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.
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.
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.
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.