Coombing Park, which was settled by Thomas Icely, the pioneering owner of the infamous Cobb & Co services, was one of NSW's more illustrious properties in the late 1800s.
But when George King took over the station near Orange in regional NSW from his grandfather nearly a decade ago, every aspect of the property had been run into the ground.
"The property was degraded," King says. "Pastures, fences, water. The cattle were inbred; none of the stock was profitable.
King had to find a quick and cheap way of restoring the property. "Our equity had been eroded as well," he says. "We needed to get a system in place without spending a huge amount of money."
The system King decided upon was one promoted by an African Allan Savoury in his book Holistic Management. The basic gist of Savoury's theory is that brittle land needs to be managed as an entire system. One management technique is to move grazing herbivores like cows and sheep around the land more quickly and in much larger packs. The larger mobs trample and pack down the earth and their droppings more firmly, creating a tougher, fertile skin for groundcover to grow on.
King introduced the radical system around eight years ago, changing age-old farming practices and says the effects were immediate. "We instantly cut a lot of overhead costs," he says. "We're not using a lot of chemicals anymore. We don't need to drench the cattle because the worm-cycle has been broken.
"There's less run-off water and more water infiltrating into the ground, all because there's more mulch on the ground which the cattle trampled in through high density grazing," he explains.
"Creek banks are healing and trees are regenerating. The stock are in better health, we've got lower overhead costs and we're more profitable," King adds.
With bio-diversity and profitability up, Coombing Park is now considered a pioneering example of sustainable farming and King says many of the techniques are so grounded in common sense he can't believe he didn't think of them earlier.
"We're addressing the root causes of the problems, not the symptoms," he says. "You can't have an economically viable farm without it being environmentally sound because you work with your farm," he says. "That's where you retain your wealth."
Reproduced from an ABC article.
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