My name is Geoff Birchnell and my family & I operate a beef cattle farm located at Loomberah, in Northern NSW (approximately 10km outside of Tamworth). At the age of 9, my family and I relocated from Newcastle to Quirindi, this allowed me to realise my childhood dream of having a farm. I am also a Young Farming Champion for the At4Agriculture program, sponsored by Meat & Livestock Australia and the Target 100 campaign.
Shortly after this move we purchased our first Hereford cows & we were in the beef industry. The past 20 odd years have been hugely satisfying for our family, we would not swap our land or our lifestyle for any other. My time spent on the land & my relationships with other farmers has taught me exactly what it means to be a ‘farmer’. This is a title that carries great responsibility, we are responsible for the food that the world needs to survive, we are responsible for the welfare of our stock, and we are custodians of the land.
As custodians of 50% of the Australian landscape, like me, our sheep and cattle farmers have a huge responsibility to manage our land in a way that will ensure it is left in a better state for future generations. Less than 5% of Australian soil is arable, which is a concern with the pressure of mining, increased housing numbers and the growing population. The challenge for Australian sheep & cattle farmers is to be able to produce more food with fewer resources. The key to this is for farmers to become more productive and efficient, with less inputs, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less waste. In order to do this on our land we ensure that we match the cattle we graze with the pasture we have available, paying close attention to the long term weather forecasts and the seasons.
We grow seasonal fodder crops such as oats, Lucerne, barley & sorghum. We use no till seeding techniques which allows us to sow a crop without prior cultivation, and with minimal soil disturbance at seeding. Not only has this practice improved our soil properties and increased sustainability, it has also helped reduce evaporative water losses and the risk of erosion. Whilst increasing water infiltration and encouraging biological cycling of nutrients, as well as reducing emissions as we’re using less fuel.
Our family operate a stud and commercial beef cattle herd and practice low stress stock handling techniques. To do this we have designed paddocks, lanes and cattle yards which allow the cattle to move freely with minimal pressure. Where possible we sell our cattle on farm or at the nearest selling facility, this minimises the stress of long travel on our cattle and the impact of motor vehicles emissions.
In the stud industry our cattle are exhibited at shows which means they are handled and transported more frequently and often in foreign environments. To minimise their stress levels we always ensure our cattle are handled from a young age and they always have access to clean fresh water and high quality feed.
We have also developed water infrastructure to move watering points from creeks/dams to troughs. This has allowed us to fence off some gullies and creek beds which assists in reducing erosion. This also ensures cattle have access to water when they need it and water going into the wider catchment from our farm is clean.
Enabling the next generation of farmers to feed the world sustainably requires knowledge, adoption and implementation of both existing and new technologies, and paddock to plate collaboration and training. It is my mission to ensure that I continue to grow and learn and share my knowledge and skills with my peers to leave our farm in the best possible condition for future generations.
Read more farmer stories