Successful Year-Round Organic Operation
Region: Nandowrie, QLD
Nandowrie, South West of Springsure has been home to the Marshall family for five generations. Their two properties, “Nandowrie” (grazing operation) and “The Pines” (cultivation and irrigation), covers 5725 ha including 45 ha under pivots and 800 ha of cultivation, growing grain crops or forage
This enterprise is a completely organic operation that includes cattle, irrigation and dryland farming. Summer and winter rotations are seasonal and moisture dependent, with lucerne and forages grown under three centre pivots.
According to Matthew Marshall,
We went organic purely based on our family direction with consideration to there being benefits in production and our understanding of a consumer driven market. The trend is to eat cleaner and know where food comes from which, for us, becomes a niche market. Our focus is finding this market while knowing our product and capitalising on a supply arrangement to maximise returns.”
The Marshall’s run around 500 breeders and fill any seasonal opportunities with trade cattle. Limousin infused cattle are taken through as finished under USDA NOP organics. Matthew also runs a Brahmousin and Limousin stud, breeding bulls for sale and for their own use.
“The style of cattle we are breeding with high quality Limousin genetics produces an article that suits our operation and market. The Brahman content provides us with the tick and fly resistance, while the Limousin component produces an article that performs well and has a carcass that hangs up with positive traits,” Matthew clarifies.
In their broadacre farming the priority is to grow silage for drought proofing and to finish cattle under a paddock assisted organic feeding program. Legume rotations are utilised every 2-3 years to fix nitrogen in the soil during summer, for the following winter barley or wheat crops. Other crops, such as sorghum, are grown if adequate moisture permits.
All progeny are turned off as finished cattle around 24 months of age. Forage crops are mainly used or if they don’t have the crops, a paddock assisted silage and grain ration is used to feed cattle organically in order to reach a 300kg+ dressed weight target with optimal fat cover. Matthew has found that the cattle don’t require much feeding to reach target weights efficiently and economically.
Matthew explains “Utilising our organic feeding program means we achieve daily weight gains over 2kg a day when finishing cattle.”
Matthew discovered AgSolutions when he was researching for an organic USDA mineral supplement to include in his silage feed ration.
I’ve been utilising AgSolutions for their assistance with providing a supplement and balancing and testing our feed rations for nearly 5 years. MegaMin USDA/NOP Mineral Blend is included at 15-20kg per tonne and since then we have had no sick animals or deaths due to our feeding program being balanced and maintaining optimal animal health.
To assist with our feeding program, we induct all weaners onto hay and silage for around 4 weeks which gets them used to being fed. This process suits us as we are busy with farming country at that time of year. We end up with quiet, well-handled weaners that continue to gain around 0.3kg per day during weaning. These calves don’t go backwards and know how to eat later when we finish them,” concludes Matthew.
When the Marshall’s started cross breeding Brahmans and Limousin, Matthew could see their potential. This led to investing in genetics and an IVF embryo program to initially develop a Brahmousin and straight Limousin line of bulls. “Limos are proven and for us they are a great article to feed”.
From AgSolutions perspective, the Marshall family are an impressive operation to work with as everything they do is underpinned by figures. If Matthew can’t make the figures work, he won’t invest his time or energy as everything they do must generate a return on investment. We test every batch of silage to balance their feeding program because knowing the dry matter of silage is critical and needs to be monitored through the pit, so we know what is actually being fed on a dry matter basis.
The Marshall’s also utilise MegaMin Dry Season Breeder Blend for their non-organic cows in order to spike these breeders pre-joining for a 70-day controlled mating. Tough times also breed tough people with Nandowrie experiencing an 87mm 12 month rolling rainfall in the recent drought.