The Organic Exchange

Farming and grazing info you can walk out and use

How would you like some Organic Success? You can only be a successful organic farmer if you understand what you are doing. If you don't understand, all the facts in the world won't make you successful. For example, if you try to substitute something for each chemical that you use now, you will find that there is no single replacement for each job done by a chemical.

It takes more than that. With a good grip on what you are doing, what works and what doesn't, you can add knowledge and improve your farming.

If seeing better results from your farming every day sounds interesting to you, look at the Organic Success course available from NSW TAFE at Lithgow.

It's difficult making a living out of just farming, grazing or any other primary production these days unless you're one of the big players. If you don't want the hassles of getting big, but want to keep producing and profiting, you can do what many others have: Add value to double your farm profit

And to give you some idea of how a value adding investment works, you can see how some farmers make a very nice Profit from milling wheat into flour

Farming is one of the most complex of human activities. Done well, it involves more knowing and more understanding of more things than almost any other human endeavor. Farming can be learned. Even if you were born a farmer, you can always learn more. So where best to learn? One place is in the real world of the farm. Another is from a course, the internet or a book. Smart farmers use these and many other sources. So how do you choose a good farming course and teacher?

Your financial welfare is closely tied to animal welfare. If your animals do well, your bank account can too. Good animal welfare can make your product more appealing to consumers, too. But rubber rings may not be good for animal welfare or your profit

There are many reasons why pasture legumes should be knocked out of pastures fairly easily. But Pasture legumes are special. They have something up their sleeve that keeps them coming back strongly and can keep your profits up

Nitrogen is the element most likely to boost farm profit. It makes up nearly 80% of the atmosphere, so there is no shortage. However many plants grow in situations that are nitrogen deficient, because they don't get enough from the soil. Nitrogen fixation by legumes fixes the problem

Some legumes flower above the ground then bury their seeds. One is the peanut or groundnut. Another has been the basis for most of the successful improvement of native pastures in southern Australia. Subterranean clover is more commonly known as Sub clover or Sub. It is an amazing annual legume.

Weeds often establish on bare ground because they are adapted to it better than most crop and pasture plants are. Weeds can establish where they weren't before because there is a gap in the ground cover and Nature will fill any vacuum. Unfortunately, nature generally does not fill it with a crop plant

Weeds do particularly well in certain environments. Often these are farming or gardening situations. And you can beat weeds if you understand the causes of weeds themselves and the causes of your weed problems. As a result, you can have fields that are largely free of weed problems.

Many people think good weed control is only possible with a massive amount of weedicide. But many farmers and graziers achieve excellent weed control without herbicide. In fact farming without weed problems can be done with no chemicals at all on many farms. Weed control without chemicals is a reality for many and can be part of your future

It's a handy tool in business, government and the like. And it can help you turn the tables on pests. You can use SWOT analysis to boost profit by improving your understanding of yourself, your business, your environment and thus improve your management

It sounds so simple, just SWOT a weed. But there's more to it, and it works. The key thing about Using SWOT analysis to beat a major weed lies in the better understanding it gives you and how this allows you to put the weed at a disadvantage

What does a farmer have in common with a weed? They both live at the same place. They both need food and water. They both tend to be persistent. But the key thing they each need is a niche, a place to call your own, whether you are the farmer or the weed. Every species needs a niche or it dies out. You can manage niche so you support your crops and beat your pests and weeds

Any ground that is not covered by living or dead plant material is at risk of eroding, drying out and losing nutrients. Litter is one of the best defences against losing the real capital of the farm - the soil and its productive capacity. It is any living or dead material lying on the soil surface. It is a good thing as distinct from the litter thrown out by humans

Most people see pests as nuisances without any value. However, pests offer us the chance to see where we could improve management. This is not because pests are teachers, rather it is about learning from pests

When you are battling weeds or some other difficult competitor in your farming, get an idea of what you are competing with. Think of someone successful in a sporting field. They may not be much use hoeing out weeds in your cornfield, but they are totally efficient on the track or in the pool. Lance Armstrong is a good example, but the toughest weeds have something even he doesn't have

Pests change to suit their circumstances. Crops and farm livestock aren't usually as good at it. And that is a key reason why pests get ahead. Essentially, life is a constant process of adaptation, for microbes, plants and animals - including humans. We either adapt or become like the dinosaurs - headed for personal or species extinction. Adaptation is the process of becoming adjusted to any conditions in an organism's life. It also refers to the result of this process

Selective grazing is more than fussy eating by animals. Rhinos and hippos just can't do it. Elephants and sheep excel at it. In the process they make a mess of pastures or give you the ability to manage your grazing better.

Do weeds come to heal the soil? Some people think they do. But really weeds are just better at exploiting certain conditions than crops and pastures are. But there is a lesson there on how to get ahead of weeds and other pests

While some organisms such as humans have trouble breathing where there is little or no oxygen, others thrive. In fact, many living things cannot survive in the high levels of oxygen we need. These Anaerobic organisms prefer to get their oxygen where it is unavailable to us, locked up in another chemical

Is modern farming real farming? Is painting by numbers real art? Farming by numbers has probably peaked. Farmers today are more interested in understanding things and less in "If it's a weed, slap on some herbicide". Farming by numbers was part of the "dumbing down" of farming

If it's natural it must be safe? Don't count on it. Many natural substances are very poisonous. Fancy some derris?

Like many words in English, it has more than one meaning. Some are almost antagonistic to others. Here are several meanings for Organic

A living individual thing made up of various parts that depend on each other and work together to support the life processes - that's an Organism

Do those peaceful plants really make war? Relations between plants and their neighbors is not all that friendly at times. Some plants get into allelopathy, chemical warfare between plants. Weeds have advantages that crop and pasture plants don't. Weeds are adapted to your conditions. Your crop and pasture plants are generally not as well adapted to those conditions as the weeds are. You can beat pests by using advantage

Would you grow something knowing you wouldn't harvest it? What if it gave you better soil, easier pest control and better yields? Sometimes it's better not to harvest, but to green manure a crop

It can be difficult fitting green manures into a tight rotation or cropping program. But you don't have to wait until you harvest the previous crop to sow the green manure. You can undersow the green manure with the crop or sow it after the crop but before the harvest. These are a couple of ways of Squeezing a green manure in

Green manures can help break up a hard pan, get nutrients from deep in the soil, get moisture from deep in the soil, overcome a weed problem, store moisture for following crops and boost nitrogen for following crops. Get the most from green manures in your situation by choosing a suitable green manure mix

There are lots of benefits from growing Green manures in orchards and vineyards. Plus in grapes or kiwifruit; between the rows of annual or perennial medicinal or cooking herbs; in annual vegetables where they are often a key part of the operation as a whole; and in permanent plantings of perennial vegetables such as asparagus and rhubarb.

Some farmers grow green manures under sweet corn and under tomatoes to save time, cut weed problems and improve soil in a tight rotation

A good permanent pasture can deliver similar benefits to those of a green manure, but only after a longer time. There is a way to speed that up and increase the benefits: Return a third to the soil

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    nor as advice.
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  3. Make informed decisions and if necessary get advice

To help you promote your
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we have a section on writing and dealing with the media. You can reach those pages from the Writing and Media home page

We may not know why the chicken crossed the road, but we can be clearer on why the sheep crossed the road. Still, many people are confused when they drive along and a mob of sheep on one side of the road suddenly crosses in front of them. So why do sheep cross in front of cars?

It's more common on farms with electric fences, but it's not given by the electric fence. It's a great way to build soil and improve pasture quality. Grazing shock is a handy tool, even for those who would be shocked to know that they are using it

Land is land is land. Or is it? Once upon a time it was considered enough to run a farm, orchard, market garden, ranch or station in a uniform way. But now, most people recognize that to manage land, you need to identify your land units. This is also called Reading land capability

And to find out what the land capability is, take your trusty steed - horse or vehicle. That will help you determine the possible uses of land, based on vehicle access

Not all green feed is the same. Digestibility makes the difference. It is to the degree to which feed can be broken down, absorbed and used by the animal for maintenance, growth, movement and production

Some soils can fall apart or turn to jelly at the first sign of rain. Dispersible clays need special care

If your plants stop growing soon after things dry up or if your plants are smaller than they should be yet there is plenty of fertility, you may have a hard pan. You can find them easily, and sometimes they can be easily prevented and remedied

Tilling the soil used to mean turning it over. In these days of no till, low till and minimal till there is one sort that is particularly good for dealing with hard pans. That's what used to be called deep tillage or deep ripping. It opens up deeper soil with an implement that mainly slices vertically through hard pans. It's often not deep and involves not ripping, but slicing and no inversion (turning over), so it is non-inversion tillage

There aren't many herbicides that are effective, do minimal soil damage and don't come out of a can or bottle. Let alone ones you can use on an organic farm. But if you use non-inversion tillage as a herbicide by using it the "wrong" way, you can get a very effective plant kill. This can be useful when planting trees, starting a fallow or just to get rid of problem plants. And you can improve your soil conditions and plant growth in following seasons

A good year for clover or a bad year for clover? Sometimes the main factor is when the Break comes

A tractor does work on a farm. And so does a Chicken tractor. It's a movable chicken cage that uses chickens to do the work

Because change is a constant in life and in nature, almost nothing is static or fixed. Almost everything is dynamic - in a process of movement, adaptation and adjustment in relation to everything else. And at the same time, everything is in equilibrium - in balance. This is a Dynamic equilibrium

Ruminants ruminate, or so rumor has it. And when the word "ruminate" is applied to humans, it means to ponder, to meditate, to think long and deeply about something. So it is not surprising that in some societies, cud chewing by ruminants is revered as if it was a spiritual approach to life and thus the ruminants are seen as noble animals. But they are also highly adapted to poor quality feed because of their unique digestive systems

Amino acids are basic constituents of living matter because they are the building blocks of protein and so are essential for all forms of life. Proteins consist of many amino acids combined together into longer molecules. Unless an animal is a ruminant, it needs to get certain "essential" amino acids in its diet. Ruminants can make all the amino acids they need

With financial fiddles and funny business all over the media, it's like the 1980s all over again, but bigger. All these fly-by-nights spring up like Opportunist species in a bare field.

Vasectomy is more than just a way to stop your rams (or you) exceeding the seed limit. Vasectomy is also a useful tool for turning rams into teasers, which have several uses to improve management of lambing, pasture and internal parasites
You know what corn means. I know what corn means. But do we mean the same thing? Corn means one thing in one country, another in another. And some meanings are universal

Is grazing farming? Is a market garden a farm? Is growing timber on a plantation farming? On this site they all are covered by the words "farm", "farmer" and "farming" although we also say "farming and grazing" to emphasize that we include both those different activities. So if you see any of "farm", "farmer" or "farming" on this website and you use a different term, please accept that if we included all terms it would be clumsy to write and read. And we aim to make it easy and interesting. So on this site Farm means more than just "farm"

Some seeds are only able to germinate successfully in their first few years. Others can do it after decades or longer. One of the oldest seeds known to have successfully germinated was about 2,000 years old. Some seeds just don't go out of date

Bandicooting is a way to harvest root crops, but hardly any farmers use it. Who does use Bandicooting and why?

It's a romantic life being a drover, but only to a city person looking on. For the drover, it's probably the only way to live. Many years ago they were on the way out, supposedly being replaced by great road trains hauling hundreds of animals. Drovers have changed while their dogs haven't much. And both drovers and their dogs are still with us

HACCP is pronounced hassep. It's an easier way to refer to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. This is an approach to managing any operation such as a farm or value adding enterprise by identifying hazards and any points where it is important to take particular care, working out how to deal with them, documenting it then acting on what is in the analysis

"Low-level simulated aerial seeding" sounds so much better than "casting our seed upon the ground" when you are writing a scientific research paper or an application for funding for a research project. Regardless of what scientists call it, the rest of us call it Broadcasting seed

Unlike during the Cold War, this has no sinister undertones, but it can go unnoticed. What's different is that if it doesn't happen well, it can leave you high and dry in a drought. Infiltration is the first step in replenishing your soil water reserves

Permeability is the ease with which water can penetrate soil, gravel or rock. It varies with the texture of the soil and it affects how often the plants growing in it are waterlogged or in drought. The soil's permeability alters how your plants are affected by extreme soil moisture conditions

We most commonly hear this word used with coffee, but it is a powerful force in shaping landscapes, dissolving rocks and moving pollutants and nutrients. Percolation is at work under our feet

Beneath our feet water moves through soil and rock. In the process it can pick up pollutants or salt, creating salinity or other problems at a distance from where the problem started. The layer the water travels in is called an Aquifer

Because we are immersed in whatever is happening around us, we tend not to notice a lot of the change that is happening. This is the boiling frog principle

Artificial chemicals are often seen as the dividing line between organic and conventional farming. There's more to it than that. But what makes the difference between an artificial chemical and a natural one?

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