Sustainable Farming (Agriculture)

Course CodeBAG215
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment
Learn to make a farm more sustainable in every way
  • Environmentally
  • Financially
  • Ethically

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Sustainable ways of farming
    • Whole farm planning
    • Land Management programs
    • Sustainable ways of farming
    • Natural farming
    • Organic farming
    • Permaculture
    • No Dig techniques
    • Biodynamics
  2. Soils
    • Growing media
    • Major types of soil problems
    • Soil structural decline
    • Erosion
    • Salinity
    • Acidification
    • Soil improvements
    • Phytotoxicity
    • Adding organic matter to soils
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Conservation tillage
    • Plant nutrition
    • Soil life
    • Cover crops
  3. Water
    • Types of water storage
    • Livestock water requirements
    • Water problems
    • Water quality
    • Reed beds
    • Water saving measures
    • Recycling
    • Swales and Keylines
    • Irrigation systems
  4. Land Care
    • Weed Management
    • Preventative measures
    • Tree management
    • Timber lots/plantations
    • Wind breaks
    • Wildlife corridors
    • Wildlife habitats
    • Pest and diseases
  5. Financial Sustainability
    • Economic principles
    • Developing a Farm Business Plan
    • Financial plan
    • Controlling growth
    • Value adding
    • Enterprise mix
    • Eco-tourism
  6. Broad Management Strategies
    • Toward better planning
    • Land care or land management
    • New enterprises
    • Broad management categories
    • Marketing
    • Personal welfare
    • Plan drawing of farm
    • Looking at risk
    • Quality systems
  7. Plant Enterprises
    • Crop management
    • Hydroponic fodder
    • Hay
    • Considering new crops
    • Nuts
    • Organic farming
    • Agro-forestry
    • Hydroponics
    • Herbs
  8. Animal Enterprises
    • Deer
    • Ostriches
    • Emus
    • Alpacas
    • llama
    • Goats
    • Aquaculture
    • Wool and meat production
    • Horses

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

How Much Does a Farm Need to Change?
Change is an inevitable reality in today's world. It is rare to find any farm whether berry grower or beef grower, who can afford to run every aspect of their farm the same way as it was done a generation ago. As we move into the future, the inevitability of change is not diminishing. Farms of the future will need to keep reinventing themselves, to produce what people want to buy; and to produce it in a way they want to buy it.
People no longer want to just buy beef; but they want certain types of beef: perhaps Wagu beef or organic beef. Some beef producers have created niche markets for themselves selling value added products (eg. Dried Beef). Every farm product has the potential to keep reinventing itself; and the most sustainable farms will reinvent haw they grow, what they grow and how they market their produce.

Organic milk and organic milk products – cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream – are increasingly popular with consumers. Quality organic milk products, free of contamination, command premium prices in many countries.

Dairying is a seven-day a week enterprise. Processors, retailers and consumers expect reliability of supply, so dairy farmers should be prepared for a large commitment of time and labour to meet the needs of the herd and to satisfy the demands of their customers.

The dairy must be inspected prior to certification. The herd must be healthy and the dairy equipment must be in good working order. The certifier will require that the dairy waste water is treated at source and not discharged into natural waterways.

Ideally the animals should be sourced from organic herds; if this isn’t possible, they must be managed under organic conditions for at least six months before the milk can be sold as organic. Self-replacing herds are recommended, with a maximum of 10% of the herd being allowed from outside farms.

Calves are fed on their mother for at least one week, and then reared on organic milk for at least 12 weeks. The calves are de-budded before they are three months old, and bull calves are castrated using a ring before they are four weeks old.

Animal welfare and hygiene are paramount. The calf pens must be cleaned regularly and calf paddocks rotated regularly to assist scour and parasite management. Sprinklers and shade should be provided in the milking yards. Boiling water or steam sterilisation is used for cleaning the equipment.

Feed should be grown on the farm and all manure should be spread back onto the farm.

Routine use of veterinary medicines and growth hormones is not permitted. If prohibited veterinary treatments are used, animals must be isolated in a quarantine paddock and the milk products withheld for up to six months.

Following Mad Cow Disease food scares, the demand for organic beef significantly increased, especially in Europe and Japan.

Organic beef farming practices are geared towards stress reduction and preventative disease management. Farmers should select hardy breeds that are suitable for the area. On-farm conditions should accommodate the natural behaviour of the livestock. Access to the outdoors, shade and shelter must be provided. Excessive crowding of animals is prohibited - the space allotted per animal is generally twice that given animals in a non-organic farm.

Non-organic breeder stock may be brought into an organic farm provided the animals, if gestating, are brought into the organic operation before the third trimester. There are no restrictions on male breeding stock and the practice of artificial insemination is discouraged.

Preventative health care is practised. This entails sanitary housing, stress reduction, and good pasture management. The use of growth hormones is prohibited.

If prohibited medicines must be used, animals must be isolated and sold as non-organic. Ruthless culling of chronic problem cattle is the best way to develop a healthy herd.

The use of certain vaccinations is permitted by most certifiers; however, antibiotics are prohibited in order to maintain organic status.

Parasite control
A common method of parasite control is the use of diatomaceous earth. This product can be used as a feed ingredient and is claimed to be effective for this purpose. Diatomaceous earth can also be used externally as a dust for lice.

Feed requirements
All feed sources must be certified organic, without exception. Harvesting and processing must also occur in certified facilities.

Manure management
Farmers are required to manage manure so that it does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil or water by plant nutrients, heavy metals or pathogenic organisms.
There are restrictions on the application of raw manure – on-farm composting is highly recommended.
A sustainable farm must not only sustain it's income and what it produces; but also the people involves with the farm and the land resources that support the productivity of the farm.
This course explores all aspects of farm sustainability and helps you develop a foundation for understanding sustainability in a very broad sense; that allows you to adapt and apply yourself to the changes and challenges of the future.

More from ACS