Combining Sustainable Farming, Animal Welfare and Commercial Success
November 21, 2019
The Wells family has a common goal: to keep the farm in the family for as long as possible. That means all decisions are made for the next generation and the overall sustainability of the farm. This goal has helped fuel the Wells’ efforts in sustainable farming and is part of the reason why they are part of the OSI Sustainability 365 Farmer Recognition Program.
The impact the Wells are making on their environment, their cattle and the industry as a whole is significant. This impact, of course, did not happen overnight. The Wells have made numerous efforts and investments on their sustainable farming journey. They believe that the more sustainable their land is, the longer it will remain productive. They have seen the results of making investments, however small, that have resulted in larger impacts over time.
The OSI Sustainability 365 Farmer Recognition Program recognizes farmers who work hard to make sustainable farming their mission and, as leaders in this area, have established it as a business priority. By shining a light on these leaders, OSI is helping show other farmers, the agriculture industry and the world that sustainable farming is much more than a feel good buzzword. OSI is taking the practices of sustainable farming and putting its champions into the spotlight to educate consumers, to help partners and to promote positive, practical activities in farming, the environment and local communities.
On the Wells’ farm, there is plenty to highlight. They have made it a priority to learn and employ sustainable farming practices while also keeping a close eye on the economic viability of their operation. They believe that striking this balance is the key to long-term, sustainable success on the farm.
Land management is important for the Wells. They know that part of land management means taking care of a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce: water. With the support and guidance of the Fitzroy Basin Authority, the Wells are regularly evaluating the land for areas where they may need to make improvements to reduce erosion around waterways and in the paddocks.
On the ranch lands, they have documented and improved sustainable management by strategic fencing of waterways and grazing land, including the careful management of the wetlands in dedicated nature reserve areas.
Their fences ensure that the cattle are not affecting water quality by keeping them from watering out of the river and off riverbanks that have high risk of erosion. They have also increased the number of water points and moved water troughs to the center of the paddocks to limit grazing around the water courses.
This grazing practice is also in line with maintaining maximum vegetation coverage on the land, which is a major priority on the Wells’ farm. They know that even weed coverage is better than bare spots. They have planted leucena in areas that were washed and scarred, which is an important first step to growing the paddock back to a healthy state. Additionally, these trees do not require a lot of rain to grow and quickly help stabilize the soil, which allows grass to become established around the trees even during drier times of the year.
In fact, the leucena trees help the Wells prepare their land for a changing climate. With droughts becoming more prevalent around the world, these trees, which are a type of grazeable legume, increase the Well’s ability to sequester carbon and provide a natural method to increase nitrogen in the soil. The Wells also use seasonal cropping practices, such as growing forage crops like oats and cottonseed, to reduce the risk of limited feed supply during the winter dry season or drought conditions.
While preparing the land for a changing climate is an effective way to ensure the land can be passed down to the future Wells generations, advancing the economic viability of the farm will ensure that future generations can make a good living. One of the ways the Wells are accomplishing this is by making genetic improvements to their breeds to get better performance and increasing the environmental adaptability of the animals.
The animals on the Wells farm are the primary focus of their efforts, especially when it comes to their health and welfare. The Wells utilize old-fashioned herding techniques to limit the amount of stress placed on the animals. The Wells family has combined its love of horses with managing the herd to create an environment where they are accomplishing their goals, while allowing their cows to move at a natural pace without the loud sounds large machines can produce. Not surprisingly, the Wells have found that limiting stress on their cows also means better meat for the market, which shows that combining sustainable farming, animal welfare and commercial success is an attainable goal.
The Wells believe that there needs to be more information sharing, so more people understand what farmers like them are doing to ensure the sustainability and viability of their operations. At their farm, four generations of land custodians have dedicated themselves entirely to looking after the land to produce beef for more than a century. And with the lessons they are teaching the next generation, the Wells family could be OSI Sustainability 365 Farmers for the next 100 years.