Tayla Field’s journey from city girl to hooked on the bush and a career in agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes from Tayla Field who often gets asked “How does a girl from Sydney find herself here?”

This is Tayla’s journey from city girl to hooked on the bush and a career in agriculture

Born and raised in Inner West Sydney, my family connections spread from Rockhampton to the South Coast of New South Wales, with no clear rural connections. Similar to most young children I went through all the phases of potential career choices while growing up, with being a teacher, vet and policewoman crossing my mind.

However during school I gained an interest in environmental issues locally, where I saw the opportunity to work in areas of sustainability and environmental management when looking into potential university courses.

Commencing study at the University of Sydney in a Bachelor of Environmental Systems, I had the opportunity to mix and converse with students from an Agricultural background, along with teachers, farmers and industry professionals.

The idea of an established, changing and exciting food and fibre industry career was put forward  and now realised a career in Australian Agriculture and Horticultural industries was now an exciting and very real option for me

As I was so very excited to start my second year in Agricultural Science, the end of my first year at uni saw me hassling some very helpful members of the faculty to facilitate a course transfer,  Since transferring I have not looked back and have somehow had the the environment comes first knocked out of me by fellow students, leading to a dual interest in sustainable food an fibre production systems working side by side with getting the best outcomes for our planet.

My experience so far has been a diverse tasting plate of livestock, cropping and agronomy, all of which have interesting areas but come with their own challenges.

Working in cattle and sheep yards and leading a heifer for the first time are all experiences with livestock that have been challenging for me, but with the experience comes confidence, control and respect for the animals that you are working with.

I enjoy the livestock side of things, however I am majoring in agronomy in the coming year and have gained a lot from spending some time, with mainly cotton agronomists in the Riverina. I have visited the area at different times of the season and have gained a strong interest in the management of cotton, while recently spending time looking at some wheat and barley production in the winter. I can’t wait to get back out there in late November.

These are all first time experiences that have only taken place since beginning the course in 2013, and I can only think of how great it would have been to learn this when I was younger or have more contact with agriculture.I see an exciting future for me ahead in an industry where every day is a new learning experience

“How did you end up here?”

The answer is

” I have discovered agriculture is an exciting forward thinking career  and I am Hooked!”.

I am hooked on the innovation and technology, the wonderful people I meet and a career in an industry that underpins a bright and sustainable future for Australia .

After all would you agree an office like this – could it get any better

Meet Nick Eyres who believes if you want it bad enough the road to a career in agriculture will pave itself

Today’s guest blog comes from WA Sandgropper Nick Eyres

This is Nick’s story………

Never having written a blog, I don’t really know where to start, but hey, I’m Nick Eyres and I’m attempting to complete my undergraduate BSc in Agricultural Science at University of Western Australia. The hardest question I have to answer any time I meet a new person, is “where are you from?” I s’pose it’s no different when writing a blog?

Anyway I’ll get there. Most of my life has been pretty cruisy I guess, being the youngest of 3 boys (and the tallest) I have always had older brothers looking out for me, they made sure I took all the blame for the drama we got up to when we were kids. Of course, I was always around to beat up when they wanted some quick entertainment. I didn’t understand that game. Naturally, they were bigger then me so I didn’t put up much of a fight until one day, when after they swapped with me all my $2 coins for their 50c coins (they are bigger after all) I told them that “one day I’ll be bigger than you.” Whilst that dream came true but I never got to collect on their debts. Anyway, growing up in Tambellup, like any rural place, family is a big deal so we’ve always been close.

Steve and me (centered) with some cousins having some quality chook time in Tambellup

Eventually, in 2000, we moved to Geraldton, where we farmed in Eradu, following dad’s dream of getting rid of the sheep. But soon we found ourselves in Watheroo putting a crop in, in 2004. This was a ripper farm. I was asked years ago which of our farms was the best, this one came with an Emu called Hector.

Me and Steve picking malee roots in Geraldton

It is pretty awesome looking back on being a kid and being thrown into a new environment all the time, even though sometimes it is hard not knowing anyone, it teaches you at least a couple of things. I went to 6 different primary schools by the time I had finished year 6, at which point we had to move to Perth when dad got diagnosed with the big C, just after the first crop in Watheroo was in the ground. 2004 was a bumper year, one of the best the region had seen in a number of years, but for us it was a different story. My older brothers (Steve and Tom) were both off at boarding school in Perth, so there were many trips for me to the city to await more news from the doctors, and for dad to get his treatment. It was July when he was first diagnosed, and he passed away in December that year. This was a pretty average time for us all, but the amazing thing about it was that we still had a crop that was being harvested. Family and friends called in from all around the state to help us get that crop off, and that’s a pretty incredible thought.

While it’s a pretty sombre thing to share, I reckon it’s the only way I can outline my love for not only agriculture, but the community that comes in the deal. This is exactly why I am passionate about being involved with the industry, and keeping these communities together.

At the gate of Acacia, our last property in Watheroo

Since 2004 I have lived in Perth, with my mum and my brothers until slowly, one by one, we all left home as soon as we could. I finished school in 2010 unsure of what to do, and after working as a labourer for a year, I tried a semester of engineering at UWA to find that it is in fact exactly what I don’t want to do (apparently a common scenario). After discovering that your career should be whatever you enjoy, I started Ag Science and haven’t looked back. I have definitely taken advantage of the student lifestyle too, rediscovering my passion for sport, getting involved with rowing (which I had forgotten about since I finished school) at UWA. I started to train and compete in a High Performance program that took me to the national championships for the last two years, in my bid to make an Australian team.

2013 UWABC mens 8+ winning the state sprint champs

While thus far I have been unsuccessful, it has ignited in me a passion for the sport, and for fitness and a lifestyle that is based around being healthy and active. The satisfaction you get from racing well is something that is bloody addictive, and leaves you hungry for more success. I love the training, the people and the sleeping when you are competing, but the best thing is definitely the food – as much as my heart desires. Yeah, this sport is a little bit of a contrast to the lectures in my undergraduate, but that’s why I think (not my boss when I am asleep in my lunch break) that the two work so well together, and why one has complemented the other so well.

Definitely not a lecture theatre. Me (left) and Sam (in blue) racing the U23 men’s pair in NSW earlier this year.

There are a few things that interest me, with regards to agronomy really. I suppose it could go either way, but while I think there is more clarity in the science behind crops, animal nutrition is a huge frontier for growth. However, having started with a double major in Ag and Chemistry, soil chemistry does tickle my fancy,  but who knows? I do think with the massively expanding technology base being used in Ag systems, there is a huge potential in precision farming in the future.

Mika teaching me the ins and outs of the sheep yards

Finishing 3rd year now, and another year working as a researcher’s assistant at AHRI (Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative) based out of UWA. My days are spent counting seeds in a lab and looking after pot experiments – if I’m not in a lecture – to keep the bread on the table (well, to be honest the bread in our household is free thanks to the art of dumpster diving), but this is all between training and looking after my new kelpie puppy Mika. Keeping a sheep dog occupied when it’s on permanent holiday isn’t hard when all your lecturers love having a dog listen in on the content of the lecture.

None the less I guess I’m starting to think about work opportunities now and what the next step of my life will hold, but really, who knows these days.

Perhaps I can fly drones for a living.

So long as what I choose is a passion, the road will pave itself, right?

Meet Keiley Obrien who is excited to mark her spot in agriculture

Today’s guest blog comes from Keiley O’Brien who says agriculture has always been a part of her life. Just at times she didn’t realise it.

This is Keiley’s story …….

Hello all, my name is Keiley O’Brien and I hail from a very small, very rural town called Gulargambone. 

You can find (Gular for short) in Central West NSW about 115km North of Dubbo and . Out at Gular my father owns and operates a transport company which has been in our family for generations.(Gular for short) in Central West NSW about 115km North of Dubbo and six hours from Sydney.

Out at Gular my father owns and operates a transport company which has been in our family for generations. Gular is home to 400 people and is primarily an agricultural area, with wheat, sheep and cattle its main enterprises. Pretty much all employment and jobs on offer within the town’s radius is directly related to agriculture.

At times I found it hard growing up in a town so remote. Your friends from school we’re a good car trip away and your entertainment was extremely limited. But looking back on it now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was surrounded by people who were playing a massive part in both feeding and clothing the world around me, and I found that pretty cool. Travel writer Zoe Taylor agrees

The passion and spirit of Gulargambone’s people is indeed infectious. The unofficial Mayor, Col Ryan is a true blue Aussie legend
At the end of the weekend, we could actually see ourselves settling down in a little town like this; filled with that true sense of community spirit. Somehow I just didn’t feel that loneliness was commonplace in this town, everyone had a real sense of belonging to something special.

I would literally travel to soccer games on weekends in the cab of a truck. Don’t ask me how, but dad could always manage to find a load of wool somewhere in the area to pick up and make the trips worthwhile for him. Same goes with school holidays. If I wanted to go to the movies or shopping somewhere other than the two small grocer’s in town, I had to wait until dad had a load to go into Dubbo or Nan was sent in to grab some urgent parts.

Changes in family circumstances led to me living in Dubbo with my mother. Here, I attended St Johns College, Dubbo where Agriculture was a part of the curriculum. Through participating in compulsory Ag classes I got hooked into how important ag was and what it was doing for the world. This made me really start to appreciate where I came from. With encouragement from both my elder brother and teacher I started to get involved in the schools Ag Farm.

St John’s was very focused on the beef cattle show steer competitions and took out many champion ribbons at many major shows. It wasn’t long until I was hooked into the showing circuit myself. Due to my passion for animals and need to buckle down into a steady study routine I ended up at Yanco Agricultural High School, a fully residential and selective agricultural high school to complete my senior years of study.

In 2009 I won my first major awards at the Murray Grey Youth Heifer Show held in Mossvale. Here I was the Intermediate Champion Parader and Herdsman. I then continued on to win Champion Judging titles at the NSW Beef Spectacular, Canberra Royal, Wellington Show, Trangie Junior Judging Day, Albury Show, Angus Youth Round Up, Charolias Youth Stampede, Gulargambone show and Henty Show along with Reserve Champion titles at the National Limousin Junior Heifer Show, Cootamundra Show, National All Breeds Junior Heifer Show, NSW DPI Livestock Assessment Course and Gilgandra Show. I was also offered a spot to compete in the Angus Youth National Judging Competition but due to age and overlap of a scholarship presentation decided to wait until I was older to test my luck.

If you asked me back then I could have sworn that I would end up as either a meat buyer or meat inspector after finishing high school and doing a uni degree. I was breeding my own stud registered Murray Grey Cattle and named the Murray Grey Youth Junior Ambassador two years in a row. I honestly thought that beef cattle was my one true passion.

But things changed when my teacher Kim Weller encouraged me to test my comfort zone. In 2011 I entered a grain junior judging competition to help make numbers up in order for the competition to actually run and competitors be given the chance to progress onto the NSW RAS State finals if lucky enough. I knew what grain was, where it came from, some of the products that it went into, and that dad carted it, but that was it. Never in the world did I think I could ever judge it, let alone place in the top 3 and make it onto state. But somehow I did. And that’s where my grain story begins.

Since 2011, I have consecutively been selected 5 times to be a participant in the NSW RAS Junior Grain State Judging Finals Competition. And in both 2012 and 2015 I’ve placed as Reserve Champion in the State. (You know that saying, always a bridesmaid and never a bride).

I’ve also taken up harvest employment with GrainCorp and work as a grain sampler. I literally take samples of grain from trucks, test them and can determine majority of the important information about that grain using the equipment and machines provided. So from half a buckets worth of a whole trailer load, I can tell the grower the protein, weight and screenings of their grain, which will then determine the grade and dollar they will receive. It’s an absolutely awesome job and I get to have a lot of contact with the growers themselves which is pretty cool.

This year I was asked to attend the 2015 Coonamble Show as an overjudge for the grain section of their new day long Junior Judging Competition. It was such an amazing experience to be able to share my passion and knowledge of the grain industry with a large number of kids aged from 5 – 22.

I still keep up with the beef cattle and play an active role in the Murray Grey Youth Society as both a committee member and the current NSW State Representative. I’m also a committee member for the National All Breeds Junior Heifer Show and general member of both the Gulargambone Show Society and UNE Farming Futures.

Between all this I’m currently enrolled in my second year of a Bachelor of Agriculture/Bachelor of Business at the University of New England in Armidale. It’s an absolutely awesome degree. The lecturers here are so supportive and classes are very hand on and practical. Just this week I attended the Grains Research & Development Corporation, Growers Update, held in Moree as a compulsory fieldtrip for one of my units.  Between my degree, previous work and participation in judging competitions I’ve definitely decided that a career in the grains industry is for me. Upon graduation (which is still a few years off) I wish to go into grain receival, logistics and marketing. I find the future and integrity of our foods industry super important.

So yeah, as I was saying before, Agriculture has always been a part of my life. Although at times I didn’t realise it, I sure do now. I’m thankful for ag and excited to mark my spot in it as time goes on.

Meet Sam Coggins a city boy determined to get back to his agricultural roots

Hi I’m Sam and I love agriculture for two reasons:

First, it is a practical ‘lever’ for contributing to things I believe in. Enabling farmers to grow more and better food using fewer resources enables farmers to support their families, conserve the environment and nourish their communities.

Second, there are so many ways to pull the ‘lever’. In my young career I’ve had the chance to learn from coconut farmers in Sri Lanka, research soil microbiology at the CSIRO, work on a salmon farm in Tasmania, shadow agronomists in the Liverpool Plains and assist rice breeders in the Philippines. When you do dentistry you’re going to be a dentist but when you do agriculture you are spoilt for choice.

So what lead me to discover this passion for agriculture? My uncle and dad graze cattle in the New South Wales Central Tablelands, mum grew up on a dairy farm in the Bega Valley and my cousin is part of a sheep-wheat enterprise in the Riverina. This family background falsely suggests I grew up on a farm. I was hoping to avoid the c-word in this but I was born and raised in the suburbs of Canberra.

I was always tempted to do agriculture at school but got deterred by the stigma attached to it. I signed up to study agriculture in Year 11 and dropped it within two weeks because teachers discouraged me and mates told me it was a “drop-kick” subject.

In Year 12 Julian Cribb visited our school and spoke about the need to feed a rapidly growing population in the face of climate change and dwindling natural resources. Julian enabled me to realise agriculture is a mechanism for contributing to things that mean something. This inspired me to do a Sydney Uni Agricultural Science degree, which included a semester abroad in Sri Lanka and an honours research project in soil and data science.

Two friends I met through my semester of study in Sri Lanka

For work I’m stoked to be contributing to soil research that benefit farmers in Australia and developing counties through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research graduate program. On the side, I’m developing a smartphone app with two friends to provide personalised fertiliser recommendations to rice farmers in Myanmar. After the graduate program, I plan to do an agronomy PhD and continue working on the smartphone app. Agriculture is too dynamic and diverse to predict what I will do in the longer term but I will no doubt be doing something to support farmers.

           Internship at International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines

I believe in Young Farming Champions (YFC) because it enables agriculture to find young people and young people to find agriculture. In the minds of too many people, agriculture is an old man fixing a scarecrow in the mud. YFC has the ability to replace this image with a young female agronomist flying a drone in a school. YFC powerfully demonstrates that agriculture is for the young AND the old, using scarecrows AND the latest technology, in the office AND in the mud. I scratch my head trying to imagine a better way for school students to discover their career in agriculture.

                Harvesting rice plants for transplanting in Myanmar.

Meet Marlee Langfield– sharing her love of agriculture to set the world alight

Farmer (fahr-mer): noun, a person who is outstanding in their field. That’s me! Being a farmer is not a “job”; it is a way of life. It is my life! This great way of life inspires me to share it with others, to be an agricultural communicator; to help reflect who I am, what I stand for and the opportunities Australian agriculture boasts.

My DNA is what connects me with the land. As far back as my family name goes we have always farmed. From a very young age I took an active role alongside my parents in the works of our 743ha farm, “Wallaringa,” located in Cowra, central west NSW. Steering the wheel of the farm Ute in the correct direction while Dad fed the sheep, whizzing around on my red Honda XR50 to transport lunches to the paddock, and falling asleep listening to the ABC’s Country Hour on a dusty old blanket shoved behind the tractor seat while Dad planted the crops. This was a way of life; this was my childhood, and a healthy and happy one at that! My Mother will tell you that until I started school I didn’t know what a ‘weekend’ was, as I had never really had a ‘weekend’ off from farming.

As I grew up I watched my father fight Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma for eleven years. During this period he continued to run “Wallaringa” to the best of his ability, which at times was from a hospital bed on the fourth floor in Sydney’s St. George Hospital. Sadly my father passed away in 2008. He was a man of the land whose strength, courage and determination was an inspiration to all. Especially to me, this is where my inner strength and passion for Agriculture, mainly cereal grains and oilseed production derives from. His wishes were structured so that until a rightful age “Wallaringa” will pass directly to me, (his only child) and I had the opportunity to decide whether farming is my future as well as experience life while the farm is cared for. in 2018 I am now 23 and after much soul searching and consultation I am now the CEO and farm manager of  ‘Wallaringa”

The journey has been exciting with lots of opportunities to grow, learn and network with industry professionals

In 2011 I had the opportunity to live and study year ten in Okotoks, Alberta Canada with my Mother. We seized this twelve month adventure and lived it to the fullest! We incorporated occasional travel during this time which allowed me to see and experience first-hand international agriculture: an American corn harvest, the Prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan, rich red, predominately potato bearing soil of Prince Edward Island. Truly my fondest venture to date.

Returning from Canada I attended All Saints’ College Bathurst for the remainder of my school years as a full time boarder. Without doubt I selected Agriculture as a HSC elective.

The knowledge and skills I acquired over these years fed my appetite for the industry and a ‘want’ to communicate the lifestyle, issues and rewards farming offers developed within me. My HSC major work for Drama, ‘Doin’ It Tough’ (a self-written monologue) aimed to communicate the stresses and strains placed on rural farming families when drought occurs. This performance was very well received which lead me to believe that live theatre is a valuable means of communicating messages from the agricultural industry.

The day I completed my final HSC exam I hot footed it out of the exam room and into the Canola Cutter cab. Driving and operating agricultural machinery, large or small, doesn’t faze me at all.

I practically enjoy driving my John Deere 9860 STS header at harvest time however, I equally enjoy working for GrainCorp as the Cowra and Noonbinna Sample stand operator (better known as ‘the bird in the bird cage’).

In 2014 I undertook a Certificate III in Agriculture with Access Group Training. The stylised flexibility and highly qualified staff this method of training boast made the concept of distance learning a smooth journey. I excelled in my studies condensing the two year course into ten months as well as being nominated for the NSW Training Awards. In May I won Western NSW Trainee of the Year. Recently I was interviewed  for the state title to be announced in September.

It is an honour to be representing agriculture on a regional and state level!

My objective is to raise my voice to promote a rural lifestyle, educate non-farmers and encourage younger generations to consider Apprenticeships and Traineeships in agriculture, which therefore inspires them to enter into this vibrant, flourishing and promising industry.

My decision to progress onto further training was an easy one; I completed a Diploma in Management, again with Access Group Training. Every day I was equipping myself through my studies, practical hands-on experiences and with the help of industry experts to ready myself for the time where I am today “Wallaringa” owner and manager. I am proud to join the one of ever seven farms today managed by a woman!

Along with my studies I am involved with the local show societies, am an active member of the Morongla CWA and Red Cross, a budding rural lifestyle photographer and an enthusiastic part-time field day employee for CASE IH and Bisley Workwear. I thoroughly enjoy these other pursuits and see them as valuable opportunities to share my passion.

On Australia Day  2016 I was awarded Cowra Youth Citizen of the Year for my community work, particularly with the Morongla Show Society and the world renowned Hay Bale Art.  In the same year I was thrilled to have my name added to Hidden Treasures Honour Roll

I’m honoured to be recognised for my contributions and take the opportunity to encourage people of all ages to give back to the community. I’m aware we are all busy with work, school, study however, we must make time to give back to help and to connect with something greater than ourselves.

I plan on being a lifelong advocate or ‘agvocate” for agriculture whether that be orally, physically or visually. My long term goal is to lead by example and explore the many career paths within the industry, especially farm management.

I am proud to be a leading female in a predominately male-driven industry. A fire for agriculture burns bright within me and I aim to set the world alight!

Agronomist Casey Onus loves her job so much she’s never “worked” a day in her life

Casey Onus brings us today’s special guest blog. A 22 year old agronomist from Tamworth, NSW, who despite being a “Townie” her whole life was born for a career in agriculture – literally! This is Casey’s story…

If you want to be outstanding in your field, you’ve got to be out standing in your fields. There aren’t any shortcuts and I know I’ve certainly got a long way to go.

I’m Casey Onus…

I attended my first agronomy meeting chaired by Dallas Parsons at Seed & Grain Sales at Croppa Creek on the morning of the 8th of January 1993 at 0 days old and was born later that afternoon at Goondiwindi base hospital. Despite living in town my whole life I spent a fair chunk of my childhood with my father bouncing around paddocks identifying weeds for lollies and weaving my way through what seemed like forests of cereals and sorghum, trying not to lose myself down Moree’s heavily cracked black soil plains in the process.

Throughout school I never really focused on what I wanted to do as a career. I assumed at age 12 that I was going to be member of The Saddle Club and that would be my job, but I quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen.

Gave up my childhood dream of being a member of “The Saddle Club” to chase a career in Ag

In years 9 & 10 at St Philomena’s we had the option to pick our elective subjects and being the outdoors kid that I was I picked Ag because I didn’t want to be stuck in a classroom for any longer than I had to be. I was fortunate enough to have a very passionate Ag teacher who really made me see how important agriculture was not just to me but everyone; if you had to eat or wear clothes then you needed something from agriculture.

I was lucky enough to not only enjoy Ag as a subject but also turn that enjoyment into results which saw me win the Dallas Parsons memorial agricultural award in year 10 as well as take out the CMA property planning competition on “Nullamanna station” in 2008.

During year 10 I also attended a Rotary Youth in Ag Youth in Cotton camp which really opened my eyes to the endless opportunities that agriculture had to offer. I got so much out of the camp that I volunteered to help in the running of the camp in subsequent years and ended up presenting the marketing and moisture management sections of the camp. It was great to see so many young people, especially from costal backgrounds coming along to see what the local cotton and agricultural industry was about and if they took away half of what I did from the camp then it was well worth the time and effort.

My first crop of Mungbeans at Caroona on the Liverpool plains, made easy having recently attended the AMA Mungbean training & accreditation course

During years 11 & 12 at Moree Secondary College I unfortunately didn’t have the option to study agriculture as a subject as there were simply not enough students at my school for it to run. This didn’t concern me overly until it came down to crunch time. All of a sudden I was headed for the HSC with no idea of what I was going to do at the end of it. At this time I was offered a job as a bug checker by the branch manager at Landmark in Moree over the holidays. I spent endless hours out in the various crops getting muddy, bitten, sunburnt and couldn’t have loved it more.

Hard not to love views like this – Barley at Loomberah NSW

Although my father is an agronomist I wasn’t convinced that all agro’s loved their job as much as he did, but being out in the paddock every day and seeing how unique each farm was showed me exactly how rewarding it was. I got to see the tiny plants that I’d checked for months on end finally produce lint, grain and oilseeds.

Getting hands on in soil science at UNE, definitely one the most useful and exciting subjects according to Chris Guppy….. but he’s probably a bit biased!

I applied for the Bachelor of Agriculture at UNE in Armidale and decided I was going to chase my dream of becoming an agronomist. Uni was hard and I certainly lost count of the amount of times I wanted to throw in the towel, but heading home for holidays and getting amongst the crops kept me going and rekindled my motivation to get me through another year. I completed several Agronomy, Soils, Cotton and Grains units as part of my degree and even managed to get an article “Finding Cotton’s Next Generation” published in the 2013 Cottongrower magazine yearbook.

Despite having one unit left to complete as part of my degree I applied for the Landmark Graduate Agronomy Program and was accepted for a position in Tamworth, under the watchful eye of their agronomist Cameron Barton. Despite already working for Landmark for 3 years, my graduate year taught me a hell of a lot at an incredible pace.

Views from my “office window”

In my graduate year I was lucky enough to fly to Albury with Heritage Seeds to learn about pasture systems and varieties and learnt a lot from countless field days, GRDC events and industry updates. As well as joining the local Duri Ag Bureau and taking on my own clients with a range of new crops, not just the cotton and broadacre I was used too. All of a sudden I was trying to grow ryegrass not kill it! I was lucky enough to stay on at Landmark Tamworth and am now a fully-fledged agronomist working with a great group of farmers from all backgrounds as well as providing tailored agronomic advice, precision agriculture services such as NDVI imagery, variable rate maps, capacitance probes and everything in between.

Growers attending our pasture demonstration trial walk at Woolomin.

They say “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” and I firmly believe they are talking about jobs in Australian Agriculture. Because I certainly haven’t “worked” a day in my life yet.

Calum Watt is dedicating his days to producing the best barley for your beer

Today’s guest blog comes from Calum Watt who’s dedicating his days to producing the best barley crops for your beer. A love of plants – and particularly broadacre cropping systems – has lead him to study a Masters of Agricultural Science specialising in genetics and plant breeding. He enjoys a challenge, telling a yarn, and sharing a cold one.

Here’s Calum’s story…

G’day! I’m Calum Watt, and I’m currently an agriculture student at the University of Western Australia hailing from a town called Harvey in the southwest of Australia’s biggest state. I’m the eldest of two boys, although still the shortest which is somewhat a laughing matter for the rest of the family. I’ve lived in Harvey most of my life having moved around country communities as the old man got flung from one ag college to the next.

Transport to grab the mail is a bit different in Harvey

Whilst farming and agriculture in general have always been an interest for me, I can’t claim that I’m a fourth generation this, or a second generation that, and it’s unlikely that our small hobby farm will be passed down to me (much as I’d like it to be). Nevertheless, I cannot complain with the ‘Old Macdonald’ style farm I grew up on; it gave me the opportunity to see what I liked and didn’t like in agriculture…sheep being top of that list.

Being a dairy and orchard farming community, Harvey was completely different to the broadacre farms around Narrogin where I hailed from before “cow-town.” Although I’ve called Harvey home it still gave me a kick to tell people during my schooling that I was from somewhere else, somewhere where agriculture was the driving force of the community. Having schooled in Bunbury, most of my peers were either from farms similar to me or “townies,” as we called them. Although our farms were relatively small people were often really intrigued about what went on, what we grew, bred or otherwise did and I often got called a country hick even though I seemed far from it.

High school for me was nothing glamorous. I had wanted to attend the local agricultural college but having my dad as deputy principal meant it would’ve complicated things. School was a means to get to Uni. Math, English, chemistry, physics and geography were the subjects I had at my disposal with the end goal being a botany degree at UWA.

One of only two to graduate Botany

Why botany? Well I’d always preferred plants, especially crops, to animals and botany was a way of following my agricultural interest without having to do an Ag Science degree and all the animal units that it entailed. To ease my transition from Harvey to Perth I went to a residential college where I met my current friends, who unlike me, are all from broadacre farms dotted around the wheatbelt, something I’m slightly envious about. Being able to travel to their farms deepened my interest in broadacre cropping and on completion of my undergraduate degree, I enrolled straight into a Masters of Agricultural Science specialising in genetics and plant breeding.

Genetics units during my undergrad instilled an interest in me to make meaningful change. Understanding that the nature of farming is changing for good or worse made me want to integrate genetics and crops into the notion that I could become a crop breeder. My ambition is to be the bloke who makes the crosses that result in a crop variety that is bigger and better in every sense possible. Whilst this may be challenging, it drives me to excel in my studies and makes me aware of new opportunities to better my understanding of broadacre cropping.

The scale and uniformity of a crop is amazing

Networking with industry is enabling me to develop a position as a future leader in this field and has provided me with the opportunity to complete my masters research project jointly with the private cereal breeding company Intergrain. If you’re not aware already, aluminium toxicity significantly impacts the ability of a crop to obtain nutrients and water, ultimately resulting in lower yields; something no farmer is out to chase. My thesis is looking into this issue from a genetic perspective and trying to ascertain if there are significant benefits to genetic tolerance, and whether genetic tolerance may or may not lead to a yield penalty.

No doubt you’re already watering at the mouth at the thought of a cold barley made frothy and it’s in my interest to make sure that aluminium isn’t a factor in depriving you of the opportunity.

Innovation Generation – Canberra 2015

So now you may be aware that my path to agriculture has been slightly different to some and how my interest has changed and grown substantially over time.

One thing I know for certain is that the agricultural sector is so diversified that something exciting is always happening and this is why I want to be a part of it.

Cheers, Calum Watt

Nick Hovey says you can combine your love of cattle and dogs and the land without owning a farm

Today’s guest post comes from Nick Hovey who is combining his love of the land, cattle and dogs to breed cattle that provide both nutritious protein and have a low environmental footprint

This is Nick’s story ……….

Beef cattle and working dogs: It isn’t often that I’m not talking about either one of these two topics. Or in general…Agriculture and farming.

A David and Goliath moment if I ever saw one 

Growing up in three capital cities my ‘fate’ didn’t look like I would end up on a farm. My ‘want’ to be a farmer began at a very early age when my family would make a once yearly road-trip to Gulargambone NSW. Why Gular?? Mum’s sister and her husband lived on a sheep/wheat property there. Uncle Phil took my brother and I everywhere with him for the week that we were there; whether it was simply moving mobs, shearing, drenching or lamb marking, we were always there.

I am the youngest of three children and the only one who ended up on the land. My schooling years were spent in Adelaide, Melbourne and then finally settled in Sydney where my primary school years were spent bragging about our visits to ‘my uncle’s farm’. High school was interesting for me as I went to Saint Ignatius College, Riverview. There were 250 students in my year, of which some were boarders from farming families. I spent some holidays on mate’s properties and we helped out with some of the mustering duties. It was in year nine at Riverview that I was introduced to the Ag program and show cattle. For the next four years I spent plenty of afternoons (when I wasn’t at footy training) down at the Ag plot preparing steers for various shows.

Nick Hovey combining a love of the land, cattle and dogs to live the dream 

Inspired by being part of the school cattle show team my passion for the sheep industry suddenly shifted to beef cattle. Through the show program I met many people and was fortunate enough to be taken under their wing. After leaving school, I decided to take six months off study before starting at the University of Western Sydney. After the first six to eight weeks of uni I just wasn’t enjoying it and still wanted to be a grass roots farmer. Alistair McLaren saw this and took me in, gave me a job on the Angus stud that he managed and guided me in the right direction. It was then that I managed to finally get my first working dog.

Somehow in the year of 2011 I managed to wrangle two jobs (Tobruk Sheep Station and Sweven Angus) along with TAFE at Richmond. Tobruk was a great experience, which gave me the ability to hone my public speaking in front of what were mainly Japanese, Chinese or Korean tourists whilst doing something that I really enjoyed. It gave me the opportunity to get my Kelpie dog working in the yards, learn to shear and also teach people how to crack a whip and throw the odd boomerang. The days at Tobruk were rewarding, Sweven were challenging and TAFE started to give me a step up.

The progression onto a large sheep breeding operation in the Goulburn district was a challenge. I was still seen as that ‘city kid’ and many people didn’t think that I could do it. However, I am grateful for the time that I had both there and then in Illabo on a mixed enterprise in 2012 that my bosses had the faith in me. I will never forget the night in the Illabo pub where I was told ‘well, from the city you must be not much chop eh?’. It is the paradigm of thought such as this that has helped me to strive to be the best that I can possibly be.

I still loved the idea of showing cattle at Sydney Royal, however 2012 was my final year and I haven’t looked back. At the beginning of my employment at the Chudleigh’s property in Frogmore it was very clear that I would not be allowed to show cattle at the Sydney due to shearing. By that stage I had completed a Holistic Management course, which really opened up my eyes to using the ‘tools’ of our trade in a different manner. The idea of regenerative agriculture and the ability to capture and store carbon in the soil  through the use of planned grazing management and recovery periods has really appealed to me.

It feels like I have packed a lot into the five and a half years since leaving school, however I have appreciated the opportunities and experience that have been put to me and have tried not to let one pass me up. I now feel like I have found my niche with my position as the Assistant Manager at Coota Park Blue-E.

Nick Hovey Assistant Farm Manger at Coota Park Blue-E 

We currently have 600 breeding females, growing out our steers to feedlot weight and joining all our heifers.

Probably the most exciting part of the program at Coota Park is that we breed AngusXShorthorn bulls and test them for Feed Efficiency.

Measuring Feed Conversion efficiency is the measuring the ability of cattle to turn grass in beef ( or milk) as efficiently as they possibly can. We are currently running two tests per year in the purpose built facility that has 48 individual pens. For a period of 91 days (21 of which are allow for the bull calves to adjust to the ration) we have bulls in the pens. Feed is weighed into each bull’s feed tub and what isn’t eaten is weighed at the end of each week. Every fortnight, the bulls are weighed and then put into new pens. I love this because the methane emitted from a cow, bull, steer or heifer is directly related to the amount of feed eaten. So beyond the fact that cattle that are highly efficient grass converters require less feed for the same weight gain they also have a smaller footprint on the planet

I am also very passionate about my team of working dogs, they have the brains and ability to get to cattle in the hills that the motorbikes are physically not capable.

Taking my dogs to working cattle dog trials has become a hobby of mine, which means that my best mates aren’t only with me at work, they are there for play too. I’ll tell you an important thing to remember – your dogs will always listen, you can tell them anything and be confident that they wont blurt it out to anybody else.

So if you see me around, chances are dogs and cattle will come up in conversation. But I am always open to new ideas and conversations.

We give our cattle the best environmentally friendly life experience we can and we are proud to know that when they go of to be processed we are part of the team of Australian beef farmers who supply 6 billion protein meals to the world each year

BTW if you want to know more about the science around feed conversion efficiency and breeding cattle fit for purpose that have a lower environmental impact. You can find a paper written by Coota Park principal Jon Wright given at the Grasslands Conference here

Grain farmer, ag-science student and storyteller Hugh Burrell loves to share a yarn from the farm

The bush is in Hugh Burrell’s blood and farming has been his calling since the day dot. He’s a 4th generation farmer, a 4th year Agricultural Science student and a proud product of Narrabri, NSW. At boarding school in Sydney, Hugh was known for enthralling his boarding house mates with his wild and entertaining “Yarns from the Farm”… perhaps little has changed, because today’s guest blog is a great read!

Let’s hand it over to you, Hugh…

2390: numbers I will never forget. Now that you know all my passwords I’d better let you know who I am. I’m Hugh Burrell, a 4th generation born farmer from Narrabri, NSW. My father is a farmer, my grandfather was a farmer and my great grandfather was a farmer. I am the youngest born of my family, with an older brother and sister. We were all raised on our family property “Woodlands” north east of Narrabri, nestled in the foothills of the Nandewar ranges. Being a family farm spanning many generations we have been involved in a variety of operations from pigs, chooks, sheep, cattle, grains, cotton, to canola and dogs. However my fondest memories come from our days as mixed cropping and cattle producers. These formative years of my life spent trailing, with poddy calf in tow, my grandfather, father and brother around the rich basalt soils checking for weeds in the wheat and pulling out black oats to feed to my poddy lambs at home, are some memories that I still reminisce about today.

With my father and grandfather at the helm of the business when I was growing up, we began a more intensive winter cropping regime. We went from running merino sheep for wool and fattening lambs on oats to a full blown wheat and barley operation. The days spent with “Grampa” on the old Chamberlain tractor pushing up rocks to clear the way for Dad to come through and plant wheat are fresh in my memory. Growing up meant extra work for me, as I grew into my gangly frame I was more useful with jobs like fencing and weed chipping, which my father knew and used to his advantage. However, something he came to learn was that I loved this work, hands on learning, out in the open, and providing something for the world to eat.

Interested Locals

Heading off to Narrabri Public School saw this idea of working outside flourish, where my teacher was often heard calling, “Hugh, what are you doing out here?” to which I would show her the perfectly cultivated rows of the sandpit and reply, “Just farming.” This became a more frequent response as the years went on and this “just farming” idea became a driving force.

We began leasing a property on the other side of town to our farm, so during the week Grampa would pick me up from school and we’d head out to check the sorghum, wheat, and mungbeans we grew out there. During the summer we would take turns scaring the birds off the ripe sorghum heads while recounting our day to each other, being a quite kid I just listened to the stories. This seemingly endless time spent driving around the crops, refilling the tractor, checking for weeds and talking to each other was the foundation of my passion for farming. The nature of a family farm is essential to agriculture throughout the world; the care that is taken with each step and the knowledge that can be transferred between generations is a vital part of our industry.

A few wheat bix

Growing into my brother’s clothes it was time to ship off to boarding school. I was 11, and my first day of school at The Scots College was only my second ever visit to Sydney. This was another foundational experience for me, the place where I met some of my closest mates to this day and that fostered my rural blood. Being one of 200 or so country boys in a school of 1000, it’s fair to say we stuck out. Our city friends often quizzed us about our holiday activities, to which I loved telling stories of the farm, harvesting, mustering, spraying and everything else that we got up to. Talking to others about farming – some who were almost oblivious to the facts – was great fun for me, I loved getting up in front of the boarding house on our first night back after the holidays to recite “Yarns from the Farm.”

Moving along at school, I studied Biology and Business Studies in the hope of pursuing a career on our family farm, continuing my forefather’s tradition. However, with some succession decisions still in the pipeline and my dream of heading home to “Woodlands” stalled for the time being, I knew uni would be a great opportunity. I ended up at Sydney University enrolled in Agricultural Science, which has been a great experience for me, instilling a respect for research and its part in agriculture, particularly in Australia.

Throughout my degree I have been lucky enough to be involved in various field trips around NSW, learning from others in the industry about how they apply science to their farms and businesses. This has really nailed down the point of agricultural research, which I am dedicated to use in my career in agriculture. In my third year of study I was involved in the Developing Agriculture in Developing Countries unit which involved a three week trip through Laos, South East Asia. We were able to meet with multinational companies, non-government organizations and government bodies to talk about the impact that agricultural development has on a developing a country. This was an amazing experience, from planting rice with the locals to hiking through the rugged limestone cliffs; it was a true example that agriculture can take you anywhere.

Rice planting in Laos

I am now in my 4th year of study with a focus on agronomy and precision agriculture. I’m looking to undertake my honours research project in 2016 in the grain production area, centred on crop and variety selection and management in the Narrabri area.

I’ve been working every summer holidays with Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) in Narrabri, helping harvest the trial crops, seed cleaning, and hand harvesting for 3 weeks in December 2014 at 40oc – that was a true experience. This work has truly highlighted the importance of plant breeding for select region specific traits that give farmers that little bit extra ability to grow more crop per hectare and per mega-litre, especially in these challenging climatic times.

I have a passion for agriculture that has been fostered from birth. Being brought up in a region built on farming, it’s safe to say it’s in my blood. I am really looking forward to the challenges ahead of my honours project and what the real world holds. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll be back out in the bush soon, chasing the sun all day and growing food for the world – hopefully somewhere out around postcode 2390.

Cheers, Hugh Burrell

Hannah Powe’s heart and home is wherever there are cows

Today’s guest blog from Hannah Powe is a story about following your passion and grabbing opportunities with both hands. Hannah’s love of beef cattle has taken her from New South Wales to New Zealand and through the cattle country of Canada and the US. Wherever she is, Hannah will be happy as long as there are cows!

Here’s Hannah’s story…

“Some folks just don’t get it. They think owning cattle makes no sense. It takes too much time, too much equipment, not to mention the expense. But the fondest memories of my life – they might think sound funny – were made possible by Mum and dad, ‘cause they spent the time and they spent the money. You see, the most important lessons helping values grow so strong, come from loving cattle and passing that tradition on” – The Tradition

Hi, my name is Hannah Powe and I’ve spent my life surrounded by motivated, encouraging and passionate people who all love the same thing I do: Beef Cattle.

My interest in agriculture has grown from those people, along with the support and drive of my mum and dad. Growing up in the Hawkesbury region of NSW my family primarily grew mushrooms; beef cows were simply a hobby. But this farm girl always had a desire to make it so much more.

From a young age I remember running around among the cows with my big sister, getting stuck in the mud, playing with calves and travelling across the state to attend shows and visit friends on other farms. The part I loved most was always simply look at and being surrounded by cattle.

Even though I grew up close to Sydney, I appreciated having such an agricultural based childhood. It made me aware of where our clothes came from, how food was produced and the overall connection and importance of primary producers in the scale of everyday living in Australia.

My decision to pursue a career in agriculture and the beef cattle industry begun at my first Angus Youth Roundup held at Canberra in 2009. Coming from a Murray Grey background – my parents started our stud with primarily Murray Greys in the 1980 – and having little experience in how a heifer show worked, I was surprised by how professional, yet also welcoming and eager, every was. Throughout that weekend I met many people that challenged and motivated me to want to learn more. I placed 3rd in my first ever parader class and gained new friends – many who are still my closest friends today.

Growing up, I was always a quietly spoken and shy girl. It was a continual struggle for my family and friends to get me to speak in public, especially to take part in a junior judging competition, until I had to associate judge the cattle section at the 2009 Boorowa Show. People that have seen me grow and flourish still remind me of this experience every year, especially when I’m in the position of helping someone younger who faces similar challenges to me. It really grounds me, shows me how far I have come as a person and highlights how lucky I am to be supported by the beef industry and individuals who have helped along the way.

After this there was no looking back, or should I say, no holding me back. I have sought out every opportunity to compete in junior judging competitions as well as had the privilege to associate or judge local shows across the state. Travelling far and wide across Australia and internationally, to represent my breeds and meet likeminded, passionate and encouraging people that fuel my drive to achieve. I am thankful to my family for never holding me back.

People that know the Powe family, know that it’s a family thing. Our cattle are the glue that sticks us all together. Mum and dad manage our property while my sister and her husband grow the feed that my dad mixes to feed the cattle. When we go to a show or field day each person has their role and even though we probably don’t always seem like it, we are thankful to have each other there.

In 2009 we introduced Red Angus to our herd as the focus breed which has been an exciting and rewarding endeavour, with many major successes.

The next year I moved away to boarding school at Yanco Agricultural High School. My family believed this would help me ‘focus’ but while I did study, I spent every spare moment working with the beef show stock team. I felt Yanco was a place where I belonged – a home away from home, with cows. Being situated on a rural property, surrounded by like-minded agricultural kids from across Australia, and the industry events I was exposed to really pushed me to want so much more.

After school I made the natural choice to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. To gain experience in another part of the red meat production chain, while at uni I challenged myself by taking part in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition (ICMJ).

My hunger to learn about international agriculture and different beef production systems began in 2013 when I had the privilege to compete for Australia in the World Angus Forum (WAF) in New Zealand. The WAF is the pinnacle of the Angus community, bringing people together to celebrate and learn about the breed’s progression worldwide. New Zealand will always be a connection to so many different countries for me; I was lucky enough to meet a network of international delegates which has led to many overseas adventures to areas no one would have imagined.

Directly following the WAF I travelled to Canada for a six week individual travel program. A highlight of the trip was being able to attend Northland’s FarmFair International and Canadian Western Agribition – two of the major stock shows in Canada – as an Australian delegate. I spent time visiting with producers of bulls we use in our production system and saw new and upcoming genetics, all while working in a totally new environment and making another home away from home with cows.

Following my overseas adventure, my interest changed direction and I became more driven to engage, influence and share information with others. Previously being part of the Angus Youth committees, in 2014 I took on the role of communications and promotions director before this year becoming the vice-chairperson. I hope to keep giving back to the programs that encouraged and influenced me. One thing I love is seeing kids grow, develop and become more confident within our industry.

Recently I chose to explore the other side of our production system – the commercial beef industry. Throughout my summer holidays I worked at JBS Swift Riverina Beef Feedlot located in Leeton, NSW as part of the animal induction team. Busy days made for enjoyable learning about grading cattle going into the feedlot and animal health programs.

In 2014 I was privileged to be awarded the Murray Grey Senior Youth Ambassador that enabled me to undertake an international study trip to Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas. As well as studying subjects in genetics, reproduction and US beef production systems, I had the opportunity to explore the local stock shows and visit world class facilities for reproduction technologies and beef data analysis.

In my six years of involvement in the beef industry, the most significant and memorable moments have come from being surrounded by people that push and challenge me, the wise words of wisdom or support they offer, and the friendships made with families on the holiday show circuit.

But the most rewarding part is the love I have for my animals and the simple joy the cattle bring to my life. Those that know me well, know to not get between Hannah and her cow! My passion for them is never ending.

The only certain thing I can say about my future is that I know it will be with beef cattle – a passion instilled in me thanks to my family. I am about to undertake my final year work placement at Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) and Animal Genetic Breeding Unit (ABGU) in Armidale, NSW, where I will gain experience in genetics, research and data, and work alongside some of the industry’s great influential minds.

Home is where the cows are and I know no matter where I am in the world I can find refuge in the back blocks surrounded by cattle, enjoying the true agricultural experiences many of us dream about.