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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Mayfield Farm

Mayfield Farm, New South Wales, Australia

Mayfield Farm, New South Wales, Australia

by Sandra Bannerman of Hernani, Australia

Mayfield Farm is a small family owned and operated mixed farm situated at 1150 m above sea level on the eastern edge of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales, Australia. Siblings, Sandra and Ian Bannerman, purchased the 350 acre property in October, 2013, and have converted it from a conventionally operated farm to one that is run on organic principles. Additional workers on the farm include Janette, Ian’s wife, and Jessica, Ian’s daughter.

Our winters are usually cold and dry with overnight temperatures dropping to as low as -80 C with cool to mild summers reaching maximums in the late 20s or early 30s. We can receive an occasional snow fall during winter but not sufficient to settle for a prolonged period of time. Our rainfall is predominantly during summer and autumn, although spring rains provide a very useful start to our pasture growth. 40% of the farm is covered in forest which provides shelter for our animals during the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Our first frosts normally occur around 25 April and continue through to September when we are looking for a spring break to provide some green feed for our livestock.

When we purchased, our farm consisted of one large paddock. We have created permanent laneways (the main one runs from north to south and then two shorter lanes run east to west) to assist with the movement of stock. There are now 18 permanent paddocks all of which feed into our laneways which has made it a lot easier to move stock around the farm on our rotational grazing system. Electric fencing is used to subdivide paddocks into smaller areas.

Mayfield is fully solar powered with no connection to the grid. All electric fencing is either connected to the large solar systems on our homes or run on 12 v batteries. Rain water is harvested and stored in tanks on all of our main buildings and although most paddocks have dams in them, we have installed an extensive piped water system throughout the farm as well. A 55,000 L rainwater tank (with gutter) is situated on our highest point of the farm and it is kept filled by pumping from one of our dams which at this stage hasn’t been dry. From the tank, the water is then gravity fed throughout all of the lines to provide stock water as well as water to our orchards and vegetable gardens.

Although we originally started with beef production, we soon discovered that it would not be financially viable and had to look at additional enterprises to support the owners and families as well as providing our communities with access to locally grown, clean and safe food. As most of our livestock is sold to our customers we make little use of our local saleyards.

Mayfield Farm, New South Wales, Australia

Our mixed herd of beef and dairy cattle.

CATTLE

Our small grass fed beef herd consists of 14 Angus cows, 1 Limousin heifer, 2 Fresian/Angus cross cows, 2 purebred Jersey cows and a Limousin bull. The bull is now running with the cows all of the time so that we are able to provide beef products all year round. Due to our usually cold, dry winters, our cattle’s diets are supplemented with hay.

Our cattle are not chemically drenched and have constant access to mineral licks which assist in the control of both internal and external parasites. Rotational grazing principles are employed both to break the breeding cycle of worms and to enable their manures to be spread over the whole farm. An over-nighting shed is being planned for the cattle to help in maintaining body condition during the winter and to create our own compost which will be spread on the pastures.

During summer, Buffalo flies present a problem but we have used a vegetable oil and sulphur mix applied as a backline and around the rump and tail area which provides relief to the cattle. Our dairy cows provide the households with raw milk, cream and butter. Unfortunately, as it is illegal to sell raw dairy products in New South Wales, our many customers remain disappointed at not being able to buy raw milk.

Mayfield Farm, New South Wales, Australia

A group of grower pigs taking an early morning dip — mobile hutches and self-feeder in the background.

PIGS

Our second enterprise involved the purchase of two young gilts and a boar to initially provide pork for us. However, after an amount of research we soon discovered that few farmers were growing free range pork and that there was a growing demand as consumers were seeking an ethically grown meat which was not being provided by factory farms. Ours is a farrowing to porker operation and we currently have 26 breeding sows and their progeny, replacements gilts and two boars, one of which has his own paddock while the other runs with the dry sows. We purchase in a commercial grower pellet which is free from genetic modification and is fed to all of our pigs.

Our farrowing paddocks are 1 ha in size and in each of these we run 4 sows and their litters. Each sow has her own farrowing hutch, on weaning she is removed from her litter and is returned to the boar while her litter is put into a weaning paddock until all piglets from the paddock have been weaned. At this point, all four litters of piglets return to their farrowing paddock where they grow out to point of sale. All of our growers are now on self feeders which has reduced our work load as we were feeding morning and evening, which we still do for our sows and piglets up until eight weeks of age when they are weaned.

Mayfield Farm

The dry sows enjoying breakfast.

We sell our females between 70 and 80 kg and our males (which are not castrated) between 60 and 70 kg. As each paddock is emptied of growers, we have sufficient farrowing paddocks to rest each one for a six month period before it is reused.
The pigs are confined to a 25 ha area on the farm which enables six monthly rotations for the sows, piglets and growers and a two monthly rotation for the dry sows in their paddocks. Again, our pigs are not chemically drenched and have access to their minerals as they fossick around their paddocks.

Mayfield Farm

Ian feeding and watering our laying hens.

LAYING HENS

We started with heritage breeds of hens for our own egg and meat supply (we still have a small flock of Indian Game birds) but have now changed over to specific laying hens for our commercial egg enterprise. We are currently running approximately 160 birds who supply us with sufficient eggs to meet the needs of our customer base. They are housed in mobile sheds placed within electric netting and are moved twice a week. Over the course of a year, they have rotated around most of the farm, manuring the paddocks for us as they go. For our replacement layers, we buy day old chickens which we grow out to point of lay. After brooding and having grown their feathers they are pasture raised in mobile cages.

Mayfield Farm

Young laying pullets in their mobile shelter.

We purchase an organic grain mix for our hens and to assist in the control of parasites, they have apple cider vinegar and garlic in their feed and water. Their laying boxes have lime and diatomaceous earth added to the nesting materials.

Mayfield Farm

SHEEP

Our most recent venture is the production of lamb. Our initial purchase of Dorper ewes was not the correct choice for our climate so we are now in the process of changing to the Romney breed, which have greater resistance to parasites and foot rot. Our plan is to build our flock to 40 ewes which will enable us to supply our local markets with organically grown lamb. Ewes will lamb in the spring time which is when our pastures are starting to renew after a cold winter.

Mayfield Farm

Our flock of Romney Marsh Sheep on a foggy winter morning.

The sheep rotate around the farm with the cattle. They are shedded overnight to protect them from predator attack, which includes wild dogs, dingoes and foxes. A bigger shed is underway to cater for the expanding flock. They have access to mineral licks on a daily basis and once a month they have a mix of diatomaceous earth, sulphur and garlic with their evening ration of organic feed.

Mayfield Farm

A great year for potatoes.

FRUIT, POTATOES AND OTHER VEGETABLES

Our annual crop of organic potatoes includes Nicolas, Desiree, Royal Blues, Coliban and a few Dutch Creams. We normally try to have the crop planted during November but for 2015 they have only just been planted in mid December. Our customers are already asking when they will be available for purchase.

We grow Red Aztec and Painted Mountain corns which help supplement the feed which we purchase for our laying hens.

Mayfield Farm

A heavily laden Pink Lady apple tree.

Our orchards consist of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, blueberries and apricots. Bordeaux mixture is used as a fungicide and is an allowable organic spray. Cages have been erected over our orchards to keep the wild life out – unfortunately, this year a possum managed to get inside the apple cage and chewed all of the new growth including buds and leaves. A big disappointment for Jessica as she had customers lined up wanting our apples and pears.

We have erected one hoop house with two more planned so that Jessica can commence her organic fruit and vegetable business. She is currently experimenting with different vegetables and already has potential wholesale outlets wanting her produce.

Mayfield Farm

Reuben in training with Ian.

WORKING HORSES

We have 4 Suffolk Punch/Percheron horses being trained for farm work. The goal is to use them as much as possible and to this end we have imported a Pioneer forecart and Homesteader and a Lancaster manure spreader. Pioneer have been extremely helpful and a pleasure to deal with. The horse drawn equipment that we have been able to acquire in Australia is very worn and very heavy so we are looking forward to putting the new equipment into operation. We do have a potato planter and both the forecart and homesteader come equipped with a potato digger so the potatoes will be one of the many tasks that the horses will be involved in.

Ian is hoping to develop a small organic market garden where all work will be undertaken by the horses.

The horses are rotated around the farm following the cattle and sheep. Again, they have unlimited access to their mineral licks to assist in parasite control.

ABATTOIR

As mentioned previously, most of our stock is sold by us directly to our customers. We have a small truck which makes a 7 hour round trip to the closest small animal abattoir every Wednesday with a mix of beef, lamb and pork, subject to the weekly demand. The abattoir has its own distribution network so the carcases are freighted to the various wholesale and retail outlets that we supply. For the products that we sell ourselves, our butchers cut, smoke and pack our meats ready for sale at the markets or to our data base of customers who deal directly with us.

MARKETS

Sandra and Jessica attend a growers’ market each week, one of which is organic and/or free range held every second Friday while the second is on the alternate Saturdays and has conventionally grown produce as well as free range and/or organic. Attendance at the markets involves a 4:00 am rise and a 1 hour 15 minute drive to Bellingen, the town where both markets are held. We sell all of our produce at the markets – pork, beef, lamb, eggs, seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Our farm is Humane Choice accredited which certifies that our animals are ethically raised and have a wonderful life where they can practise their normal behaviours. All of our small goods (bacons, smoked and fresh sausages, corned beef and smoked hams) are nitrate and preservative free and, in addition, our sausages are gluten free.

OTHER OUTLETS

In addition to the markets that we attend, we supply our pork, eggs, fruit and vegetables to several retail outlets which includes Sydney as well as local organic, biodynamic and free range businesses within a 2 hour radius of our farm. Our database of individual customers who deal directly with us continues to grow with the support that our local communities provide us with.

For our local customers, we provide them with the opportunity to come and visit us on farm when we hold our 6 monthly open days, normally held in May and November. These are well attended and enjoyed by all. While morning tea is being consumed, we give an overview of our farm, what we do and why. This is followed by our farm walk for the adults while the children ride around in a trailer pulled by a quad bike – apart from little pigs this is the highlight of their day! We normally commence at 9:30 am and the last visitor is usually gone by 3:30 pm when it is time to start our afternoon chores.

LUCAS MILL

We own a portable saw mill which has been very useful in providing sawn timber for farm structures including house extensions, stock yards and shed renovations.

A lot of trees on the farm were logged by the previous owners leaving little saleable timber. Opportunities exist for milling to be done for neighbours.

Mayfield Farm

Reuben pulling the slide — as a matter of interest, Reuben is now being used with forecart and trailer to feed the pigs.

HAYMAKING

Our goal is to be able to bale enough hay off our farm to enable all of our animals to be fed during the winter months. With the pigs’ autumn farrowing paddocks we hope to make hay while the spring farrowing paddocks will be used for planting cereal crops, which could be fed off during winter or used for hay making in the spring, subject to the season. Other paddocks will be dropped from the rotation system for additional haymaking, again subject to the season.

Our ideas are not original but we have modified and adjusted the methods used by Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms. We would like to thank him for sharing his farming methods with the world.

As you can see, our farm is running at full capacity, as is the family. No other family members are interested in following on the farm (apart from Jessica) so no more enterprises or expansion will be occurring. Once we have finished off the last few infrastructure tasks, we will hopefully be back to maintenance.

Should anyone wish to see more photos of our farm, our web address is: www.mayfieldfarmproduce.com.au

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Jimmy Red Corn

Jimmy Red Corn

by:
from issue:

Chewning loves to save seeds — he has revived nearly extinct corns, beans, heirloom radishes, watermelons and field peas. He rescued Jimmy Red as well, growing it and saving kernels each year, increasing the seed stock. Little did he know that soon it would burst on the restaurant scene as a prized heirloom cultivar that makes unforgettable red-flecked grits and a rich, smooth whiskey with honey-nut undertones.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

by:
from issue:

The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

Peach

Peach

by:
from issue:

The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Walki Biodegradable Mulching Paper

New Biodegradable Mulching Paper

Views of any and all modern farming stir questions for me. The most common wonder for me has been ‘how come we haven’t come up with a something to replace plastic?’ It’s used for cold frames, hotbeds, greenhouses, silage and haylage bagging and it is used for mulch. That’s why when I read of this new Swedish innovation in specialized paper mulching I got the itch to scratch and learn more. What follows is what we know. We’d like to know more. LRM

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

An Introduction Into Plant Polyculture

An excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden
Companion Planting for Beginners

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Apple Cider Autumns Nectar

Apple Cider, Autumn’s Nectar

by:
from issue:

While autumn’s beauty is food for our souls, autumn’s harvest provides food for our tables. Along with the many hours and days of canning and freezing our garden produce, harvest time also means apple cider making for our family. We have been making apple cider, or sweet cider as it is commonly called, for six years. Beginning slowly, the demand for our juice has resulted in a production of over six hundred gallons this year.

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT