A summary of the Noble's Farm visit
Farm Visit Report – Sunday 17th August
Simon and Phillippa Noble - “Brimin Lodge” Brimin
The Noble’s run a mixed enterprise farming business on about 160 ha along the Murray River some 20 km downstream from Rutherglen. Generally flatish flood plain country with 22inch traditional rainfall but recently around 12 inches.
Simon and Philippa introduced us to some of the principles of their Murray Cod aquaculture enterprise. Around 8,000-10,000, 400-450gm Murray Cod are produced every year for the restaurant trade and farmers market. The fish are filleted onsite one day a week and either delivered or picked up by courier. The Noble’s operate one of very few fish farms in Australia that grows out Murray Cod. Each year around 25,000 fingerlings are purchased and grown out. The fingerlings can take from 12months to two years to grow to restaurant size.
Each day around 125,000 of water is used in the fish sheds, which comprise some 30 tanks of around 5000 litres per tank.
A recycling system on the farm sees bore water from the fish sheds put into an old quarry, which then naturally recharges the bore with naturally filtered water. Water from the fish farm enterprise is also available for refilling the irrigation dam or watering agroforestry tree plots. Untreated water from the Murray cannot be used in the fish tanks due to the risk of importing parasites and diseases into the shed.
The choice to farm Murray Cod, was a deliberate one, made on the basis of producing a product that had a point of difference
The Noble’s also run around 600 ewes, from which they produce around 800 lambs a year. In conjunction with a business partner they sell around 1000 lambs a year under the titles of Rutherglen Premium Lamb and Rutherglen Milk-fed Lamb. The lambs are sold either as either 12-14kg carcass milk fed lambs to restaurants or as prepackaged lamb packs from lambs around 24 Kg carcass weight. These packs are marketed throughout Eastern Australia. The packs have a two week refrigeration life. The lambs are delivered to Wangaratta abattoir and then processed by Finer Food pantry in Wangaratta. Lamb packs are ordered on line. A few lines in The Age - Epicure Section some years ago, resulted in 700 phone calls and orders within two days. Most purchasers are now repeat customers or come from word of mouth.
Marketing and selling directly increases the return per animal for the Noble’s. A lot of market research was undertaken to determine the final product range. Four different Rutherglen Lamb packs are available see www.rutherglenlamb.com.au for more details
Three thousand managed trees, are pruned to 12m (limbless) height for sawlog timber production and to enhance the productivity of the grey silting flats that originally were covered with Paterson’s Curse, when the Noble’s purchased the property some fifteen years ago. The trees are initially planted 2 meters apart and then thinned as they mature. Working with their son on an engineering project the family has produced a tractor driven tree thinner that takes out stems of up to eight inches in diameter. Some of the thinnings are used to fire the boiler for the fish farm to increase the water temperature. Further thinnings up to 7 meters long are currently being preserved for use as fence posts and building poles. Wood lots are planted to 1000 trees per ha but progressively thinned to 300 trees per ha. Main varieties include Spotted Gum and Sydney Blue Gum. When planting, Spotted Gums are now alternated with another species, to reduce risk. In the upcoming plantings a Red Gum Hybrid will be used. Spotted Gums are susceptible to frost damage.
Participation in Tree Smart program for 1 year has enabled some more immediate returns on the farm forestry enterprise.
This year tree plantings will occur on land that had been sprayed, deep ripped (to ½ meter) and lightly mounded. Rows are now 5 meters apart to allow for access with a ‘boom lift’ for pruning and individual trees 2 meters apart within rows.
Around 40ha of pasture is irrigated (129ML license) Field peas are grown as food for lambs. Generally an oat and then Lucerne plantings follow. Lucerne is assumed to have a life of 3-4 years and after that is replanted. Last year some chicory was sod seeded into Lucerne to provide additional feed in summer. Allowing lucerne to seed and harvesting it, assists in reducing re-sowing costs. Each year the lucerne paddocks are sprayed to help keep weeds out. Ewes and lambs run predominately on lucerne or chicory pastures, or cereal crop grown for fodder. In the last year of the pasture cycle the lucerne is direct drilled with oats or Italian Annual Ryegrass to increase productivity The waterways on the farm were fenced, planted to trees and grazed selectively. This has overcome a problem with liver fluke in the sheep
An interesting fencing of a remnant clump of vegetation was keenly observed. Steel posts were leaning in towards the remnant clump and 6 strands of barb-wire wrapped around. Known in some circles as ‘octagon fencing’ this arrangement had proved successful in keeping stock out as the stock cannot rub on the inward sloping posts. The diameter of the octagon is around 10 meters.
During the drought, stock were kept off paddocks to maintain ground cover and were kept and fed in a 6 ha sacrifice paddock which had been established 10 years ago. Surrounded by trees and well watered this paddock has not been fertilized and the pasture is not renovated. It is one area of the farm where the spread of couch grass is appreciated as the thatch makes a good ground stabilizer for winter and summer.
Additionally two holiday cabins were available for rent, one on the river and one in a billabong.
The property is “Flockcare” accredited and operates to an Environmental Management System (EMS) plan. There is also an extenal audit for the Primesafe food safety accreditation.
Some key points noted were:-
Simon’s willingness to start each day in the office
The ability to turn potential problems into marketing points of difference
Integration of the various farming enterprises under an umbrella of a strong commitment to environmental enhancement.