Image: Winrae Dorpers graze under solar panels at Moree
Northern NSW Dorper breeders Nick and Mel Pagett have struck a unique arrangement with a Moree-based solar company.
The Pagetts are leasing some 284 hectares of land underneath a solar farm at Moree – which produces enough solar energy to power ten towns.
The arrangement is a win-win for both parties and sits nicely with the Pagett’s breeding ethos of “naturally”.
“We have an agreement where we graze animals under the panels,” Mrs Pagett said. “This keeps the grass and weeds down so they don’t have to mow, slash or spray.”
Mrs Pagett said they were able to run 650 ewes and wean at more than 120 per cent.
She said the solar farm was a ‘closed’ environment, which delivered enormous benefits for the stock in regards to biosecurity.
The farm is protected by a 10-foot high chain mesh fence, and security cameras which play a key role in minimizing stock theft.
The farm’s staff check the fences daily, which delivers peace of mind for the Pagett’s who live three hours away at Bundara.
“It aligns with our stud’s ethos of being natural,” Mrs Pagett said.
“Everything we do out there is naturally raised, like on our own property and that works in well with the company’s environmental statement.
“They don’t want to spray chemicals to keep weeds and grass down under the solar panels.
“This has enabled us to expand our numbers because we have an extra couple of paddocks.”
Mrs Pagett said the pasture underneath the solar panels provided a nutritious feed source for the sheep, with largely native western grasses available.
“The pasture grows better because it’s got shade,” Mrs Pagett said.
“A lot of people think the panels get hotter underneath, but they don’t.
“The panels are sun tracking panels so there is always shade. The heat and shade create its own evaporation and transpiration which then makes the grass greener.
“There’s also the benefit of shade at lambing.
“The lambs are protected as some of the predators can’t easily access under the panels.”
Mrs Pagett said the Dorper breed’s suitability to different environments was key to the success of their Dorper sheep operation which was established in 1998 and offers both stud and commercial rams and ewes.
“The stud has been moved around to different environments, originating from between Bourke and Cunnamulla, to expanding and adding higher rainfall country at Warialda and also at Canowindra, and now also the solar farm in Moree,” Mrs Pagett said.
“The breed has always done exceptionally well and has been highly adaptive to a range of environments and growing conditions.
“The Dorper has been the key to that success. We wouldn’t have been able to do it with any other breed.
“I believe it’s because they are such non-selective grazers, along with the fact that Dorper’s have such high fertility and ability to raise their own lambs and keep their quality carcase shape and depth of meat mean they are the only self-replacing meat sheep breed around that can do that.”
Image: Northern NSW Dorper breeders Nick and Mel Pagett
2023 DSSA Journal, Page 40 – 41
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