Charlie Heal is a longtime Mobbler, and recently Jock had the chance to have a chat with Charlie about how he got into farming and what changes he's making to improve farm productivity and the environment. Charlie dives into how Mobble is helping him with this mission.
Charlie Heal is an intergenerational Merino sheep and wool producer from a property called 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’m aware of now in terms of soil function, and how important carbon is...unbeknownst to him, he was still farming in a similar way to how we are now. Giving me a good base to go from.”
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 all the diversity. Right now, without diversity, the whole world can’t function and neither can the farm."
With the help of books and time spent in grazing management courses, Charlie started to introduce a more productive and environmentally adaptive way to manage his farm, Wirrate.
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”.
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.”
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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