FIVE years after his property was severely damaged by the 2013 Rockleigh fires, grazier John Talbot is ready to restart his life with cattle.
But the change will not be at the original 1416-hectare Talbot farm in Rockleigh, which was founded by his grandfather Raymond Talbot, but at John’s second property in Bordertown.
Instead of breeding on-farm, John will make the shift to cattle trading, and aims to have his first herd arrive at Bordertown by early February.
John said he would not go back to cows and calves, because he would never get over the fire, and the damage it caused to his farm and livestock.
“Plus it is a huge workload, and if you have cows and calves, you have to be there all the time,” he said.
“I didn’t want to be a 57-year-old farmer trying to rebuild 1416ha from scratch.”
Having previously worked with Herefords and Angus at Rockleigh, John wants to continue working with the same breeds in his trade operation.
“I like these breeds because of the consumption with the meatworks – they do prefer these breeds,” he said.
“And in summer, the Herefords and the Angus will carry their weight well if they’ve got good food and water.”
John irrigates 10ha of the 117ha Bordertown farm, half of which is used to produce ryegrass-clover hay if it has been a good season.
He aims to strip-graze the remaining irrigated land, as well as supplementing the cattle with oaten hay and straw.
“I will be continuing to upgrade the irrigation system and constructing dams so I don’t have to have water troughs,” he said.
John aims to run 70 cattle during a three to four month turn over period, where he hopes they will gain about 3.5 kilograms a day.
He aims to buy them from the Norst West Pastoral region at six to eight months old, weighing about 250kg, and will sell them when they reach about 500kg direct to processors.
“I’m aiming to do three or four lots a year, depending on the seasons, and hopefully give the pastures a rest during summer,” he said.
Pasture rotation aids good stock health, growth
A LARGE part of John Talbot’s cattle trading program will involve resting the paddocks between stock turnovers to reduce the risk of parasites, pasture damage from overgrazing and the introduction of unwanted weeds.
“Once you turn the cattle out, the worms and insects that travelled with them are in the soil,” the former road transport driver said.
“That is why the steers will be contained for a few days before being turned out.”
In October 2016, John began a spraying program to control weeds prior to his sharefarmer sowing beans on the Bordertown property, in a bid to improve the soil profile.
John learned his cattle craft from his father Ken Talbot, who originally ran a Guernsey dairy operation in Rockleigh, before introducing Herefords in 1983 and Angus in 1988.
In 2013 the Rockleigh property was burned by three separate fires within 12 months, which ended up destroying much of his livestock, fencing and infrastructure.
The fire at Sherwood last week was a scary reminder of what Mother Nature was capable of doing.
John said had the wind direction not changed on Saturday, the blaze would have hit his farm.
“The Sherwood fire didn’t reach the property, but at one stage it was heading easterly towards my farm,” he said.
“I was a bit worried for a while and I was getting a lot of phone calls, then the fire turned and went north.”