian farmer Dusty Pascoe is looking at ways to capitalise on each hectare to boost productivity and return on investment.

The Raywood mixed producer and father of three runs a 1580-hectare operation at Raywood, including a self-replacing Merino flock consisting of 1450 ewes.

Sixty per cent of his operation is made up of dryland cropping which includes a mixture of canola, barley and wheat, plus hay for export and domestic use.

"We've really focused on making every hectare work and trying to make the most dollars per hectare as we possibly can," the fourth-generation farmer said.

Since 1899, the Pascoes have bred sheep at Rosedale and for the past 13 years, Mr Pascoe has ran the farm with his wife of 11 years, Karen, after taking the reins from his uncle, Grant Pascoe in 2007.

His father, Eric, is also involved in the partnership.

At any given time between 2500-4000 sheep can be found on the property, including cross-bred lambs.

In order to boost productivity, young Merino ewes are joined at nine months, before lambing down and again re-joined at 18 months.

"There's a lot of work involved," Mr Pascoe said.

"You've got be bang on to your weights, bang on to your feed targets and bang on to your condition scores and the food they have in front of them."

Like most regions throughout Victoria, Raywood has benefited from widespread and consistent rain in the first half of 2020.

In fact, more rain has fallen since the start of 2020 compared to the 12-month total of 2019.

Since January 1, 320 milimetres has fallen, above the 2019 total of 280mm but still below the yearly average.

"Interestingly, 425mm is our alleged average but we haven't hit that for a long time," Mr Pascoe said.

"Even though we've already far surpassed our rainfall total this year compared to last year ... I can't complain about last year or the year before because we did very well."

Fortunately, soils at his Raywood property are described as "clay-loam-like" and store moisture very well.

In late 2019, Mr Pascoe started his Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarship, however, due to COVID-19, the program is largely on hold.

Feedlot focus

One of the most recent ways the Pascoes have improved their return on investment is through the use of an on-farm feedlot for their lambs, ultimately allowing them to increase their carrying capacity.

Afters years of hands-on experience and industry knowledge - along with about 18 months of textbook research - Mr Pascoe is in the final stages of commissioning the feedlot.

It has the capacity to carry between 2500-3000 lambs with the aim to double it in size.

"I'm really trying to push the limits with the feedlot for best practice," Mr Pascoe said.

"So high-pressure low-volume water, automatic feeders, getting the drainage and run-off right, shade, the design of the yards for easy exits and lane way systems going straight into yards are some of its features.

"Previously I used containment and feedlots but we're doing it properly and in the past I've finished most of my lambs on lucerne but that doesn't always work hence this move."

Nuffield scholarship

When Nuffield scholar Matthew Ipsen suggested Mr Pascoe should apply for the Nuffield program, he was initially greeted by doubt.

"But then I thought there was only really three options in 10 years; I could either look back and say I never applied, number two I applied and didn't get it or I could look back and I've already done it," Mr Pascoe said.

"It was a no-brainer to apply when I thought of it like that."

Sponsored by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, his topic is looking at Grazing crops in a changing climate to fill the winter feed gap.

Apart of the scholarship will require him to present to other peers about how he uses an existing resource in crops for his sheep to graze on in winter before and when they lamb.

"The feed stops growing when it gets cold so I graze the crops and that gives me high feed value which frees up pasture but also can split my frost risk for crops as well as increasing my whole farm profitability," Mr Pascoe said.

The scholarship also requires him to complete a 10,000 word report and 115 days or four months outside the country, undertaking research and tour-based trips.

"It's all on a big pause at the moment due to COVID-19 but they're talking about doing some domestic travel later in the year but it really is all up in the air still," Mr Pascoe said.

Mr Pascoe said a lesson he had learned since starting the scholarship in 2019 were the similar challenges people faced in agriculture.

"It doesn't matter which industry you're in, all of agriculture and our supply chains face similar problems such as return on investment, raising capital, risk management, finding the right labour hire and retention, and connecting with your consumer," he said.

"We do all have very similar issues and I think farmers need to think bigger. You don't need to know everything, you just need to know who to ask about it."

Other hot topics include regenerative agriculture, strengthening ties with government to improve and influence decision-making processes and connecting with consumers.

Wool clip

Many Australian woolgrowers made the decision to hold onto their clip in the wake of coronavirus.

Mr Pascoe was one of those producers who held onto 32 bales of 19 micron wool shorn in February - until this week.

"I would say the result was good in a poor market. I was happy with my sale but the market is at one of its lowest points," Mr Pascoe said.

He said his daughters Georgia, 10, Lucy, 8, and Reese, 6, all shared a passion for the land, similar to their parents, and could one day take over the family farm.

"Farming is not about your physical strength anymore, it's all in your head; looking at the smartest and most efficient ways to do things," Mr Pascoe said.

"I've got to work out how to get my farm to a point where if three kids want to come back, great, and if no kids want to come back, then that's okay as well."

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