As featured in The Country Web Number 58 Autumn 2013 edition
Peter and Alison Campbell farm a 1550 ha mixed cropping sheep enterprise at “Avondale” 17 km west of Henty, NSW. The Campbells rotate their wheat/canola cropping program with lucerne/clover/cocksfoot pastures. At any one time cropping accounts for about 70 per cent of the farm area, and a merino self-replacing flock of 2500 ewes and 1000 wethers is run on the pastures.
The farm is managed with a view to maximising profit while maintaining the sustainability of the natural resource base. In the last three years canola has become the most important crop because of its profitability, but several steps have been taken to reduce the inherent risk associated with growing canola, including: using hybrid varieties; focusing on moisture storage prior to sowing; using aerial seeding clovers as a green manure crop; using price risk management tools; and keeping other enterprises in the mix to balance income.
The livestock enterprise is a self-replacing merino flock with 30 per cent of ewes joined to terminal sires. The sheep are grazed rotationally on the pastures over summer and autumn and set stocked for lambing in August. Wheat stubbles are grazed but not canola stubbles, and when groundcover limits are reached the sheep are put into feedlots.
Maintaining groundcover and soil fertility and stability are important factors in the Campbells’ agronomic management. Over time they have moved from direct drilling to zero till—and are currently sowing with a disc seeder. Peter and Alison developed a whole farm plan 20 years ago and it has been implemented over that time. Water flow is controlled over the whole farm with the use of contour banks running into grassed up waterways and then into dams. The waterways are fenced off, not grazed and act as a filter for nutrient runoff. Windbreaks and shelter belts have been placed strategically around the farm, laneways for sheep movement have been constructed, and reserves have been set aside and improved with the addition of understory for wildlife protection. In addition, with the help of a Landcare grant, a disused railway bisecting the property has been fenced off and trees planted. This has resulted in a marked increase in small bird numbers such as robins and finches.
Risk management is an important part of the enterprise with strategies in place to reduce the impact of drought, disease natural disasters and market downturns. For drought preparedness, the Campbells conserve moisture by summer spraying of weeds, retaining full stubble, storing grain and hay for stock, and carrying two age groups of wethers to off-load quickly if necessary. To manage against disease they regularly monitor crops and flock health and treat where necessary. Price risk management and enterprise diversification are important strategies for coping with market downturns.
Peter and Alison have been involved in their industry and community in a number of very worthwhile roles. Peter was on the NSW Farmers Council (1991–94), chair and member southern region Grains Research & Development Corporation advisory group, on the Lockhart Shire Council (1995–2008) including as Deputy Mayor, heavily involved with Landcare, founding chairman Eastern Riverina Merino Breeders Association, and is currently Director of Henty Community Club, and Henty Rotary Club, since 1983. Alison is a past Chair of Henty School P&C, past secretary Billabong P&C, current chair catering committee of Henty Field Days, and Director and Secretary of Henty Bendigo Community Bank. For more information about the Farmer of the Year Award see: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/news/events/foty/2012