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.
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.
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.
Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities
Small to mid-sized disc-harrows are a most useful tillage implement. Some farmers consider them indispensable. Discs such as the McD 10-A may be used with either tractors or big hitches of work horses. This tool will cut both plowed and unplowed ground. Ahead of the moldboard plow, the disc harrow is a valuable tool to cut up and free tough sod. When employed in tandem with spring tooth harrows, a great deal of work can be accomplished in much less time.
The first step was to decide on an appropriate chassis, or “running gear.” Eventually I chose to go with the real deal, a wooden-wheeled gear with leaf springs rather than pneumatic tires. Wooden wheels last forever with care and are functional and look the part. I bought an antique delivery wagon that had been left outdoors as an ornament. I was able to reuse some of the wheels and wooden parts of the running gear.
Fresh butter melting on hot homemade bread… Isn’t that the homesteader’s dream? A cheap two-gallon stock pot from the local chain store got me started in churn building. It was thin stainless steel and cost less than ten bucks. I carted it home wondering what I might find in my junk pile to run the thing. I found an old squirrel cage fan and pulled the little motor to test it. I figure that if it could turn a six-inch fan, it could turn a two-inch impeller.
As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.
The prospect of clipping pastures and cutting hay with the mower was satisfying, but I wondered how I might take advantage of a sickle mower in my primary crop of grapes. The problem is, my grape rows are about 9 feet apart, and the haymower is well over 10 feet wide. I decided to reexamine the past, as many of us do in our unconventional agricultural pursuits. I set off with the task of reversing the bar and guards to lay across the front path of the machine’s wheels.
Dale Befus introduced me to a plow I had not set eyes on before, most unusual affair though Dale assures me not uncommon in Alberta, this implement is a beam-hung riding plow (wheels hang from the beam) as versus the frame-hung units (where the beam hangs under the wheel-supported frame).
When horses were the main source of power on every farm, in the British Isles it was the tip-cart, rather than the wagon which was the most common vehicle, and for anyone farming with horses, it is still an extremely useful and versatile piece of equipment. The farm cart was used all over the country, indeed in some places wagons were scarcely used at all, and many small farms in other areas only used carts.
In the morning we awoke to a three quarters of a mile long swath of old growth mixed conifer and aspen trees, uprooted and strewn everywhere we looked. We hadn’t moved here to become loggers, but it looked like God had other plans! We had chosen to become caretakers of this beautiful place because of the peace and quiet, the clean air, the myriad of birds and wildlife! Thus, we were presented with a challenge: how to clean up this blowdown in a clean, sustainable way.
This information on Planet Jr. two horse equipment is from an old booklet which had been shared with us by Dave McCoy, a horse-logger from our parts: “Think of the saving made in cultivating perfectly two rows of potatoes, beans, corn or any crop planted in rows not over 44 inches apart, at a single passage. This means double work at a single cost, for the arrangement of the fourteen teeth is such that all the ground is well tilled and no open furrows are left next to the row, while one man attends easily to the work, with one team.”
When starting a new side rake, turn the reel by hand to be sure it revolves freely and the teeth do not strike the stripper bars. Then throw the rake in gear and turn the wheel by hand to see that the tooth bars and gears run free. Breakage of parts, which causes serious delay and additional expense, can be avoided by taking these precautions before entering the field.
To obtain the best results in shelling, the machine should be run so that the crank makes about forty-five (45) revolutions per minute or the pulley shaft one hundred and seventy-five (175) revolutions per minute. When driving with belt be sure that this speed is maintained, as any speed in excess of this will have a tendency to cause the shelled corn to pass out with the cobs. The ears should be fed into the sheller point first.
Since being introduced to the straddle row cultivator last year in hilling our potatoes, I have been excited to experiment with different tools mounted under the versatile machine. Like the famed Allis Chalmers G or Farmall Cub my peers of the internal combustion persuasion utilize on their vegetable farms, this tool can help maximize efficiency in many ways on the small farm.
The French breed of Ardennes is closer to what the breed has been in the past. The Ardennes has always been a stockier type of horse, rude as its environment. Today the breed has dramatically changed into a real heavy horse. If the Ardennes had an average weight between 550 and 700kg in the first part of the last century, the balance shows today 1000kg and more. Thus the difference between the Ardennes and their “big” sisters, the Brabants in Belgium, or the Trait du Nord in France, has gone.
The scoop has two steel sides about 5 feet apart sitting on steel runners made out of heavy 2 X 2 angle iron, there is a blade that is lowered and raised by use of a foot release which allows the weight of the blade to lower it and then lock in the down position and the forward motion of the horses to raise it and lock it in the up position. This is accomplished by a clever pivoting action where the tongue attaches to the snow scoop.
These portable A-frames can be used for lots of lifting projects. Decades ago, when I was horselogging on the coast I used something similar to this to load my short logger truck. Great homemade tool.
The most populous single horse planting tools were made by Planet Junior. But they were by no means the only company producing these small farm gems. Most manufacturers included a few models and some, like Planet Junior, American and Cole specialized in the implement. What follows are fourteen different models from Cole’s, circa 1910, catalog. We published ten of these in volume 30 number three of Small Farmer’s Journal.
Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing. In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, but one year I decided to try one small stack. The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose.