Mid Lachlan Landcare

Why Scattered Paddock Trees?

Why plant scattered paddock trees?

With the recent fantastic response to our community tree guard mesh purchase we thought we’d ask some of our members, who have been putting in these trees over the last few years, why they do it.

Hugh & Jess (Cargo)

“We were highly motivated to plant scattered paddock trees because we could see a number of our existing and mature eucalypts dying and others showing signs of ill health due to the drought and to ongoing farming pressure.  We see established and mature trees as one of the most valuable resources on our property, they deliver benefits to our agricultural production systems, to the natural environment and to the wildlife to which they feed and provide nesting habitat. In addition they add value and beauty to our farm. Recognising that growing mature paddock trees is a long game we approached Mid Lachlan Landcare to seek some advice and got started. We’ve found that watching our trees grow and thrive has been very rewarding, we’re excited to observe our farm landscape changing and plan further scattered paddock tree plantings on a yearly basis across our property.”

Wendy (Canowindra)

“Our paddock trees aren’t getting any younger in fact most of them are senior citizens.  They are so important for connectivity and biodiversity as well as shade for stock in a world that is getting hotter.  There is no time to waste, get planting.”

Bron & Andrew (Canowindra)

“Andrew & I  first planted some scattered trees back in 2016, when we got some funding for through Mid Lachlan Landcare. We are about to take the guards off these & be able to reuse the guards for more plantings. We found that planting scattered trees gives you the ability to plant them where you want without a lot of fencing .

The trees we have planted provide a connectivity for wildlife with other areas, not just on our farm but further afield & the trees also will give shade for the future.

We have continued on with these plantings since 2016 & will continue to do so.”

Guy (Woodstock)

“The bare paddocks in the distance prevent the passage of any wildlife apart from large birds and large mammals from moving across the landscape. The planted trees in the foreground attract a diversity of species that aid in sustainability and support production. Were planting individual paddock trees on all our properties as it’s win/win for us.”

 These trees have had the guards removed now for use elsewhere

We also want to thank the ‘Saving our Species – Saving our Superb Parrot’ project for providing some funding for our community mesh purchase which has allowed everyone to recieve a further discount to help get trees into our local paddocks.

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You might spot this beetle around your farm now

Are you seeing much Dung Beetle activity at the moment?

They seem to have really kicked off here in the last couple of weeks. I have collected a few from our cattle dung to have them identified. I might be a bit weird but the more I’m learning about these incredibly beneficial insects the more I want to learn!!

The pictured beetle is Onthophagus gazella and it was one of four species of dung beetle successfully introduced into Australia in 1968. They were native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is a two-toned beetle and males have a pair of horns at the back of their head. Another identifying feature is that the legs have distinctive dark oval patches on their undersides when the beetle is turned over which you can see on the images below.

The dark oval patches on the legs that help identify this beetle.

They fly at dusk and dawn. They can be active from spring to autumn. These little guys can be now found across northern and eastern Australia to about the Victorian border.

The adult beetles build nesting galleries at the end of burrows approximately 20-25 cm below the dung pat. These galleries are packed with several dung masses or brood balls each with one egg. The development from egg-adult takes 6-8 weeks depending on soil temperature. There are at least two generations a year. Fattened mature grubs will overwinter in the dung balls they have been developing in underground. Adults that emerged from the soil in late summer will also overwinter in burrows underground.

Imagine all the goodness these beetles are adding to our soils and the improvement in water infiltration into our soils through the burrows!!

Note: no beetles have been harmed in the taking of these photos 🙂 To avoid them running across the table while trying to get photos you can pop them in the fridge for a little while. It slows them down for a short time. I was having terrible trouble trying to photograph them until someone gave me that little tip.

Expression of interest open for dung beetle project

If you would like to find out more click here

Sites selected for this round of Box Gum Grassy Woodland projects

The board for our ‘White Box, Yellow Box, Blakely’s Red Gum habitat on farms’ project met in early December to go through the project proposals from this round of our project. We had some great proposals and are really excited about what these landholders will be doing on their farms to help conserve and enhance this woodland. There are 9 on-ground projects included covering an area of about 215ha which is fantastic. Check out the below slideshow for a preview of some sites. The landholders involved this round are undertaking such things as fencing, supplementary planting, weed control, understory corridor planting and implementing strategic grazing that allows for production as well as improved outcomes for their project sites in the long term.

We will soon be looking for sites for the next round of funding. This round will include 6 on-ground projects. If you are interested in finding out more or would like to conserve or enhance Box Gum Grassy Woodland on your farm within the Mid Lachlan Landcare region send us an e-mail to midlachlanlandcare@gmail.com

You can also visit the project summary here for more information.

Brigidine College did not want to miss their yearly Mid Lachlan Visit

During the second week of November we were so happy to welcome Brigidine College back to the region. This is our first school visit since COVID hit and we have missed our visiting school tours. It was so great to be out and about showing these students where their food comes from and supporting local farms and business’s.

This year we had a group of about 40 Food Technology, Hospitality and Business studies students who stayed at the ‘Old Vic Inn’ Canowindra.

The tour started at Mulyan Farms with Ed. He took them to see beetroot being harvested and the processing lines. They were able to see and hear first hand about food safety and the different ways this business is working to utilise everything harvested, value adding where they can. The students also hand picked their own beetroot to cook up as part of the evenings dinner. Many of the students had never experienced this before.

That evening the food technology students cooked up a feast for all with local fresh produce including Rayz Organic Lamb and the beetroot they had hand picked.

Day two consisted a tour of Rosnay Organic to learn all about growing figs and olives organically. Next stop was ‘Belmont’ a mixed farm in Canowindra where Stuart McDonald showed them his crops and the machinery that is used to harvest. At ‘Oatleigh’ Scott Hickman went through his grazing operation for the ladies and they were able to see the shearing of some sheep. They were also lucky enough to visit La Barre olives processing facility at Canowindra.

On day three we started pretty early with a visit to the lovely guesthouse Eddy’s of Canowindra and the awesome Muzzy’s Quality Meats where the team demonstrated how a lamb is cut up to make all the cuts you see in store. Last but not least on their way home Scott and Peter organised with the Carcoar Saleyards for the ladies to come and see how a saleyard works.

Thank you so much to everyone involved in making this an experience the ladies will never forget and giving them such important hands-on information that will be invaluable for their studies. It is such a great way to bridge that city-country gap.

Check out the video below of a couple of the ladies describing their experiences.

2nd annual Cowra Archibird Photo Competiton a great success

The Cowra Natural Resource Management Committee have been able to run this competition during 2020 and what fantastic entries we had. Mid Lachlan Landcare partnered with the committee to help out with the admin of the competition and also provided some funding through the ‘Saving our Superb Parrot’ project which is funded under the NSW Government Saving our Species program.

This year we had Open, Teen & Youth categories as well as a best Superb Parrot photo prize. Check out the winning pictures below. If you would like to see all the amazing pictures then go to the Cowra NRM facebook page.

John Cooper was the judge of the Open, Teen and Youth categories. What a difficult task he had!!

We were also lucky to have 3 individuals who have been very important in the ‘Saving our Superb Parrot’ project judge the Best Superb Parrot photo. These were Damon Oliver (Department of Planning, Industry & Environment), Gordon Refshauge (Chairman of Hovells Creek Landcare) and John Rankin (Cowra Woodland Birds).

Overall we had over 200 entries and at least 65 different bird species were photographed all within 100km of Cowra. The plan is to run this again in 2021 so get your cameras out and start snapping so you have some entries ready for next year 🙂

Diary of a Onthophagus vacca farmer

Well we have become farmers of a different type of livestock – Dung Beetles 🙂 The beetles arrived on the 9th of October 2020 to be released into their nursery as reported in the last BLOG post. They started off slow and we were quite concerned they may not make it.

They are now turning the piles of cattle dung, that we feed them about twice a week, into a shell really quickly. It is awesome to see the work they do to bury the dung within the nursery. They cannot escape and so they are totally reliant on us to provide for them.

Before arrival we had to collect about 50 litres of dung to put in a garbage bin and leave to settle for a week. This ensured any beetle species already in this dung were gone so we didn’t introduce other beetles into the O.vacca nursery. As this bin empties we collect more dung to be ready to swap over when required. It is a pretty simple process and it’s pretty easy to feed the dung out to the beetles.

These livestock don’t need paddock moves, don’t need water checked, don’t need shearing, don’t need weaning. All in all it’s a great process and in the long run they will improve our soils as well.

At this stage all seems to be going well and we really hope the beetles survive, thrive and especially breed. The on-farm nursery protocol is as per below:-

  • Check dung burial twice weekly.
  • At the same time, add 2 litres of dung immediately adjacent to the previous pile.
  • The parental beetles will feed and breed for 2–4 months (August – October/November).
  • They will then die.
  • The next generation of adult beetles (F1 beetles) will begin emerging in October – November or much later in cooler climates (January – February).
  • The newly emerged adults will feed for 2–3 weeks but will not breed.
  • When they have finished feeding, they will tunnel underground and stay there until spring.
  • Stop feeding the beetles in summer when the dung is no longer being buried.
  • In spring the overwintering beetles will emerge, feed and begin to breed.

They are a really interesting species to learn about and it is exciting for Mid Lachlan Landcare to be involved in establishing a new species of dung beetle in our region. Fingers crossed they make it though our summer.

Some pictures below of the dung pile after the beetles have finished with it. If you have any questions or would like to find out more about the dung beetle work we are doing please contact us midlachlanlandcare@gmail.com.

Monitoring our Box Gum Grassy Woodland Project sites

We have begun the monitoring process on the completed project sites and this is an important component of the ‘Saving our Species’ program. By carrying out a monitoring program we can see what changes occur across the project sites. The sites will hopefully show improvement but the monitoring will also pick up decreases in the quality of the sites and we can then look at why this might be occuring and implement changes.

Due to the current weather conditions it is such an amazing year to be doing this monitoring. We have enlisted the talented Dan Florance to lead the monitoring. Before we go to a site he has a computer randomly pick a number of GPS coordinates across a site. Here we look at different components within a 20m diameter circle around each GPS point. There are all sorts of things that get measured but my favorite is noting down all of the native groundcover species present within the circle. Box Gum Grassy Woodlands have many grasses and a very high diversity of forbs. It is absolutely fasinating and wonderful to see some of these species up close. This region is so important for the conservation of Box Gum Grassy Woodlands and anyone involved in this project is doing amazing things to help.

Our monitoring has turned up a number of special species (although I think every species is special and exciting to find). We thought you might like to see one of them. Below are Yass Daisy (Ammobium craspedioides) and they have shown up on one of the sites over near Mandurama. This little plant is listed as ‘vulnerable’ in NSW and you can find out more info here.

John and Megan Rowlands are undertaking targetted weed control as part of this project within this amazingly diverse patch of woodland on their farm near Mandurama. “We are aware there are very few remnant areas such as the Box Gum Grassy Woodland on Hilton. With the various surveys completed we are encouraged to know & learn of the many native plant & wildlife species this 40 hectare block supports. We realise how important it is to nurture such a unique area.”

To find out more about the ‘White Box, Yellow Box, Blakely’s Red Gum Habitat on Farm’ project and how you could get involved contact midlachlanlandcare@gmail.com

Second Box Gum Grassy Woodland Workshop held

On Thursday 22nd October we held a workshop for the year 2 participants in our Box Gum Grassy Woodland Habitat on Farms project.

Dan Florance from the Austalian National University Fenner School of Environment and Society provided a great presentation and discussion with plenty of practical ideas on how we can protect, enhance and expand Box Gum Grassy Woodland on farm.

Ideas such as :-

  • fencing off and changing grazing practices within a remnant patch of woodland you might have on your farm.
  • ways to protect individual old paddock trees.
  • innovative ways to include understory species back into your farm.
  • looking at connectivity opportunities across the farm.
  • grazing management to maximise opportunities for our native grasses and forbs to grow, set seed and drop seed within our livestock enterprises.
  • direct seeding or tubestock.

We also discussed the huge range of Native flora and fauna that call this woodland home. After lunch we headed out for a site visit to one of last years completed projects. It gave everyone a chance to be inspired, see the gorgeous natives within the site, see the plenty of exotic annual species that have come up within the site this year (there is no perfect Woodland patch!) We checked out the innovative cluster circles he has put in to get some understory species into this patch. As under his careful management since 2013 there had still not been recruitment of understory species. He is hoping these circles will enable them to get established while he can still crash graze the rest of the paddock at strategic times.

It was lovely to be able to see the Superb Parrots that nest in this patch. Dan also heard and then pointed out Cockatiels that were utilising the patch as well.

Last years projects were fantastic and we are now very excited to see the projects this years participants come up with.

If you are keen to find out more about our Box Gum Grassy Woodland Habitat on Farm project and you are interested in getting involved for year 3 email us midlachlanlandcare@gmail.com.

Onthophagus vacca dung beetle coming to the region

As part of our current dung beetle project we are excited to announce that our Local Landcare Coordinator is recieving this newly imported species of dung beetle to breed in an on-farm rearing site.

The Onthophagus vacca were introduced to Australia in the 1980’s but they failed to establish. It is anticipated that this new strain of beetle is expected to survive and reproduce better than the earlier strains. This beetle is expected to fill the Spring gap in activity that some areas currently have.

This trial for Mid Lachlan Landcare will give our coordinator training to then enable her to assist our other landholders who become involved in the on-farm rearing of the Bubas bison (Winter active beetle) in Autumn 2021. Many thanks to Sally Kirby from Central Tablelands Landcare for the assistance.

To find out more about the Onthophagus vacca you can check out the article produced by Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers ‘ New import for Australia, meet the beetle : Onthophagus vacca

Our on-farm rearing site set up and ready to breed some dung beetles

Beetles being released into the on-farm rearing site 9th October 2020

Birds, if only they could talk!

As part of Birdweek 2020 the Cowra NRM along with support from Mid Lachlan Landcare, Saving our Superb Parrot and NSW Government, will be hosting an evening on all things Birding 🕊🐦

Join us on Tuesday the 20th October and spend an evening with Warren Chad & Damon Oliver for a light hearted talk about what’s going on with our feathered friends and discover the role you can play through observation and citizen science to make a difference.

Warren is a regular on ABC Central West radio and an avid contributor to Bird Life Australia, his life’s mission is to photograph and observe as many of the world’s birds as possible which all began as kid with a love of being outdoors and in natures splendour.

Dr Damon Oliver has been involved in research and conservation of woodland birds for 30 years. He especially loves the Superb Parrot and gets a thrill every time he sees or hears them. The best part of his job as a threatened species manager with the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program is working with the many Landcare groups and landholders who share his love of the environment and sustainable agriculture. The Saving Our Superb Parrot project has been a wonderful example of community and Government working together as a team to help a threatened species in rural NSW.

Book your seat ASAP. You don’t want to miss this fantastic evening.