May 10, 2021

Turning overgrazed sheep camps into productive pastures with Charlie Heal

Charlie Heal is a longtime Mobbler who recently sat down with Jock to chat about the changes he's making to improve farm productivity and regenerate the land. Charlie dives into how Mobble is helping him with this mission.
Charlie Heal, longtime user of farm livestock management app, Mobble.
Charlie Heal. Photo: AgWe

Charlie Heal is an intergenerational Merino sheep and wool producer from the property Wirrate in North Central Victoria.

Charlie didn’t expect to end up where he is, an innovative farmer pushing the boundaries of new technology and opportunities in the industry. “I had nothing to do with farming for a while. I didn't go to Ag school. I was the only rural person in my whole friendship group”. When he reflects on his upbringing however, the seeds of his current approach were laid early: “Dad ran the property in a gentle way. He probably wasn’t aware of all the things that I am now in terms of soil function, and how important carbon is... but he was still farming in a similar way to how we are now. Giving me a good base to go from.”


Adaptive farming

Inspired by the idea of farming with the environment and not against it, Charlie sees his approach as “environmentally adaptive farming”. “You're always aware of your landscape and its diversity. And without diversity, the world can’t function and neither can the farm."

With the help of mentors, farm management books, and time spent in grazing management courses, Charlie started to introduce more productive and wholistic ways to manage his farm at Wirrate.


Bigger mobs and resting paddocks

One of Charlie’s major focuses is on the diverse aspects of soil function and ecosystem health, which has led him to change his grazing management approach to include rotational grazing with large mobs.

Combining mobs means higher stocking densities and grazing fewer paddocks at a time, which also creates longer paddock rest periods. “As soon as you start getting rest for those plants, it changes completely. And once you start to get on this roll, you start seeing the change. It evens out. When you put a couple thousand animals into one area, they utilise the whole area.” By implementing bigger mobs and resting paddocks Charlie has seen areas that were previously overgrazed sheep camps become some of his best and most productive pastures.

“I think that's the biggest part, you know, how important it is to be aware of the impact the livestock are having on the plants and the land”.


How Mobble helps Charlie’s operation

Charlie admits that he previously found keeping track of paddock rest periods a bit of a hassle.

Now with Mobble in his back pocket, Charlie is finding day to day grazing decisions much easier.  “Now your little tab in Mobble says ‘days rested’. I can just go instantly to that and know, okay, these paddocks had 29 days rest, I can put my sheep back on.”

Charlie credits Mobble with saving him time and facilitating better business decisions, such as responding quickly to new information. “I had just heard the price of the wool we got today. I wanted to get a per head cost for wool cut on my merino weathers that I sold and I was able to do that instantly. Right there. And then rather than thinking about that again, storing that away in your head and thinking, oh, I better do that when I get home, now I can go home and do all the other things you have to do on the farm without worrying.”

Mobble is designed to be simple. The amount of data is only as good as what you put into it, so you can have whizzbang functions but unless you’re going to use them, then they just look pretty.”

A tech future for Wirrate

Charlie has recently started down the path of Responsible Wool Standard certification (RWS), and says Mobble will “literally be the answer in getting this accreditation next month.” “For “RWS certifications, you have to look for your mortality in animals.. And it was easy. I record all of  that with Mobble already.”

Another new process Charlie is trialing is AgWe, which allows farmers to educate their customers on their sustainable processes with unique AgWe Badges and QR code labels: “We put QR codes on our wool bin on the sample boxes, and then that will give you a virtual tour of the place.” Combining the Agwe farm marketing technology and sustainable farm management practices that Mobble helps with - Charlie is already seeing the benefits to his bottom line from getting a premium for his latest wool cut. 

Well-done Charlie and thanks for taking the time to have a chin wag with us at Mobble.

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