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General Comments – Newsletter September 2014

Not another dry late winter/early spring, particularly after such a promising start to the season!

Unfortunately this is what management has to deal with, balancing risk with reward in a variable climate. The way this uncertainty is managed, sets apart the good managers. Astute managers recognise the environmental constraints they are faced with and structure their production system and business model around these limitations.

No matter where one travels throughout Australia, whether it is within a 200 mm or 1,000 mm average annual rainfall area, somebody has developed an appropriate agricultural production system coupled with a suitable business model, which is simple and works. The key word here is simple. Generally, the best systems with the least risk, are those which are based on first principles and work with nature, not against it.

Robert Patterson was fortunate to be able to spend a few days on a remote cattle station in Western Australia recently, where the above principles were seen in action. The most impressive aspect of this 1.2 million acre property, was the owner/manager’s ability to work with nature, plus adapt technology and utilise basic scientific principles to run a viable business in a harsh desert climate.

Back in southern NSW, attention is focussed on critical decision making with regard to how many livestock can be carried through until the autumn break next year. A large determinant of this is how good the pastures are. Grassy, poorly managed annual pastures will carry very few livestock, compared with well managed perennial pastures.

In many cases, too much reliance is placed on fodder crops, rather than focussing on improving pastures which are the “engine room” of a mixed farming system.