organically bred

    organically raised

   organically certified    


Links and Information



Links and Information



This page is for links and information that Irrabina has found interesting and informative relating to farm practices . Since 2000, Irrabina has been changing over to organic ideas and practices without being too rigid in our thinking. On occasions we've had to use a chemical (eg when the cattle have had lice and what we were doing wasn't working...we've sorted that one out). We've used various organic ideas from remineralisation of the soils to using the bio-dynamic preparations in Autumn and Spring. For some years prior, we've been using Allan Savory's Holistic Resource Management ideas for stock and pasture management.

The hardest part we've found in going this way has been the change in our thinking from 20th century chemical based thinking to 19th and 21st century 'natural' thinking. And it's working. The soil, the grasses and the livestock reflect this. We're especially thankful to Pat Coleby, her books and advice and recommend all her writings.







Herbal Remedies


Vacuuming the pasture
Soil Testing


Giving treatments
Herbal Drench
Mineral lick

Australian Galloway Association
The Galloway Cattle & Beef MarketingAssociation


Scaly leg


Bio Dynamics

Holistic Resource Mgt
Pat Coleby

Apple Cider Vinegar *new*


100 Years Ago
Hill to Abattoir
The Grange Herd

The Glenturk Herd
The Harting Herd
The Chapel of Logan Herd
The Castle Milk Herd
1964 Smithfield Show

1964 Opinion
Irrabina Galloways
Steer Competition











Healthy Cattle

Pat Coleby
Published by Landlinks Press
PO Box 1139
Collingwood Vic 3066


Natural Goat & Alpaca Care
Pat Coleby
Published by Landlinks Press
PO Box 1139
Collingwood Vic 3066

Angora Goat Husbandry
Alma Bode
Mimosa Press
Charters Towers
North Queensland 4820

Goat Husbandry
David Mackenzie
Faber & Faber Ltd
24 Russell Square
London WC1


Herbal Handbook for Farm & Stable
Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Out of print. Try 2nd hand and antique bookshops

Burnets Bookshop


Natural Farming and Land Care
Pat Coleby
Grass Roots Publishing Ltd
PO Box 117
Seymour Vic 3661

Holistic Resource Management
Allan Savory
Gilmour Publishing
P.O. Box A100
Harare Zimbabwe


Practical Poultry Keeping
David Bland
Crowood Press
Ramsbury, Marlborough
Wiltshire SN8 2HR













Vacuuming the Pasture


A strange title but refers to the practice of piling up all fallen branches and logs and burning them to look like a little bit of England in the Australian environment.Of course, this applies to livestock operations, not cropping.

Too much fallen litter can be a problem getting around the property on bikes, etc but we find that leaving a large amount of the litter encourages the whole chain of natural bio-diversity from microbes, fungii, insects, wildlife, birds, etc.

This seems to have a healthy effect on the property overall, keeping a balance and harmony on Irrabina. We do tidy up fallen trees and areas where there is a large amount of fallen branches but if we can drive over the paddocks on the 4 wheel bike without too much trouble then we find that is a good guide to what to clean up. As with all our farming practices, we adapt to our requirements.

There are no hard and fast rules but intuition and common sense seem to work.








We wanted Irrabina to be self productive, for the soils and grasses to be self generating and this meant getting a proper balance in the first place. The first thing was to have the soil tested by an independent laboratory. The results were then analysed by Pat Coleby, with the correct minerals and quantity advised by her applied to the pasture. Under our conditions, we applied natural gypsum (this is important - do not use the processed gypsum as it has a high lead content), dolomite and lime.

We shopped around the farm produce suppliers and they arranged the transport. The minerals can't be applied by an ordinary super spreader as they're too fine. We contracted a professional spreader who had the right equipment (truck, bobcat and a specially equipped spreader).

This was in 2001 and ideally we would have retested the soil 12 months later to guage the response of the soil. The sever drought meant that up until 2003, we haven't been able to successfully do this. However, we did notice the increase in dung beetles and worms in the paddocks and the general health of all the stock indicated that something was working.

As well, all through the drought, even though we had to hand feed the cattle and the goats, we didn't seem to need as much feed as we would have thought and both the cows and the does did exceptionally well raising their calves and kids as well as maintaining body weight and condition. With increased rains we will retest the soil and mineralise again if indicated by the results.









Giving Treatments to Cattle


This is how we administer herbal drenches, lice remedies, etc for oral treatments. It saves getting the cattle in, drafting them, putting them up the race, catching them in the head bail and the stress to both cattle and yourself.

The basic idea is to pour the treatment over hay and feed out the hay. This works a treat. Of course, you can't be sure that all the cattle are getting their share but given that herbal, organic treatments aren't as strict in the dosage control as are the commercial drenches, we find that all the cattle benefit using this method. It is IMPORTANT to make the treatment palatable and we use MOLASSES.
The molasses makes the treatment palatable and is also oily and sticky so the powders break up more easily and are absorbed by the hay more easily. A small amount in a bucket (say 2 cups is plenty), add your treatment (either liquids or powders) and slowly add HOT WATER out of the tap, stirring all the time. Everything gets mixed in. Even copper sulphate will be fine getting wet if you are putting out the treatment straight away.

We never pre-mix. Do it just as you are to put it out. Apart from not destroying properties of some ingredients, it's important to pour the hot water over the hay. This helps soften the hay and gets it to absorb the mixture. Use a handful of hay to rub in any lumps of the ingredient sitting on top of the hay. This is easy as the lumps will be softened by the hot water and the hay will absorb the crushed lumps.

The first time you put out hay treated this way, the cattle will be wary at first but will quickly start to eat it. Once they know what the strange smells are they won't hesitate from then on.










In our area, cattle susceptible to lice will get them about July, especially if they aren't eating enough of the mineral lick. We haven't had lice in goats on Irrabina although we have had lice in sheep. We've had them in the cattle at times and rather than use a pour on as we have done in the past, we use a very simple and easy cure. Mostly it takes 4-5 days but can take longer depending on how bad the infestation is. We use SULPHUR. You can buy it in bulk from your produce supplier.

For goats
use 1 TEASPOON per animal mixed with warm water. Administer orally using a drench gun or syringe at the rate of say 20ml per animal. That is, mix up enough sulphur at 1 teaspoon per animal in 20ml water times the number of goats.

For cattle,
use about 1 TABLESPOON per head per day, which works out to be about 30 grams per head per day. For 35 head (don't worry about size and weight, just number head), that's about 1kg. For 35 head, buy 5kgs of powdered sulphur (not the grains) which will last 5 days. We see a reaction (ie no licking of the body, no rubbing against trees, the coats are dry with more sheen) after 2 days but complete the 5 day treatment. Mix up and feed out as per giving treatments.

After 5 days, even if you see only one animal still licking itself or rubbing, continue the treatment for all for another 5 days. It's simple and relatively cheap.








Mineral Lick


This is Pat Coleby's recipe, published in all her books. It's a meal that stock eat as they want it rather than a lick block. When we first mixed it up, we were mixing it up for the goats and cattle every 4 days as they were eating so much, telling us that they were lacking in minerals and nutrients.

After a month and after remineralising the paddocks, we now mix it up once every 6 to 10 months. The goats, cattle and horses rarely eat it - they obviously don't need to. Get all the ingredients from your produce supplier (or bulk seaweed from Gippsland). Just tip all the ingredients into a wheel barrow and mix with a shovel.

You'll need to break up the lumps in the copper sulphate and sulphur either by hand or with your boots while it's in a plastic bag. It's IMPORTANT that if the copper sulphate gets wet it loses its properties and you need to replace it.

We periodically put out the lick for the cattle as per giving treatments - about a tablespoon per head is a mouthful - when they aren't eating much of the lick. The goats can have it added to the regular herbal drench - about 1 teaspoon per head.

25kgs dolomite
4kgs copper sulphate
4kgs sulphur powder
4kgs seaweed meal












On Irrabina, we aim for all the stock to be self coping with whatever worm burden they may carry. If the goats or cattle exhibited the outward signs of an heavy worm infestation (dry coat, lack of condition, listlessness, anemia - pale gums and eyelids) we would give the mineral lick containing copper sulphate as well as the herbal drench containing garlic as per giving treatments.

A worm test tells us how effective these treatments are. We haven't used commercial chemical drenches since 2000. There are some supposedly 'safe' drenches available on the market and we are prepared to use them if it is necessary. We'd just rather not.





Herbal Drench


We use the drench on the goats EVERY 2 MONTHS as maintenance rather than prevention or cure. On Irrabina, we want all the livestock to be self generating in condition and robustness. At times we do have an animal that needs extra attention with drenches, vitamin injections, etc. The cattle don't need it.

For goats, give the drench orally with a drench gun or a syringe and administer the cod liver oil separately from the drench as it is oily and doesn't mix well with the other liquids.

For cattle, mix the cod liver oil with the other liquids as it is being put out in bulk as per giving treatments.

The main drench can be mixed with water to bulk it up. Note: Make sure that the liquid kelp doesn't have chelated extras as this can cause liver damage. If giving the drench more than one day at a time in succession, reduce the dosage to 2ml for both goats and cattle.






Where to get it
Liquid kelp
Note: Make sure the liquid doesn't have chelated extras
23 of the 25 minerals, iodine, salt
Gippsland Organic Association
Gerhard Grasser (03) 5627 8663
General well-being, worm control
Apple Cider Vinegar
Keeps balanced body PH; easy birthing
Your produce supplier or make your own
Cod Liver Oil
Vitamins A & D; soft coats
Your produce supplier



Seaweed Meal


We get ours in 20kg bags from the Gippsland Organic Association (contact Gerhard Grasser on (03) 5627 8663) and is a lot cheaper to purchase this way than from your produce supplier. As well, it's coarser than the seaweed meal from your produce supplier which means it doesn't blow away. We buy either 1/2 tonne or 1 tonne but the shipping costs are the same as these are calculated by the pallet and both quantities fit on 1 pallet.

The seaweed meal contains 23 of the 25 minerals needed for well-being. We use it in the mineral lick and also put it out straight for the goats daily. They will limit themselves to the amount they need although watch out for the odd greedy animal that will pig out no matter what.

We put out about 2kgs daily in 3 feeding containers between say 50 goats. Some will eat and some won't. Let them decide what they need. The cattle are different. It is expensive to give them ad lib but is excellent if you can isolate a few who need it so that only they will get the meal.

We find the benefits of the seaweed meal are in general well-being meaning better worm control, disease resistance, more robust animals, especially newborns. Seaweed can also be given out in liquid form (see herbal drench) and can be bought from the same place.









Vitamin Injections


We've used these with fabulous results and we're guided by more professional advice such as Pat Coleby and her books. However, we are building on our knowledge and can successfully diagnose and treat animals when the symptoms are familiar or similar. In our 'fridge, we always keep vitamins B1, B12 and C as well as VAM. All these can be bought at your produce supplier. We'd suggest that you use books and professional advice until you have gained some experience.





Fluid Retention


We've had this problem 'tho it hasn't happened for a long time. It's also known as water belly (in sheep) and we've had the fluid retention not only on the belly but under the chin and on the legs down to the hocks with the fluid oozing through the skin. It can be a painful condition and generally you'd put down the animal if it's suffering or weak. However, we have given MAGNESIUM OROTATE with excellent results.
Crush a tablet or two in a mortar and pestle giving about 1 TEASPOON and then mix this with about 1 teaspoon of DOLOMITE (or use the mineral lick if you have it made up). Buy the tablets from the chemist rather than from the health food shop - it's cheaper.
Or directly from from a supplier. We've used - about $36 for 150 400 mg tablets. Feed it directly into the mouth - it will be eaten and absorbed by the membranes of the mouth lining.
Don't forget to hold the goat's mouth closed long enough to swallow as it will spit the powder out.









This is a thing of the past for us but plagued young kids until we mineralised the pasture. The symptoms are a pre-occupied kid whose head is tilted up, stiff necked and a glazed look in the eyes. The kid won't feed properly and will eventually die. It has an appearance of being brain dead. Always slow, lagging behind the others. We found the reason and the treatment in a 1973 magazine on dairy goats, obtained from Ross Burnet's Bookshop. It's CALCIUM DEFICIENCY. Give calcium powder (you can get it from the chemist - as for puppies and kittens) one teaspoon in 30ml water in a syringe orally.

The results are almost immediate - within an hour. You won't need further treatment. It's like a kick start to the animal. Having treated the paddocks with minerals our animals are now getting enough calcium from the grasses and from their mothers' milk so this problem no longer happens for us.






Pat Coleby


"Pat Coleby has over 30 years experience in mineral husbandry and an interest in the relationship between conditions of the land and the health of the animals" (from the cover of her books). The fact that Pat has the experience of working with animals and the land in practical situations we find relative to our problems and questions in the remedies she prescribes through her writings and in person. Her contact details are 91 Church St, Maldon Vic 3463 (03) 5475 2680.





Soil Testing


This isn't hard. The idea of it seems to be daunting but once we decided to start being more organic in our management it was so easy to test the soil and only took an hour of walking around to do it.

After talking to Pat Coleby we decided we needed two samples - one from the half of the property that had been supered 5 years previously and another sample from the other half that hadn't had any fertilisers. This meant about 30 soil samples from each area. Just walk over the area to be tested, digging up soil and putting it in the bucket (any amount as you will mix it all together in the bucket and then send off 1kg to the lab, so don't go overboard).

When you have the soil, mix it well with your hand and put about 1kg in a plastic bag and send it to the lab. It is IMPORTANT that you use an INDEPENDENT laboratory that is not aligned with a chemical or fertilizer company. We used S.W.E.P. PO Box 583, Noble Park Vic 3174 (Ted Mikhail). Enclose a letter asking that the results be sent to Pat Coleby. When you receive the results, contact her after a further 4 days (to allow for the results to get to her) and she will advise what minerals are required and how much you need. Then get on the phone and organise delivery and spreading (see mineralisation). It really isn't difficult - you just have to pay for it.

Once we'd mineralised, within a month we saw the difference in the well-being of the animals - they were much calmer, their coats had more gloss and they seemed to be more robust. We were very glad that we had done this when the drought of 2001 - 2003 happened as the animals were able to cope with the stressful conditions so much better as well as getting over the flush of clovers that happened when the rains came. One neighbour on a 3,000 acre property that had been heavily supered lost 90 head of cattle to bloat - ours merely got fatter with shinier coats.












This recipe came from the newsletter of the Gippsland Organic Association and is a great substitute for penicillin as well as aiding in worm control. We give it to all the stock as well as the poultry both by itself and as part of the herbal drench. It takes 2 - 3 weeks to make and will keep for a couple of years in the 'fridge. Best to grow your own garlic (in northern NSW, Australia, we plant the shortest day and pick the longest day).

Chop enough garlic (ideal in a blender) to 3/4 fill a 5 litre bucket. Add 1 litre of methylated spirits (breaks down the garlic and evaporates) although if you're going to use it yourself, substitute alcohol. Add enough warm water to cover the chopped cloves.

Make sure you cover the mixture as it smells after about a week. Stir the mixture morning and night. We let it ferment for 3 weeks rather than 2 weeks. Strain the liquid through a sieve into another clean bucket.

Pour the strained liquid into glass jars and store in the 'fridge. You can give the pulp to the stock to eat although we give it to the poultry. For goats, we give 5ml (when sick) down the throat. For the poultry, 10ml for a sick bird works wonders.









Fleece Testing


This is a useful tool to guage the effectiveness of the breeding programme and selection of the breeding (especially bucks) stock for the advancement of the flock overall. It's not hard and relatively cheap. Ideally, we fleece test our young stock at the second shearing rather than the third shearing as this is when we are getting closer to choosing the stock, especially the bucks, which we want to introduce to the breeding programme.

This comes from experience in breeding and selecting stock based on visual appraisal and knowledge of the female lines within the flock.

Third fleece testing is usually a better indicator of the on-going mohair production of any animal as the fleece is becoming more "young goat" in type. However, we find that the second fleece testing is a good indication and verification of our visual appraisal and fits in with offering bucks for sale.

We test our fleeces at the New England Fibre Testing P/L centre, 5 Hamilton St, Walcha 2354 (02) 6777 2122. The costs are $1.60 per sample plus $1 for yield (optonal) plus $1 for an histogram (optional), all plus gst. There is a minimum for one batch of $20 plus gst. Using scissors, cut fleece from the side of the goat, about a handful. Place it in a small plastic bag or envelope with the tag number or tattoo of the animal for identification.











Our chickens are hatched by hens and reared naturally with the hen and then the flock. This means we don't breed as many as using an incubator but those that survive are hardy and will breed hardier stock.

This is not to say that incubator hatched and artificially reared chickens are not hardy but we just prefer the natural methods.

We used to allow a hen to hatch both Wyandottes and Houdans in the same clutch but find that as these 2 breeds develop and mature differently, we have better success if the eggs are kept separately, meaning the chickens don't have an extra burden of competing with a more competitive breed in the same clutch.

The chickens usually hatch over a period of 2 to 3 days and you can safely leave the hen during this hatching period without feeding or watering the chickens (unless it's very hot and then you need to place a small shallow water container near the nest - the hen will show the chicks how to drink).

After 2 - 3 days, the hens often get off the nest. Discard any unhatched eggs unless they appear to have chicks in them (the eggs feel 'heavy') and then you can pop them under another broody hen as they may be taking an extra day. If you do this be sure to remove those extra hatched chicks and put them back with their clutch as the second mother will abandon her own eggs.

We feed our new chicks bread soaked in full cream powdered milk (that has been mixed with hot water) for the first 2 or 3 days. Then give them a starter ration (get this from the produce store). The hen will eat this and we have no problems even though some books will say that the hens shouldn't have it exclusively.

As with all farming practices on Irrabina, we adapt to our own specific needs without following too hard and fast rules.

After 3 weeks, start introducing a grower ration (again, from the produce store). We don't introduce greens until the chicks are at least a month old and then cabbage leaves are great as they can play with them and also get a good feed at the same time. Just play it by ear. Observe how the chicks are developing and how active they are with feeding. If anything, we leave them a little underfed as this promotes their feeding activity and 'search' for food. Don't leave them hungry - just don't leave food lying around. Don't give them more than they can eat.

Another good idea is to germinate seeds (oats, barley, anything) in a cardboard box with worms in the soil. When the shoots are about 4" high, pop the box in with the chickens. The hen will show them how to eat the shoots, scratch the dirt and find the worms. They can demolish the box. This is giving the chicks live feed, microbes in the soil as well as nutritional green feed whilst teaching them to forage. And make sure they always have clean fresh water in a container that is shallow - they will drown if it's too deep.
















This applies to calves as well. Give 1 teaspoon each of dolomite and ascorbic acid mixed in water (a 30cc syringe will do - make that 1 tablespoon each for calves). One treatment is usually enough. If this persists, try another. This is for gut upsets, when something has been eaten and has reacted on the animal. If worms are suspected (check the gums are not whitish - they should be pink) then see the section on worms. You can buy 500g ascorbic acid from your produce supplier or get it direct from a supplier. We've used Animal Health Care Products at Girraween in Sydney (02) 9688 2949 - 750g for about $40.






Apple Cider Vinegar


At Irrabina, we make about 200 litres of apple cider vinegar each year. 1 litre in a 9 litre watering can, mixed with 8 litres of hot water and poured over hay between about 50 cows per day seems the right amount. This suits the conditions here in the New England but you should adjust to suit your area and conditions.

We use Fuji apples as they have a high sugar content and for us make the best juice. You can buy apples in bulk at a local (organic or not) orchard or harvest from your own or wild trees. Roughly 300kgs apples will give 260 litres of apple juice which, when strained, will give about 200 litres of apple cider vinegar. This will vary depending on the season but averages out to these quantities, to give you an idea.

We use a cold press juicer rather than a conventional centrifugal kitchen juicer as the cold press method will give 60% more vitamins, minerals and living enzymes. Remember you're using 100% undiluted, unpasterised apple cider vinegar compared with the bought product which is watered down to usually 4%.

Using a cold press juicer instead of the more conventional apple press is easier and quicker for the same results.

The whole process from apples to apple cider vinegar takes about a month. The longer you leave the vinegar before using the better it seems to get. Just don't let air get to it at this time or the vinegar seems to lose it's tang and potency

It takes about 1 1/2 hours to prepare and juice 15kgs apples. So that's about 30 hours of preparation and juicing of all the apples.

It takes 3 weeks for the apple juice to stop fermenting and start to give that tangy cider smell.

After straining it takes another week for the real cidery aroma that catches in your nostrils.

Buying 300kgs of apples (that's 1 bin) = AUD$120 = 60c per litre of apple cider vinegar. Not only a financial saving to make your own but you're really getting the quality and so the benefit of apple cider vinegar.

A 20 litre container of 4% diluted apple cider vinegar at $100 per container = AUD$125 per litre.

So that's 60c per litre compared with AUD$125 per litre.














  300kgs of Fuji apples costing AUD$120.
  Cut the apples into pieces that will fit through the juicer. Skin, pips, core and flesh all go in to the juicer.

We use an Oscar Vital Max 930 Cold Press juicer. This will stand up to the amount of juicing without overheating.

You get more juice and less pulp than with other juicers. The pulp is quite dry so there's not a lot of juice left in the pulp.

The juicer cost AUD$795 from Vitality 4 Life over the web. The first season of apple cider vinegar really pays for the juicer.

Being a cold press juicer we get the 60% extra vitamins, minerals and living enzymes which you don't get from a conventional press.

It's also easier to use and faster than using a press.


The apple juice goes into a small container which is emptied into a bucket and then into a 200 litre food quality plastic container.

We also have a 60 litre food quality container for the extra juice. Another 200 litre food quality container is used when straining the juice.

These containers were bought (with lids) from our local produce store for AUD$60 each for the 200 litre containers and AUD$40 for the 60 litre container.

The pulp is continuously fed into a bucket so you don't have to stop and clean out the juicer as you go.

  The pulp is fed to the cattle. They clean up every last bit.
  The liquid directly out of the juicer.
  The apple juice is poured into a bucket and when full is then poured into the 200 litre food quality container.

Either keep the lid on loosely to stop insects and let the air to the apple juice to aid fermentation or use cheesecloth folded doubly over the top of the container.

You'll see the froth bubbling as the apple juice ferments. This will slow down over the 3 weeks.

Stir the apple juice daily so that the froth at the top gets fully stirred into the juice.

When the froth dissipates and the bubbling has stopped you'll start to notice a tangy cider smell.


Once the apple cider has stopped fermenting after 3 weeks and you start to get that tangy cider smell, strain the juice through cheesecloth twice: once into the spare 200 litre container and then back into the original container.

Put on the lid so no air gets into the container.

The longer you store it the more mature the apple cider vinegar. We store ours for about 4 months before giving to the cattle.







































Steve Gapes, "Irrabina"
447 Yarrowyck Crossing,
Yarrowyck via Uralla 2358 AUSTRALIA

011 61 2 6775 5546

Irrabina is a 200 acre organically certified farm at 1,000 metres on the Gwydir River in the New England region of New South Wales Australia, breeding traditional Galloway cattle based on Scottish bloodlines.


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