Farmer Russel Fowler has brought in new latest farming and smart technology, enlarged a dam, laid down irrigation pipe, and set up a new automated pivot system. The paddocks around Bothwell in Tasmania are often dry, but recent rains, new technology, and big irrigation are changing things.
“We’re adapting from towable pivots into big pivots that water larger areas,” he said.
The first new pivot is a 10 span, that waters 100 hectares of land.
“We can keep all aspects of what is happening under the pivot monitored … and we can operate it basically from all round the globe from a smart phone.”
The farmer has divided the pivot circle into quarters, with different crops in each wedge of the circle, and set up a system of fencing that lays down under the big pivot wheels.
It allowed Mr Fowler to mix things up.
He rotated crops like poppies every four years and kept at least one quarter of the circle in grass or lucerne for his fat lambs to feed on.
“Up to 1,000 lambs can rotate continuously through a 25-hectare block in 5-hectare wedges,” Mr Fowler said.
He was so happy with the new watering system, he has ordered more pipes and another big pivot that are on their way.
With all the livestock monitored via electronic tags, he could keep an eye on growth rates when the animals were on different feeds.
“We are looking to improve our weight gains and make sure we’re getting all of them right so that we can get maximum production to make sure we can pay for all the wheels to keep turning,” Mr Fowler said.
He said it would also help during volatile periods when the price of lamb was up and down, and fine tune how much he grows — depending on livestock weight gain.
For the past three years the Bowden family just out Bothwell have not been able to fill their main dam, called Weasel Dam.
Today it’s full to overflowing after winter snow and spring rains.
“Last year was a particularly dry year and we drew it down to less than a quarter of capacity,” Will Bowden said.
But this year, it was different.
A full dam is good news for the fifth-generation farmer. He’s automating the release valves on the dam, ready for this irrigation season.
“It’s normally a time-consuming process that has to be done every couple of days during the irrigation season,” Mr Bowden said.
Now he would be able to do the job on his smart phone.
The 28-year-old was remotely operating more and more equipment on his family’s Central Highlands farms.
Otherwise turning things off and on and checking that they were running consumed all of his time during the growing season.
“If one pivot shuts down and I haven’t been to it in 24 hours, that’s 24 hours of lost irrigation and during the peak evaporation periods that can be hugely detrimental to the crop,” Mr Bowden said.
He now controlled 15 centre pivot irrigators and changing watering rates via an app.
“I’m also monitoring soil temperature and moisture,” he said.
Mr Bowden said running the irrigation from a smart phone app was a game changer.
It was a big change on the farm but one that this young tech savvy farmer was happy to develop for the family farm.
“I like diversification, it’s risk-averse and a good business model,” Mr Bowden said.
The family farms 15,000 hectares of land across Tasmania’s Central Highlands, running 22,000 ewes and a herd of 600 Angus and Wagyu cattle.
Fine wool is about a third of the family’s business, the rest is fat lambs and beef.
New irrigation means they will have good feed even in dry times and more scope to plant new crops.
Tasmanian Irrigation is the state-owned company responsible for development and operation of a lot of new irrigation schemes in Tasmania.
In the Bothwell area alone it has developed about 7,000 megalitres of new water.
Overall across Tasmania in the next five years its suite of irrigation infrastructure will be worth $680 million, delivering 168,998 megalitres of water via 1,451 km of pipeline, 55 power stations, 24 dams, and three power stations.
According to Tasmanian Irrigation the past financial year of 2019/20 has been particularly busy with a 35 per cent increase in the amount of new water developed across the state.
Originally published by ABC