Updated: 2 days ago
Caluka Farms has begun. Its first property is located at 345 Healy Road, Narrikup, Western Australia. This was recently a bluegum plantation that was cleared by the previous owner and has ~190-200ha arable. Average rainfall is meant to be around 700mm/year. There is a winter active creek (Sleeman River) at the east end of the property that runs through the trees you can see on a satellite image. Every year the fence across the creek washes out, so because of that, we are taking out the current boundary fences that go across the creek and fencing off that whole bush area (except for one crossing point). Neighbours either side don’t have stock in their bush, so there is no need for a fence for any of us across the creek.
Murray Holmes was employed full time at the end of August as our farm hand and is very busy helping to get the farm knocked into shape with the various contractors (fencing and earthworks).
Since late August 2018, the property has been sprayed out with glyphosate, cultivated to level it (it was very rough with many rocks and reeds strewn over it), rolled back down, and rocks crushed and rolled back into the ground. As of 18th September, the paddocks are now mostly trafficable (the farm has been very wet with the rain and nothing growing on it, which has made it rather boggy), and the farm has begun to be seeded to kikuyu - the foundation of the pasture species. Clovers and ryegrasses will be seeded into it in early May 2019.
New boundary fences have been installed on two sides with one side not needing any improvements other than hot wires down the bottom, and the remaining side is currently being built. Then the internal fences begin. There were only two internal fences, but with inadequate wiring for our requirements. We have 24 paddocks planned + raceways.
A sheep yard design has been settled upon and earthworks to level and gravel the site has begun this week. Power has been re-connected to the front of the property for the office donga and shed, and a generator will supply power to the sheep yard area (near the middle of the property on a high level area).
The derelict house and debris near the shed at the entrance (visible on the current Google maps) have been buried and the site levelled.
One of my rules is that the lack of water must never be an excuse to destock. Troughs and a 250,000L tank have been ordered, and a 110,000L tank to catch rainwater off the sheepyard roof. A solar pump and piping is currently being finalised to pump from our key dam and distribute it to a trough in every paddock and raceway. The farm currently has 13 soaks. A few more little ones will be built over summer, and one existing soak will be enlarged to further limit the risk of running out of water. It is a wet property, even though it is high in the landscape and well sloped, but we plan to be running many sheep who all need a drink. We don’t know yet how good the soaks are through a dry spell.
Assuming 5L/day per sheep, and with a target of ~6,000 ewes plus ~9,000 lambs, that’s a lot of water needed when we have a very dry summer and are fully stocked.
Soil tests have been taken and every site was also tested at depth. As expected, we have some areas needing large doses of lime (12-20t/ha over 2-3 years), but more than half of the area has a good pH on the surface. However, all areas have an acidic layer below the surface that will need some lime.
As soon as trucks can deliver lime to the property without getting bogged (hopefully within a week if no more rain comes), lime will be spread immediately. More will be spread over summer.
A trace element fertiliser with potassium (TekPhos) and selenium will then be spread immediately after, and then prior to any rain, a nitrogen/sulphur/potassium blend will be spread to make the kikuyu as happy as possible as quickly as possible.
Kikuyu is THE key pasture species for us. Though it can tolerate acidic soils, it actually loves a pH of 6.0. It will be well fed with nitrogen once it emerges and grows into the summer. As soon as it has runners and there is enough grazing for sheep, the first truck loads of sheep will be brought in. There is usually a minimum of 6-weeks from emergence to the first grazing, but more likely 8+ weeks. It all depends on how well it emerges and then how warm and wet it is. We have a lot of work ahead of us to get the pH fixed as quickly as possible and fix all the nutrition deficient areas.
Sheep will be introduced one truckload at a time and only when there is plenty of feed ahead of them. Every sheep coming onto the property will be made to walk through a sterilising foot bath before stepping onto any paddocks, and every sheep will have an electronic (RFID / eID) identity tag fitted, if not already on it, and will be weighed before being let out into the paddocks. Every sheep will be weighed at least once every 4 weeks.
Monthly financial reports will be uploaded on this blog page starting in the coming weeks. They won’t show any new income of course until we begin selling sheep. Thanks to all the investors, we have enough money to purchase what we need without loans.
This is a dream come true for me to be able to go farming and do it properly right from the beginning, and we are starting with a lovely dirty Rolls Royce property. I am so excited to have this opportunity and to share it with all the investors. I will keep you updated through this blog page every month on what has been happening, and what is being planned.
Hopefully I can add some photos now to this.....