The value of Ecosystem Function

A FUNCTIONING ECOSYSTEM. GRASS FED ONLY. FAT AS BUTTER

Ecosystem Function Is vastly more valuable then the production and consumption of goods and services" Dr John Liu PhD

My introduction to Holistic Management proved to be the magic of Dunblane. HM taught me to make decisions that influenced not only the profitability of the operation, it also required that the landscape remained environmentally sound. A third requirement is titled " socially sound" That means before any decision is implemented, I am  required to evaluate its impact on the social aspects of our life. All of these decision are designed to drive us towards our written goals ( In HM this is referred to as "your context") Most people want a life that filled with joy and happiness, free of fear. Free of worry and always in pursuit of worthwhile dreams and goals. Holistic management, through a structured framework of decision making steers us towards whatever it is you have written down as your context.

My big takeaway after pretty close to 10 years of Holistic Management, is the secret lies in a "functioning ecosystem" Once this was established at Dunblane, the changes were like magic. Without any  expensive inputs, cattle and sheep flourished. The farm became profitable.  The soils continued to improve resulting in beautiful, nutrient dense, biodiverse grasslands that supported not only the cattle and sheep but a variety of native animals. Our children loved to visit with us because we always had time to do fun things.

What HM taught me, was that there are FOUR very important components to a functioning ecosystem. The water cycle, the mineral cycle, solar energy flow and what they call biological succession. ( referring to the microbes in the soil) These four entities are not only dynamic they are totally interdependent with each other. That means ( and this is the magic) if you improve one, you improve all but if you degrade one, you degrade all. In practice, when you work towards aligning these components ( and you don't have to be perfect)  nature takes over and changes occur before your very eyes. Changes you find hard to believe.

I'm writing this review of a functioning ecosystem, to share my thinking of how best to progress at our new property, Sandown Farm.  The goal has to be to create a healthy functioning ecosystem.

We bought this 100acres from a dear couple, Les and Stephanie. Both are in their mid 80's yet still live independently.  They bought the property as a blank canvas  some 30 years ago. They retired from their Sydney based business, built the house, sheds, put up fences, drilled a bore, put in underground water systems, dug two dams. Improved some of the pasture.  They did a lot for which I am most grateful.  

Advancing years and failing health reduced their activities on the land. What we bought is an example of what happens to a landscape that is just left idle.  In non brittle climates the landscape regenerates and overgrows. In brittle environments the opposite takes place. The landscape degrades. We purchased Sandown Farm in November 2020. That year the rainfall was 200mm above average (800mm is average. 1000mm fell) so, rspecially in the presence of good rainfall, if this is a non brittle environment, then this long period of "rest" should have recovered the landscape. Everything would have been flourishing.  If it is a brittle environment, then the landscape would have degraded. 

DECEMBER 2020

My conclusion based on the plant life and big patches of bare ground, after copious rain, is that this is a brittle environment. I say that because the picture is of degradation. A brittle landscape left inactive, will degrade.  To me that means the best management is planned grazing and animal impact. That means putting some cattle onto the land. At that same time, I unfortunately fell off the farm motorbike sustaining quite serious injuries which necessitated a stay in the ICU. It was a full 2 months before I began to potter about. With no adequate fencing and my physical limitations, I decided the best I could do was apply some human creativity and mimic the planned grazing by doing what I called "planned slashing"  I had no idea if it would work. Theoretically it should have turned things around.  Its now May 2022. I'm going to show you some pictures and then talk about them.

JANUARY 2021
ONE YEAR LATER. JANUARY 2022 SLASHING ONLY
GOOD GROUND COVER. SOME BIODIVERSITY
TWO MONTHS LATER, MARCH 2022. SAME RAINFALL TWO MONTHS LATER MARCH 2022 1000mm IN 2021 ONLY MANAGEMENT WAS “PLANNED SLASHING”
MARCH 2022. EXCELLENT GROUND COVER. MUCH BETTER BIODIVERSITY

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29.04 | 03:47

Wow, I lived on the Haye's farmstead for a couple of years, crazy to hear of this fire coming through. Hope I can visit again one day.

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15.08 | 11:17

This is all brilliantly documented Paddy - am so totally inspired by how you have transformed Dunblane.

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31.07 | 16:36

Hi Peter, exciting indeed. Suggest you contact a Rory O'Leary at BVSC. He is the economic development officer. Big focus on Eden Another farmersnet@fscla.org.au

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31.07 | 12:48

Sounds exciting! I'd like to discuss how this might fit in with some other opportunities for the Port of Eden.

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