WA Regenerative Livestock Producers' Field Day
This week Christie and Craig hit the road to attend the first ever field day held by the Western Australian Regenerative Livestock Producers (WARLP), a grower group that was incorporated in 2021 and based in Western Australia with a focus on managing their livestock regeneratively.
Their members are livestock producers (open to cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry) who wish to incorporate more sustainable production techniques and methodologies into their farming systems. They have a focus on improving their natural resource base (soils, water, pasture, landscape function, biodiversity, system health) whilst improving seasonal resilience; sustainability of economic returns on a 'whole farm level'; stronger community and food security presence, and integrity of their livestock products to our consumers.
With such a strong alignment to Dirty Clean Food’s values, and with our pasture raised egg farmer Blythe as vice chair, we thought this was an excellent opportunity to meet with like minded farmers and learn from each other!
Nic Kentish from RCS kicked off proceedings in the old milking shed, and taught us about keeping a sharp business. What stood out from me, other than Nic managing to make a traditionally mundane topic both funny and interesting, is around developing your overall farm strategy and tactics. To get this planning right sets you up for multiple years of success, whereas most of us tend to focus on the farming system itself. Nic says that implementation is the easy part and our production systems are good, so it’s focusing on the business itself that makes the biggest difference. He spoke about focussing on the 3 secrets of profit: increase turnover, increase gross margin, and decrease overheads. For more on this I highly recommend you check out one of the RCS field days or one of their courses - so many farmers that I speak to say that their Grazing for Profit course has completely changed the trajectory of their farm and farming journey.
Blythe then gave us a deep dive into her pasture raised egg business, where she dit a SWOT analysis (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) where we zoomed in on what makes a pasture raised egg business such a great option for integrating into an existing farming system. A couple of standout points from Blythe’s presentation are the cash flow that weekly egg sales bring into the farm, and the biological input from the hens manure that is such a great addition to the pasture. Blythe sees a great opportunity for pastured egg farming, in that caged eggs will be phased out in WA by 2030, and we are currently importing 20% of the eggs sold in WA from the eastern states. So there is plenty of space in the industry for more growers. From a Dirty Clean Food perspective, we know how important Blythe’s eggs are to our customers, as we have been working with Blythe to increase her supply so we have enough eggs for everyone.
Bonnie Jupp from RegenWA and Perth NRM then gave us a presentation on Perth NRM’s Natural Capital Accounting project. Now in its second phase, 5 of our Dirty Clean Food Suppliers, including Blythe, are taking part in this program through Perth NRM. This is a great project that is baselining the natural capital on 25 farms across Western Australia.
We spent the remainder of the day out in the paddock, looking at Blythe’s pastured egg operation, and going for a deep dive into her pasture. It was fantastic to see Blythe’s progress in establishing deep rooted perennials in her pasture, which has been one of her challenges in transitioning this farm from a conventional dairy farm, to a regenerative beef cattle and pastured egg farm. When managed conventionally, the dairy system that was in place prior to Blythe and Gregg taking over the farm used flood irrigation and high levels of synthetic nitrogen to grow grass (mainly kikuyu) for their dairy cattle. This has left the soil on these paddocks compacted, kikuyu dominant and anaerobic. Through holistic planned grazing, changing how and when the irrigation is used, introducing biological fertilisers and adding chickens into the grazing rotation, and seeding perennials such as chicory, they are beginning to change the microbial makeup of the soil and are getting some more diverse species established. This will continue to improve over time with the management practices Bylthe and Gregg are implementing, and we look forward to seeing their soil and species evolve!
For any livestock producers who would like to be part of this grower group, head to this link to find out more or sign up as a member.
If you’d like to learn more about RCS and how they work with farmers to achieve profitable businesses, head over to their website here and learn more about Perth NRM’S Natural Capital Accounting project here.