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The benefits of keeping sheep

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Sustainable Agriculture

Recent seasonal conditions and the resulting reduction in available feed has led to many Wheatbelt farmers reducing sheep numbers on their property or completely destocking. Added to this are heavily reduced live sheep prices, the phase out of the live export sheep industry announcement, and the difficulty in finding labour to help with animal husbandry tasks, resulting in low industry confidence levels.

Whilst industry trends need to be recognised and managed for, there is still a valuable place in the Wheatbelt for meat and wool sheep, particularly from soil health and business diversity perspectives.

For many years Wheatbelt NRM has explored the ways that farmers can implement strategies to reduce their feed gaps throughout our challenging summer and autumn seasons. Extensive fodder planning was undertaken with many landholders during the Optimising Fodder in Mixed Farming Systems Project. This project finished up in 2023 with mixed species cover cropping grants going out to 18 different landholders who explored the use of diverse species to fill feed gaps and provide other co benefits to their agricultural system.

Some of the co benefits that landholders look to benefit from include reducing wind erosion or providing shelter belts. Other landholders may want to improve soil health or build biomass quickly by utilising a mixed cover crop or seeding inter-rows of salt tolerant legumes into saltbush plantings. Others just wanted a diverse fodder source and to improve biodiversity on their farm.

Maintaining livestock on farm is certainly more complicated than going 100% cropping and clearly some years are more challenging than others. Long term benefits may not be financial gain as we have seen recently. This is where keeping the sheep can fit in nicely with a long term property plan.

Can we use out of season fodder crops to help break up soil compaction?

Is it useful to mitigate salinity by planting fodder saltbush while also sequestering carbon?

Is it possible to attract Dung beetles to your farm to assist in water infiltration and nutrient cycling?

Wheatbelt NRM are here to support your sustainability options by sharing knowledge of holistic and diverse management choices. As custodians of the land, making the right decisions for business and family now, whilst maintaining the long-term view of building resilient landscapes and communities, is the key to success.

Wheatbelt NRM aim to provide continued support across the region, now and into the future.

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