Gulgong's Colin Seis battles drought with regenerative agriculture

GRASSLAND: Gulgong farmer Colin Seis at his farm in February 2017 before the dry weather began (right) and his farm in July (left).
GRASSLAND: Gulgong farmer Colin Seis at his farm in February 2017 before the dry weather began (right) and his farm in July (left).

The lack of grass in paddocks across the state – due to one of the worst droughts in living memory – has caused a lot of headaches for farming families.

And it’s put a huge strain on fodder supplies across the country as farmers tried to keep their animals alive.

But could the lack of pasture have been partly, or entirely, avoided?

Take a look at Gulgong farmer Colin Seis’ fam (pictured). The image on the left was taken in July and the one on the right was snapped in February 2017, before the dry weather hit.

He hasn’t even used any fertiliser, or pesticides, on his property. 

Mr Seis says creating grasslands is the key to surviving droughts.

It’s a model he’s been using since 1979 when a bushfire ripped through the farm and left him with nothing. 

Take a look at the drought across NSW

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The farm had green feed in autumn this year, and when the grasses went dormant as winter approached – which is normal – it became dry feed.

Meanwhile, farms across the state have been hand feeding, rationing meals, and carting fodder from far interstate. Mr Seis hasn’t even started a drought feeding regime.

He has 3500 Merino sheep on 2000 acres – the same number he always has at this time of the year, and the dry pasture is sustaining them.

Before and after photos from across NSW

“It’s dry here like it is everywhere else. The farm isn’t going as well as it normally would, but because we’ve got a grassland here it responded well to the little bit of summer rain we had – we had green feed for summer and now we’ve got standing dry feed from that grassland to get us through,” Mr Seis said.

DROUGHT BATTLE: The farm in July.

DROUGHT BATTLE: The farm in July.

“It’s good quality feed and stock do well on it. We are supplementing with a bit of protein, some urea and a tiny little bit of grain – not so much drought feeding.”

Mr Seis has urged Hunter farmers to consider using regenerative agriculture practices to rebuild their farms after the drought. 

BETTER TIMES: Gulgong farmer Colin Seis with his farm behind him. This photo was taken in February 2017 before the dry weather began.

BETTER TIMES: Gulgong farmer Colin Seis with his farm behind him. This photo was taken in February 2017 before the dry weather began.

“When we got burnt out in 1979 I had to change because I couldn’t afford fertilisers.  As the soil started to function better the native grasses started to perform better and they outperformed the introduced species. I haven’t put fertiliser on this farm since 1979," he said.

“Our pastures should focus like a grassland; there should be a diversity of species in them and there should be plants that grow at any time of the year.

“They don’t have to be natives, but natives are good to have in there as well.”

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