Rotational Grazing and Water Infrastructure

Farm background

Owners – Andrew, Patsy and Tom Weckert
Location – Orroroo
Farm size – 2,900 hectares
Enterprises – Wool & meat
Rainfall – 250-300mm

The Weckerts purchased the original Orroroo block about twelve years ago, with a number of other blocks being added since then. Being about 130 kilometres from the home property at Balaklava, the Orroroo property has been setup to be low maintenance but productive grazing block. Good water infrastructure, smaller paddocks and rotational grazing have been the key drivers.

Of the 2,500 hectares approximately 400 hectares is steep hill country which is not grazed. About 90% of the remaining area consists of low flat country, whilst the rest is undulating hills. Paddock size ranged from 240 - 400 hectares when the property was first purchased. It is now divided into about 20 paddocks with further paddock subdivision and fencing planned. The aim is for paddocks to be between 80 – 120 hectares in size.

Whilst there are a couple of reliable dams on the property the main source of water is from bores. A central bore is used together with a solar transfer pump and tanks to water two thirds of the property. Approximately 10-15 kilometres of 1.5 inch pipe have been laid across the property. A second bore services the remainder of the property.

Galvanised troughs dynabolted to a 1.5 x 2.8m concrete base are located in each paddock. An underground tap is fitted to each trough, so water can be turned off if necessary.

Water infrastructure was extremely important in planning paddock subdivision. The opportunity existed to establish central watering points that serviced more than one paddock however the Weckerts decided to place individual troughs in each paddock. Whilst more costly they felt that having troughs in each paddock would result in better pasture utilization across the paddocks

Sheep are run on the block throughout the year. Currently 850 composite ewes lamb on the property and are run in 3 mobs. The aim is to be able to run at least 1,000 ewes on the block. All ewes are pregnancy scanned with single lambing and twin lambing ewes run separately. The twin ewes are given the best feed. The third mob are pregnant ewe lambs; these ewes will be about 12-13 months of age when they drop their first lamb in June/July.

The current aim is to turn off at least 1,000 lambs from the block. In recent years 120 percent lambing has been achieved.

Sheep are rotationally grazed across the property, being moved on a weekly basis, except for about 3 weeks at lambing. After the three weeks the next gate is opened and the ewes allowed to trickle into the next paddock. Rotations are planned to ensure the mobs end up near the sheep yards ready for lamb marking or at other times they need handling.

The main pasture species found initially on the property, particularly in winter, was Wards weed. With smaller paddocks, combined with rotational grazing, improvements in pasture composition and ground cover have occurred. There has been a noticeable increase in different species including native clover, Spear grass, Bindi-eye, Bladder saltbush, Wallaby grass, bottle brush and Windmill grass.

The Weckerts are trying to promote the grasses through rotational grazing.

Water troughs have been located towards the centre of the paddocks to encourage more even grazing

The future
Remote monitoring of watering points is seen as the next step to assist management. The ability to monitor flow rates and/or visually see what is happening using telemetry systems and remote cameras will improve the efficiency and identify any potential issues in real time.