Greg and Sally flipped their pasture management system to achieve lower production costs, pasture health, weed management and an increase in bull and heifer weight gain.

Dulverton Angus is a seedstock Angus stud established by Greg and Sally Chappell over four decades ago.

In 2001, after outgrowing their previous properties at Willowtree and Moree, the couple moved their stud to Shannon Vale Station, a 1,200-hectare grazing property just outside Glen Innes, NSW. At the time, they were managing their property using conventional farming methods. Each season they were battling poor pasture health, infertile soil and a dominance of undesirable species by spraying, regular pasture renovations, and superphosphate and nitrogenous fertiliser applications.

Despite their efforts, they were trapped in a cycle of input dependence and saw little lasting improvement. Shannon Vale had poor productivity and profitability, and they knew something needed to change.


Farm/Enterprise Name: Dulverton Angus Stud

Farm/Enterprise Location: Glenn Innes, New South Wales, Australia

Type of Enterprise: Beef cattle stud

Primary Markets Served: Commercial beef cattle operations

Property Size: 1,200 ha

Property Elevation: 1,062m

Average Annual Rainfall: 900mm

Climate: Temperate oceanic

Soil Types: Sandy loam



After spending the first four years at Shannon Vale managing their land with conventional farming practices, the Chappells decided to start looking into reducing their synthetic inputs. 'The cost of inputs and the amount required to be effective were increasing significantly,' says Greg. Some of the inputs were also raising health concerns. 'It got to the point where you would open a container, and you'd immediately feel sick.'

It got to the point where you would open a container, and you'd immediately feel sick.

The pastures had previously been managed under a high input and regular pasture tilling and recultivation system. They were in a cycle of dependence on inputs, spending almost all their gross margin on the maintenance of their pasture and seeing most pastures return to at least 80% undesirable species after sowing. They were also relying on costly supplement grain to sustain bull weight gain.

The property also suffered from numerous areas of severely compacted soil known as 'hard pans'. Greg suspects that this soil compaction was likely caused by the over-application of nitrogen to the land. 'Soil is a three-dimensional substrate,' explains Greg. 'It has a chemical component, a structural component and a biological component. Modern agriculture has focused mostly on the chemical component, using more and more inputs to sustain farming at the expense of the biological and structural component of the soil.'

Modern agriculture has focused mostly on the chemical component (of the soil), using inputs to sustain farming at the expense of the biological and structural component of the soil.

Desirable species were not growing in the hard pans, as the layer of soil a couple of centimetres under the surface was too compacted for roots to penetrate. These areas consisted mostly of weeds or bare ground. Greg and Sally needed to break up these hard pans and start to restore the biological and structural components of these areas so that they could support the growth of fodder.


To reduce fertiliser reliance, they began building organic matter in their soils using manure sourced from feedlots. They then started experimenting with developing a compost to increase the efficiency of the manure exponentially. Eventually, they were able to develop a recipe and a 22-week long pasteurisation process to create a compost, of which 400 kilograms was as effective as 8-10 tonnes of raw manure. This compost was the key to building up the soil's organic matter and, because of it, Greg and Sally were able to phase out synthetic fertiliser inputs completely.

Compost was the key to building up the soil's organic matter and, because of it, they were able to phase out synthetic fertiliser inputs completely.

Weed control without using synthetic herbicides was the second and perhaps more challenging issue to address. Shannon Vale Station had significant issues with undesirable species overtaking pastures and making a huge dent in Dulverton's productivity.

Greg and Sally took the approach of managing their soil health to support healthy pastures. They achieved most of their pasture rejuvenation by creating the growing conditions required for previously sown desirable species to become re-established.

One of their most dominant undesirable species was African lovegrass, which has no nutritional value as fodder and inhibits the production of desirable pasture species by blocking sunlight and access to nutrients and moisture. They used a slasher and mulcher on pastures that were completely overrun with African lovegrass to chop the weeds into very small pieces, which then acted as a mulch layer across the soil. The newly available space and sunlight allowed desirable species to revegetate while the mulch and roots of the African lovegrass broke down, making nutrients available for desirable species.

Ripping into the hardpans.

To address the hard pan issue caused by the decades of heavy chemical applications, the couple needed to bring in specialised equipment. They had a custom machine built by Ausplow to deep rip the hard pans several centimetres under the surface without disturbing the topsoil. This method ensured they were not exposing topsoil to potential erosion or further nutrient loss.

The new machine, however, was far more than just an innovative ripper. As well as delivering natural liquid fertilisers and seed, an attached press wheel compacted the soil around the seed, promoting germination and seedling establishment. Essentially it was a one-pass machine to correct the severely degraded and compacted areas of the property and reestablish healthy pastures.


Tough love pays off with the resurgence of preferred species.

The new management systems have allowed Greg and Sally to stop using synthetic inputs completely, while increasing their pasture's resilience, soil fertility, ground cover and carbon content. Dormant seeds of preferred perennial pasture species, such as cocksfoot, fescue and clovers, have re-emerged and are now competing with and dominating less-desirable species. While extensive pasture renovation is now a thing of the past, they do direct drill seed when necessary.

Unfortunately, the Chappells had to stop using the compost brew they developed as they no longer have access to the feedlot manure. Instead, they have started using a product from Organic Nutrients called BioMax. The organic, nutrient-rich compost is made from poultry manure mixed with sawdust, composted for 22 weeks and screened to 10 millimetres. It has been used with great results in broadacre and horticulture applications for over a decade.

Their new management system has improved soil and pasture health and dramatically cut costs. They have also noted increased sustained growth rates in bulls year round as well as a marked decrease in reliance on supplementary feed.

Their new management system has improved soil and pasture health and dramatically cut costs.

Today, Greg and Sally are committed to breeding genetically high-performing Angus bulls, as well as stewarding their land to leave it in a better condition than when they arrived. Their record sale prices, lush pastures, industry accolades and peer respect stand as testimony to the success of their journey.