THE old saying, ‘you get what you pay for’, certainly rings true for cattle farmer Darryl Johnston, particularly when it comes to controlling woody weeds.
Darryl, a fifth generation cattle producer, farms with his brother, Scott, and their father, Darryl, at Gloucester and Wherrol Flat, near Wingham in New South Wales.
He and wife Jodie, daughter Shelby (16) and son Clancy (13) live at the Wherrol Flat property, which comprises 475 hectares, while the Gloucester property is 1296ha.
Over the two farms, the Johnstons run 900 head of Angus and Shorthorn cattle and crop about 200ha of annual and permanent pastures for finishing cattle.
They turn-off between 250-300 head of cattle annually, predominantly supplying steers to the European Union (EU) market and the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) program and, more recently, the farm assurance program, which requires cattle to be chemical and hormone-free and grass-feed only.
“We breed all our own cattle, but we don’t have any particular weight targets – it just depends on which market we’re aiming for,” Darrell said.
“We try and leave our options open so we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. We want to be able to meet the right market at the opportune time.
“If it gets dry in the spring, we’ll sell steers to the feedlots, but thankfully we haven’t had to do that for a few years.”
He said they had significantly increased their pasture focus over the years, including reclaiming land previously overcome by woody weeds.
Weeds such as blackberry and lantana are the biggest issues for the Johnstons, particularly at Gloucester. The land is quite rugged and undulating, so aerial spraying via helicopter has been the most efficient way of tackling the problem.
Darrell said they had tried various herbicides and found Grazon Extra, applied at label rates according to the weed they were targeting, to be the most effective.
The Johnstons acquire their herbicide through Gloucester Rural Supplies. Darrell said they had an excellent relationship with Manager Troy Higgins – the result of knowing and working with him for many years.
“We’ve spent a lot of money getting on top of the problem over the years,” Darrell said.
“Like anyone, we’re always trying to save money, so we tried generic branded herbicides and while the results were reasonable, they weren’t as good as what we’ve seen with Grazon Extra.
“The other aspect is you just don’t have that element of support. We know we can call our Dow (AgroSciences) representative, which for us is Jon Dadd out of Tamworth, for any queries or issues and he’s available to help.
“They back their product 100 per cent.
“You get what you pay for and we’re certainly getting results, there’s no doubt about that.”
Grazon Extra contains active ingredients aminopyralid, picloram and triclopyr to control a range of environmental and noxious woody and herbaceous weeds.
Generic products use a picloram triclopyr formulation and do not contain aminopyralid, making a significant difference to the end result and level of weed control achieved.
“When you’ve got big application costs, you’re far better off using the superior product to get maximum impact, otherwise you’re wasting time and money,” Darrell said.
“We can cover a massive amount of country in half a day using the helicopter, so it saves us a lot of time and labour. Plus the amount of spraying we have to do now has decreased because the weed infestations have reduced.
“We’ve been able to retrieve a massive amount of country that was otherwise useless because of the blackberry and lantana.
“It’s very productive country, it was just overgrown. We’ve now been able to crop pastures and it’s back in full production.”