THERE are multiple benefits to having continuous flood irrigation available on-property, including year-round grazing along with the ability to hold onto stock if there’s a low in the market.
Alex and Mark Westlake are putting farmland at Long Flat, which was previously used by Alex’s parents Barry and Joanne Pfeiffer as a dairy farm, to the test.
The Westlakes and Pfeiffers joined forces three years ago in what is the beginning of succession planning, and have introduced 260 mixed-breed ewes to the 101 hectares of flat irrigated land alongside the River Murray.
Their latest project was a 6ha trial with PGG Wrightson Seeds, sowing Pallaton Raphno Brassica – a cross between a kale and radish – that will increase lamb weights by 15 per cent.
It was sown into a section of the flats in November, and the 280 lambs have been grazing the leafy green crop since January.
All lambs were weighed prior to accessing the crop and lambs are expected to be weighed again in the next week to quantify the weight gain. Mr Westlake said despite not having completed the final weigh in, the lambs were looking in fantastic condition.
“Visually, it appears to be working,” he said.
Presently, ewes are joined in March, and lambs drop in late July to August, but Mr Westlake said they wanted to bring back mating times so the lambs were not dropping in the depths of winter.
And with continuous access to water, the family is able to retain stock numbers if there is a lull or oversupply in the market.
“The paddocks are green and fertile all year which means we can farm off-seasonally as well,” Mr Westlake said. “If the market is not good, we can hold onto the sheep longer because we’ve got the grass to feed them.”
The laser-levelled paddocks are irrigated about once a month, and rested for about two weeks before livestock are returned to graze.
The Westlakes also introduced five Angus-Friesian cows with calves at-foot three years ago, and have being increasing their herd size since.
The cattle are joined in October with Pathfinder and Bull Oak Well Angus bulls, with calves dropping in July.
The Westlakes also have an additional 12ha of their own land which was previously used for irrigated strip grazing – but since the Millenium Drought it has sat idle.
With the help of a $104,000 grant from the SA River Murray Sustainability Program, the duo, alongside the Pfeiffers, will be reinstating irrigation to the block to grow high productivity crops to finish their sheep on.
“To be able to access the irrigation again means we have another level of productivity all year round,” Mrs Westlake said.
Young farming duo showcase region via net
HAVING worked in the hospitality industry, Mark and Alex Westlake have heard the demands from customers wanting to know where their food comes from.
With that in mind, the young farming duo have established an Instagram account called Chef and the Chief, showcasing their Long Flat property, farming operation and the day-to-day production.
A photo that might seem “everyday” for the Westlakes can be an “eye-opener” for the public.
Not only does their social media appearance help educate consumers, but Mrs Westlake says it also helps advocate young farmers and the agricultural industry.
“The concept is to advocate and support this region and regenerate our community,” he said.
“We want to see our region boom in farming, young farmers and tourism, so this is our way of telling them what’s so special about our region.”
Not only do the Westlakes utilise the internet for social media, but it plays a huge role in their learning and on-farm technology.
Dubbed the “google farmers” Mr Westlake said the internet was a way for them to access information from scientists, researchers and companies.
“It’s also about having on-farm technology, such as having automated watering pumps I can control from my phone,” he said.
With multiple paddocks along the flats used for irrigation, Mr Westlake recently invested in a drone to assist with the flood-irrigation – which is part of the duo’s technology plan.