It’s a smelly job but worth it!
This month we have been busy preparing the paddocks to sow Brassica for winter forage. Typically, the farm experiences a dry autumn and harsh cold winter with months where no grass will grow at all! It sure gets cold up here! It is generally estimated that a 50kg (larger lamb or small ewe) will eat 1 kg of plant matter a day. That is quite a lot of tucker to provide when grass stops growing! To ensure our 2500 sheep and lambs have the best care and feed possible to make it through the cold winter we will plant a forage crop called brassica. An important part of this process is the spreading of chickenmanure.
Chicken manure is a great, natural source of nutrients especially the major nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in both their mineral and organic forms. It also provides trace elements of copper, zinc, manganese, boron and chloride to the soil which are all important for lush healthy plant growth. We prefer to use chicken manure over synthetic fertilisers as synthetic fertilisers often result in soil acidification. Using chicken manure as our only fertiliser has so many advantages. One of the best being that it feeds the soil microbes from the organic matter in the manure. This matter helps hold moisture, improves soil structure and encourages a lovely place for soil residing creatures, such as earthworms, to live. The brassica we are sowing is known to often rob the soils of nutrients during its growth. By adding the fertiliser to the soil prior to sowing, the soils are pre-loaded for the oncoming growth of new plants. Adding the manure and all it’s wonderful nutrients helps to prevent and minimise nutrient loss from our lovely soils.
We source the chicken manure from local Sydney farms and prior to spreading, have the manure scientifically tested to tell us the accurate nutrient levels in it. Having this data then allows us calculate the correct application rate. The manure is generally applied at approximately 5m3 per hectare over the course of a few days. The raw chicken manure has a very strong smell largely due to being high in nitrogen. As the nitrogen decomposes, it gives off ammonia gas. Luckily for us and our sheep and cattle, the smell dissipates after few days and the scent of fresh country air returns!
The brassica will grown over the next few months through to Autumn when it will become what is known as a ‘standing haystack’ for the winter months. We expect to yield approximately 12 tonnes/acre of brassica over the next 12 month period. This will ensure that our ewes and lambs will stay healthy through winter and be strong, ready for the new pasture growth in the warmer months of spring.