Worm farms feed cattle

Kathryn Dryden
July 25, 2016

Worm farms feed cattle

Mick Kruckow showing his worm farms to Terrain's Regional Landcare Facilitator, Fiona George.

A Mirriwinni cattle farmer has made room in his shed for 30 worm farms which have been pumping out a natural liquid fertiliser for his pastures.

 

The worms produce ‘vermicast’ which is what Mick Kruckow uses to feed the soil, to feed the grass that feeds his cattle on his 160 acre property, without using chemical fertilisers.

“I’ve never used chemical fertilisers on my property, but my grass was looking like it needed a boost,” said Mick.

Just over one year ago, Mick started looking into non-chemical fertiliser options. He said, “My son knows a guy who knows a lot about vermiculture and after some further research, I decided to have a go at producing some and trialling it on different areas of the farm.”

Mick has had great success and has thriving green paddocks as a result of applying the vermicast. He said, “The cattle seem to prefer grazing from areas where the vermicast has been spread.

“I am coupling the vermicast application with rotational (time-controlled) grazing and now my paddocks and cattle are in good condition all the time, with healthy strong calves being produced.”

Mick has had a series of soil tests over the past couple of years and he has been able to demonstrate that the soil biology on his farm has improved, the organic matter has doubled, and he has thicker, greener pastures as a result of the vermicast. He said, “On a hot day, the grass turns dark green in colour which shows that photosynthesis is going crazy – naturally.”

He said, “I have learnt a lot about soil health and the need for organic matter from Terrain NRM’s soil health workshops and field days. This knowledge has given me confidence and I’ve since been making and applying more and more vermicast.

“I am achieving more carbon in the soil due to the improved root structure of the grass, and my application costs are minimal with small equipment being used to apply the liquid solution. In addition, apart from the setup costs, the product is free to produce.”

Terrain’s Regional Landcare Facilitator Fiona George said, “We have been in a great position to make science and innovation available to farmers in the region. By using practical examples and providing support, they can trial new ideas to improve productivity and profitability.”

Mick uses mainly horse manure to feed his worms. “I started out collecting manure from my own horses but I’ve now made it easier for myself and get it from a mate who has a great supply.

“I also use anything organic that I can feed to the worms including food scraps and plant products.”

From his current 30 worm farms which are producing 2,500 to 3,000 litres of liquid vermicast per month, Mick seeks to increase his production with an additional 10 worm farms.

“I’m at a stage where I can apply it to my whole farm. I now need to either put more on, or sell it to other farmers so that they can get the benefits of it.”

Mick is a member of Wet Tropics Soilcare Inc along with Fiona and other innovative farmers and organisations from around the region. He is already supplying some of his product to a handful of farmers who are trialling it on their banana and cane crops.