Technology originally designed for the New Zealand dairy industry has been implemented at a prime lamb operation to lift both production and soil health.
Locmaria Farms, owned by Bruce Wood, is a 2000 hectare aggregation situated near Hynam, sitting on the South Australian and Victorian divide, with property on both sides of the border.
A system that is used by both NZ and Aussie dairy producers, it is set up as an intensive rotational cell grazing system, with small paddocks, electric fencing and sheep are rotated.
In six years it has gone from running 2000 ewes to joining 12,000 ewes.
And it has also gone from producing 100 kilograms per hectare a year to 300kg/ha a year of meat and wool, with a three-year target of adding another 100kg/ha per year to its bottom line.
"We've been rolling the cell grazing system out across our farms progressively for the last six years," Mr Wood said.
"On our trial areas we have gone from five to 10 ewes to the hectare in about three years.
"We could do that again in three years and then again in five to seven years - it gets harder as you start going up the growth curve which we are on at the moment."
The once engineer, Mr Wood developed benchmarks and environmental baselines with an aim to improve soil health and lift soil carbon.
"We have not yet sat down and taken good baselines surveys and done the good strict scientific experiments to show where we are going," he said.
We are getting healthier soils because we are not disturbing them. We are not replanting grasses the whole time and we are not cropping.- BRUCE WOOD
"But anecdotally, from our annual soil testing you can see that we build up about one per cent of carbon per 10 years.
"It is simply because we don't crop anymore.
"We now only grow perennial pastures and allow them to replenish their root stocks."
A 12-cell grazing system, it works by having every grazing area spend 11-months of the year rested.
When one cell is finished, the stock move onto the next.
The stock don't return to the number one cell until it has replenished its root stock.
"By doing that, the soil carbon is simply coming from expanding the root mass," Mr Wood said.
"We are getting healthier soils because we are not disturbing them. We are not replanting grasses the whole time and we are not cropping."
But Mr Wood said there is a whole series of benefits you can get from cell grazing, particularly if you can get the rotation cycle longer than the life-cycle of worms.
"You can reduce your worm load if you work it properly," he said.
"It also ensures a even distribution of manure, reduces nutrient loss, enhances soil health and reduces reliance on synthetic fertiliser.
"On the calculations I've made, if we can double the soil carbon from its current 1.8 per cent, while reducing emissions, we should approach being carbon neutral in 20 years."
At Locmaria they have set themselves a family goal of revegetating five per cent of what they own by 2025.
And although they have already planted more than 10,000 trees, according to Mr Wood, maintaining them for maximum growth is the real challenge.
"We are finding it a lot harder than we thought. Revegetation is quite an intense process, but we do have 35ha under revegetation at the moment, with another 30ha marked for the second phase," he said.
"It is one thing to plant trees, it's another thing to control the grass while they grow.
"It is a huge issue, particularly when you go into old pastures to start planting grass, you can't run stock in there anymore, you have to fence it off.
"Simply controlling grass long enough to allow the trees to grow and shade the grass, it takes a lot of effort."
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But paddock tress at Locmaria are reaping the benefits of rotational cell grazing.
Animals traditionally like to camp under trees depositing phosphorus through their manure, which is not good for native trees.
But paddock trees are getting protected because we can stop the phosphorus build up around them with the rotational cell system.
"When stock are in that cell where a tree is, they are packed up tight so they don't get the chance to wander," Mr Wood said.
"And even if they do get the chance to camp under a tree, they are only doing it for one month a year because they get moved on.
"Most of the paddock trees are getting a significant health kick."
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