Lifestyle / Hobby Farms

What do I need to think about if I decide to keep some li... Smaller livestock breeds are popular with first time farmers because they’re easier to handle and the infrastru...
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Lifestyle / Hobby Farms

The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.

How can I improve water quality on my farm?

If you have a creek or river flowing through your property, consider restricting stock access with fencing to help improve water quality, both for downstream users and the environment.

Where can I find information about average rainfall for my region?

Average rainfall varies dramatically around Australia and is chiefly driven by two major weather events, El Nino and La Nina.

The El Nino phenomenon occurs when there is a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and this leads high atmospheric pressure, hotter weather and drought conditions. La Nina is the opposite system, leading to cooler temperatures and higher rainfall.

The Australian Government National Water Commission website offers rains charts and maps, as does the Bureau of Meteorology.

More information about temperature and rainfall averages can be found on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website as well.

Naturally, people living in your area of interest will best understand the long-term trends and typical rainfall conditions. That’s where a First National ‘Rural Specialist’ can really help. Give us a call and we’ll happily share our expertise to help you make the right decision.

I’m concerned about fire risk. Should I remove all fallen timber from my farm?

It’s important to keep grasses cut and plenty of clear space around hobby farms, houses, sheds and buildings in general, however, fallen timber is an important part of your farm’s ecosystem.

Fallen timber forms the basis of native habitat and helps all manner of native fauna to forage. Fungi that grow on rotting timber help recycle nutrients back into the soil and nourish the next generation of plants.

If fallen timber presents a fire threat, relocating the timber away from the fire threat to ‘fallen timber lots’ helps maintain a balanced environment.

Is it possible to work out how long dam water will last?

Naturally, this depends chiefly on what type and quantity of stock will be grazing on your farm, the size of the reservoir and the rate of any spring water inflow (in addition to annual rainfall).

The Victoria Department of Environment and Primary Industries offers a useful set of tables and graphs that help determine the various requirements of Lambs, Sheep, Calves and Cattle.

Is water affected by algae safe to drink after it has been boiled?

Boiling algal water will NOT make it safe to drink.

Do not drink or swim in it. Don’t rinse vegetables or fruit or cook with it. Don’t wash clothes in it. Don’t eat shellfish or fish caught in it. Do not spray or flood irrigate pastures or crops with it.

How can I avoid a blue-green or general algal outbreak on my hobby farm?

Soil erosion or runoff of sediment can help phosphorous get into your farm’s dams and streams. Once in the water system, phosphorous becomes available for plant and algal growth in the right conditions.

Take care to avoid excess fertilizer getting into your water systems. Maintaining good vegetative cover helps prevent problems so stock should be moved to other pastures when cover reaches low levels.
  • Minimise the amount of time soil remains exposed to wind and water. Don’t work soil too much or too far ahead of planting
  • Use minimum cultivation techniques so you maintain soil structure, enhancing soil and water conservation
  • Avoid cultivating steep slopes
  • Use green manure crops and work them into the soil where appropriate
  • Use cover crops between crops
  • Use buffer strips of dense vegetation in steep locations to catch runoff
  • Use surface drains or diversion banks alongside dams and rivers
  • Leave natural drainage areas grassed on your hobby farm
  • Build culverts and bridges or hard crossings for stock and vehicular crossings
  • Maintain quality of stream banks with solid grass cover, trees, shrubby plants and native grasses
Exclude stock from streams with fencing, either traditional or electric.

What steps should I take to care for animals in hot weather?

Australian summers can create significant heat stress for animals. There’s also the enhanced risk of bushfires.

Planning well ahead by keeping a watchful eye on forecasts will help you to better manage animals so that they have sufficient access to shade and water during hot weather.

First National’s Rural Property Specialists offer the following tips to help you keep animals safe and more comfortable:

Make sure there’s a plentiful supply of clean, cool water and shade on your hobby farm
  • Water troughs must allow easy access for multiple animals at once
  • Water troughs should be fixed in position so they can’t be easily overturned
  • Unless you can check troughs regularly, install automated, reticulated systems
  • Make sure stock are familiar with watering points, especially young animals have
  • Don’t tether animals where they cannot move themselves to shade
  • Ensure all animal enclosures have an area that is shaded all day long
  • Construct shelters from shade cloth, corrugated iron or timber
  • Plant trees with large canopies in all fields
  • Move stock to areas where undulating paddocks and gullies provide shelter around your hobby farm
  • Move pets and small animals to cool areas of your house or sheds
When choosing shelters, make sure there’s enough room for all animals at once and that animals can lie down. This helps with cooling. Keep an eye on the behaviour of your animals as they may huddle together, even though other shelters and shade areas are available to them.

Pigs and cattle may be cooled with water sprinklers.

What regulations or legislation affects the use of chemicals on hobby farms?

Commonwealth and State Governments regulate agricultural and veterinary chemicals throughout Australia.

It is essential that you familiarise yourself with your obligations as the consequences of miss-use can be devastating to animals, wildlife, and neighbouring agricultural enterprise.

First National’s Rural Property Specialists recommend you contact the relevant authority in your State or Territory for advice.

What are the basics of organic farming?

Organic farming is all about working in with the environment to achieve desired results, rather than the total suppression of nature’s challenges.

Fertilizers and chemicals are limited or totally excluded, so soil health becomes a vital element that must be carefully managed. Weeds must be tolerated and managed, but not eliminated.

In essence, the basics involve:
  • Achieving healthy soil without chemicals
  • Managing mildews, fruit flies and scale insects in citrus
  • Managing internal parasites with sheep
  • Managing other pests and diseases without chemicals and drugs

How can I improve the quality of my hobby farm’s soil organically?

Growing Green Manure crops on your hobby farm is the best way to improve the quality of your soil.

Choosing what type of Green Manure crop to plant depends on what region of Australia your hobby farm is located in as well as site-specific conditions and your farm plan goals.

In general, a Green Manure crop is intended to be dug into the topsoil for decomposition before the planting of a new crop. A Cover Crop, in contrast, is planted to cover bare soil and prevent erosion. Green Manure and Cover Crops are grouped into ‘legumes’, ‘grasses’ and ‘broadleaf crops’.

First National’s Rural Property Specialists recommend contacting local nurseries or agriculture authorities to discuss your farm plans and situation to determine the most suitable crop.
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