Nature does the work

If you find
Nature fills any vacuum, for example weeds establish on bare ground
Too much time, effort, money and energy goes into trying to control weeds and other pests
A big part of the farm income is spent on pest and weed control
Tackling weeds and other pests with chemicals just leads to worse problems
One way to pull all of that together into a self-managing system and reduce your workload is to shift your management so Nature does the work.

At first glance you might think Nature does the work means you try to enslave nature. However, you will find that it takes a high level of understanding to harness nature’s power.

Nature can be a confusing old draught horse when you first come to manage it. But once you get the hang of it you will better understand why Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed — as Francis Bacon put it so beautifully so many years ago.

Farming is an intervention in nature, it is not natural and so cannot continue unless it is supported by good management or high inputs of time, effort, chemicals and money.

There are natural forces at work such as:

  • Pioneering: This is where organisms such as weeds emerge to colonize bare areas or any areas occupied by species that are not highly competitive. Many of our desired species have been bred for production, not competition;
  • Succession: This allows our crop and pasture plants to be replaced by others that are more adapted or more competitive;
  • Parasitism: This is where one species attacks another, such as internal parasites (barbers pole worms, liver flukes etc) literally eat our profits. These organisms can survive if we allow them to. They can be beaten with fencing, rotational grazing, selection of resistant breeders and isolation. Each of these methods depends on an understanding that re-aligns the farm so Nature does the work.

Realistically we can only hold nature at bay or keep it under control for a short time and at a high cost. Longer term, we can’t control nature and it makes sense to work with rather than against it. This turns nature into a great ally rather than a formidable enemy.

Fighting nature takes time, effort, chemicals and money. And nature has the last say — no matter what we humans do in a doomed attempt to fight nature, control nature or tame nature. This is because nature always bats last.

So, to ensure Nature does the work, you can get it to earn its keep by giving it the job of sharefarming through:

  • managing succession in the field
  • doing what is delegated to it
  • Being a source of information — mainly through observing what happens in nature when we intervene with our farming methods and also what happens when we stop intervening
  • Being a source of inspiration — for example, using a natural succession pattern to model your own succession pattern. In some countries a naturally-occurring legume tree succession pattern can be copied but with preferred species substituted to provide better fodder etc. For example, tagasaste Chamaecytisus species can replace wattles Acacia species in some areas of southern Australia to form a Living haystack that can be harvested for animals or they can harvest for themselves. As a result, tagasaste can save a lot of time, effort and money.
  • Healing wounded areas; for example an eroded creekbank that has been fenced off to keep stock out and has then been left alone will usually revegetate and move from active erosion to a stable and rounded shape that is less prone to erode
  • Providing useful native pasture and perhaps crop species that you can incorporate into your rotation or that you can blend your desired species into as part of an effective and self-sustaining rotation.

Having a partnership with nature means the Farm works for farmer rather than the other way around. On a well-run farm, the farm system works so effectively that the farmer’s workload is significantly reduced, allowing the farmer to focus on understanding and managing rather than on doing the physical work.

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tackled cause

If you find
Symptoms can mask causes
Causes can be hard to uncover
Problems keep repeating no matter what you do
Tackling the cause means getting past the symptom (for example a weed infestation) to discover what created, promoted or allowed the weed problem to occur.

Once you have dug behind the symptom to see what led to it and how that played out to become a weed infestation, you can do what it takes to have a tackled cause — you can deal with the thing or event that drove things along.

When you have tackled the cause, you have probably prevented it from creating the next weed infestation.

If you can find a way to tackle permanently whatever is causing the weed problem, you can prevent any further recurrence or at least reduce its impact on you.

Symptoms — the visible signs — are usually obvious.

Causes may take a little detective work.

As a result it is easier to deal with symptoms and to think that symptoms are important.

The weed infestation is the visible problem and so it is easy to reach for a spray and hit it hard.

But if you think about the problem, it probably occurs most years at about the same time.

Something is driving it such as:

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Filled niche

If you find
Bare ground fills with weeds
At certain times of the year pests get a foot-hold on a key crop
If you don’t grow something in a particular spot, nature does; and it is usually something you don’t want there
Filling niches so that undesirable species can’t occupy them should reduce the problem.

Farming and grazing are about providing niches for the species you want. At the same time, you need to fill niches to make them unavailable for species you don’t want and the best way to do this is to fill every niche with desirable plants, animals or microbes.

The next best way is to block the niche, such as by using mulch to block weeds from colonizing bare ground.

A niche is a place to live and it applies to a pest and a crop. A niche is more than just the place where an organism fits physically. It is also the organism’s function or role in the community of plants, animals and other organisms.

(An organism is a living individual thing such as a plant, an animal or a microbe. Each organism is made up of various parts that depend on each other and work together.)

Niche comes from the Latin word nidus meaning nest and also means a little nook in a wall where people put ornaments etc.

How you manage your niches determines what pest problems you have and it sets your yield. If you have significant problems with pests, it is most likely that your management of niches is out of line with what you are trying to achieve.

Sometimes the easiest way to reduce the problem you’re having with pests is to change the way you manage niches. Many of the problems of modern agriculture come down to niche problems: Continue reading

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Nature as model

If you find
It difficult to keep desirable plants and animals alive and profitable while keeping undesirables down
Developing something from scratch can be difficult
Your present system is vulnerable to local native plants or animals invading
Having Nature as model and using the techniques and possibly the species that work in nearby natural areas may give you some clues about how to tackle problems.

A model can help you develop a new integrated farming system to beat nature at its own game and allow you to farm profitably at the same time.

The best Enterprise model makes it easier and more effective when you are starting a new enterprise. That way you can pick up a template or model from someone else and modify it to suit your circumstances. And the best Enterprise models are usually those developed by someone who has been effective at what you are about to start doing.

When it comes to managing an ecosystem — and every successful farm is an ecosystem — nature has done it since the beginning.

You can mimic nature’s success by observing and noting: Continue reading

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feed budget

If you find
Putting animals into a rotational grazing system requires an understanding of how much feed is in front of the animals, how much feed they need a day
Unless you know when, how big and how long your annual Hungry gaps are, it is hard to prevent them being a problem
Balancing pasture needs, optimal animal nutrition and ensuring a Year-round feed supply is difficult without crunching the numbers
A Feed budget is a way to match the amount of feed needed by livestock with the amount of feed available.

Having a budget allows you to ensure there is enough feed and to predict any shortfalls, often in time to do something about them.

Feed budgets come in two main forms: Continue reading

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small paddock

If you find
Animals range too far
Livestock leave weeds and graze only what they want to graze
A Small paddock allows for intensive pasture management, effective weed management and good animal nutrition.

With relatively high stock density it provides the “hard” that makes a Short hard graze such an effective tool that gets a patch of ground grazed flat or near to it so weeds are taken out along with the desirable pasture or rangeland plants.

Small paddocks need not be permanently fenced. In fact, it is generally better to use temporary electric fencing to create them because that allows them to be adjusted to suit animal needs, weed control, pasture Rest periods and your management objectives.

It is important to keep Animals on the move every day or so as a key part of rangeland and pasture management, and Small paddocks mean that animals have to move to fresh pasture and away from pasture that needs rest so a Parasite management plan can allow liver fluke, roundworms and other pests time to die.

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


If you find
Input costs cut into profits before the crop is harvested
You have an increased energy input in the form of fertilizers and fuels
The cost of inputs is rising
Legumes can help you cut costs as well as improve your profitability.

This is because there are four major elements available for free. Every plant and every animal needs:

  • Carbon — from the air for plants or from food for animals
  • Hydrogen — from the water
  • Oxygen — from the air and the water and
  • Nitrogen — from the air but only available through Nitrogen fixation through Rhizobia which fixes it in legume roots so the legume can get at it and from where it eventually makes its way into the soil.

As great plants in their own right plus being the suppliers of the fourth major element, legumes deserve special management.

If managed well, not only can legumes get ahead, they can get you ahead because they provide you with the key factors in your pasture management, livestock management and in money management.

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Time as a tool

If you find
Some results take time to achieve
Time is on your side when you use Time as a tool.
This might be when you:

  • give pastures or soil enough time for an adequate Rest and recovery
  • provide a long enough pasture phase in a pasture/crop rotation to let enough nitrogen come out of the soil’s bank of nitrogen or allow a Legume long enough to build adequate nitrogen for the following crop
  • provide a long enough pasture phase in a pasture/crop rotation to permit pastures to outcompete weeds, thus letting following crops have less competition.

By comparison, a related farm pattern, Timing as a tool refers to choosing when you do an operation. For example, by choosing when you close up a particular paddock to grazing you can do it at a time to suit the soil and the plants.

Because for a lot of farm operations, the when is important, by using Timing as a tool and Time as a tool, you can get a significant improvement in results with certain operations. For other operations time and timing may have little impact on the result.

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Timing as a tool

Using Timing as a tool and Time as a tool (I will explain those terms in a moment) you can get a significant improvement in results from certain operations.

This is because for a lot of farm operations, the when is important.

So, Timing as a tool refers to choosing when you do an operation. For example, by choosing when you close up a particular paddock from grazing you can do it at a time to suit the soil and the plants. A paddock of summer-growing grasses may need to be closed up a few weeks before the end of its growing season so there is enough time for energy to be stored that will kick-start the next burst of summer growth less than a year away.

Time as a tool refers to giving the pasture enough time to regrow. Adequate Rest is the break that allows recovery.

Both of these time-related aspects, Timing as a tool and Time as a tool can be very important for some operations. For other operations they may have little impact on the result.

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Orderly scaling

If you find
Making major changes looks difficult
You are not sure how big you want a new enterprise to be
You would like to try something out – small seems more manageable but is too small to be worth it in the long run
Maybe try starting out small then expanding using an Orderly scaling process.

The word “scaling” comes from the Italian la scala, meaning the staircase. Here it refers to taking things one step or level at a time.

Orderly scaling by taking things up one level at a time is standard practice in big industrial ventures that have not been fully tried before or that require some market preparations to make them viable.

An example of an Orderly scaling process is: Continue reading

Posted in Farm pattern | Tagged , , | Leave a comment