Summer in 2015/2016 was tough.
With no spring rains, paddock feed disappeared quickly, hay crops were at 25% of usual harvest, hay was scarce and expensive. After 5 years of low rainfall, our dams dried up and we were buying in our tank water.
Luckily we were able to secure nearby agistment for the cattle. With the purchase of a round bale feed out trailer, we could to use round bales to feed the remaining pasture animals.
Many many animals were in need and it was not possible to rehome.
Then finally after months, the rains came, and came, and came. Just fantastic. The creek flooded, the paddocks greened up, and the dams actually overflowed.
It was all just in time, as we had fed out our hay supply and the cattle had returned from the agistment.
Unlike other regions, central Victoria has had a relatively mild Summer for 2016/17. Hot days have been spaced with more mild days in between. Although it is dry, there are episodes of rain to freshen the paddocks and fill the water tanks.
Hay harvest have been plentiful and there is still a good amount of grazing in the paddocks.
We now also have access to a 4WD diesel tray ute. This has made moving around the property and transporting feed and bales, so much easier. We have also relocated our feed storage and re configured our hay store to reduce the amount of manual handling of heavy feed bags and bales.
So with less time needed on feeding out, our focus has been on sorting out our infrastructure.
After ten to fifteen years many of our fences need upgrading. The changing weather causes posts to move, gates shift, and fencing wire needs restraining or replacing, as well as repairing some of the yards. We also need to upgrade the electrical fencing and to fence off the access to the hay shed to make the stocking of the shed and retrieving bales easier and less fraught.
We started on our fencing upgrade in spring. Our contractor needed to take a break for hay harvest and will soon recommence to finish the work.
We are planning to construct a new purpose built paddock for the sheep. Most of the sheep are happy ranging the olive grove but we have a few determined explorers who need very secure accommodation. PS the sheep below had decided to visit the cattle on their neighbouring agistment…this was on the walk home!
With he success of using our main shed for shearing in 2016, we will be working on having more available room in time for shearing 2017, as well as purchasing more portable panels for yarding and runs. With a flock of nearly one hundred sheep in residence at any one time we need to upgrade our sheep specific infrastructure.
We would also like to purchase a
- sheep ‘deck chair’ from the USA to make the handing of individual sheep for hoof trimming more manageable.
- a trailer hay feeder for our special needs sheep to reduce waste
With the increase in our goat residents we need two dedicated goat areas with suitable shelters and activity areas. At present our special needs goats are housed in the horse yards and loose boxes. We need to free up the these for new arrivals.
The rest of the goats are loving having the olive grove to roam. They have a dirt mound on the hill that gives them a splendid view of everything. They have also appropriated the new studio….destined as WWOOF accommodation…not a long term option! The sheep, and often Samba the donkey, love sleeping under this structure but again…not a permanent option.
With the recent assistance of two young travellers, we have rearranged the poultry accommodation. This is a work in progress.
So far we have emptied out the main poultry house so we can re-lay the bedding and put in new perches. The aim is for the chickens to be the sole occupants of this enclosure, which, over time, have been taken over by the geese and the ducks. With this achieved we are working on integrating newer chicken arrivals with the flock.
The geese now have new sleeping quarters, totally separate from the other poultry and giving them more ready access to one of the dams.
Our next step is to set up new sleeping quarters for the ducks. This will need the purchase of a new poultry structure.
We will then have a larger A-frame available for special needs chickens who need to be permanently housed separately from the flock.
The horses and donkeys
Last week three long term visiting horses have moved on, with Flip joining them. This, together with herd integration, has given us the opportunity to rest some of the paddocks. We have been harrowing the paddocks after rain and will be keeping them free of grazing for as long as possible.
After a break over Christmas, the farrier will be back next week to start on hoof trims and there are a few horses needing their dental work brought up to date.
We then need to do organise our winter rug supply. At least three of the older horses are going to need their rugs adjusted and lined to lift off their withers.
Darling Louis, now well into his forties, will need extra special care this winter. He is very sprightly and alert but struggles to maintain weight.
We have also lined up a trainer for young George, now three. After some initial training on site he will go off site for further development. We will then be looking for a great home for him.
The increased pasture feed has been such a boon for the cattle. This will not last over winter. To assist with resting paddocks we are hoping to secure agistment on a neighbouring property for over winter and into spring.
Bess is ageing but still keeping up with the herd. Annalise and Rupert have both made wonderful recoveries from their dislocated hips and are now fully mobile.
Clarence and Henry are a very relaxed pair. As long as they have someone to look after, a small flock of sheep, or Robbie the pony, they are happy! Clarence continues to insist on visiting any paddock of his choice but he always has a purpose!
Our aim is to further improve the accommodation for the animals, caring for the land, ensuring we have readily available facilities for animals presenting in need, and using what we have efficiently and to ensure the safety of the animals and us.
As always, we thank you for your support.