Give me a home where the buffalo roam says Jo Roberston

Today’s guest blog comes from Jo Roberston who you guessed it grazes buffalo on her farm. I have been looking forward to hearing Jo’s story because I know nothing about buffalo. So thank you very much Jo for sharing your story

clip_image002

A bit about me

Hi, my name is Joanna Robertson. I have completed my fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Livestock Science at the University of New England in Armidale at the end of 2011. Since finishing uni I have been working in Armidale for the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries as a Graduate Officer, currently in extension (beef cattle, sheep and agronomy).

I grew up on a mixed enterprise property at Tooraweenah in Central West New South Wales with numerous different crops and livestock.

Jo and Gucci 1991

Me and Gucci

The livestock included sheep, cattle and water buffalo, definitely not your every day farm animal. My parents had both been in the Northern Territory where they had worked with water buffalo, of the Swamp variety, on improving meat quality and domestication practices. Our  foundation herd of buffalo came from the Townsville research station in QLD. Other animals were bought from various locations around the eastern states, some in SA, including Dubbo Western Plains Zoo. At our peak we had around 100 breeding cows plus their offspring (steers and heifers).

clip_image020

Mum, Dad and myself (in the middle) with some of the original ‘girls’ that were brought down from the Townsville research station.

When they returned to “Tara” they brought what they knew with them as well as maintaining also sheep, cattle and crop enterprises. So as a kid I was lucky enough to work with all these animals and take care of the inevitable poddys 1 that came with having livestock. We also looked after some of the local wildlife which led to numerous pet kangaroos, birds (including an owl), reptiles and even the occasional echidna.

Picture of me and a joey

I attended the local primary school in Tooraweenah, a small school with a very big heart. Tooraweenah Primary School has been dubbed the ‘school with a view’ because it has the Warrumbungle mountains as its backdrop.

After finishing at Tooraweenah I then attended Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange as a boarder. While at high school I took up showing cattle with an Australian Lowline breeder, Tammy Breuer. Tammy took me under her wing after I had a couple of bad experiences with bigger breeds of cattle and taught me everything I know today. Tammy took me to all the  regional shows that my school commitments would allow me to attend. I also accompanied Tammy to Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne royal shows. In 2004 my parents encouraged me to break in a steer and prepare it for the Dubbo national steer show. Murray, or as he was more affectionately known, Muzza, was a Murray Grey x Limousin steer. While I still had a lot to learn about the nutrition side of preparing and animal to show I had learnt a lot about grooming and breaking in animals. Tammy was there to help me every step of the way and provided support and guidance where needed. Muzza lead me to Grand Champion parade that year which was an amazing achievement.

clip_image004

Muzza and Jo at the Dubbo Steer Show 2004

After regaining my confidence with cattle I went on to work for numerous other studs with countless different breeds including Herefords, Angus, Brangus, Droughtmaster, Brahman, Limousin, and Charolais just to name a few. Tammy has been an huge inspiration and influence in my life. She passed away early last year and I miss her immensely.

clip_image006

Tammy and “the girls” at Sydney Royal Show 2005 with the senior champion bull and grand champion Lowline.

In 2007 I took a year off between finishing high school and starting university. I spent a few months up in the Northern Territory on a small  by territory standards) family owned station, Sunday Creek. Sunday Creek station, located 3 hours south of Katherine, is owned and operated by Tom and Bev Stockwell along with their 3 kids Peta, Brian and Claire. While I was there they also had a French exchange student and a Canadian whom both came out to experience outback Australia. This made for some very interesting days in the saddle and in the yards. All mustering was done on horse back, which for me was both a challenge and great fun. Growing up I had always wanted a horse but hadn’t been able to have one and had only ridden friend’s horses. Working with horses everyday was like a dream come true for me. The first horse I was put on was a bombproof 17 hand ( 5 feet 8 inches tall at the withers )  horse named Hercules. While he was a wonderful, quiet horse though I constantly found myself looking for termite mounds to stand on just to mount him! I rode a couple of different horses while I was there which was great and I learnt a lot about the different personalities of horses.

clip_image008
Me and one of the many station horses on Sunday Creek

For our weekends off we occasionally went to the local pub which was only half an hour away. The Daly Waters pub was always an extremely busy place and popular tourist destination, especially during the dry season as it was a popular tourist destination. I also attended the Daly Waters camp draft which was a great day out for the whole family. clip_image010

Me on Maddie, one of the kids ponies, at the Daly Waters Camp draft

One of my main responsibilities while at Sunday Creek was to look after the ever growing number of poddy calves. This included both the bottle fed poddys and pellet fed poddys The pellets are high in both energy and protein and this gives the poddy calves the necessary boost to keep them healthy and growing well clip_image012

Friday, my first poddy calf of the season He was a Brahman x Droughtmaster. I managed to teach him to shake hands for his milk every day. I was sad to leave him behind.

Working in the Northern Territory opened my eyes up to just how different extensive cattle production is compared to what is almost considered intensive cattle production in the south eastern states. On Sunday Creek we did lick runs every week which involved putting out a loose lick supplement, similar to lick blocks more commonly used in the southern states. These supplements are used all year round. There are 2 main supplement types; One for the wet season and one for the dry season. These two licks are also formulated for weaners, as they can’t go straight onto a full grown cattle lick. The licks are formulated to suit the age and needs of the animals being fed as well as the different times of the year.

clip_image014
Cows tucking into loose lick at Sunday Creek (the black thing hanging down is a scratching bar that is treated with chemical for the animals to rub on to help protect them from buffalo fly, a prevalent pest in the NT)

Me and my water buffalo!

clip_image016

Growing up with water buffalo enabled me to see a side of livestock production that most people don’t get to see. It also enabled me to see the joys and challenges of working in a new and emerging industry. Many of my earliest memories are of watching my dad work the buffalo through the yards: marking, weaning, pregnancy testing and sending them off for sale. Many people believe that buffalo are hard to handle but if they are handled often this is not the case. Like most livestock, the more you handle them, the quieter they are.

I would also accompany my parents to the abattoirs so I was exposed to the paddock to plate concept from an early age and it has given me a greater appreciation of the critical control points that exist between the yards at home and the knocking box of the abattoir. Meat quality has undergone a lot of research in most meat products. The buffalo industry came up with TenderBuff branding in the 1980s to ensure meat that was to be sold was of the highest quality. Its similar to the MSA grading system used for beef.

clip_image018

Once I started university in 2008 I took more of an interest in the buffalo industry from a research and promotion perspective looking at increasing awareness of buffalo and their products in Australia. In December 2008 I accompanied my Dad and Barry Lemcke (principle buffalo research scientist) to Cairns in northern Queensland to have a look at a prospective buffalo project to be funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). While we were up there we visited the Millaa Millaa buffalo dairy owned by Mitch Humphries up on the Atherton Tablelands.

clip_image022

Riverine buffalo cows in the holding yard waiting patiently to be milked.

In 2009 I travelled up to Darwin to spend 4 weeks during semester break working with Barry Lemcke, buffalo and cattle research officer NT Department of Resources. While I was up there I was lucky enough to work on both cattle and buffalo projects.

clip_image024

7/8 Riverine x 1/8 swamp buffalo cows with calves at foot. Beatrice Hill research station NT.

During my time on the Beatrice Hill Research Station, west of Humpty Doo, one of the OUTBACK magazines free lance journalists turned up to do a story on the buffalo industry. I was lucky enough to not only be quoted in the article but to also get my photo in there. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! It is an excellent article and I encourage any who can find a copy to have a read as it gives a great history of buffalo in Australia and where the industry is now heading.

clip_image026

OUTBack magazine cover of the Buffalo Industry feature story. Issue 67 Oct/Nov 2009

Also in 2009 I attended the inaugural New Rural Industries Australia (NRIA) conference held on the Gold Coast, QLD as a representative for the NSW buffalo Industry. It was a very interesting conference with many varied industries being represented. Industries included: crocodiles, olives, truffles, camels and native flowers just to name a few. It was an excellent opportunity for some of these smaller industries to get together, network and learn from each others opportunities and mistakes.

clip_image028

NRIA conference 2010, Jo holding a crocodile from Karoona Crocodile farm QLD.

I was supported by other buffalo producers from QLD, Margret Thompson and Mitch Humphries, at the conference who supplied some of the cheese products that are made from buffalo milk (mozzarella and feta). Buffalo cheese was also on the menu of the conference as the chef tried to use every product that was being promoted at the conference in the menu over the 2 days. It made for some very interesting meals!

Since 2009 I have been looking at increasing my own herd with the addition of a bull. Unfortunately he was not as fertile as we had hope and has only produced one calf over the past 3 years. However, I must take into account the differences in gestation between buffalo and cattle. The gestation period of a buffalo is actually 10.5 months where as cattle are only 9. Buffalo calves also stay with their mothers for a lot longer than cattle. Buffalo calves are weaned when they are 12 months or older where as beef cattle calves can be weaned much earlier. For now my herd remains small and is just for my own enjoyment but hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, I will be able to produce enough buffalo meat to supply a market and I have done some extensive market research. Hopefully a saltbush fed buffalo product will be on the menu at the farmers markets near you soon!

clip_image030

Kyle, my first swamp buffalo bull

clip_image032

Kyle’s first calf, a little heifer calf, called Kylie (she is about 6 months old here)

Unfortunately, due to old age, Kyle passed away about a month ago and we now have a new bull calf (around 2 years old), yet to be named. He came from a buffalo producer in SA. He was delivered on ANZAC day so we thought a name relating to ANZAC day would be a good one. Any ideas?

clip_image034

My new little swamp buffalo bull

A little bit about buffalos

There are currently two main types of buffalo in Australia the Swamp buffalo and Riverine buffalo. Swamp buffalo are the buffalo commonly found in the Northern Territory. They have much bigger, sweeping horns, lighter grey colour and less hair. Where as Riverine buffalo have short, tightly curled horns, a lot more hair and are also a lot fatter than the Swamp buffalo.

Buffalo have the same names as cattle; females are cows or heifers (if they haven’t had a calf yet), steers (castrated males) and bulls (intact males).

clip_image036

Swamp Buffalo- at home, New South Wales

clip_image038

Riverine Buffalo- at Beatrice Hill research station, Northern Territory

Next year (2013) I will be attending the World Buffalo Congress, which is to be held in Phuket, Thailand, as a representative for Australia. This will be an amazing experience which will allow me to network with like minded people across the globe as well as hear about some of the latest advances in buffalo research.

I could write about buffalo all day, however for now I will leave it at that and if anyone would like to know more the Australian Buffalo Industry Council website is http://buffaloaustralia.org/ it has links to all of the state bodies and information about the products produced by buffalo producers.

Farming Futures

Last year a friend of mine, Jo Newton, and myself came up with an idea of hosting a networking/socialising function to get University of New England agriculture degree related students together with agricultural industry employers. This was the start of the Farming Futures Industry Dinner. It was organised by the Rural Science Undergraduate Society (RSUS) in conjunction with Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE). We had 2 speakers, both former agriculture degree related graduates from UNE, to talk about where your degree can take you and opportunities that exist in the Agriculture sector in Australia. Our fist speaker was Dr Geoff Fox, former employee of the World Bank. He inspired everyone with the number of diverse careers he had had since he finished at UNE. Our second speaker was Troy Setter who is the current Chief Operating Officer for the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo). He highlighted the opportunities you can have in a very short period of time if you are willing to work for it. Chris Russel our master of ceremonies for the night, was a hit with everyone.

clip_image040

Farming Futures Industry Dinner organising committee with VIP guests Dr Geoff Fox, Jo Newton, Chris Russell, Troy Setter, Jo Robertson, Sarah Foster and UNE Vice Chancellor Prof Jim Barber

Overall, it was a great night with a good number of Agriculture industry employers/leaders and university students. This year the dinner will be hosted again but this time a careers fair will be held beforehand during the day. This allows the students to have a look around at what is available in a more formal setting then discuss with the employers at the dinner, in a more informal setting, the opportunities available to them. As I am no longer a student at the uni I hope to attend the dinner as a representative of the NSW DPI graduate program.

clip_image042

Jo on Merry, a poddy Riverine buffalo calf at Beatrice Hill Research Station NT.

clip_image044

Agriculture is a very diverse industry in which a large variety of jobs can be found. Anyone wanting to be involved in agriculture can be! There is a place for everyone, you don’t have to have grown up on a property to be involved or to get involved.

Any Questions?

Q. What are poddys Jo

A 1 Poddy’s are young calves that are hand raised

Meet Steph Grills proud to be continuing here family wool tradition

Today’s guest post is by Steph Grills another young Australian food and fibre producer who is very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries in her family and she is very keen to carry on that tradition

The Steph Grills story …………

In the late 1600’s, John Grills and his wife Urah, moved to St. Mellion, Cornwell England, where John practiced the trade of a worsted-comber 1. Four generations later, John (IV) and his wife Rebecca, decided to emigrate to Australia, settling in Maitland, NSW where John was a soldier, stonecutter and farmer. Their son Thomas, moved to Saumarez, Armidale where he married Ellen O’Connor and selected land on the eastern fall country of the New England Tablelands in 1881. Thomas and Ellen had 11 children, who went on to have 73 grandchildren, many of whom remained on the land. This property, along with later purchases, remains in the family to this day.

Agriculture was also very prominent in my mothers’ side of the family. In 1833, in Langport, Somersetshire England, John Turner married his wife Sophia. Four children later, they decided to make the journey to Australia in 1849. Initially settling in Adelaide they followed the Gold Rush to  Victoria where they settled in Adelong in 1860. Here, John invented the first known steam crushing mill for gold. They also erected a school and were well respected in the area. The family continued the Agricultural tradition and bred cattle and sheep, as well as operating a dairy, wine and chaff making industries. One of their sons, Octavius (Doc), moved to the New England area which is where my mums’ family have remained.

After selecting the original country in 1881, a further two blocks of land were purchased over the next 40 years by Thomas and Ellen. Ellen went on to leave this land to the women of her family, until her three grandsons took it over as a partnership in 1960. The partnership was dissolved towards the end of the decade, and country was split into three separate properties. My father has gone to great lengths over his lifetime, to get back all of this country to once again make it one, and this is where I had the privilege of growing up as a seventh generation Aussie farmer. You would be quite right to say ‘it’s in my blood’.

The start of a family farm …

My grandfather took on the mammoth task of changing his block into a productive property. The 2200 ha were split into just 5 paddocks at the time, the soil had never seen superphosphate, bare ground was prominent under the heavily timbered country and rabbits were a constant problem. He set about developing the land by ringbarking trees, aerial seeding the country and also spreading super phosphate by plane.

Pa in Rungbark Trees

My Grandfather standing amongst the ringbarked trees

The country was first improved on the ground with two TE 20 Ferguson tractors, pulling 7ft gear to put down introduced grasses to improve the productivity of the country in 1954. In 1959, the country benefited from the first aerial fly out of super phosphate in bagged form, which was hand lifted into the plane in 50kg bags. The ground application of super was also put out with the improved pasture seed. In 1972, the first woolshed was built on the northern end of the property. Prior to this, sheep would need to be walked anywhere up to 15 km to the other end of the original property, which my uncle then owned following the partnership being dissolved in 1967.

img086

Original Woolshed

clip_image006

 

Current Woolshed (extended in late 90’s)

The original livestock were Herefords and Merinos. Market demands and trends have meant a third of the herd remains as a Hereford base, a third is aimed at the Angus premium market and the remaining third aimed at the crossbred market, where high growth rates can be obtained through hybrid vigour. Australian beef is part of the worlds’ highest quality meat, known for its consistency and being safe and disease-free.

In 1964, while already having a Merino flock, the first ewes were purchased from the Fulloons, which are now the sort after ‘Cressbrook’ bloodlines. Fine merino wool and mutton production is still an important part of the production on the property. In the mid – late ‘70s, fat lamb production was introduced, however, their feed requirements were found to be too high for return and they were phased out in the early 1990’s. Wool continues to play an important role and is somewhat iconic on the New England tablelands.

Over the years, improved pasture management has led to a much higher yields and efficiency per hectare. Originally we grew permanent pastures of cocksfoot, fescues, ryegrass and clovers.  These days, a high-performance short-term pasture is sown down which includes  high performance ryegrasses and herb species such as plantain, chicory and clover to provide finishing feed for fattening cattle, before establishing a high performance permanent pasture.

clip_image008

Improved Pasture

Fertiliser usage on the property has also come a long way over the last century. In the early days, single super was a major investment, with large returns. Currently however, although still important, fertilising the country has moved along with the advancements of soil and pasture testing. The addition of lime and natural products/by-products of other industries, such as chook manure have proven to be worthwhile both in a sustainable, environmental sense and also in regard to return in improved growth of pasture. We have now adapted and are developing the country through means of biological farming; introducing ‘good-bugs’ back into the country.

Surviving three droughts over this time stands testament to those who were looking after it at the time. Future dry times are sure to return cyclically  but with the use of sustainable agriculture, increased knowledge and better management practices we are confident we will be resilient.

Like many Australian farmers our family are dedicated to undertaking weed control, pest and disease management and habitat and biodiversity enhancement.

We are testing both our soils and our pastures and creating nutrient maps so we can pinpoint exactly what the soil needs in order to remain ‘fuelled-up’ to continue being sustainably  productive.

We have fenced of our waterways and have dedicated areas put aside to increase biodiversity and provide safe habitats for native flora and fauna.

Growing up a Grills…

With such a large extended family and great community spirit, growing up here was something I’ll cherish forever. I have four sisters, three of which are married with 7 kids between them. Horses were a massive part of my childhood and provided many a great time, which still continues today.

Me with Dad on Horse

Starting early – 12 months old with my Dad

I grew up with them, not ever remembering even how I learnt to ride. My father was a keen and talented campdrafter, whilst us kids competed in ribbon days, and attended pony camp and travelled to shows all around.

Steph Grills jumping on Midsun Jamboree 1995

Pony Club in 1995

We moved back into the Polocrosse scene when I was about 10, and haven’t looked back since.

Stephanie Grills Polocrosse

Steph says catch me if you can

Cattle and sheep work was simply just a way of life. Very rarely were there ‘days off’, as there was always something that needed to be done or checked. There are many great memories growing up mustering cattle or being lucky and being ‘let into’ the big shearing shed when we were just tiny. From heading out at dusk with Dad, probably when I was meant to be having a bath and getting ready for dinner and bed, to check on a heifer calving, or to go down to give a poddy one last pat goodnight.

It’s a passion instilled as a youngster that I wouldn’t change for quids. I went off to boarding school at 11 years old and counted the hours when I would get to go home of a weekend. The school cattle team brought me some reprieve and ‘filled the gap’ a little. It was here that I had the opportunity to go on and win the National title for Beef Cattle Parader at the Hobart Show in 2002. Winning Hobart Royal

Winning at Hobart Royal 2002

It wasn’t until my final two years of school where I was able to study Agriculture and Biology, that I really found school somewhat enjoyable. So I threw myself into my studies, especially for these two units, and came out the other end of my HSC, with the award for Agriculture, Hospitality and a merit award for Biology. I was accepted early into University through the School/College Recommendation Admission Scheme. However, university wasn’t at the top of my list. I went home to work for twelve months on the farm and decided that I needed some qualifications to back me up. I completed my Certificate IV in Agriculture through a traineeship program at home. But from here I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I wanted to follow on with Agriculture and I loved the livestock industry, so I enrolled at UNE, to study my Bachelor of Livestock Science.

Although different paths have taken me away from completing this until now, I have learnt a lot in the past few years and have made some wonderful friends across the country.

I even moved to Mungindi, NSW for 2 ½ years to become the offsider in a broadacre spraying operation. Although my family had had cattle on agistment around Moree and I had grown up with a few friends out that way, I knew very little about the cropping industry and its a time which I will cherish both for the knowledge learnt and the great friendships gained.

P9130095

Mungindi Cropping

The future of Australian Agriculture…

I believe the future for Australian agriculture will be very bright. So many people are now voicing their support for Australia’s food and fibre producers, from all different walks of lifes and as a farmer this is so rewarding to see. No longer are farmers and all those working in the industry, just sitting on the fence, just like me they are starting to share their stories with the community. I am excited to be part of an innovative industry that is leading the world in technology and adapting it on a practical level.  I’m very proud to say that Agriculture has been passed down over nine known generations and spans over three centuries just in my family. My hope is that this continues, and that the future generations can be just as proud as I am that they grow world class food and fibre. I also hope by sharing my story I can inspire other young people to follow me into an agricultural career

clip_image020

“Life on The Land – Don’t ever give up!”

1. WOOLCOMBER ( Taken from Family Tree magazine November 1996 Vol 13 no 1)

Woolcombing was part of the process of worsted manufacture. In the manufacture of woollen textiles the raw wool was carded to lay the tangled fibres into roughly parallel strands so that they could be more easily drawn out for spinning. Wool used for worsted cloth required more thorough treatment for not only had the fibres to be laid parallel to each other but unwanted short staple wool also had to be removed. This process was called combing. It was an apprenticed trade, a seven year apprenticeship being the norm in the mid 18th century with apprenticeship starting at about the age of 12 or 13.

The comb, which was like a short handled rake, had several rows of long teeth, or broitches – originally made of wood, later of metal. The broitches were heated in a charcoal fuelled comb-pot as heated combs softened the lanolin and the extra oil used which made the process easier. The wool comber would take a tress of wool, sprinkle it with oil and massage this well into the wool. He then attached a heated comb to a post or wooden framework, threw the wool over the teeth and drew it through them repeatedly, leaving a few straight strands of wool upon the comb each time. When the comb had collected all the wool the comber would place it back into the comb-pot with the wool hanging down outside to keep warm. A second hank of wool was heated in the same way. When both combs were full of the heated wool (about four ounces) the comber would sit on a low stool with a comb in each hand and comb one tress of wool into the other by inserting the teeth of one comb into the wool stuck in the other, repeating the process until the fibres were laid parallel. To complete the process the combed wool was formed into slivers, several slivers making a top, which weighed exactly a pound.  The noils or noyles ( short fibres left after combing) were unsuitable for the worsted trade so were sold to manufacturers of baize or coarse cloth.

The yarn so far……

Art4agriculuture takes great pleasure in introducing you to one of our Young Farming Ambassadors. Our ambassadors are young people in the agrifood sector who have dedicated large chunk’s of their lives to promoting agriculture beyond the farm gate selflessly on behalf of their industry and I am highly confident you will see why Kathleen Allan fits the bill perfectly  

The Kathleen Allan story for your pleasure ……………….   

Hi my name is Kathleen Allan and I am excited about the future of Australian agriculture. I would love to share some of my story – the yarn so far…..

SONY DSC

Kathleen and Yoda

I’m a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a farmer, an AGvocate, an AG-educator, a bit of a foodie and a public servant. I am not sure that I do these “jobs” in the correct order or as well as I would like. I am a typical country mum – a jack of all trades and master of none! Like so many others, I try to do everything and seem to have time for nothing.

Copy of bgc yass

My family, lives on a property on the Boorowa River near Yass in southern NSW, where we run a self-replacing, superfine merino flock and operate our award-winning small business Farm Animal Resource Management (farm) – an agricultural education business that was established in 1994 to promote the importance of agriculture in an increasingly urbanised community. Putting my foodie hat on, we also raise very edible breeds of waterfowl and poultry, fatten pigs, and run a range of “house” cows that are used in our educational displays that also provide the raw ingredients for some great home-made cheeses and ice-cream. That’s value-adding at its best – from the paddock to the plate! Oh yes, then there is our Shetland pony, much loved by all of us, especially my young daughters, Bella and Molly.

SONY DSC

As a fifth generation farmer, agriculture is in my blood, and from a very early age I developed a love of farming and animals. I was obsessed with James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” and like so many teenage girls, I wanted to be a vet. A highlight of my high school years was time spent with my godfather during holidays on King Island in Tasmania. He was the only private vet on the Island, as well as filling additional roles for the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments.

Lamb marking

With schooling behind me and a “not quite Vet Science score”, I commenced a Bachelor of Rural Science at the University of New England in Armidale. University was great – a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. My first 12 months at Uni was spent at St Albert’s College (Albies), and at the end of first year, I took up a position as a Riding School Instructor at the New England Girls School. This position allowed me to have my horse from home as well as gave me suitable “digs” to concentrate on study and assignments. The 4 years of study at Uni flew by and I majored in animal health and sheep and wool production, with an honours thesis on Ovine Johnes Disease. Becoming a vet didn’t seem quite as important as I completed my studies and further developed my interest in the sheep and wool Industry. A highlight in my final year was coming third in the Australian National Merino Breeding Skills Competition and receiving the School of Rural Science Deans Prize. But it wasn’t all sheep and study at uni – I met my future husband David while at UNE, and we both graduated with a Bachelor of Rural Science – my degree with Honours in 2008.

I love wool

I love my wool

Just weeks before I finished my degree, my younger sister Lisa-Jane died suddenly at the age of 16. It was a very tough time for all of us and it was so difficult to return to Armidale to finish those last weeks, cope with exams and submit my thesis. So when I did return to Yass, I threw myself into farm life, helping with our, now struggling, display business and got involved with all sorts of community activities before having a stint in the USA as a Riding Instructor at a Summer Holiday Camp in Maine. The added responsibility that entailed, plus the distance from home, turned out to be a great tonic for me.

Back home after a wonderful adventure, I became actively involved in the local Yass Show and the Royal Canberra Show as an exhibitor, steward, judge and committee member. My mother was elected the first female president of the Yass Show Society, and the great part of having your mum as president of the local show is you are guaranteed to be taken along for the ride, whether you want to be or not.. I managed the farmyard nursery for several years and was a steward and committee member in the merino sheep section, while also taking on the duties of Publicity Officer. Wearing this hat, one of the highlights of my time with our local show was when we managed to get city TV cameras out to the event for some excellent coverage! I was a Showgirl and an inaugural member of the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW Youth Group. These experiences were very important for me and I encourage any young people interested in being part of agriculture and regional areas to get involved in their local show. This is a great way to contribute to your community and an excellent way to meet other passionate and enthusiastic people.

Probably one of my greatest achievements when I returned home to Yass after finishing university was my involvement in developing the Johnes Disease management plans for shows – for sheep, cattle, goats and alpacas. This gave me first hand experience developing and applying practical risk management strategies to ensure continuation of sheep showing in NSW. I got to work with Commonwealth and State and Territory animal health regulators and policy developers as well as vets, sheep industry representatives and Royal and State Show Society associations. A satisfying and significant application of my thesis and uni studies!

SONY DSC

Finewool Merino

In 2001 I won the NSW Young Australian of the Year Award for Regional Initiatives for my work contributing to the management of Ovine Johnes Disease and the promotion of agriculture. I was thrilled to be later invited to be an Australia Day Ambassador for Gunning during the Year of the Outback. In 2002 I was awarded the UNE Young Distinguished Alumni Prize for my contribution to agriculture. A very proud moment, but one of the most humbling experiences for me, was being asked to present the Occasional Address at the UNE Graduation Ceremony that year – amidst many excited graduands and in front of those awe inspiring academics and community leaders that make up the fabric of this prestigious university..

Agriculture is not just farming

For the last 12 years I have worked for the Australian government in Canberra. I am what is known as a public servant. During this time, I have held several roles that are all very relevant to the future sustainability of Australian agriculture. Initially working in technical and scientific roles, for the last 8 years, after finding a real love for communication and stakeholder engagement, I have worked in a number of professional communication roles in the areas of agvet chemical regulation, animal welfare, food policy and water management. I am currently working on chemicals and plastics regulation reform – an important issue given all the challenges facing the Australian manufacturing industry. Access to well regulated chemicals is crucial throughout the agriculture supply chain. I really enjoy working for the Australian government and being part of the Australian Public Service as it offers diversity, great career development opportunities, excellent pay and conditions as well as job satisfaction and the flexibility to pursue other passions.

From the paddock to the playground

Breast cancer promo

Breast Cancer Prevention Promotion Day

For the last 18 years I have been part of our highly successful, award-winning family business, farm animal resource management (f.a.r.m).Under the f.a.r.m. banner, we provide farm animal and agricultural education displays at schools, festivals, and agricultural and royal shows throughout Australia. These displays are a way of improving the understanding of where our food and fibre comes from. I am very proud to have worked closely with my mum as she passionately endeavours to help city families understand and value the importance of agriculture.

miss moo adelaide

We have done some pretty amazing displays and events over that time including managing the first live birthing centre in the ACT, successfully staging the biggest farmyard nursery for the last Royal Easter Show at the old grounds at Moore Park and hosting the longest running farmyard nursery display at a major festival – our Patting Paddock was at Floriade in Canberra for 30 days! Our well known cow milking demonstrations have been featured at the National Science Festival, Floriade and other major exhibitions. We have had a cow in the Channel 9 studio in Sydney for Mornings with Kerri-Anne, featured with the cows in several children’s TV shows, as well as managing live TV broadcasts with some rather high profile news and weather presenters. We had our farm/B&S ute and poll dorset wether in a huge chesty bonds shearers singlet as part of the Patting Paddock display at the Deniliquin Ute Muster. And yes, there was that “Farmer wants a Wife” episode too! Last year we did a full cow milking and dairy products display on the lawns outside the ABC studio in Canberra, in full view of all passing traffic, and the program was broadcast live for 2 hours. We have managed media launches for major industry associations at venues such as the Exhibition Park in Canberra, the National Convention Centre and Old Parliament House. To extend the diversity of our work, we have also been known to don period costume at some major heritage events throughout the ACT region.

SONY DSC

Our “Farm to You” education programs, Wonderful Wool, Exciting Eggs, Fabulous Fibres and Marvellous Milk have been developed over the last 10 years with the culmination being the creation and staging of a series of Milking Barns at major shows including the Canberra Royal Show, Sydney Royal Easter Show, Royal Adelaide Show, Ekka in Brisbane and the Royal Melbourne Show. The statistics are scary! At last count, our team of wonderful cows have probably done more than 1200 Milking Barn sessions, allowing nearly ½ million people to learn “where milk comes from”.

royal melbourne show team

Royal Melbourne Show Team

The work of farm is all about ‘bridging the city country divide’, teaching city children and families where our food and fibre comes from and promoting the importance of agriculture. As practicing farmers we are passionate about our job and are committed to providing hands-on opportunities for city families to enjoy and learn about our livestock industries, understand modern agriculture, and hopefully pursue a career in this industry of the future. That is why I am so excited about 2012 being the Australian Year of the Farmer. This year-long celebration of the vital role farmers play in feeding, clothing and housing us all, is long overdue and the Governor General’s words in launching the Year ring very true – “its purpose is to celebrate all those who contribute – and have contributed –to our rich rural history”. In doing so it will introduce Australians to the farmer of today, and smash a few stereotypes along the way. Recently mum and I were thrilled to accept an invitation to act as Champions for the Australian Year of the Farmer.

SONY DSC

To celebrate the role that farming and agriculture plays in Australian life and share some of our experiences we were really pleased to be part of FarmDay in May. On a very wet and windy day – the southern tablelands at its best – we hosted six families at ‘Bindaree’ for a day of fun and friendship. We did sheep shearing, cow milking, cream separating and butter making, as well as a farm walk to see some of the revegetation and rehabilitation work we have undertaken with Greening Australia over the last 12 years.

Farmday milking

I think the highlight for the younger children visiting the farm was going for a pony ride in pouring rain! We finished the day in front of the warm fire with some hot soup, crusty bread and home-made haloumi for the adults while the children managed some very sheepish craft activities and demolished ‘those sheep cupcakes’……

FarmDay cupcakes

The Legendary Farm Day Sheep Cup Cakes ( more on these in another post)

Wonderful wool

I love superfine merinos and the wool they produce. Inspired by the legacy of a grandfather I never met – a very talented sheep breeder and woolclasser with an eye for a good-framed animal carrying a clean, white, soft-handling fleece, I have developed a real passion for sheep and wool. Motivated by my mothers drive to pursue this same dream to produce high quality wool on a relatively small scale, I have been able to maintain this involvement with the fibre I love. Wool is an amazing product – it’s natural and versatile, has a timeless history and an exciting and sustainable future.

nan jane and bella

 Nan Jane and Bella

For a long time I have had this romantic idea that it would be great to wear something made from our wool, and given the size of the Australian wool industry you might be surprised to know that this is not that easy to achieve.

molly in the wool

 Molly in the wool

The Bindareelan Wool concept was conceived in 2008 when it became very obvious that there was a real demand for premium quality Australian merino wool products suitable for use in an increasingly popular handicraft market. This demand coupled with an aim to diversify and value-add the family’s high quality but relatively small annual wool clip and low-value coloured wool into a boutique product led to the launch of Bindareelan Wool.

SONY DSC

bindareelan wool

Our location in the Capital region, an area renowned for an interest in paddock to plate and therefore, grass to garment, with consumers enjoying a higher than average disposable income, means we are ideally placed to position our product. Based on high quality raw wool from white commercial superfine merinos and a small flock of coloured merinos, used in our educational displays, Bindareelan supplies a range of superfine merino wool products. This range includes individual raw fleeces, scoured wool, wool tops, felting batts and 8ply yarn in skeins or balls in a range of white and natural colours, available direct to buyers or through local specialty yarn and handicraft stores and markets. We think Bindareelan Wool is an exciting initiative tailored to meet the 21st century resurgence in interest in using natural, clean, sustainable fibres.

Bella

Bella

The future

Recently I attended a forum hosted as part of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) Blueprint for Australian Agriculture consultation process. At the end of the forum, we were asked to comment on our vision for Australian agriculture. My vision for Australian agriculture is:

Australian agriculture – a diverse, inclusive and coordinated industry that is economically and environmentally sustainable and valued by the whole community.

I saddens and disappoints me immensely that Australian agriculture is so fragmented. We need to be coordinated and to be coordinated we need to be inclusive. As an industry, its is pivotal we acknowledge the contribution of everyone in our industry regardless of their size, the role they play or the product they produce. On the other hand, in order to be valued by the community, we must tell our story, we need to be innovative in our farming practices, we need to be committed to best-practice farming techniques and strive for continuous improvement. Most importantly though, we need to know who our customers are, engage with them so that we can understand their needs and provide a range of products that meet those needs.

SONY DSC

wool products

The reality of a diverse and competitive job market means that at the moment our industry in the main attracts those with a passion based on their upbringing and background or a connection with some awesome childhood experience that has aroused their curiosity about career opportunities in agriculture.  Whilst it will certainly help this dilemma won’t disappear if agriculture or primary industries are included in the primary school curriculum or as elective units in the high school curriculum. This is part of the answer, it is not the solution. We should also focus on providing information and resources for teachers to use and promote agriculture and farming as a context for learning across all curriculum areas. But in order for the whole community to value Australian agriculture, everyone, not just students or children, need to have ongoing access to a range of opportunities to engage in and learn about agriculture. As farmers and producers we need to tell our story.

The big idea

My years of experience in this area tells me the best way to engage the Australian community with agriculture and farming is through food. And there is no doubt that modern consumers want to know as much as possible about what they eat. In particular, where it comes from, how it is produced, what standards apply, the transport methods used and the costs associated with producing the food. Let’s expand the ‘paddock to plate’ concept and include the farming story by being part of the cooking show revolution or partner with some of our leading chefs and restaurants. Most importantly though, we shouldn’t rely on small organisations or well-meaning individuals to Champion the cause – let’s all get behind it together. After all, if you want to eat, you need farmers, and when the whole community understands and values where their food comes from, we will be able to encourage a wider range of participation in agriculture as a career.

Patting Paddock

 Patting Paddock

I want to be part of the future for Australian agriculture and, as a mother I want my daughters to value their rural heritage and participate in taking this vital industry forward. We live in exciting and challenging times. The global population is increasing rapidly and Australia can continue to contribute to feeding that population in sustainable and innovative ways through the efforts of passionate and enthusiastic young people in agriculture.

Shaped by yesterday. Passionate about today.

Today’s guest post has been written by Bronwyn Roberts an aspiring Art4Agriculture Young Beef Farming Champion. Young Farming Champions submit an EOI where we ask them to write a short paragraph on “why they believe it is important for farmers to build relationships with consumers” and we were very impressed with Bronwyn’s answer

Historically our ‘city cousins’ had a friend or family member on a farm, so had a personal experience with agriculture and the products we produce. This is no longer the case and we as an industry need to reinvigorate the personal experience for consumers, and rebuild the relationships that have been lost. The introduction of social media has seen a rise in misinformation about agriculture being presented and interpreted as fact. In these current times where agriculture is competing with other industries for land use, labour, funding and services, it is important that we have a strong network of consumers who support agriculture and accept our social license as the trusted and sustainable option.

This insightful answer made us very keen to hear more about Bronwyn and we invited her to share her story with you

Hi, my name is Bronwyn Roberts and my family have been feeding and clothing the world for more than 500 years. My agricultural ancestry traces back to England in the 1500’s. More recently, my Australian heritage goes back to settlers who came out here to farm in 1855. 

My Grandfather, Joseph Comiskey, was born in 1890 and was a very well-known Queensland grazier.

3 Bronwyn Roberts

I’m proud to say that Grandad prepared horses for the Light Horse brigade which were shipped off and used in World War I. Grandad Joe together with his wife Leila had 9 children and my mother is the youngest. My grandparents can still be credited for a large portion of the population of the Alpha district. Each year Grandad would head to far North West Queensland buying forward steers and droving them home to the properties at Alpha. Grandad travelled down with so many mobs that he knew all of the graziers en route personally. In 1988 Grandad was asked to purchase the first pen of fat bullocks to be sold at Auction as part of the grand opening of the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach. With Queen Elizabeth herself looking on, Grandad purchased this first pen in pounds, shillings and pence for old time sake. Grandad was so well known and did so much for the grazing industry in Central Queensland, that the loading complex at the Alpha Saleyards are named in his honour, and the first pen of bullocks sold at the new Emerald Sales Complex were sold in his name. I would later go on to work at these Emerald saleyards, and remember my time there as a highlight of my working career. By the time of his death in 1993, Grandad had acquired 10 properties in total, 7 of which are still in the family. If you haven’t done the math yet, Grandad lived to the ripe old age of 103. I was only 10 years old when Grandad passed, and had he not lived so long I probably would have never had the honour of knowing him. Grandma passed in 2006. What I wouldn’t give to spend one more day with those two, learning about their old ways of the bush and sharing with them the new ways of my generation of grazier.

1 Bronwyn Roberts

So by now you may be thinking that my love of agriculture comes from my long family history in the industry… well you’re wrong. While the past has shaped who I am, my continued passion for this industry doesn’t come from yesterday, but from today. I am a full time Grazing Land Management Officer with the Fitzroy Basin Association, which is the natural resource management body for this region. The area I cover is twice the size of Tasmania, and is the biggest beef producing region in the world. Our farmers are used to having a varying climate, and are on the forefront of practices and technology used for producing economically and environmentally sustainable food and fibre. When asked to describe a typical day for me, I often wonder ‘what is typical’? I leave home in the dark and I get home in the dark, that’s about the only thing I can count on.

Today I might be driving north on a dirt road for 3 hours, to spend the day with a grazier who would like to improve his pasture and land condition, to decrease the amount of soil lost off his property which ends up in the waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef. Yes, I said the Great Barrier Reef, as all creeks and rivers in my part of the world flow there. This landholder may also want to fence off his riparian areas to protect the creek banks, improve water quality, and create a nature corridor protected from stock. To do this, this landholder is going to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars for very minimal economic return. If this was an investment in shares, a financial expert would advise against it as the return on investment is poor. But for farmers, who are the custodians of our land, the decision to spend money and do right by our environment is an easy one.

Perhaps today I’m not spending it one on one with a landholder on their farm, but maybe I am running a best management practice workshop with a group of landholders.

4 Bronwyn Roberts

Picture a group of graziers, most of which are middle aged men, sitting around a kitchen table and each operating a laptop connected to the internet. These graziers are assessing their farm operations against best management practice. This gives the landholders an opportunity to benchmark their operation against industry standard, and provides them with a report card of areas of excellence and possible areas of improvement. It’s my job to help them with their areas of improvement, to ensure that no one in the industry is left behind in a rapidly advancing world. This assessment takes valuable time away from running their property, and is using technology they may not be familiar with, but they do it so their industry can report to the world what an excellent job our Australian graziers are doing.

photo

Possibly today I’m not delivering a workshop, but attending one as a student. Today I might be sitting in a shed on a property with other graziers, learning about how this one particular grazier got legumes established in his pasture to combat the sown pasture rundown epidemic that is affecting the developed grasslands of Queensland. This landholder may have conducted his own trials, at his own expense, and is now freely and openly sharing his findings with other graziers for the greater good. This landholder is not afraid to get emotional in front of his peers, because he is passionate about his industry and is sharing the culmination of years of blood, sweat, tears, money and research that he has personally put in to develop a solution to an industry problem. This landholder can tell you exactly how many legumes are established in each of his trial plots, because he has spent days on days counting them himself. This landholder will also share with you his financial position, his production capabilities, and his management plan for the future. You name another industry where a business owner will share so openly with his ‘competition’.

Maybe it’s the weekend so I get to spend my time freely. What to do? What to do? Easy… as well as being a full time Grazing Land Management Officer, I’m also a part time grazier. Did I forget to mention that? My parent’s run a 5500acre cattle property near Capella. We have a core herd of about 350 Santa Gertrudis and Brangus breeders, and run trade steers sourced from all over Central Queensland, buying in at about 350kg and turning off at feedlot weight 450-520kg.

2 Bronwyn Roberts 

We turn over about 1000 steers per year, and as they dribble in and dribble out, it seems we have a constant stream of cattle work to do. Every one of those animals will be weighed, vaccinated, and moved into new paddocks a number of times during their stay on ‘Barngo’, with each treatment being recorded against their electronic ear tag. Using this technology we can tell you the average weight gain of every steer, or the breeding history of every cow, and the location of every mob on the property. My parents purchased this particular property in 2002, as a working broad acre grain farm, but we are graziers not farmers, so we went to work on turning this patch of bare black soil into a working cattle property. Buying a blank canvas has awarded us an opportunity for development that not a lot of people get to experience any more.

Brownyn Roberts

We were able to fence the paddocks the way we wanted them, and were able to take our time in the design and layout of the property. In 10 years we have transformed a grain growing farm with 2 paddocks, 2 troughs and no yards, into a working rotational grazing system with improved pastures, including fields of the fragile QLD Blue Grass.

QLD Blue Grass

We now have 15 paddocks fenced to land type, 20 troughs strategically placed for maximum pasture utilisation with minimal impact on land condition, and a laneway system to the yards for easy stock movement. My father also has a job in the local mines to help subsidise the property development, so we are a collection of ‘weekend ringers’. Along with my trusty kelpie ‘Jules’ I like to spend my weekends educating weaners, rotating mobs to new paddocks, or doing land condition assessments at the paddock monitoring sites I have established. I guess you could say grazing is my life.

So it’s today’s graziers, my parents and grandparents, and the landholders I have the privilege to work with on a daily basis, that really inspire me and that have made me passionate about this industry. Agriculture is one of the leading industries in adopting advanced technology. As an industry, we are able to harvest more produce with less land and resources than ever before, because of this adoption and practice change. We are showing the world how to produce food and fibre economically and environmentally sustainably, but most importantly, not only can we feed ourselves but we can feed many people around the world.

Agriculture the key ingredient on everyone’s plate.

The legacy of the Young Farming Champions program is to create an Australia wide network of enthusiastic young professionals and build their capacity to promote Australian agriculture as a dynamic, innovative, rewarding and vibrant industry. The Young Farming Champions challenge is to BE the change that needs to occur. So you can imagine how excited I was when I got this post from Sam Adams and saw this.

“Wool certainly has been a big part of my life, and will continue to be into the future. To be able to share the wonders of wool with others is more than exciting, its a privilege that all growers should embrace and encourage”.

I salute you Sam I couldn’t have said it better myself

Read this exciting young wool producer’s story here  ……….

My name is Sam Adams, and no, I do not own a brewery. I do however possess a love for quality Merino wool.

Sam Adams

I grew up on a farm at Armidale, in NSW. Traditionally our area has been the home of golden bales, of some incredible wool and is a recognised superfine wool stronghold.

Today, Australia enjoys a global reputation as one of the most scientifically advanced wool growing countries in the world. Australian Merino is regarded by many as the finest and softest wool produced globally. Australia is the global “home of Merino”, supplying over 80% of the world’s Merino wool for apparel.

Marie Bashir

The Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir was an elite celebrity among the elite flock for the final judging of the 67th annual Armidale Housed Merino Show .

Our region also hosts the iconic New England Wool Expo each year.

WOOL_EXPOlayout

Whilst wool production still has a large prominence in the area, due to new markets and changing trends cattle can now been seen grazing large areas of improved ryegrass pastures on what was once a paddock of native grasses with the occasional single super.

To quote Bob Dylan’s famous words The times they are a Changin’,

It is not just the animals in the landscape that are changing either with coal mines now having a heavy presence

Photo 1

A changed landscape in the Hunter Valley, once grazing land now a coal mine.

From my observations, not only are sheep becoming less abundant in the New England, but also the mighty Merino is slowly disappearing amidst numerous crosses to the increasingly popular meat and dual-purpose sheep. I find this somewhat disappointing; I believe there is still an important place for the Merino and its magnificent and elegant fibre.

Who I am

Along with my younger brother, I am the third generation on our 1,417 hectare property. My grandparents bought the farm when independence forced them from their Copra plantations in New Guinea in the late 1970’s. Neighbouring paddocks and farms were acquired, and added to the original purchase.

My father and his three siblings were fortunate,in that they had a very wise and humble education from Kevin, a farm worker and subsequent mentor. I was only 10 or so when Kevin retired, and I now wish I had been able to spend many more years under his tutelage. Strongly embedded in dad’s work ethic are the values and lessons taught by Kevin in his 30 or so years working alongside him, lessons that have been passed on to me, of which I am very grateful.

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are of spending time in the woolshed,  laughing at the stories the shearers told, or admiring the bales as they stacked up behind the press. The bus trip home from school seemed to get longer each day as I anticipated alighting from the bus and rushing to the shearing shed still in my school uniform.

I completed my schooling in 2009, graduating from The Armidale School, with a head full of ideas and enthusiasm. During my senior school years, I was fortunate enough to take part in the PICSEprogram, making some valuable friends and turning the light on to the opportunities in agricultural research and development that were open to me

In my final year, I was lucky to have been Senior Prefect, Shooting Captain and the school’s cadet unit SUO. Positions that I believe have had a strong influence in shaping who I am today.

I worked alongside Dad for the most part of my gap year and also ventured to work at farms at Dongara WA and Moree NSW for two month intervals.

PICSE coordinator, Susanna Greig, suggested I apply for a Horizon Scholarshipwhich is supporting my degree at the University of Queensland, where I am now in my second year.

My degree – a Bachelor of Plant Science – will allow me to become an agronomist . Lately the farm has been calling and my goals have shifted slightly, and I am keen to get more hands on and see the value of returning to the farm and working alongside my father to continue to produce fine wool, lamb and beef.

High performance pasture planted at Swallowfield for steer backgrounding and fat lamb production. Such pastures are a common sight across the New England

We have reduced our sheep numbers significantly in recent years due to declining returns. From a flock of around 4000, only 800 now remain. I am very keen to expand our flock, and better utilise the available land, and achieve efficiency gains in conjunction with the cattle enterprise. The Merino offers great diversity to any business, not only with wool production, but also a strong market for lamb and even cast for age ewes.

Having completed a course in Business Management as a part of my studies, I decided to create a hypothetical business plan, focussing on wool production. Much to my delight I had the chance to share this with some helpful people from Agribusiness at Suncorp just recently, and have been given some useful feedback, and I am looking forward to exploring it further and hopefully putting it into practice.

Wool

I see wool as a wonderful fibre that ticks all the right boxes. Not only is it renewable, but also it requires little water, synthetic fertiliser input or other artificial inputs. I have seen graziers within the New England whom have adopted a strict rotation program, and as a result have not drenched for internal parasites for over 12 months. We abandoned mulesing in the mid 2000’s, and have noticed little to no difference in flystrike prevalence, and this has been a very rewarding experience

Photo 3

The stencil used to proudly brand our wool.

From my understanding, wool has so much potential in the road ahead. The advent of products such as the ‘MerinoPerformTM’ range has opened a new market for the product. The MerinoPerformTM Advantage for example is a range of bicomponent fabrics with unique temperature regulation and vapour management properties, keeping athletes cooler and drier when exercising. These fabrics combine the unique high-performance
benefits of Merino fibres with synthetics in a bi-component structure. They are knitted fabrics with the inside component made from 19.5 micron or finer Merino, which comprises at least 20 per cent of the fabric. The outside component of the fabric is made from hydrophilic synthetic fibres.

Wool certainly has been a big part of my life, and will continue to be into the future. To be able to share the wonders of wool with others is more than exciting, its a privilege that all growers should embrace and encourage.

1330395596-66

Ask a Farmer

Today’s guest post is by Kylie Stretton one of the founders of Ask an Aussie Farmer– “An idea grown by real Aussie farmers so you can have your food and fibre questions answered by those who produce it for you”.

Kylie Stretton Photo Vicki Miller Photography

This group are

 “passionate about Australian farming, with expertise and first-hand knowledge across a broad expanse of agriculture in Australia, including access to experts and professionals. We reside all over this country and some even live far away from our shores but are still involved in the diverse industries of Australian agriculture. The reason for hosting this page is so those that live, breath, know, and are enthusiastic about Aussie Ag can answer your questions and tell their stories…”

Well done Kylie and Team

We first met Kylie when we partnered with MLA to roll out the Archibull Prize at the Ekka in 2011. The winning school as part of their prize got a visit from a Beef farmer and Kylie was that farmer

Farmer Kylie with winners of Archibull Prize at Ekka 2011

The Kylie Stretton story …….

Planting Those Seeds of Excitement

In 1820, Hertfordshire, England, my Great-Great-Great- Great Grandfather, George Hobler decided to add farming to the list of his family’s noble professions. His Grandfather was an eminent watchmaker; his Uncle a tenor who performed at Westminster Abbey; his father was the Chief Clerk to the Lord Mayor of London for 50 years and written about by Charles Dickens on more than one occasion; and his brother a Barrister and Author.

After spending five years working on various farms in England, George was lured by the prospect of growing super fine wool in Australia. So in 1825 he, his wife Ann, their two children (nine more were born in Australia), ten stud Merino sheep and one of Australia’s first purebred Devon heifers boarded a ship and set sail to Van Diemen’s Land.

Add in different lines of the family tree which contain pastoralists from Cameron’s Corner, young stockmen, soldiers, my Grandmother who ventured from Sydney to Boulia, in outback Qld to be the first female bookkeeper on that particular station (pretty rare in those days), even a Spanish Princess and the result is seven generations down the track, we’re still raising beef. Although each generation has moved a bit further north, and we now Brahmans in North Queensland.

Our latest purchases

I grew up on a cattle station near Charters Towers, battling drought (I wrote a blog about it here) for most of the time we were there.

Buzz and I at one year old.  Buzz lived until 17 and will always hold a special place in our hearts.

When I got to Grade 12 I wasn’t sure what to do; but I knew I loved station life and I loved kids so I scoured the ads in the Queensland Country Life, answering many hoping to become a governess. I was very excited when I got offered a job in the Northern Territory (until I realised I had to go on a plane for the first time).

Dad, I and Mac, smiles in times of drought 1993

Farmer Gets a Wife

I staggered off that mail plane a little worse for wear, to clap eyes on my future husband (another blog about it here). I hope future generations tell that story in years to come!

The Farmer Gets A wife Photo by Vicki Miller Photography

So fast forward twelve years and my husband and I with two young children have just started a new business; he’s a livestock agent in North Queensland, our market’s underpinned by live export.

At the Stockyards Photo by Vicki Miller Photography

 

We also have a small but growing herd of Brahman steers.

Ella-Beth and Clancy with steers

I’m floating around, not sure what I want to do with my life, happy to be a part of the business but still feeling something lacking within myself.

Shane, I, Clancy and Ella-Beth

Then along comes the Live Export uproar. Tips our world upside down, along with many others. I’ve always been passionate about rural Australia, but was never sure what to do about it. All of a sudden I knew what I could do. The world was opening up with social media, but that was not working in our favour. So I dived in head first and starting advocating for the live export industry via Facebook, Twitter and Blogging. Along the way I “met” many other farmers, and realised it wasn’t just us that there was misunderstanding about. It was food and fibre production as a whole.

How social media changed my life

Once I started looking into it, there were already amazing people doing amazing things when it comes to teaching our future generations about feeding and clothing the world. In September 2011, I was given a great opportunity by MLA, to fly to Brisbane and speak to school children about growing up on a cattle station (yet another blog here) which helped bring me out of my shell and made me realise that what I had to say was interesting.

Farmer Kylie addressing whole school

I now even have the confidence to approach tourists who come out to have a look at our weekly cattle sale; they appreciate getting a little tour of the saleyards, with explanations and interesting statistics thrown in.

I have learnt so much in the last twelve months, so many interesting, quirky and exciting facts about agriculture. I am more excited and proud than ever to be a part of such an innovative industry. Technology has changed the face of Australian Agriculture. The industry has advanced from the images of “Farmer Joe” in the dusty paddock to images of young men and women from diverse backgrounds working in a variety of professions. Images now range from a hands-on job in the dusty red centre to an office job in inner city Sydney. So many opportunities, so many choices.

Trying to beat the storms

Australia really is the lucky country with 2.15ha of arable land to each person of our population. That’s one of the highest ratios of any country in the whole world. But only 3% of our employed population work in Agriculture. That’s not many people looking after a huge landmass. Incredibly 54% of our land is used for some sort of agricultural enterprise. We produce 93% of the food used domestically while still exporting a whopping 60% of what we grow to other countries which is so important with the world population growing bigger and bigger. However mass production isn’t everything. We are doing these amazing feats on the driest inhabited continent on Earth.

Photo of me taken by Ella-Beth (8)

So Australian Farmers are world leaders when it comes to farming efficiently and sustainably. It’s vital that we continue on this track and getting better and better with advancing technology. It’s a difficult juggling act producing enough food and fibre for a rapidly expanding population while still caring for the environment in the best way possible. Without a healthy environment we can’t grow such high quality produce.

Young people are the future lets work with them

Today’s children are tomorrow’s decision makers. Kids are like sponges, if you’re excited about what you’re teaching them, it’s contagious. It’s so important to get them involved or at the very least give them an understanding about all sorts of agriculture so they are equipped to lead further generations into a future which has a secure supply of food. And that starts with us.

Warm Welcome from Grade Ones Nashville State School

We need to start planting those seeds of excitement in children from all walks of life right now. Australian agriculture has such a fascinating history and promising future. I’m proud that my family has played a part in it for nearly two hundred years, I love that I’m a part of the present and I’m excited about my children being a part of it in the future. I hope that seven generations down the track my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandchildren are still a part of agriculture, and look back on my generation and are as inspired as I am when I look back on previous generations.

From the Saddle

Hayley Piggott is another one of those young things who live and breathe the farm. So young and so many important things to say

Confident you will enjoy the Hayley Piggott story……

Hello, my name is Hayley Piggott and I was raised on a cattle property in the Central Highlands of Queensland. I am the 3rd generation to be on the property after my grandfather drew it in a land ballot in 1964. Growing up I always enjoyed being on the property and helping my father with whatever he was doing which varied from cattle work on horseback to general property maintenance. It was not until my GAP year, following five years of boarding school, that I really developed a passion and love for what we do as beef producers. You can see for yourself what happens at our place here: www.aldingadroughtmasters.com  – just look for the ‘From the Saddle’ tab.

Who am I

A Typical Day on the Property.

A typical day varies depending on what part of the year it is. It’s not often that any one week of the year is the same as another, so I will give you a brief overview of our typical working year.

We are up with the sun (5am during summer and 6.30am in winter) to start our day’s work. Summer is branding season, so we rise at 5am to saddle our horses and go mustering.

Who am I (2)

Typically, down on the flat country, we bring in one paddock (sometimes two) of cows and calves a day. Drafting is done in the late afternoon so the cattle are not worked in the heat of the day. The next morning we brand and mother up the calves before breakfast. We take the cows and calves back to their paddock on the way to get the next mob.

Up the back, in the mountainous country, we camp in a shed for a week, three times a year, on stretchers in our swags! A generator runs the fridge and lights in the morning and at night. Our meals (breakfast and dinner) are cooked over a fire. Breakfast consists of steak, eggs, baked beans, toast and nice warm mugs of black billy tea. Nevertheless, there are jobs to do…no sitting around enjoying the morning sun. Lunch and smoko (morning tea) must be packed (wrapped in newspaper to go in saddlebags), the dishes washed and the night horse caught to run the workhorses in. For dinner we have steak and rib-bones cooked over a smoky fire with the vegies (tinned peas, potatoes and pumpkin) boiled in Billies over the fire. After dinner the dishes must be washed (with hot billy water and detergent) before you can sit and relax by the fire.

Cooking Dinner

Water is heated, for bathing, in big paint 44 gallon drums sitting here next to the fire.

The warm water is then poured into the pull bucket in the shower- a 3-walled corrugated iron construction. It’s a “shower with a view”.

Camp

At night when we go to bed, there are lots of bush noises and smells. No city traffic roaring down the freeway or exhaust fumes out here. The sound of crackling fire, dingoes howling, curlews crying, cicadas and crickets vibrating, cattle bellowing, mozzies buzzing and an owl hooting merge into a nice harmony to put you to sleep. Wafts of campfire smoke and the smell of dew dampening grass and dried gum leaves create a perfume you wouldn’t find anywhere else. It is almost time to get up when the kookaburras laugh and other birds join. It’s nice to lie listening to the bush bird song while waiting for the sun to peak up over the mountains. During the day, when we are mustering, if we are lucky we get to see a brumby or two, perhaps a dingo and plenty of kangaroos!

Cows

Fat bullocks must be mustered too, and because they are full of feed and energy, they like to play. They like to gallop, buck and challenge each other, meaning we have to ride fast to bring the lead of the mob under control so they don’t lead the others astray. There is always that one bullock that wants to clear out, so, we have to wheel him in too! Luckily, we have dogs that watch for the bullocks that want to clear out and nip them back in if necessary! At the yards the best bullocks are drafted off to be trucked to market and sold – that’s how farmers make their money. They don’t get wages because they are self-employed and it is how you get the meat on your plate!

In dry weather, and always in winter, lick (mineral supplement) runs must be done weekly, from one end of the property to the other. This provides the cows with much needed minerals that they might not be getting from the grass. A 4WD Ute is loaded with a tonne of lick and taken to the various troughs. At the troughs, the bags must be split with a knife and poured into the troughs. The cows can hear our Ute and come running because they know we have lick for them.

In the past two years we had an abundance of rain, making the roads wet and boggy and the creeks flooded so we couldn’t do lick runs! The creeks raged full of water knocking trees down, washing over fences and even washing some cattle away, but we got most of them back!

After the floods, we get our “favourite” job of fencing (NOT!). To fix the fences we have to pull all of the debris (grass, logs and weeds) off the wire, before putting the posts back in the ground and re-attaching the wire to the posts! Sometimes, it is just the creek crossings, other times we have to fix the fences on the creek flats. It is hard work pulling the fences up, but it is such a great feeling, even with endless scratches and sore muscles, to see what you have achieved for the day.

Fence

In February, we plant oats for winter-feed. To do this we have to drive a tractor following a GPS to keep the rows nice and straight!

Bogged Tractor

Bogged tractor and plough – Sometimes the ground is wetter than initially thought.

In March, we draft and start preparing our stud bulls for our sale in September. They have to be kept in good condition during winter so they are ready for the sale in spring. This is my favourite part of the year – there is nothing quite so special as making friends with bulls that nearly weigh as much as a small car!! Some of them end up like real pets and follow me around like my dog does for a pat!

Me with Bull and hay

In May, calves are weaned from their mothers because the cows need a break before their next calf is born. We take the bulls out at weaning time too. This is called controlled mating because the bulls are only with the cows for a short period each year. So, during calving time, the calves are all born around the same time, meaning, when they are weaned they are all about the same age. We separate the calves from their mothers and take them back to the yards at the house so we can look after and educate them. Yes, they need educating too. They need to learn to fend for themselves. They also have to learn to walk together in a mob and learn that when the gate is opened they are expected to walk through it without rushing and stop when we want them to. Through this process, they learn to trust us and it makes working with them easier. I have heard of people singing to their weaners to calm them down in the yards.

In October, the bulls are put back with the cows, so that after the cows calve, the cycle can start again. While all of that is fun and exciting, there are other jobs to do as well. A fence or two might need fixing because a bull has decided to visit some cows in a different paddock. Our bores (our main water supply) might have problems and must be fixed very quickly because the cattle will run out of water and we will have no water at the house as living in the bush we don’t have access to town water.

Social Life in the Bush

Living in a “remote” area can have you thinking of the lifestyle as a lonesome experience. But, with social media like Facebook and Twitter it is easy to have a social life every day. Living in the bush is what you make of it. You have to take hold of any opportunities that offer networking opportunities and the chance to build friendships. We often have get togethers with neighbours. On top of this in our area there are numerous community groups; like footy, tennis and cricket clubs, clay pigeon and sporting shooters, dirt bikes and motocross as well as events like camp drafts, rodeos and bush races and dances and of course the annual agricultural show. As a child, I was a part of the swimming club and pony club, which allowed me to mix with people of a similar age in my district.

In the past couple of years, I have attended the Young Beef Producers Forum(YBPF) with other beef producers and young people involved in the industry from the ages of 18 -35. This was a great opportunity to broaden my mind on various topics whilst networking at the same time!

Networking at YBPF

Checking out some leuceana on a property tour during YBPF

Every year, YBPF is held two days before the Roma Races where many young people go to catch up with people that they haven’t seen in a while. Travelling to the Brisbane Ekka and Beef Week in Rockhampton are real social highlights. I can assure you life is not lonely in the bush, it is what you make of it, and there is plenty of fun to be had! We can also have fun without having to spend money with wide-open spaces and bushland to explore, and depending where you live an abundance of creeks to swim in!

On the topic of Sustainability

As caretakers of the land we are committed to leaving it in better shape than when we found it – and we know we can improve efficiency and reduce the resources we use on our property. For example we monitor our stocking rates so that paddocks are not “chewed out”, leaving them bare and exposed to erosion and woody weed growth. To control weeds in our pastures a cool burn is done in different areas every year. This encourages pasture growth, and prevents wild fires when it’s really hot in the summer.

Burning

The things that concern me

I am worried about the future of our best farming land in this country. It is under pressure from unsustainable mining and coal seam gas production. I am worried about our precious underground water supply being poisoned by fracking and what will happen when our minerals run out.

I am also worried about the growth in foreign ownership of Australian farms. Think about this figure: the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 11% of Australia’s agricultural land (in real terms twice the size of the state of Victoria) is partially or fully owned by foreign interests (Nason, 2011) (www.beefcentral.com/p/news/article/600).

I believe the very future of our modern society is dependent on communities valuing what farmers do, and providing them with the resources to get on and do it in a way that not only meets the values and expectations of the communities which they serve but also provides a reliable income so our farmers can give back to the land and the livestock they love

My Future Aspirations

One day I hope to start my own Droughtmaster Stud and beef production enterprise, not only to carry on my family’s work, but because I believe the beef industry is a great industry to be involved in. I think the future of our industry is very exciting.

It can be all too easy to question why we do what we do in times of flood, drought, and situations like the Live Export Ban. These times make what we do challenging but more often than not lead to innovations and a renewed passion for what we do!

I have found the successes and opportunities far outweigh the negatives and help make the industry what it is.

My current goal is to finish my Agribusiness degree at the University of Queensland, Gatton.

One Last Thing…

Remember when you go shopping to look at the labelling to check where your food comes from. Will your purchase be helping an Australian farmer or sending money overseas?

In addition, when you are thinking about what you are going to when you leave school don’t forget about agriculture. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from! You just have to get amongst it and have a go; There are endless opportunities in agriculture for young people like you and me to get involved! Wouldn’t you like a backyard like mine?

NaturalBeauty

Follow Hayley on twitter @HayleyPiggott1

Meet Lauren Crothers proud to help produce your woolly jumpers

Another inspiring young Australian chooses to produce food and fibre for the world.

My name is Lauren Crothers and I am crazy about sheep. I even know how to shear them

lauren-crothers

I bet if you knew just how impressive our wool industry is you would be just as proud of Australia’s sheep as I am

Australia supplies almost 90% of the wool used in the global apparel market and produces more than a quarter of the world’s wool. Approximately 24% of wool produced belongs to cross-bred sheep with the other 76% belonging to merinos. Australian merino wool is especially suited to apparel end-use due to it fine texture and clean, white appearance. Check out what our clever Australian designers do with our magnificent wool here

large_942adca9ab99d59affdec85ba38019c1

“It’s an important initiative to remind us of the wonders of wool. The natural fibre that looks beautiful, feels beautiful, that breathes and cools, that flexes with our bodies, heats and insulates and is environmentally sound.” – Governor General, Quentin Bryce

There are around 55,000 woolgrowers spread right across Australia, who pay wool levies and as you can see I’m very proud to be one of them!

Me & Dad

Lauren and her dad in the shearing shed

I grew up on the family property at Dirranbandi located in South West Queensland. “Booligar” is a mixed farming and grazing property, however in recent years the business has been leaning more towards the farming side. The property is 24 000 acres and when I was younger consisted of commercial self-replacing merinos, breeding cattle, irrigated cotton and wheat. When Dad and my Uncle decided that it was more economical to grow irrigated cotton, the sheep side of the business was let go, much to my disappointment.

Farm Photo

This however didn’t stop me; I was constantly visiting my Uncle and Aunt’s property at Tara where I could always be found following a mob of sheep or helping in the yards. Shearing time was my favourite, where the smell of lanolin drifted around the shed and embedded into my clothes. This is where I believe my love for the sheep and wool industry started.

At the age of twelve I was trucked off to boarding school on the Gold Coast, whereby I learnt numerous skills, however it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I would much rather be doing physical work than sitting at a table with pad and pen. It was much like the old saying, ‘You can take the girl out of the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the girl’. Agriculture wasn’t taught as a subject which I expected and consequently I undertook a Certificate II in Agriculture in Years 11 and 12. Although I didn’t enjoy school I made the most of my opportunities and consequently I was awarded the position of School Sports Captain in my final year.

 

Lauren Crothers Photo

At the end of Year 12 I decided to take a working gap year as a jillaroo. I managed to get a position on a commercial sheep station 150kms North West of Warren. Working alongside the manager and another jillaroo on a 35,000 acre property running 7000 merino breeding ewes was certainly an experience. After around five weeks the other jillaroo left, leaving an enormous amount of responsibility on the shoulders of my then 17 year old body, but I loved every minute of it.

Throughout the 13 months that I was there, I worked alongside a second jillaroo for approximately 9 weeks. The rest of the time it was just me and the boss! It became apparent that it was increasingly difficult to find young people interested in the sheep and wool industry. One particular day I was working beside my boss in the workshop when I posed the question, ‘Why don’t young people want to get involved with wool or sheep anymore? Why would they rather cattle or cropping?’ He didn’t have any answer to it, probably because he is so passionate about the industry!

At times it was lonely, tiresome and very physical, but I absolutely loved it! It taught me a number of key things including responsibility, independence and an enormous amount about sheep and wool. I entered sheep judging competitions and I was constantly asking questions so that I could gain more knowledge. At school I was never a morning person, however when my alarm sounded (usually while it was still dark) I was eager to get up knowing that I would learn something new every day and do something that I am passionate about.

Throughout my time working on “Womboin Station” I decided that I would go to Uni and study a Bachelor of Agribusiness at the University of Queensland. Although I was hesitant I knew that it would be best to acquire business knowledge if I wanted to run my own business. It was also at this stage that I decided to go into partnership with my twin sister and another good mate. We purchased a mob of sheep and they are currently lambing. I learnt how to shear (I managed to shear 50 for the 2 days – but couldn’t walk properly for 2 weeks after!) And we are aiming to increase our mob and produce high quality merino wool as well as breeding with merino rams.

017

Lauren and click go the shears

Classing_1101.jpgBale_storage_0011

The fruits of the labour

Although I’m studying full-time, managing sheep and have a weekend job I still maintain involvement in the Agriculture Industry. I applied for a Horizon Scholarship,which I was honoured to receive. With this I aim to attend as many field days and conferences as possible along with gaining a wealth of knowledge from industry leaders. I also hope that my story is able to inspire the younger generation to become involved in the agriculture industry and in particular the sheep and wool industry.

Every family needs a farmer. No matter who you are, your gender, your background or where you live you can become involved in this amazing industry. There are a number of corporations that are committed to fostering opportunities for helping people into this industry. The key to getting people involved is in education.  One  program which I aim to be involved in is the Jackie Howe Festival of the Golden Shearsbeing held at Jondaryan Woolshed. The festival will let people experience the lives of pioneers and a chance to live and breathe life as an Aussie and understand what it is that made our culture and grew our spirit as a nation.

logo

I know that without a doubt my future lies within the agricultural industry and I hope that by sharing my journey with you I can inspire others to travel in my footsteps.

Woolly Jumpers

Thanks Lauren Art4agriculture is indeed looking forward to you joining us as an Australian Wool Innovation Young Farming Champion

I have been everywhere man

Continuing our feature on Inspiring Young People in the Agrifood Sector. This is a guest post by Steph Fowler who has just started a PhD in Meat and Livestock Science,

Slide17_thumb.jpg

There are everywhere man!!! All these inspiring young Australians choosing agriculture as a career of first choice and why wouldn’t they ? Hassad are investing in OZ agriculture for all these reason We should be proud of our Aussie Farmers they have a great reputation world wide

clip_image002

The Steph Fowler story………..

Farming isn’t in my blood; it’s barely even in my family. I grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales in a small coastal suburb, Green Point, as far away from the country as you could get. Believe it or not I have just started my PhD in Meat and Livestock Science, with a project that is looking at the potential of Raman Spectroscopy in predicting meat quality (translation – I measure meat with lasers). I eat and breathe meat and livestock but it hasn’t always been this way. When I was growing up I never dreamed that I would end up joining an incredibly rewarding, innovative and exciting industry that would take me across the country and around the world.

New Zealand Drafting

It wasn’t until high school when I decided to study agriculture because I liked animals that I got involved. After a very successful first cattle show, I was hooked and became a fully-fledged member of the school cattle team and spent the remainder of my high school years breeding, preparing and showing stud Limousins.

Central Coast Steer Show 04

Once I left high school I headed up to Tocal Ag College, in search of more practical skills and completed a Cert III in Horse Husbandry and a Cert IV in Ag. Part of these courses included work experience on properties. You can just imagine I readily jumped at the opportunity to go to New Zealand and work as a general shepherd before heading up to work for Northern Australian Pastoral Company on Connemara Station in Queensland. I loved the life of a jillaroo so much that after finishing at Tocal, I readily agreed to stay on with NAPCO heading out to the Barkley Tablelands in the Northern Territory to be a jillaroo, on Soudan Station.

Drafting at Soudan

After my jillaroo career finally ended after I smashed my left foot in a motorbike accident in September 2007, I began the next step in my journey by undertaking a Bachelor of Agriculture at University of Western Sydney in 2008.

Moving Sheep NZ

When I started my undergraduate degree, I became involved with the Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) Competition as a competitor and then as the UWS Coach. ICMJ introduced me to meat science and provided me an opportunity to do work experience across the supply chain with Australian Country Choice (ACC) Teys Australia and Cargill Beef Australia. I worked throughout the beef supply chain, in manufacturing, processing, at feedlots and on stations but still couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I completed an enterprise study for uni, at a 17 000hd feedlot that realised I wanted to become a scientist in research and development as I got a real kick out of bringing new ideas to the table and having a say in how things could be done.

ICMJ

My involvement in showing also took a new turn when I started uni as I joined the local agriculture society and got heavily involved in the running of the Hawkesbury Show and helped organise junior judging and a junior judging training day for youth of the area. It was this involvement that lead me to be the Hawkesbury Showgirl for 2011. No small feat for a girl now more comfortable in boots then heels!

Hawkesbury Show 2011

After completing my honours in assessing the impact of Hormonal Growth Promotant defects on the productivity of beef feedlot steers, I was torn between doing more research for the feedlots and taking on a new project within meat science. I ended up deciding on meat science, it’s my kind of career because it’s unique. No two days are ever the same.  I spend days out in the paddocks, in the yards, at the feedlots, in the processors, and in the lab. It’s that vital step where paddock meets the plate, where we can make or break the hard work of the farmers. It’s also important (and usually overlooked) to make sure that the meat industries can increase productivity to ensure supply of meat without compromising animal welfare, the environment and all essential meat quality.

There are increasing challenges associated with meat production with cost-price squeezes, environmental challenges, changing policies and labour skills shortages, to name a few, but there are also increasing opportunities as Australia and the world attempt to meet increasing demand for food. Consequently, the direction of agriculture and meat production for the future is changing and I want to be part of it’s new direction.

Food Self Suffiency

Only 5.7% of Australia is suitable for food production yet our farmers feed 60 million plus people. We  are a very lucky country indeed with food in abundance. Well done Aussie Farmers

Cows Create Careers

Wow what exciting group our 2012 Young Farming Champions are. Tom Pearce is the latest addition to #teamdairy. We cant wait for our next workshop to meet the team. Just talking to them on the phone inspires me

This is the Tom Pearce story ………..

I live in Bega on the far south coast of NSW, and whilst some may say we are a little isolated I have a different perspective. I am 25 minutes from the beach, 2 hours from the snow, 2.5 hours from Canberra, 5 hours from Sydney and 7 hours from Melbourne and 5 minutes from the nearest fishing spot. There are not too many places that can boast that combination! Top that off with the international reputation of Bega Cheese, I’m proud to say I live in Bega and that I am one of the farmers whose cows supply the milk that goes into cheese!

Narelle Norm and Tom Pearce photo by Simone Smith Weekly Times

Narelle, Norm and Tom Pearce on the family farm – photo Simone Smith The Weekly Times

Growing up on the farm I soon realised this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Everywhere the farm beckoned me, the green pastures, the sound of a calf bellowing, the love of the clean crisp morning air, riding “shotgun” in the tractor with dad. I was born and bred a dairy farmer and being the 4thgeneration to farm here I had dairy farming in my blood.

Whist being tagged a farm boy at school may have been a little disheartening at the time I now realise it wasn’t all that bad. While others finished school without a clue in the world where they were headed, I knew what I wanted to do! While school definitely wasn’t my favourite place to be, I stuck it out realising the importance of bringing as much knowledge as I could back to the farm

Every afternoon I raced home, had a quick snack and then headed straight to the dairy to see where I could help! No spending hours indoors playing video games for me, I was always on the motorbike moving cows, helping dad in the dairy or in the calf shed!

july10 012

I finished school in January 2005 and how pleased was I to see the end of those language textbooks and the beginning of the real world! No assignments, no exams just plenty of time to spend on the farm and not to mention the countless hours of free time to spend fishing! University wasn’t for me. My father had generations of knowledge and expertise to share with me and I had a 940 acre textbook to study. I was happy with that and I reckon I’ve done alright since!

My interest in cows really got a kick along when Michael Boyd invited me to attend International Dairy Week (IDW). “Boydy” has always been quick to spot a keen kid and give them a helping hand on their journey to build up a high genetic meritherd of show cattle. So in 2005 this very keen kid attended his first IDW, a week of hands on experience; working with the best of the best in the stud cattle arena to help prepare elite Holstein cows for the show ring. IDW is the largest exhibition of dairy cattle in the southern hemisphere with 3500 people attending in 2012 and all talking cows in the one location. I became addicted after my first show and haven’t missed a year since!

280681

The Mecca for all dairy cattle enthusiasts is on the other side of the world. World Dairy Expois held in Madison, Wisconsin, USA for one week every year and features some of the best dairy cows in the world. I attended my first Expo in 2007. That was 5 years ago and I have been back every year since! The 24 hours’ worth of travel time all seems irrelevant when you’re hanging around these awesome creatures and spending time with like-minded people. Over the years I have made so many great friends and industry contacts both locally and abroad all through a mutual love and respect for dairy cows!

74428_1664120567513_1372204258_31736826_4595683_n

I was keen to get involved myself and join all these young people out in the ring showing their cows. You quickly learn success doesn’t come overnight and getting to the top of the class and staying there is easier said than done! It’s very rewarding to see your own show successes improve and start to be competitive at the highest level.

296832_257749274249831_4962935_n

Over the last few years in local competitions we have achieved a number of supreme champion awards. The last 2 years our family has achieved 2 first place ribbons at the Royal Melbourne Dairy Show, and that was pretty exciting and recognition that you are breeding good cows and continuing to lift your standard. Working our way from the bottom of the class to be now mixing it with the “old hands” of the show ring is quite rewarding!

Have a good eye for cattle is essential and being able to pick out a “good one” is the key to winning in the show ring. To hone my skills I have been to numerous judging schools and participated in many judging competitions.

A highlight was winning the National Junior Dairy Cattle Judging Competition in 2008. I have been invited to judge at numerous shows around the country and most recently at the Royal Sydney Easter Show. It was quite the honour to come back and judge the dairy youth competitions that I once competed in myself!

199166_10150128982609145_515034144_6492259_2982067_n

In 2009 I was named as one of the seven RAS Rural Achievers, or as we called ourselves “the Top 7 in the state” This competition identifies highly motivated young people all with keen interest in promoting agriculture. It was a jam packed week of fun and learning at the Sydney Royal Easter Show which gave me new friends and great memories for life.

2971_82884015333_646225333_2284341_8013375_n

In July 2009 I was hit with the travel bug and after pooling my resources and contacts I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. This 6 month sojourn featured time in both North America and Europe. I did the tourist thing and saw the sights, but the majority of the time was spent working voluntarily on dairy farms, attending dairy shows and honing my craft. I learnt so much from the people I worked with, they appreciated my willingness to work hard and they noticed my eagerness and were only too happy to share their knowledge. Its one thing you’ll discover about the dairy industry and I guess it applies to all forms of agriculture; farmers love to promote and teach young people. If you show you are interested and motivated and prepared to listen farmers are only too happy to give advice and point you in the right direction .

On returning home I have put my new found knowledge and enthusiasm into practice on the farm, and shared my knowledge with anyone willing to listen. I have taken our breeding program to the next level, incorporating imported embryos from North America and using the best dairy sires available to mate over our herd. I have actively marketed our cattle in breed magazines, exhibited at major shows and sold heifers at elite dairy sales. My family’s stud Warwick Farm Holsteins and my own Progressive Holsteinsare I hope on their way to becoming household names within the Australian dairy industry.

Something else I am also ardent about is my involvement with the National All Dairy Breeds Youth Camp. This event is designed to nurture the future of the Australian dairy industry. I am one of a handful of camp leaders who eagerly share their knowledge with the young participants. My passion for the dairy industry has also landed me in a number of positions including Cows Create Careers presentations, the Holstein Australia Youth Committeeand the RAS Dairy Youth Committee all involve fostering and encouraging the next generation of farmers.

DSC08547

My interest in exhibiting dairy cows has taken me to various dairy events and royal shows around the country where I am often bewildered by the lack of basic agricultural knowledge shown by our city counterparts. I have been asked all types of questions and in most cases I’m only too happy to answer but there a couple of times and I think it’s out of frustration I may have been guilty of leading a few city folk astray answering particular questions they ask!, Yes it was good for a laugh but it sheds light on a bigger issue. The fact is there is a fair majority of the population that doesn’t realise how their food gets from paddock to plate.

It also saddens me in this age of technology and innovation in agriculture that farming is too often brushed aside as too much hard work and long hours with little financial return.Yes it is hard work and more often than not it’s not a 9-5 job but there is an incredible feeling of accomplishment when you watch something grow and produce something that provides society with its most important needs!

If we want agricultural production to double over the next 30 years to feed the predicted 9 Billion people we have a big task ahead of us. This will require farmers and communities working cooperatively for mutual benefit.

I believe a great start to communities valuing what farmers do and giving them access to the tools to do it would be to make Agriculture a compulsory subject at school. Today’s youth are the next generation and they have many decisions to make about how best to feed an ever growing population with many third world countries still struggling to feed themselves. If we are going to tackle these complex issues we not only need these young people to support our farmers we also need these young people to see the great career opportunities in agriculture that lie outside the big cities! I can assure them all there is no more rewarding career