BioDynamic farming is far more labour-intensive than conventional farming and on Jalna’s farm Peter and Melinda Smith are helped by daughter Mikahl and Renea who do the milking, while Brett, Barry and Leigh do general farm duties. Each season bring different challenges.
May, June and July are relatively quiet months when the team concentrate on repairs, fencing and grading the laneways within the farm. Winter grown clover and rye grass supplement the grass as feed for the herd.
In August pasture irrigation usually begins and the first of the spring calves are born. Bulls – either bred on the farm or introduced to improve the breeding stock - are mated with the herd each spring and autumn, so there are two seasons when calves are born.
Farm grown feed
As the grass grows through spring and summer it is cut for silage. Towards the end of summer it is left longer to dry out and then cut as hay. Oats and barley undersown with lucerne are grown on the farm and are valuable as a rich feed for the calves.
Lucerne is cut four or five times during the growing season. The farm aims for self-sufficiency, with all BioDynamic feed grown on the property, although with the drought this has not always been possible.
By late summer and after rain, the next season’s crops are planted. Because of his background as a cray-fisherman Peter scans the weather patterns and charts to identify the best time for planting and irrigation. He often works all night, turning on and off the irrigation to pastures.
Through autumn and winter Preparation 500 is applied to pastures to improve the soil. Effluent and manures from the dairy are also used across the pastures, and continuous ‘smudging’ – spreading cow pats out so they break down more readily across the fields - helps to kill parasites as well as feed the grass.
And naturally, every morning and evening the cows are milked, fed and cared for.