Grazing and Grasses at Willow Tree

Nicky Chirlian farms with her partner Craig at Willow Tree near Quirindi in north west NSW.

 Nicky Chirlian on her farm in the early morning light.

Nicky Chirlian on her farm in the early morning light.

Both Nicky and Craig returned to the north west region after careers in the city. They are committed to sustainable agricultural practices to improve the land and to increase food production.

"When my partner bought this place about 13 years ago it was a clapped out farming block. It had been heavily farmed and heavily grazed with cattle and sheep. It was very degraded," said Nicky.

"The farming principles we use are low-input. We don't use any chemicals. Our cows are our tractor. We graze our land intensively. Some people would know it as cell-grazing or rotational grazing or crash grazing.

"If you put say 400 cattle on 4 hectares and graze it for a day and sometimes only half a day, you get maximum input."

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Nicky says this method of grazing is great for the land and for the cattle.

"The cattle fertilise the soil and crash down the grasses, so you build up your compost on top layers. This puts more carbon into the soil and because cattle are eating just that very top section, they are getting great food.

"We can carry more cattle on here now, in good times. We can produce cattle of a heavier weight, meaning we can feed more people."

In the time Nicky has been at Willow Tree she’s seen the difference sustainable land management practices can make.

"I've seen more trees and a greater range of grasses.

"Up in the high country we’ve changed all the contour banks around. Instead of draining the water into gullies and creating erosions, we've created swails at the end of the bank to trap the water up in the high country, so it slowly filters back down to the creek.

"We're rehydrating the landscape from underneath as well. So, in effect, we’re drought-proofing this place."

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