Principles and Practice Standards

Our Principles

The following are at the core of what we believe in and practice:

We are committed to transparency, and being open about all aspects of on farm practice and community involvement.

We put these principles into practice in the following ways:

1. A Regenerative Approach

We believe our land management actions affect not only the local community but also the global environment. Our strategies aim to continuously improve our land and the planet.

We are:

  • sourcing all our inputs as locally as possible;
  • investigating and adopting renewable energy technologies;
  • Avoiding single use packaging;
  • prioritising local economies;
  • nutrient cycling (the movement and exchange of organic and inorganic matter back into the production of living matter);
  • promoting diversity in social, agricultural and ecological systems.

We do this by:

  • developing and applying whole farm planning;
  • selecting best management practices and trialling and adapting for the local region;
  • recording and sharing findings.
  • offering produce for sale locally.

Technical Resources and Required Documentation for this Practice include:

  •  A property plan developed or approved by the Southern Otway Landcare Network

2. Soil Health

Healthy soil is at the heart of any long term successful farming enterprise. We want to create soils that are highly productive, constantly improving, resilient and stable.

To achieve this we are:

  • increasing topsoil depth and soil diversity;
  • sequestering atmospheric carbon by the creation of humus;
  • nutrient cycling;
  • optimising soil fertility, structure and biological activity.

We are doing this by:

  • Using animals to build the soil fertility via grazing techniques
  • The seasonal management of animals to optimise soil health and minimise compaction and pugging
  • Application of locally sourced natural additives eg lime, seaweed.
  • fencing and appropriate stocking densities
  • managing for perennial diversity in pasture
  • Protecting and managing remnant forests (see Restoration and Conservation)
  • Fencing off dams to control erosion and providing alternative stock watering options

We monitor soil health by:

  • annual assessment of pasture cover and composition (surface)
  • annual Rapid Soil Assessment and penetrometer readings (below surface)
  • tree cover and composition using SOLN Rapid Forest Assessment (trees)
  • five yearly comprehensive soil tests with an independent laboratory

Technical Notes and Required Documentation for these practices are:

  • Rapid Soil Assessment Tool
  • NRM South Planned Grazing Guide (pasture management practices that increase topsoil depth, nutrient cycling, soil biology and carbon sequestration)
  • Practices for the management of forest soils are described in the Section on Restoration and Conservation
  • Pasture assessment (Graeme Hands Sheet)
  • Resources on pasture rotation

3. Animal Wellbeing

The wellbeing of our animals is not only an ethical priority, but ensures that the highest quality produce results.

To ensure their wellbeing our animals are:

  • raised locally;
  • allowed to range freely with appropriate shelter available;
  • given access to good feed and clean water
  • stocked at appropriate densities (see specific breed standards and Soil Health Practices);
  • used in planned rotation of range/pasture;
  • protected from predation;
  • given no growth promotants or sub-clinical antibiotics;
  • handled quietly to minimize stress;
  • transported humanely;
  • given adequate supervision during high risk periods such as calving, lambing and farrowing;
  • maintained in good condition throughout the year.

To ensure the optimal wellbeing of our animals, we are:

  • choosing breeds/varieties based on suitability to sites and local micro-climates;
  • minimizing feed inputs;
  • minimizing and documenting use of antibiotics, drenches and vaccinations;
  • using pain mitigation where feasible and appropriate;
  • using sentinel animals and appropriate fencing to humanely control feral predators.
  • choosing closest available licensed slaughter facilities;

For every animal category we have a unique set of minimum standards

3.1 Beef Cattle

Using our regenerative methods, our beef cattle are an essential part of a pasture system that improves soil health and results in the sequestration of atmospheric carbon into the soil.

Our beef cattle are:

  • grass fed
  • stocked at levels that are consistent with maintaining and improving the condition of soil and pasture;
  • only moved off farm if soil and/or animal health is compromised;
  • de-horned before 6 weeks of age, if at all;
  • castrated by ringing before 12 weeks, if at all;
  • never exposed to electric prods;
  • not to be sold as meat if they have required treatment with antibiotics during their lifetime;
  • prepared for slaughter in a manner than ensures meat quality and tenderness.

(* note that registered stock may be fed grain and/or pellets as required during preparation for showing or stud sales).

The following animal health measurement tools are used to monitor the condition of our cattle:

  • fat scores;
  • dung scores;
  • hip scores.

Technical Notes and Required Documentation for these practices are:

  • Hip and Dung Scores
  • Animal records (list of meds animals have had)
  • Stocking rates – determined by pasture management techniques
  • Meat and Livestock Australia standards and guidelines

3.2 Laying Chickens

Our laying chickens are integrated with overall property management. They not only find much of their diet from the grass and insects but also improve soils via their manure.

Our Chickens are:

  • stocked at a maximum density on range of 750 mature birds per hectare (higher densities are permitted during ‘brooding’ and pullet phase); higher density stocking is permitted on ‘rapid rotation’ pasture, offering fresh pasture every 2 weeks using mobile chicken ‘caravans’;
  • given ad lib access to supplementary grain and pellet feed, sourced as locally as possible;
  • not de-beaked nor wing clipped or burnt;
  • given at least 8 hours darkness and 6 hours natural light and free forage during every 24 hour period;
  • given access to dust baths; and
  • their eggs are collected daily, kept in cool storage and cleaned with non-chlorine solution.

The following animal health measurement tools are used to monitor the condition of our chickens:

  • egg condition;
  • plumage condition;
  • dropping scores.

Technical Notes and Required Documentation for this Practice Are:

 Health and Wellbeing Checklist for Laying Chickens (to be developed)

3.3 Sheep


Our sheep play an important role in pasture management in hard to access areas and in the control of weed species, as well as providing meat and wool.

Our Sheep are:

  • fed only on grass and hay with occasional fruit forage;
  • stocked at levels that are consistent with maintaining and improving the condition of soil and pasture;
  • born on farm;
  • sold as lamb meat at a maximum of 12 months of age, as hogget between 12 months and two years and as mutton, over 2 years;
  • no mulesing;
  • shorn and crutched at a frequency and timing that best supports animal health and welfare;
  • not to be sold as meat if they have required treatment with antibiotics during their lifetime.

The following animal health measurement tools are used to monitor this practice:

  • Fat scores / Dung scores / Hip Scores

Technical Notes and Required Documents for this Practice Are:

  • Shearing and Crutching Guidelines
  • Hip and Dung Score Checklists

3.4 Pigs

Pigs are excellent for processing organic waste and are also used to plough and clear difficult sites.

Our Pigs are:

  • provided with access to free-range pasture and/or forested areas;
  • given shelter that provides farrowing sows ample room to move, including clean bedding comprising edible organic material;
  • given locations for wallows;
  • never fitted with nose rings;
  • castrated only before 2 weeks of age, if at all;
  • not to be sold as meat if they have required treatment with antibiotics during their lifetime.

The following animal health measurement tools are used to monitor the condition of our pigs:

(In development)

4. Plant health and diversity

We believe that maintaining the availability and diversity of food crops is good for the health of our plants and the people who consume them.

4.1 Annual plant crops

Our practices for annual plant production will:

  • improve and maintain the fertility, biological activity, and organic matter of soil via any combination of rotations, composts, green manures, and mulches. Synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, or chemical fertilisers are not permitted.
  • where necessary, use mineral supplements and/or activators. We will maintain records of soil amendment use.
  • improve and maintain good soil structure and reduce the loss of carbon via well-timed and minimal tillage practices
  • follow a crop rotation plan to reduce the incidence of pests and diseases, and maintain soil fertility.
  • grow a range of crops each year to maintain a good rotation and biodiversity.
  • use integrated pest management techniques, which include monitoring practices, exclusion, and biological controls.
  • provide for habitat for beneficial pollinators and predators in the farm plan.
  • use sustainable weed management practices, e.g. : any combination of cultivation, cover cropping, mulching, stale seed bed techniques and smothering.
  • support ethical seed companies that promote biodiversity, and save seed where practical.
  • seedlings will be propagated on-farm or sourced locally.
  • avoid or minimise the consumption of single-use plastics. When plastics are used choose biodegradable or recyclable options where available.
  • preference passive solar and renewable resources where possible.

4.2 Tree crops

Productive tree crops provide environmental benefits in addition to food, wood products etc. We:

  • choose trees that are suitable for site and conditions
  • choose species without weed or hybridisation potential
  • preference the use of heritage varieties
  • support select harvest and regenerative forest practices
  • do not use synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides
  • integrate livestock where possible and desirable e.g. with exotic tree crop species

Technical Resources and Required Documentation for these Practices include:

  • ProSilva Forestry Standards
  • An agroforestry plan developed or approved by the Southern Otway Landcare Network

5. Restoration & Conservation of the Natural Environment

Otway Coast Regenerative Farmers live surrounded by the Great Otway National Park. Our practices respect the special environmental values of the Park.

We:

  • work towards 5% or less weed cover in areas of native vegetation
  • commit to fencing off (20m from the waterway edge) and revegetating 75% of our waterways and drainage lines (gullies)
  • fence off our dams to increase their environmental values and providing alternative stock watering
  • fence remnant vegetation to exclude stock and connect remnants to others
  • manage wetlands according to best practice
  • plant biolinks and native vegetation shelterbelts that connect to others and remnants
  • use true to EVC plants

We do this by:

  • assessing the quality of our native vegetation
  • considering conservation objectives when developing whole farm plans
  • developing conservation projects in conjunction with the Southern Otway Landcare Network
  • undertaking ecological management where appropriate (eg: ecological silviculture, enhancement planting, allowing for fallen and hollow trees etc)

Technical Resources and Required Documentation for this Practice Include:

  • A property plan developed or approved by the Southern Otway Landcare Network
  • Southern Otway Landcare Network Planting and Seed Collection Guide
  • SOLN Rapid Forest Assessment Tool

6. Community engagement, education and involvement

Community, and our active part in it, is at the core of all of our farming and market activity.

We are:

  • committed to sharing knowledge;
  • transparent and open about product descriptions and provenance;
  • in partnership with Landcare;
  • actively participating in relevant local groups and activities.

We want to contribute to building a local community that is:

  • socially connected, strong and diverse;
  • values our principles and practices;
  • supports local business.

We do this by:

  • advocating regenerative practices
  • opening our farms to the community, seeking engagement and feedback;
  • using peer to peer learning;
  • seeking to continuously improve our practices;
  • attending discussion groups of OCRF and other information sharing forums; inviting community members to participate in these.
  • making our practice standards publicly available.

We measure this with:

  • social indicators of resilience (tool currently under development);
  • our practice scorecard.

Technical Resources and Required Documentation include:

  • Current Membership of your local Landcare Group
  • Current Membership of Otway Coast Regenerative Farmers

7. Standards for Cottage Producers

Otway Coast Regenerative Farmers aim to support primary producers at all scales. Backyard producers are an important part of the local food economy and can contribute high quality local produce through sale and / or barter.

Backyard producers contributing occasional and / or small quantities of produce for sale through Otway Coast must meet the following minimum standards. Producers may wish to consult Otway Coast Regenerative Farmers Principles and Practice Standards for greater detail or to support scaling up production.

 Regenerative Principles

We believe that primary production at all scales should support environmental and social regeneration. To meet this aim, we:

  • Source our inputs locally (from within a 200km radius) wherever possible
  • Participate in the local food economy by selling, trading or otherwise sharing products within our local communities
  • Investigate and adopt renewable energy
  • Practice nutrient cycling (the movement and exchange of organic and inorganic matters back into living matter)
  • Participate in the local community

Plant production (annual and perennial crops)

Backyard production of plant foods has different practices and environmental impacts to commercial market gardening. Our backyard vegetable growers:

  • Do not use synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides
  • Source and propagate seeds and seedlings locally
  • Improve soil condition with rotation, composts, mulches and use mineral supplements and activators as required

Poultry

Many small scale gardens incorporate poultry and members may at times have excess eggs to sell or trade.

Our poultry:

  • Are given access to good feed, clean water and adequate shelter
  • Allowed to range freely where possible
  • Not given sub clinical antibiotics
  • Have not been de-beaked or wing clipped

Home Produce

Home Produce includes pickles, jam and other value added products that may be offered for trade or sale. Home produce should:

  • Primarily incorporate locally grown ingredients
  • Be prepared in accordance with appropriate food handling requirements

Selling products

Members may sell backyard produce through Otway Coast Regenerative Farmers provided that all relevant food safety and handling requirements have been met. This information can be obtained from the Shire of Colac Otway.

© Otway Coast Regenerative Farmers. All rights reserved. Reproduction and publication is not permitted without written permission of OCRF.