Glengower mixed enterprise farmer Jake Seers has defied tough conditions to record improvements in pasture yields and stock ratings.
Now he will share the secrets of his success with Grassland Society of Southern Australia members when he hosts a bus tour in July as part of the society’s 60th conference on July 17-18.
The farm, about 40km north of Ballarat, has 1500 breeding ewes plus lambs and first cross ewes and it crops about 400-525 hectares each year.
Being flexible, innovative and always aiming to farm sustainably has enabled the farm to overcome low rainfall in recent years.
“Land value around here is pretty high so we need to be pretty intense with our farming but the main thing is about being sustainable. If we’re sustainable farmers we will keep farming for many years to come,” Jake said.
The farm mostly grows canola, wheat and barley but has added more rotations of legume crops like faba beans and oats in recent years.
“We’re sowing down more perennial pastures for the livestock so we can do more broadacre cropping with less area,” Jake said.
“The farm is a “systems” approach where cropping and pastures complement the business for livestock output, weed control and maximum use of land types.”
Historically the farm, owned by Jake’s parents Roderick and Jodie Seers, receives about 550mm average rainfall but in recent years has been getting 450-500mm “if we’re lucky”.
This year is looking promising thanks to a good, if late, break, with 130mm for May.
“We’ve been very proactive, taking on new methods and skills from other people and being involved within the community,” Jake said.
“We’ve changed machinery and use better seeders and precision equipment and talk more to agronomists, which is a key to improving yield and getting the most out of our pastures.”
Despite the dry weather, most yields have improved.
“Our canola is probably up about 1.5 tonne on average and our barley has improved from five to seven and even in the tough years we’ve been getting good averages,” Jake said.
“What we’re doing is what a lot of other growers are doing; trying to improve pastures and get the best out of the country by being versatile and able to change and adapt quickly.”
Jake said being mixed enterprise was a key to their success.
“If we have a frost we’re covered with the sheep and we can use our grain to feed the stock. There are a few broadacre cropping farms in the area but 80-90 per cent are now mixed,” he said.
The grassland tour will cover nutrition for the pastures, including the use of urea applications, and look at soil classifications and how the farm has adapted to improve pastures.
“We do a lot of soil testing now to try to understand it a bit better; a lot of our country is heavy clay so it helps to know what is down below,” Jake said.
The farm’s clover , ryegrass, winter canola are all crops but are utilised for grazing, silage, hay or finishing livestock.
“Pastures are crops and it’s time we dedicated inputs, weed control, grub control, insect control, slug bait and correct nutrition to get the most out of them,” Jake said.
Just as the pasture yields have improved, so too has the farm’s livestock operation.
“The livestock side is really good for us and we’re trying to breed the numbers up a bit while still growing good crops,” Jake said.
“We’ve been getting very good prices for sheep and even though we’ve had a fairly tough year, we’ve marked a few mobs of lambs so far and we’re getting near 100 per cent.
“ We’ve gone from about 80 per cent for our weaner markings up to 100 and across most of the flock we’re averaging closer to 120, which is really good.”
Jake said it was important to pick the right breeds of sheep to suit the land.
“We’re mostly merino ewes and breed a lot of first cross new lambs for the special markets,” he said.
The farm is also having success with improving its lamb survival and conception rates.
The fourth-generation farmer works alongside his father Rod, but also has a full-time job with IK Caldwell in Ballarat as an agronomist.
The farm has grown substantially over the decades, though future expansion might be limited by what Jake and Rod can achieve on their own.
The Grassland Society of Southern Australia 60th anniversary conference will be held on July 17 and 18 at the RACV Goldfields Resort in Creswick with the theme ‘thriving pastures’.
Bookings can be made with GSSA on 1300 137 550 or [email protected]