It’s not often you come across a farmer who is truly gifted and will leave you with goosebumps when they talk so passionately about their farm. Yvonne Ellis runs Baranbali Farm with her partner David and family in the Conondale valley. Farming 80 acres producing organic beef, lamb and pork to sell at a local market and from their farm gate each Friday afternoon.
Yvonne is originally from Ireland and grew up on a mixed arable dairy farm before coming out to Australia as a young backpacker. A former nurse, her childhood is in her blood an animal person through and through. With the passion of creating healthy soil to feed the grazing livestock, Yvonne tells me “the animal is as healthy as the ground you put it on”.
Walking with Yvonne around the property I get a sense of hope for future young farmers. We talk about ethics, farming techniques and visit every animal on the farm. I first met Morrie the maremma dog on arrival soon followed by her two pups. Once I was acknowledged Morrie went back to her duties of sheep protecting. Maremma’s are known for their loyalty to the animal they are bonded with. The dogs look after the small flock of Black Suffolk which is a British meat sheep. The flock are about to start lambing in a couple of weeks and I look forward to going back to see the lambs bouncing around the field. Yvonne shared with me that is common to see the dogs and sheep bond by licking each others faces. What sucked me in with these dogs are their eyes, their return gaze of endless love you can’t help but fall in love with them. No wonder the sheep are well looked after by their guardians as they love them so much.
Above: Morrie and below the two pups – Perry and Etty
Black Suffolk Sheep
Yvonne with her beautiful horse.
Food is an important issue for all farmers, feeding your livestock through winters, dry springs or through a drought is vital to keeping them healthy and happy. Yvonne tells me that they are working the soil in the paddocks first by ripping them and then laying the seed of different grains and cereals to feed the stock. This process is rotated to build up the soil quality and done in the areas where the sheep, pigs or cattle will be moving to.
David walking through one of the sheep’s paddocks
The little ones run down to greet the pigs before us.
14 week old piggies.
Mr Simon & Sarah – Mumma & Pappa
Roy and I have talked about getting pigs for years now and we finally have the property to do it on but not the infrastructure. Yvonne shared with me a few things to keep your pigs happy and think about before jumping in to parenthood. Firstly all the pigs are free range they have plenty of grass to eat, soil to turn and water to play. With pigs water is a vital part of their habitat as well as quenching a thirst. Plumbing and pigs from what I have been told can be a total disaster. The push system below is the best way to stop pigs from turning over their water source. The water pipes are also well hidden from these clever animals. The fencing surrounding the pigs runs on solar and runs at 400o volts which keeps them in though Yvonne explained if you keep your pigs fed and happy they are not likely to run.
Yvonne and David designed the arcs on pallets so they are movable like the fencing so the pigs can be moved easily to fresh pasture. Recently Arabella one of the pigs gave birth to some piglets and Yvonne explained to me how differently pigs farrow. They like to get the farrowing sow in its own enclosure with fresh green pasture and a warm arc with plenty of straw so they are comfortable. Yvonne uses the rare breed Wessex-saddle back to produce her pork products.
Arabella in her wallow while keeping an eye on the young piglets.
The chooks have a movable house that moves weekly to a new spot, the compost from the droppings fertalises the soil beneath it. The breed are White Sussex except a couple of brown wyandottes they all provide the eggs for the family. The chooks are free range and run happily around the paddock.
With a small heard of Murray Greys rotation grazing Yvonne showed me around the mineral station. This is a new system for me to see, I had never heard of it. We use to feed the cows big salt block or molasses occasionally but this system is set up for the cows to self medicate. They know when they need a particular mineral and they will get it when they need. Above in the buckets from clockwise top left: Seaweed meal, empty, Himalayan pink salt, sulfur, copper sulfate and dolomite. Each day the are brought up to the mineral station where they get fed and take shelter for the night.
Yvonne with her prize winning rooster which I visited at the Maleny Show.
Yvonne has big plans for the farm and working with BFA she hopes to create an education facility for school tours and education programs. In the mean time you can pop down each Friday as Yvonne opens her doors and sells her organic lamb, beef and pork. Visiting the farm will give you the understanding of the farming process seeing the animals as you drive into the property. You can also put in orders as I hear the lamb is very popular and sells out quick along with the pork belly because it is that good.