Trees put dollars in farmers' pockets

18 May, 2018 12:00 PM
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Mandy and Andrew Pacitti plant trees on the family farm at Myponga, South Australia
The loss of production from that area being planted with trees is more than compensated by benefits.
Mandy and Andrew Pacitti plant trees on the family farm at Myponga, South Australia

Money may not grow on trees, but planting them can help put dollars in the pockets of dairyfarmers.

Establishing shelterbelts is a proven way to maintain production levels in extreme weather, with both cows and pastures performing better where trees have been planted.

Dairy Australia has created a series of short videos telling the stories of farmers who are reaping the benefits of shelterbelts and explaining how to plan, plant and maintain treed areas.

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Adam Jenkins said tree planting had helped him grow better pastures and boost herd productivity at his dairy farm at South Purrumbete in western Victoria. "In retrospect, we would have loved to have put them in earlier," Mr Jenkins said.

"Preventing exposure to that cold south-west wind in winter means the cows are using less energy. It means less feed cost and input costs are lower because the cows are well catered for in the wind."

Yarram, Vic, farmer Damian Moore echoed Adam's observations, pointing towards improved performance in both summer and winter to justify the effort and expense in planting out shade and shelterbelts.

"In winter it has created a bit of a microclimate up to 40 or 50 metres out from the shelter belt," he said.

"We've definitely experienced less wind which has helped with earlier pasture growth. As we move into the summer months, you can see that the same area has died out later than other pasture."

In the brutal summer months, Stony Creek, Vic, farmer Darryl Sinclair said his decision to sacrifice a small percentage of his pasture for trees paid an obvious dividend.

"In a heatwave a few years ago, we had 40 degree days for a few days in a row, but I was able to keep up my rotations because each paddock had a row of trees in it where the cows could get in the shade in the afternoon," he said.

The balance between lost paddock area and the benefits of greater shade and shelter is one that West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority's Matt Bowler often talks about with farmers.

His conclusion is that the cost/benefit analysis falls the way of planting trees every time.

"The loss of production from that area being planted with trees is more than compensated by the benefits to pasture, animal shelter, water quality, pest insects being eaten by birds and just the aesthetics of having trees on your farm," he said.

For more information on how shade and shelter planting can help farm performance go to www.dairyclimatetoolkit.com.au/videos

Topics covered in the videos include:

  • Economic benefits of shelterbelts in dairy.
  • Direct seeding shelterbelts.
  • Locating and designing shelterbelts.
  • Planting and maintaining shelterbelts.
  • Benefits of shelterbelts.
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