Meet James Burke, who has been on a journey of restoring biology and biodiversity to create farm resilience.
An overview of his diversified approach:
- Low nitrogen use
- Introducing diverse species; developing resilience for summer
- 30 ha (1600 mm rainfall) and 115 ha block (2400 mm)
- 13.5 SU/ha
- EFS >$1,200 per ha from grazed areas
- Scorecard for catchment Eco Health >80%
James has been running two complementary blocks for beef finishing. This is when the cow gains its final weight before slaughter. These blocks have a mix of forestry, riparian, retired areas, and pasture. He manages several different blocks of land, totaling 120 ha.
James’ farming system relies on around 200 two-year-old Wagyu steers growing to a weight of 400 kg that are finished in the winter, leading to a low stocking rate in late winter/early spring. This results in the steers putting on around 220 kg in one season. On a 30 ha block, James buys in around 70 Rising 2-year-old white face steers.
James’ focus is on soil health and biodiversity of species above ground, as well as how this affects the biodiversity underground.
James avoids synthetic fertiliser and has transitioned the farm from a high nitrogen use, highly cultivated block, into a low nitrogen system of diversified species that are active in summer and deep rooting. Because of his hard work, the use of synthetic nitrogen on his property has diminished to none this year. For the years he was transitioning, he used chook manure, to increase the organic matter in the soil.
His main forage species are chicory, plantain, different varieties of clovers, Phalaris, fescue, perennial ryegrasses and lucerne. James transitioned to this system around four years ago, and it took around two years for the farm to respond to the new system and rejuvenate the soil structure.
The mixed species generated around 11 tonnes of dry matter in the 2019-2020 season[SH3] and is improving yearly.
James has not had to undersow since it became established. His advice is to think about planting diverse species on all the easy country to ensure there is enough to keep a consistent diet going for the animals being fed over the summer months.
In this case, James has most of the easy country of the farm planted, around 45 ha in mixed species.