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Grassland conference tour to outline livestock and crop success

Sheep Central, June 24, 2019

Jake Seers combines farming with full-time work as an agronomist.

GLENGOWER mixed enterprise farmer Jake Seers will outline how he has defied tough conditions to record improvements in pasture yields and stock ratings, at the Grassland Society of Southern Australia’s annual conference next month.

Mr Seers will host a bus tour in July as part of the society’s 60th conference at Creswick in Victoria on 17-18 July.

His farm about 40km north of Ballarat has 1500 breeding ewes plus lambs and first cross ewes, and he crops about 400-525 hectares each year.

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

“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,” Jake said.

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

“We’re sowing down more perennial pastures for the livestock so we can do more broadacre cropping with less area.

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

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 “if we’re lucky”. This year is 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.

“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,” Jake said.

Despite the dry weather, most yields have improved.

“Our canola is probably up about 1.5 tonne on average and our barley has improved from 5 to 7 and even in the tough years we’ve been getting good averages,” Jake 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 having a mixed farming 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. There are a few broadacre cropping farms in the area but 80-90 per cent are now mixed.”

The Grassland tour will cover nutrition for the pastures, including the use of urea applications, and look at soil classifications and how the farm has 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.”

The farm’s clover, ryegrass, winter canola are all crops but are 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,” Jake said.

Just as the pasture yields have improved, so too has 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,” Mr Seers 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 percent.

“We’ve gone from about 80pc for our weaner markings up to 100pc and across most of the flock we’re averaging closer to 120pc, which is really good.”

The ewes are mostly Merinos and he breeds first cross new lambs for special markets. 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. The farm has grown substantially over the decades, though future expansion might be limited by what Jake and Rod can achieve on their own.

The Grassland Society of Southern Australia 60th anniversary conference will be held on July 17 and 18 at the RACV Goldfields Resort in Creswick with the theme `thriving pastures’. Bookings can be made with GSSA on 1300 137 550 or conference@grasslands.org.au.

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