RATHER than receiving the regenerative label, Kulin farmer Brendon Savage prefers to be called a sustainable hybrid farmer.
He is the first and only farmer in Western Australia to currently hold Australian Sustainable Produce (ASP) certification for his culture and sheep farm, Tolga, located approximately 30 kilometers south of Kulin.
Mr Savage said his farming operations combine best conventional and sustainable farming practices to promote healthy soils so he doesn’t have to rely on high rates of synthetic fertilizers.
“We still use NPK, but load it up with other products made here in WA to get the most out of our money and promote healthy soils,” Mr. Savage said.
In order to be ASP certified, producers are required to comply with a fairly strict standard on synthetic inputs of phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
While the industry benchmark for nitrogen use is around 40-70 units, Mr. Savage said most of his home farm is seeded with less than seven units of synthetic nitrogen.
“Insecticides and fungicides are only used when deemed absolutely necessary and no allowance for application after Zadocks 31 on certified pens,” said Mr. Savage.
“There are restrictions on certain chemical groups and long hold periods.
“All paddocks that need to be certified are LMR tested to ensure they are free from chemical and pesticide residues.
“If you are growing a short rotation with grain on grain rotations, it would be very difficult to get accreditation.”
Although he had only been ASP certified for a year, Mr Savage said he had grown many of his crops to this standard over the past eight years.
“I was one of the top three producers in Western Australia, then the group expanded to the Eastern States, New Zealand and more recently we have a few liquid factories in the United States, with 50,000 hectares of land managed under the ASP agricultural system. over there, ”Savage said.
As part of his grazing recovery, he uses a radish and underclover rotation to provide a source of forage, as well as recycle nutrients, break down the tough layer, and control the grasses on the farms he bought these. last years.
As an export-oriented state and with a much smaller population than the East Coast, Mr. Savage recognized that WA was a much more difficult place to sell a niche product, but said that it was always important to have points of difference.
“When I visit local brewers they pay up to $ 1,800 a tonne for malt which is pretty standard so I guess they should be able to pay that or more for malt which potentially has marketing benefits. “said Mr. Savage.
“Voyager Craft malt did a pilot in 2020 with our malt and it was donated to Terrella Brewing and Stone & Wood Brewing Co.
“Some of the malt was made into home brewing kits for a bit of fun and they were very well received.
“A passionate home brewer with 30 years of experience in the game told me his wife never liked beer until she tried some of our brewing kits.”
At the time of writing, Mr. Savage was working with consultants to calculate his farm’s carbon footprint.
A third generation farmer, Mr. Savage has been on the property, half farmed and half sheep, since 1977.
Tolga has 5200 hectares of arable land with 1480ha of Mundah and Spartacus barley, 1000ha of Bannister oats and 120ha of pasture wheat planted this year.
The average rainfall for the property is around 340mm, but at the time of writing, Mr Savage said various plots on the farm had received 425-450mm.
With between 10 and 20 percent of the property inundated, he said most of his crops still looked good.
“Things got really wet here early on so we were probably wetter than most before and it stayed ridiculously wet,” said Mr. Savage.
“But we have nothing to complain about – whatever we take out of the land that is not waterlogged will probably make up for what is.”
Looking at more than six years of data, Mr Savage said there had been a difference of 600 kilograms between his wheat and barley harvests due to the impact of the frost, so in recent years, he had not grown any wheat other than a small portion which was tested for grazing this year.
Selling a lot of barley domestically, Savage keeps his options open by storing the vast majority of grain on his farm.
“Spartacus barley has been very consistent for us and can be used for animal feed or malt,” said Savage.
With the farm now split evenly between the crop and the sheep, at one point Tolga reached around 70% of the crop.
“By reducing the percentage of crops in recent years and applying what would be considered a much more conservative rotation, we have been able to use less fertilizer and chemicals on our crops,” said Savage.
Although more income is generated on the crops side of his farming operations, Mr. Savage said that during a year of frost or drought, the net income from his breeding business could easily exceed the harvest.
“I think mixed farming is fantastic and I don’t think you can’t really quantify all of its benefits,” he said.
“No matter how many cost analyzes you do – you can’t really factor in the exact value of weed control and organic nitrogen, there are so many variables.
“As you get more into animal husbandry, you get a lot more value from your barley and oat stubble than your wheat stubble, so the synergy is also better. ”
The number of sheep on the farm peaks each year in August at around 8,200, which allows the surplus forage to be taken advantage of in September.
Mr Savage’s flock of sheep consists of 60 pc of maternal composites and 40 pc of merino.
He uses the Australian Soil Planners system to manage the efficiency of his flock of sheep.
“We have a complete systems approach for the livestock with easy ways to confine the sheep in February and March with custom straw and licks,” said Savage.
“Add to that winter nutrition packaging designed to create food yields with minimal or no stripping, which just puts money out the back door.”
More recently, Mr. Savage has used a dry food lick designed to maximize thatch digestion and use of dry fiber.
Lambs marking was completed in mid-July, with maternal composites achieving a farm-wide record of 170pc and merino ewes reaching 114 percent.
At the time of scanning the dry ewes are re-mated and at the time of writing they lambing with a host of composite ewe lambs.
With a focus on improving the efficiency of sheep feeding and farm management systems, Mr Savage said he was also involved in a Murdoch University project focused on lamb survival and reduced mortality of ewes bearing triplets and their lambs over several years.
Belief in the ASP farming system
WHOLEGRAIN Milling Co owner and manager Craig Neale, who has supplied Australian Sustainable Produce (ASP) certified flour to the east coast market for about 10 years, believes the ASP farming system creates a superior product.
Australia’s largest supplier of chemical-free, organic, and sustainable flour, Wholegrain Milling Co. began testing sustainable flour, even before ASP certification was fully authenticated.
“At the time, the demand for organic flour was outstripping supply on the east coast, so once I heard about the sustainable farming system that some farmers were using, I thought ‘this has to be taken some share, ”Mr. Neale said.
“So we set the standard through parent company Southern Cross Agricultural Exports, and ASP is now fully audited by independent auditors and fully traceable, and the end result is a chemical-free product. “
Now using both organic and ASP flour, Mr. Neale processes 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes of organic flour and approximately 12,000 tonnes of ASP flour per year.
Mr Neale said ASP flour had overtaken organic flour in “popularity and consistency” more recently.
“Our organic flour is unfortunately in decline,” said Mr. Neale.
“It’s probably down about 1,500 tonnes from last year and that’s largely because of the price, as there is no shortage at the moment due to the seasons we have had lately.
“But ASP flour seems to be very favorable in terms of what consumers want.
“The ASP farming system creates grains that are significantly more nutrient dense and contain good quality protein.”
Although the term “sustainable” has been bastardized by some people in the agriculture industry more recently, Neil said he was confident in the future of sustainable products.
“We just need a little creativity and observation of our consumers’ situation and our marketing strategies because a lot of people are confused as to what it really means for a product to be sustainable these days. “said Mr. Neale.
Wholegrain Milling Co. works with Mauri Foods, which supplies bakery ingredients across Australia and New Zealand and is a division of George Weston Foods Australia.
“They haven’t released a sustainable logo yet, but they distribute our product and they also own Tip Top, so it’s our ambition to have our ASP flour in this product over the next three years,” Mr. said Neale.