Autumn 2023 on the Rock Farm – with a pleasant visit!

There is nothing like the joy of listening to the rain gently falling on a tin roof. First and foremost it brings life to the pasture, allowing it to continue to grow. It creates an opportunity to catch up on machinery and equipment maintenance, and even housework. Which is why I am doing none of that. I have boiled the kettle and am sitting down with a steaming cuppa in front of the fire and have decided to provide an Autumn update 🙂 I am taking a leaf from Sam Vincent; “there are jobs that have to be done now, and there are those that don’t”.

Our weaner calves went to the sale yards at a recent special weaner sale. They weighed a healthy 255kg on average. Like all these things, timing is everything. Our price was around two thirds the price per kg we received last year. Friends who sent cattle in a month later were lucky to receive around half the price they received the year before. We were lucky as the further drop in prices would have negated any weight gains the cattle would have made by going in a month later.

Our cattle mentor John, has often equated the price of cattle to how many Sydney Morning Herald Newspapers the sale of an animal would purchase. By his reckoning, things are almost as bad in the cattle industry as they were during the 1974-1978 cattle slump when cattle were cheaper to slaughter on farm than send for processing ( Again I consider myself fortunate that I am using the cattle to improve the soil on the Rock Farm (whilst bringing me great joy), and I am not trying to support my family on the (meagre) income they provide.

The Rock Farm received some beautiful rain for our ‘autumn break’. This has transformed the pastures with lush green grass growing under the yellow stalks from summer. The cows have put on weight after weaning, which means they are in great shape heading into winter. I am carrying 20 cows with two replacement heifers, bring the number of cattle on the Rock Farm to 22. It is no large herd, but we will be watching them closely over winter and into spring to see if we can sustain those numbers. For now, Farming Forecaster is predicting pasture growth of around 30-40kg dry matter per hectare per day, which is fantastic. If a cow eats around 12kg dry matter per day, I am happy the pasture bank is being replenished faster than they are eating it, which will help us in the future.

Our little lambs are continuing to grow and I have just started handling them. They are quickly learning that a bucket means a nice treat, and I am able to gently push them to the gate where they are rewarded with some sheep nuts. It is important that I am able to move them safely around the farm. The Rock Farm is mostly fenced with plain wire, meaning the sheep will almost have free reign should they get out of their current paddock and I want to be able to move them should the need arise.

Of course there is always something else to do on and off the Rock Farm. I did finally get the opportunity to attend a chainsaw course with the RFS (Clear Felled Timber). I have been trying to get on this course for years, and finally this year the stars and moons all aligned. It was in a word fantastic. The instructors all had a wealth of experience they willingly shared, with an emphasis on professional attitude and safety. It is not often that people fail RFS courses, but we had several students who didn’t make it through. It is also a course that I am sure has potentially saved lives – including mine. Several bad habits were picked up, and now I am much more aware of my use of a chain saw.

Other little jobs have kept me busy such as moving rocks out of the garden (despite many attempts using the lawnmower to grind them to a lower level), and collecting firewood. It has its own beauty working outside in the cool of autumn.

In the middle of it all we had a lovely visit from the two people who inadvertently sowed the seed for my own dream of what became the Rock Farm – my parents. My mum gave me my love of horses, and my dad gave me my love of cattle. We had a wonderful few days catching up with old friends in the district, feeding apples to the cows and sharing cuppas in front of the fire (concession for the North Queenslanders).

As we head into winter, it is a good time to pause and take stock on where we are at on the Rock Farm. I am becoming more attuned to the rhythms of the land and livestock. I am paying more attention to the birds and what they are feeding on. As I write, half a dozen eastern rosellas and a couple of crimson rosellas are picking at our lawn seeking. The burden of looking after the RockFarm is a responsibility that I find rejuvenates my soul. And it is good.


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