Three years of dedicated work, that included living through one of the worst droughts on record in the region, is transforming a grazing and farming property in the Hunter Valley near Gresford

Springhill Beef, Mount Rivers near Gresford in the Hunter Valley - the property is being transformed using regen practices. Photos: Pink Donkey.
Springhill Beef, Mount Rivers near Gresford in the Hunter Valley - the property is being transformed using regen practices. Photos: Pink Donkey.

Three years of dedicated work, that included living through one of the worst droughts on record in the region, is transforming a grazing and farming property in the Hunter Valley near Gresford.

Adam and Jody Turner and their children Skye, Nate and Sophie.

Adam and Jody Turner and their children Skye, Nate and Sophie.

'Springhill' located on the banks of the Paterson River at Mount Rivers is home to the Turner family Adam and Jody and their three children Nate, Skye and Sophie.

They operate Springhill Beef that producers pasture raised beef which is sold through local farmers markets and their own online platform.

The couple, who both come from farming backgrounds, bought their first small farm 12 years ago and have slowly been working towards establishing their own successful farming enterprise.

They were able to do this with the purchase of 'Springhill' in 2016. The 120 hectare farm was being leased prior to their purchase and was in the words of Adam in need of some serious attention to return it to being a productive and sustainable enterprise.

Fences and water supply for the livestock was their first priority. With the basics done they started the process of implementing holistic or regenerative farming practices.

Adam and Jody undertook courses in these farming practices with Adam undertaking the Grazing for Profit seven day management course in Dubbo which prompted him to radically cut breeder numbers during the drought.

"I returned from that course and realised we had to destock to save our pastures and ground cover," he said.

Their herd was reduced from 70 cows and calves down to 20 and every calf down to 80kgs in weight was early weaned.

"By doing this we were able to get through the drought and our paddocks have bounced back really well following the arrival of drought breaking rain in summer, " he said.

"We went for a drive recently through the district and into the Manning Valley and it is sad to see some places were so overgrazed during the drought they still haven't recovered.

"Drought provides all of us with challenges but also lessons can be learnt to better manage your farms so you can return to full productivity more quickly and without damaging your farm especially the soils and pastures."

Based on regenerative practices the farm is now divided into 26 paddocks a vast increase from the original six paddocks.

Their cattle are moved onto a new paddock each one to three days based on the ground cover and pasture availability allowing for a long rest, averaging about 120 days, between grazing therefore promoting not only pasture growth and diversity but also minimising the need for worm drenching of the stock.

Winter and summer fodder crops are grown on the farm. This winter, as a trial, they planted the usual mixture of ryegrass and oats but added grazing wheat which has proven to be very successful.

"The cattle eat the wheat first and graze it harder but it really bounces back quickly so we will be sowing that again next winter," Adam said.

Summer crops include millet, cow peas, Lab Lab and other brassicas.

Their breeders consist of a cross of Angus and Limousin and Speckle Parks selected for their meat eat quality.

Stock destined for their branded beef are usually processed around 450kg live weight which they reach at 15-18 months of age. They are processed at Kurri meat works before being prepared for sale by a Gresford butcher.

On top of their list of to do jobs on the farm is to improve their soil and therefore the pastures produced and the quality of the meat sold to their customers.

"Soil biology, understanding it and improving it, is part and parcel of what we do on-farm everyday," he said.

"Soil is the basis for everything on the farm. You need to feed that biology in the soil."

To do this they are not only using the holistic grazing management but also applying sprays from then Converte range of products.

"We have found them to be really good for our soils as they are organic and ideal for what we want to achieve, said Adam.

Asked whether they would consider becoming organic producers Adam said he and Jody preferred to have the full range of tools at their disposal to manage the farm.

"We have blackberries and lantana in our hilly country and sprays at this stage and the best control method. The same goes for the use of animal vaccines. We don't want stock to die from Blackleg when you have a quick and easy solution to prevent that happening," he said.

"But using our grazing methods we very rarely drench and are looking at ways to overcome cattle lice using organic methods.

"At the end of the day it's having all the management tools available for us to utilise as and when we require them - that is best option."