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Three generations of Family Fox have been supplying Australians with nutritious delicious grains for decades
♫ ♫ There’s work to be done; You had a good go;
The tractor is ready; there is plenty to sow;
This year’s the year; With good looking ground;
And I’m feeling good; As I make my way round ♫♫
As Sara Storer tells us in her song Beautiful Circle this year’s the year. The drought that has plagued our cropping families for too long relinquished some its grip at the beginning of 2020 and our Young Farming Champions are rejoicing: It’s planting time!
“What an incredible start to the winter cropping program,” Emma Ayliffe says. “Talking to some of the older guys it is the best start they have seen in over ten years at Lake Cargelligo.”
“Planting 2020 has been a very welcome change to the past few seasons,” Dan Fox says, “with great opening rains allowing us to seed into great moisture and get very good herbicide knockdowns on all the weeds that have germinated.”
“Thanks to general rains that we received over March and April,” Marlee Langfield says, “and most recently just shy of 60mm in the last two days, we are embarking on the most confident start to the winter cropping season since Andrew and I have been ‘at it’ (farming)!”
Marlee has created a 4 day photo journal of planting in this series of beautiful photos of new life
Working in conjunction with her partner’s family Emma will plant 5000 hectares of crop, with lupins, canola, oats and lucerne already in the ground. Their major crop, wheat, will be sown from ANZAC day, along with a smaller amount of barley. “We have 80-90% of our soil profile of moisture which is setting us up really well,” she says. “We will also be busy with weed and integrated pest management (a few bugs getting around already) and are hoping for good rain to allow us to push our crops and do some top dressing with nitrogen mid-winter. Then it will be all go for harvest in October/November.”
Further south Dan, and three generations of his family, are planting a multitude of crops. “We have finished sowing our faba bean/canola companion crop, which is designed to reduce our artificial inputs for both crops, as well as our early malt barley, which has been companioned with vetch, field peas and tillage radish for the beneficial interactions they bring,” he says. “We have also planted a paddock of multi species cover crop that we are hoping to put our lambs on next week, which will be a smorgasbord for them. Then it is fingers crossed for no breakdowns as we roll into the busy time of early May.” Phew, busy in May? What do you call April, Dan?
Its takes some serious machinery to keep this country food secure
The air seeder (planter) is running hot outside Cowra where Marlee and Andrew are at it, planting 750ha of wheat, barley, canola and chickpeas. “Chickpeas do a wonderful job at fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere back in the soil,” she says, “which our other rotations will appreciate and make use of in future years.” The boom spray is also getting a work out applying pre and post-emergent sprays to control weeds and pests and it will be used later in the year for in-crop sprays. “If the season permits, fertiliser will be spread (topdressing) during the winter months to promote plant growth and in an effort to increase yield. Come October and the warmer weather the windrower will be ready to cut the canola and hot on the heels of this will be the header, busy harvesting all the different crops till about Christmas. We plan to make hay from some of the cereal crops and harvest the grains, oilseed and chickpeas for animal and human consumption.”
2020 rain is giving Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield the perfect opportunity to use her new airseeder to grow safe, affordable, nutritous food for Australian families
As always, our farmers will be keeping an eye on the weather. Marlee had no ‘moisture in the soil bank’ due to the dry summer and knows there is still a long way to go to harvest, even now that recent rain has interrupted sowing and kept her off the paddocks for a couple of days.
We wish all our cropping Young Farming Champions favourable weather, timely rain, low bug populations and bumper crops for 2020.
For those wanting to know about the technical side of cropping watch this extraordinary video from Onus Agronomy of the Zell Family’s 214ft Airseeder (worlds largest planter) in action
or if you’d rather kick back and listen to Sara Storer’s Beautiful Circle you can do so here.
Little bit of history on the development of planing machines can be found here and an Australian farmer’s story here
This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions (YFC) around the country and globe.
First stop on our round the world tour of YFC this week is the tiny town of Tocal, NSW, where dozens of YFC and Kreative Koala teachers gathered for our first 2019 Workshop.
It’s over to Wool YFC Chloe Dutschke and Horticulture YFC Tayla Field for a workshop recap of the alumni stream:
Our workshop weekend kicked off with a dinner Friday night with a chance for Alumni YFC to catch up and to meet the 2019 intake of YFC and Kreative Koalas teachers.
Saturday started with a brainstorming session including how we can make the most of our program and to showcase Agriculture to the best of our abilities. This involved reviewing, gathering, implementing and analysis of our social media. We have many new ideas and cannot wait to bring them to life.
Josh Farr from Campus Consultancy is our new Alumni workshop facilitator and has brought an engaging energy to the program. We discussed the six needs of life that all of our decisions can be linked back to: Certainty, Variety, Connection, Significance, Growth and Contribution. We used them to understand our motives in situations and to recognize our needs in determining our own personal goals.
Our goal setting session was very rewarding with many of our YFC Alumni beginning to define goals for their own lives using the SMART goal setting rubric whilst also addressing and overcoming problems which can lead to our goals not being actioned.
Saturday’s program was also filled with a session on the sustainability circle conducted by Greg Mills, which showcased five of our YFC Alumni sharing with teachers participating in Kreative Koalas how their role meets the sustainability circle in their work. This was a great opportunity for teachers and Alumni to learn together.
We concluded Saturday with a dinner inviting special guests including Tracey Norman, Mayor of Dungog Council, Lindy Hyam, Chair of Hunter LLS, Jane Llyod Jones, School Engagement Officer at Hunter LLS as well as Julie White and Jo Hathaway from Tocal College. We left the dinner truly inspired after speeches from Lindy Hyam, Youth Voices Leadership Team vice-chair Emma Ayliffe and Josh Farr.
Listen to Emma’s dinner speech here:
Listen to Josh’s speech here:
Our workshop concluded on Sunday but not before YFC had a sustainability session debrief with Greg Mills, reiterating the importance of a good presentation and the use of three key messages and understanding the story we are trying to tell.
Josh once again captivated the YFC Alumni and took us on a journey to understand Emotional Intelligence and our belief system. We were challenged in this session to become vulnerable and delve deep into ourselves to find our beliefs and recognise how they affect our everyday lives. This session was very emotive for all our Alumni recognising how negative self beliefs can shape the way we think about situations and define experiences we have had.
This workshop was by far the best workshop I have attended, it was emotive, engaging, challenging with lots of new information learnt. Thank you very much to the Alumni, new YFC, Teachers and facilitators for a fantastic weekend.
Thank you for a brilliant recap Chloe and Tayla!
In the Field
Wool YFC and Elders Wool Technician and Auctioneer Sam Wan has achieved a selling centre trifecta: Auctioneering the Elders Wool Fremantle offering means that she has now sold at all three wool selling centres in Australia!
This career highlight comes on the back of Sam’s two week study tour to Italy as part of the award for Elders “Thomas Elder” Employee of the Year.
Wool YFC Samantha Wan: Starting in the northern Italian region of Piedmont, the city of Biella became the center of the textile business because of its geographical features. Written documents prove that wool workers and weavers have been active in the region since 1245. It’s known as the ‘Wool City’, as it’s where the best wool mills in Italy are gathered and the most high quality woolen fabrics are weaved.
The water from the area is particularly hard due to its Alpine beginnings. As water runs down from the Piedmont mountains into the Biellese region, it picks up elements of the mineral formations it erodes along the way. The resulting hard water, which is particularly valuable for finishing fabrics, helped to distinguish the local fabrics and aided Biella’s ascent to the top of the world of wool.
Verrone, combing mill to see how the greasy wool begins the journey in Italy
Botto Giuesseppie, iconic fabric mill – one of the three ‘Royals’ of Biella
Tollegno 1900 SPA, mainly a worsted fabric producer, producing 4.5million metres of fabric each year, in over 5000 variations
Fratelli Piacenza SPA, woollen mill specialising in the Noble Fibres (superfine merino, cashmere, yak)
Marzotto, spinning and weaving factory in Valdagno
Simply incredible to see how the wool fibres are nurtured to create garments.
Fascinating stop overs at Parma ham factory and sheep cheese dairy how they carve a niche for their products.
AWI/The Woolmark Company Milan office to hear of the latest collaborations and the Italian perspective on wool in today’s fashion
While wool is always the highlight, the tour also took me to iconic sights and experiences such as a gondola ride in Venice, the ruins of Pompeii (highschool dream fulfilled!), the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, Trevi Fountain, Florentine steak, the Colosseum and so many more!
Most people bring back trinket souvenirs, I’ve brought back a healthy appreciation of coffee and a bit of an espresso habit!
Out of the field
One of our newest YFCs from the University of New England, Becca George, has attended 3 conferences/ workshops across three countries in the past three weeks! “The 24th-26th of June I attended the IFAMA conference in Hangzhou China, then after landing in Sydney from Vietnam I went straight to the YFC workshop & then on the 8th-9th of July I was at the Australian Summer Grains Conference on the Gold Coast! No rest for the wicked or a YFC 😋” Becca says. Look back through our posts on Picture You in Agriculture to see more highlights of Becca’s trip.
Wool YFC and Peter Westblade Memorial Scholarship winner Chloe Dutschke recently attended the Intercollegiate Meat Judging competition careers expo, talking to students about her experience in agriculture so far and about the Peter Westblade Scholarship. “My highlight was seeing a record number of 45 companies attend the expo supporting youth heading into ag and the red meat industry. There were a record number of companies with graduate positions, so great to see them investing in the next generation of ag,” Chloe says. “It was also fantastic talking to students who are willing to do the tough jobs, start at the bottom and work their way up, to create innovation and showcase our ag industry.”
Eggs and Poultry YFC and YVLT Communication Sub Committee member Jasmine Whitten has had a busy week attending conferences and workshops across NSW.
“I went to the GrasslandsNSW conference, where I heard Greg Mills speak on social licence and also got to catch up with (Wool YFC) Katherine Bain. The conference covered so much, from how to build more profitable grazing businesses, to how producers are managing the drought building more profitable agricultural businesses.”
“I was also at the Bank Ready workshop which is part of the young farmer business program run by NSW DPI. The event had a great representation of people from lawyers, accountants, bankers and of course young farmers. My brother works on our family farm and he walked away inspired that there were options for young people to get into farming. These events are worth getting to if they are run in your region,” Jas says.
Huge congratulations to YFC and agronomist Casey Onus who was named Agronomist of the Year at the 2019 Summer Grains Conference on the Gold Coast last week. We are so proud of you Casey, well done!
“The 26-year-old B&W Rural agronomist beat out experienced agronomists from around the country, including fellow Moree agronomist Tony Lockrey who was named runner-up, to win the Zoe McInnes Memorial Award which recognises outstanding contribution to agronomic excellence by an agronomist.”Read more in the Moree Champion here.
Congrats to Youth Voices Leadership Team Chair and dairy geneticist Dr Jo Newton on her awesome op-ed “Forging an agricultural leadership path” published on Farm Online last week.
Jo writes, ‘’Leaders aren’t born overnight. Leadership needs to be viewed by our sector as an on-going journey. We need to come together as an industry and put more structure behind the development of our future leaders. We need to offer them support from all angles and respond to what they say they need next. If we stop reinventing the wheel and started putting four-wheels on the cart, we can travel in the right direction, together. For our sustainable future, experienced leaders and emerging leaders need to work together. The emerging need to be brave: step up, get involved, take a chance. The experienced need to reach back down and pull us up. By working together, we can ensure that our leadership journeys don’t end when the industry event does.”
Well done to Picture You in Agriculture YFC Alana Black on her opinion piece published in The Land this week titled, “We need to be proactive in telling farm stories.”
“In order to stop decline of rural economies, we need to recognise it isn’t purely a geographical issue, and to ensure their strong continuation we need urban consumers to buy into regional communities,” writes Alana. Read the full story here.
YVLT Vice-Chair Emma Ayliffe is inspiring us all this week with her optimism and vision. Emma was showcased on australianleadership.com
Congratulations and a huge Thank You to friend of the PYIA programs Greg Mills who was recently thanked for his long-term contribution and support of our YFC with the presentation of a Champion of Champions award. No one deserves it more than you Greg, thank you! Watch here:
Wool YFC Lucy Collingridge made is back from the Arctic Circle in time to attend the Tocal Workshop. We were excited to hear about the rest of her incredible adventure:
“I headed to Norway and Denmark for a holiday. Most of my time was spent on a ship touring the western coast of Svalbard. I visited the worlds most northern town (Ny Alesund), saw a polar bear and reindeer, kayaked around some massive glaciers, went for a dip surrounded by icebergs and pack ice as it was snowing, and learned heaps about the amazing animals of the Arctic – did you know the Arctic Tern travels from the Arctic to Antarctica and back each year?! The really cool (pun intended) part of the trip was that it was a reunion of friends made on a trip to Antarctica two years ago – 20 of us “Epic Antarcticans” who were all on a Love Your Sister fundraising trip to Antarctica made the trip north for this Arctic adventure! “Places We Go” were on board to film the trip so that episode of the show will hopefully be out later this year.” We can’t wait to watch it Lucy!
Climate YFC and western NSW farmer Anika Molesworth is fundraising for her journey to Antarctica later this year where she will work closely with women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) from around the world on matters that affect the sustainability of our planet. Anika’s journey is part of her 12 month Homeward Bound leadership program and her campaign for support to get to her to Antarctica can be found here: chuffed.org/project/farmer-in-antarctica
This week our Young Farming Champions (YFC) would like to take a moment to extend our thoughts and well wishes to those farmers in Queensland currently affected by devastating widespread flooding. To our North Queensland cousins, we are thinking of you! #StrongerTogether
This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions around the country (and globe!)
In the Field
Happy International Women in Science Day!
Our Young Farming Champion network is full of legendary women using science to make the world a safer, healthier, more abundant place for humans and animals to live. Today Picture You in Agriculture is celebrating them and their vital work with this video starring YFCs Lucy Collingridge, Danila Marini, Alexandrea Galea, Anika Molesworth, Jo Newton and Dione Howard. Wonderful work from wonderful women! #WomeninScience #InternationalWomeninScienceDay #WomeninSTEM
Wool YFC Bessie Thomas made headlines in the Rural Weekly this fortnight with a joyful story following her family’s journey through the last two years of drought. Bessie, her husband and their almost three-year-old daughter farm merinos in far-western NSW. She has received much kind feedback following the story and wanted to thank everyone for their ongoing support through the drought. Read the story here.
Out of the Field
Congrats to YFC Bron Roberts who has just launched her new business venture B R Rural Business offering tailored management solutions for productive beef enterprises. Bron says, “I’m passionate about the beef industry and helping producers to be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. If you or anyone you know need a hand keeping records and want to use them to make real decision to improve your livestock productivity then I’m your girl!’ You can support Bron in her venture on Facebook here
Youth Voices Leadership Team Mentor Leader and Local Lands Service vet Dione Howard spoke to NSW Country Hour late last month. Listen in here from 11min35sec to hear Dione outline the risks of livestock eating toxic weeds causing liver damage. Great job Dione!
YFC Tim Eyes and his partner Hannah, who run The Food Farm on the NSW Central Coast, recently joined Nationals candidate for Gilmore, Katrina Hodgkinson in judging the 2019 Kiama Showgirl. Well done Tim and Hannah!
Tim will also be returning to the Sydney Royal Easter show this April. Tim was over the moon when he got the call from the RAS of NSW in 2017 inviting him to be the farmer the glamping participants get to share the campfire experience with over the 14 days of the show. He so looking forward to inspiring the lucky glampers to be as excited about the agriculture sector as he is again in 2019. Read all about it here.
Cotton YFC Martin Murray was profiled on NSW Young Farmers Facebook page this week for his role on the Young Farmer Council. Great read Martin!
“I’m an agronomist working for a group called AMPS, we’re an independent agchem reseller with a very strong focus on on-farm research to improve grower outcomes. I work with our research team in the running of our trials and our growers to transfer our research findings into on farm results to further strengthen their businesses. “I joined NSW Farmers in 2015 as they are able to effectively represent the farmers of NSW, taking their thoughts and concerns to parliament. I also joined the Young Farmer Council so I could be proactive in representing the interests and concerns of young people in or entering agriculture. “There are two major ways we can give young farmers a hand up going into the 2019 state election. First, stamp duty relief will remove the significant disadvantage in relation to other first home buyers, because we can’t currently access the exemptions offered to young city residents purchasing homes zoned as residential. Second, we can help lift the productivity of our farm businesses through investing in our farmers’ digital, financial and risk management skills.”
Emma is also jetting off to Israel shortly as part of her prize for winning Runner Up in the ADAMA Agronimist of the Year awards. Safe and happy travels Emma! We’re looking forward to hearing all about it.
Sticking with the conference theme, Youth Voices Leadership Team Chair Jo Newton, will be heading to Edinburgh in April where she’s had a paper accepted at the British Society of Animal Science Conference. The paper highlights the value of using data from commercial Australian dairy farms to demonstrate the benefits of herd improvement practices.
Jo’s not the only YFC venturing to the Northern hemisphere. One of our newest YFC Alana Black will be heading to Scotland. While there she will be working for the Rural Youth Project. The Rural Youth Project aims to “develop feasible strategies to develop leadership and enterprise skills amongst young people in agricultural and rural communities based on understanding their current situation, aspirations, opportunities and challenges.”
Given the massive contribution Alana’s to the YVLT Communication Sub-Committee we know she’s going to make a really valuable contribution in Scotland and we’re looking forward to the sharing of ideas and experiences between the Rural Youth Project and PYiA. Read more about Alana’s journey here.
Congratulations to YFC and Climate Action advocate Anika Molesworth who has been appointed to the Crawford Fund’s NSW Committee. The Crawford Fund is a not-for-profit organisation that raises awareness of the benefits to Australia and developing countries of Australia’s engagement in international agricultural research and development.
The 2018 Narromine Showgirl and Grains YFC Keiley O’Brien will represent Narromine at the Zone 6 Final of The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition on February 16 in Young. Keiley will be up against 39 other Showgirls, from which three finalists will be chosen. Read more in the Narromine News here. Good luck to Keiley, and also to YFC Jasmine Whitten who will head to Narrabri to compete in her Showgirl Zone Final on February 26th! #goodluck
Continuing our Lessons Learnt from the Drought series with Young Farming Champions Peta Bradley and Bessie Thomas
Firstly some background for this story. In Australia, a large land holding used for livestock production is known as a ‘station’. Most stations are livestock specific – classed as either sheep stations or cattle stations depending upon the type of stock raised – which is, in turn, dependent upon the suitability of the country and the rainfall. The owner of a station is known as a grazier, or pastoralist and, in many cases, Australian stations are operated on a pastoral lease. Australian sheep and cattle stations can be thousands of square kilometres in area, with the nearest neighbour hundreds of kilometres away. Some stations have over 20,000 sheep in their care.
All stock workers need to be interested in animals and handle them with patience and confidence. They need the skills to make accurate observations about livestock like judging an animal’s age by examining its teeth, and experience in treating injuries and illnesses as well as routine care requirements such as feeding, watering, mustering, droving, branding, castrating, ear tagging, weighing, vaccination and dealing with predators.
Those caring for sheep must also deal with flystrike treatments, worm control and lamb marking. Pregnant livestock need special care in late pregnancy and stockmen may have to deal with difficult births.
Apart from livestock duties, a stock person will also to inspect, maintain and repair fences, gates and yards damaged by storms, fallen trees, livestock and wildlife. Source
In the first two instalments of our drought series we talked to Young Farming Champions predominantly involved in cropping operations. Today we speak to Bessie Thomas and Peta Bradley who represent sheep and wool, and discover the strategies they have employed to survive, the changes drought has enabled and the importance of mental health and family. Bessie and Peta’s family farms are both in NSW but very different in terms of topography , sheep carrying capacity (10:1) and acreage (20:1)
The last two years have reminded both urban and rural Australia that drought is an inevitable part of the Australian landscape and its impacts are wide reaching. Both Bessie and Peta’s families know their first priority is their families and the animals in their care and its imperative to access drought response resources promptly and maintain wellbeing.
Bessie and husband Shannan from Burragan Station, 100km east of Wilcannia* in western New South Wales, run a merino operation in partnership with Shannan’s parents.
Peta comes from Armatree, 100km northwest of Dubbo where her parents, Jenny and Craig, run a Border Leciester Stud and commercial merinos (with cereal and pulse cropping).
For both properties 2017 and 2018 were years of below average rainfall. “In 2018 we had 83mm for the year which is less than 30% of the annual average, and the year before was also only about 60% of the annual average,” Bessie says. “It has turned the countryside to dust and dried up dams, and the heat waves have cancelled any moisture from showers we have had.”
Feeding sheep at Burragan Station
Similarly Armatree has been reduced to a 300mm annual rainfall (down from the average of 520mm). “This equates to our farm being relocated to Broken Hill,” Peta says. “2019 has commenced with January being the hottest on record and zero rainfall recorded on the chart.”
Strategies common to both operations are reducing sheep numbers and feeding stock they have identified as drought resilient. At Burragan they have de-stocked by 50% and sold all of their 500 cattle, while at Armatree stock have been reduced by over a third.
“We’ve been feeding for more than 18 months which affects finances, creates time pressures and puts pressure on vehicles and trailers. It becomes mentally and physically exhausting,” Bessie says. “Feeding out hay in heat, wind and dust is some kind of torture.”
The Bradleys ( Jenny and Craig pictured here in 2014 ) are looking forward to seeing barley crops like this one when the rains return Source
“Our farm stores enough fodder to feed all stock including finishing lambs for a full twelve month period, well beyond a normal drought,” Peta says, “but we used all stored fodder in 2017 and have had to purchase fodder for 2018. To accommodate this cost we have maintained selected breeding stock only. We have also sold lambs as early as possible after weaning, undertaken measurements on stud stock lambs as early as permissible and selected the stock we want to keep well ahead of normal time frames.
Some lambs getting ready to be weighed through the automatic drafter/scales at the Bradley’s farm.
The measurements the Bradley’s take before they decide which animals they will keep include:
Body weights (weaning – 12 weeks of age, 5 months and 7 months)
Ultrasound fat and muscle measurements
Scrotal circumference on rams
In total an animal that is retained as a breeding ewe on the Bradley farm has in excess of 50 measurements recorded in her lifetime. These measurements are taken to be put into the genetic evaluation for sheep – allowing them to choose the animals that are genetically the best to breed from.
The Bradley’s select their sheep for productivity. Every now and then you come across a special sheep. This ewe is having triplets again – for the fourth year in a row! She has reared 9 lambs in three years.
Weaning early in drought is important as lambs are competing with their mothers for grain. This allows the ewes an opportunity to get back into condition faster and also removes the competition for grain and fodder from the breeding ewes on the lambs.
Even the wool clip has been negatively impacted. Heavy, dust-laden wool sells for fewer dollars per bale.
But surprisingly the drought has had upsides. For years the Thomas’ had been discussing keeping Burragan purely as a merino property and transitioning Shannan’s parent’s property into dorpers, and that is a vision the drought has enabled/forced them to do. The drought has also highlighted the need for planning and flexibility in plans, and the critical need to put people first.
“Ensuring that we make time for ourselves and the family whether it is maintaining exercise routines, weekends away or taking family holidays are as important, if not more so, as practical farming,” Peta says, “as is the importance of networking to ensure we are operating at best practice.”
Bessie copes with the drought by downloading her thoughts and images through social media and this compilation of her 2018 year has led to the family being offered a week’s holiday at Port Stephens, courtesy of the huge generosity of Alloggio.com.au owners Will and Karen Creedon, the Port Stephens Council and Hon. Scot MacDonald MLC
And although the constant raised dust is destructive to the land – filling grids and yards, blocking gateways and covering fences – Bessie can still find joy.
“The dust storms are ominous and interesting, I quite enjoy the dramatic skies that come with them – as long as I am safely in the house!” Bessie says
*Think it’s hot at your place? A property near Wilcannia broke the record for Australia’s highest overnight temperature in mid-January, reaching a minimum of 35.9C.
Thanks Bessie and Peta we know that by you sharing your stories you will give hope to others facing similar challenges
Continuing our Lessons Learnt from the Drought Series. Today Grain Young Farming Champions Marlee Langfield and Keiley O’Brien share what the 2018 Drought has taught them.
Marlee Langfield ( photo Cowra Guardian) and Keiley O’Brien ( photo Western Magazine)
Young Farming Champions Marlee Langfield and Keiley O’Brien are two young women taking drought by the horns as they embark upon new agricultural roles with their partners in central New South Wales.
At 23 Marlee is CEO and manager of her family farm “Wallaringa” near Cowra, where she and her partner Andrew Gallagher produce grains and oilseeds. Just up the road at the Rawsonville Crossroads between Narromine and Dubbo Keiley, 23, and her partner Ross Noble run a diversified contracting business.
Drought has affected both businesses in the last two years and shows little signs of easing in 2019 so how has the season affected Marlee and Keiley and what lessons have they learnt?
“We began our 2018 sowing program planting dry into marginal moisture with our fingers crossed for follow up rain,” Marlee says. “Then we received a break half way through the program which restored our faith. The crops thrived off 5 to 13mm rain fall events throughout the majority of the growing season which is significantly less than the ‘norm’.”
However with droughts often come severe frosts, which affected the low lying areas of Marlee’s canola. “The main stem of a canola plant acts like a timeline displaying a visual of plant health by the appearance of the pods: shrivelled up and discoloured pods means it has been frosted, plump and elongated means it has enjoyed ideal conditions,” Marlee explains. Frost damaged canola has extremely low yield potential thus the decision was made to cut 12% of the Wallaringa canola crop for silage –which went as good feed to dairy cows.
Sowing canola seed with an air seeder
The canola plant pocks through 12 days after sowing
227 days from start to finish – harvesting canola windrows in December
2018 highlighted for Marlee the difference small management decisions could make to the farming operation and also brought unexpected bonuses – with little rainfall there was low disease pressure and therefore reduced monetary inputs. “All things considered we really did grow a remarkable crop,” she says with optimism often missing in drought-related conversations.
Hay making comprises the bulk of Keiley and Ross’ contracting business but they learnt early on to diversify to spread their risk. In 2018 this decision proved invaluable. “In a good year such as 2016 we bale around 15,000 large square and round bales,” Keiley says, “but in poor years, like 2017 and 2018 we averaged around 5,000 large square and round bales.” To support the business they grow irrigated lucerne for the horse market and offer sowing, spraying and harvesting services to clients.
Drought exacerbates financial pressures and Keiley used the dry time to upskill. In December she graduated from the University of New England with a Bachelor of Agriculture/Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing and this year is undertaking a Certificate IV in Bookkeeping and Accounting.
Keiley graduated from University of New England with a Bachelor of Agriculture and a Bachelor of Business Majoring in Marketing.
“We were in the middle of re-structuring our business from a partnership to a company so the YFBP really helped us get our head around what we were doing and broke those big and complicated notions into easily understood blocks,”
“Another highlight was goal setting. We have goals of what we want to do and where we want to go but going through the SMART approach and physically writing them down on paper really re-enforced to us our aspirations and future direction. Mingling with other young people who had a passion for agriculture was also great because we made some good mates and industry connections.” she says.
Keiley and her partner Ross and daughter Ruby
Andrew (left) and Marlee with agronomist Baden Dickson ( centre) Source The Land
Both Marlee and Keiley recognise the support and guidance they have received as they transition into business owners and operators in their own right. From a young age Marlee worked alongside her parents on Wallaringa and absorbed the world of grains, and then later gained off-farm experience to enable her to take the reins of the family property. Keiley credits Ross’ father with giving him deep foundations in the working of land and machinery, as well as providing equity to get their joint business off the ground.
Support has also come from a range of industry advisers and local businesses and Marlee credits her agronomist, Baden Dickson, in particular for supplying much needed expertise.
Going forward Marlee and Keiley will put lessons learnt into practice and continue their educational journeys, learning from those who have gone before them.
“As young people with a relatively young business we have learnt to be open with the way we do things,” Keiley says. “You don’t always have to take on board everything everyone says, but you should always thank them for taking the time to share their knowledge and ideas with you.”
And when the drought finally relinquishes its hold, what then?
“If we can grow a remarkable crop in one of the most challenging seasons then I can’t wait to see what we can do when it DOES rain,” Marlee says.
and Marlee will be documenting every step of her farming journey with her magnificent prize winning photos
This week’s top stories from Young Farming Champions around the country.
Happy National Agriculture Day!
This week we’ve gone all out to celebrate National Agriculture Day in a BIG way, culminating in The Archibull Prize National Awards and Exhibition Day at Sydney Olympic Park on Tuesday.
School students, teachers, YFC and special guests travelled from across Australia to be part of the 2018 Archibull Prize. Mega congrats to everyone involved: all the winners, participants, movers-and-shakers behind the scenes and espeically to Hurlstone Agricultural High School whose Archie “Brahman” took out the Grand Champion Archibull award for 2018. For full coverage head to our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter and look for our hashtag #Archie18
But for YFC, our #AgDay celebrations started earlier in the week when 13 YFC travelled to Sydney for a brilliantly engaging professional development workshop…
Current and alumnus Young Farming Champions gathered at the magnificent Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) Headquarters in Sydney for a workshop. Admiring the wonderful view of the harbour and the bridge from the boardroom of AWI, the YFC attended sessions on understanding and working with different personalities, understanding how policy is developed and refining the elevator pitches. This workshop the YFC were lucky enough to be joined by the experienced management team of Gaye Steel, Greg Mills and Jenni Metcalfe that challenged and brought the workshop to life as well as experts in the policy writing and social media fields.
This workshop also saw a YFC workshop first with 4 Alumni YFC joining via video conference on Sunday for a very special session with the incredible Paige Burton on the effective use and ins-and-outs of social media. This allowed some of our YFC to join from as far away as Wilcannia! Paige shared with the group many of the techniques of ensuring that the reach of the YFC are heard far and wide. We can certainly see how this young lady was named by Impact 25 as on of the 25 Most Influential People in the Social Sector. There will be many products of this workshop on social media this week for the #Archie18 Archibull prize awards.
The products of the weekend were even more accomplished YFC (which is hard to believe considering the rest of the achievements in this weeks Muster) in the arts of social media, pitches, interviewees and #youthvoices of agriculture!
In the Field
Grains YFC, farmer and talented photographer Marlee Langfield has started canola harvest on her property in the NSW Riverina. “I have harvested more seeds than I planted, so I’ve already won!” Marlee jokes! “Very busy times right now, but I’m loving it.” Check out this gorgeous shot Marlee took of her crop earlier in the season:
Did you catch Landline on Sunday? Cotton YFC Alexander Stephens is driver extraordinaire behind the wheel of the cotton harvester in this awesome story on the revival of cotton growing in the Kimberley Ord River region.
Out of the Field
Rice YFC Erika Heffer visited Parliament House in Sydney this week for the Parliamentary Friends of Landcare event, highlighting Local Landcare Coordinators who have run unique projects this year. Erika says, “The highlight was meeting ministers that have an interest in Landcare and hearing Niall Blair, the Minister for Primary Industries, acknowledge Rob Dulhunty, the Landcare NSW outgoing chair.”
Murray region Local Landcare Coordinator Erika Heffer and Local Landcare Coordinator from Bland Temora in the Riverina Britt Turner
Cotton YFC and founding member of Farmers for Climate Action Anika Molesworth spoke with ABC Radio National this week, tackling the question “How can farmers adapt and innovate to ensure the future of farming and our agricultural land?” Listen to Anika’s interview here.
Beef YFC and our current Aussie-in-Canada correspondent Kirsty McCormack presented for a 4H group in Brandon, Manitoba last week. She shared her insights on Young Farming Champion and Archibull Prize programs as well as the Australian beef industry and its challenges. Well done Kirsty!
Grains YFC Keiley O’Brien has been featured in this week’s Allied Grain Systems “Mates in Grain.”
Well done to Cotton YFC Alexandria Galea who was named a finalist in the Queensland Ministers Emerging Leader Award for innovation leading to profitability and sustainability. Finaists and winners were celebrated at Wednesday’s AgFutures Innovation and Investment Forum in Brisbane.
Congratulations to YFC Anika Molesworth on her win in the NSW and ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards on Friday. Anika took out the Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award. Well done!
Huge congrats to Wool YFC and Wool Technical Coordinator Sam Wan who is up for the title of Elders Employee of the Year. Kudos Sam!
Exciting international news for Beef YFC and stud Limousin cattle breeder Jasmine Green and husband Hayden from Summit Livestock. Jas and Hayden’s cow Summit Meadowgrass was named “Limousin Miss World” in the world Cattlemarket.net championships. While Jas stayed home to keep the stud cows fed and watered, Hayden travelled to Farmfair in Edmonton, Canada last week to receive the award. Summit Meadowgrass was nominated to represent Australia after winning supreme exhibit at Sydney Royal Show earlier this year. Incredible achievement, well done Jasmine!
Cotton YFC, agronomist and farmer Emma Ayliffe had a special visit from ADAMA Agricultural Solutions head office representatives (who’d just popped in from Israel!) and local managers last week to receive her Runner Up Young Agronomist of the Year award. Top job, Emma!
Our resident YFC “Meat Doctor” Steph Fowler is moving into the next phase of her merino genetics trial, with 600 lambs processed and sampled for meat quality traits. Steph says it will be a while yet before the samples are processed but it’s exciting to have all the samples finally collected for the year! Can’t wait to hear these results, Steph.
Grains YFC Keiley O’Brien has kicked off this years hay making season, giving a canola crop the chop in Narromine, NSW. Fingers crossed for a good season ahead!
Out of the Field
Wool YFC and Youth Voices Leadership Committee chair Dr Jo Newton has spent the weekend at the Royal Melbourne Show, stewarding for the White Suffolk, Suffolk & South Suffolk Judging. Jo says, “Being a steward is a bit like being a secretary for the judge who is in charge of assessing the animals. At the MelbShow we used a tablet to record the results for each class, make sure owners (& judge) know what animals are needed in the judging ring as well as announcing results on the microphone.” If you’re at the Melbourne show this week make sure you pass by the Sheep Shed and say G’day to Jo!
“This is a class of Lincoln ewes in the next ring to the one I was looking after. The lambs had a great time frolicking in the ring while their mums where being assessed,” Jo says.
YFC and Green Globe Awards Finalist Anika Molesworth has hit the radio waves again with a great interview on Hit 99.7 Riverina. Anika has been working to make NSW a more eco-friendly place to live, and she joined the show to talk to Claire & Sam about how she feels about being nominated for an Award. Take a listen here
Anika was also featured on the Weekly Times this week, talking about farming in outback NSW, championing for climate action and her PhD work. This is a lovely insight into a wonderful ag champion. Well done Anika! Read it here
The famous Henty Machinery Field Days were on this week and Wool YFC Dione Howard and Rice YFC Erika Heffer were both there. Dione and fellow vets from Riverina and Murray Local Land Services were answering animal health and biosecurity questions over the three days, while Erika was in the Landcare shed.
It was a busy week in the office for Dione who then headed to the Hay Sheep Sale on Wednesday, where approximately 47,000 sheep were sold. Dione says many properties were selling large numbers of sheep due to the ongoing dry conditions.
Dione ran into fellow YFC Chloe Dutschke at the sale who had travelled from Tupra station, where she has been contracting for the last couple of months. Great pic, ladies!
Cotton YFC Sharna Holman is super keen to be heading to “Go Ahead” Greg Mills‘s extension workshop in Townsville next week, as part of the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network 2018 Roadshow. Greg is a consultant on all things agribusiness extension, was the Kondinin Group and ABC Rural 2017 Consultant of the Year, and is a great friend of the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions program. We have no doubt you’ll have a great day and take home many valuable insights Sharna!
Well done to Grains YFC Dee George (front left) who has been touring the Royal Melbourne Show this week in her role as a Victorian Rural Ambassador State Finalist. #YouthinAg #RoyalMelbourneShow
And congrats to YFCs Sharna Holman and Alexandria Galea #teamcotton who were both recently elected to the Wincott – Women in Cotton committee, Sharna as communications officer and Alexandria as a regional representative for Central Queensland. Check out these great introductions to Sharna and Alexandria on the Wincott facebook page.
Massive milestone moment right now for University of New England students, Poultry YFC Jasmine Whitten and Wool YFC Emma Turner, who both have their honours seminars today.
Jasmine’s honours is investigating the effect of environmental enrichment on fearfulness of pullets (young layer hens). Emma’s honours studies the implementation of shorter shearing intervals. Huge congratulations for all the hard work and time you’ve both put into reaching these milestones. Enjoy this moment!
Exciting times ahead for Cattle and Sheep YFC and Rabobank graduate Felicity Taylor who has just received a promotion as a Rabobank Rural Officer. Felicity will spent the next two months in the Netherlands working in Rabobank’s Global Food and Agriulture Sector, supporting multinational agribusinesses, as part of her current graduate position before moving back to her hometown of Moree, NSW, to begin her new position. Mega congrats Felicity!
We love it when our Young Farming Champions share their agricultural stories and with a big year of adventure ahead of her, Lucy Collingridge is doing just that through the creation of the Facebook page 1Agriculturist, 2 Conferences, 3 Countries.
“I’m heading away for two trips this year and have created this page as a way of sharing my learnings. Hopefully I will get to see some fresh ideas for both the Australian agricultural sector and the show movement.”
Lucy currently works as a biosecurity officer for NSW Local Land Services in Narrabri and is concurrently studying a Graduate Certificate in Agriculture (Animal Science) through the University of New England.
Lucy’s love of agriculture also extends to a strong involvement with the show movement. She was the 2015 Cootamundra Showgirl, a state finalist in the showgirl competition in 2016, has joined the Narrabri Show Society and is a member of the RAS Youth Group, which oversees activities at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Her commitment to agricultural shows was rewarded recently when she was granted a scholarship from the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW.
Lucy is well known for her extraordinary photography (see some amazing pictures at Rust & Dust Photography so her Facebook page on her travels is bound to be well illustrated.
“My plan is to share my experiences as far and wide as possible, to hopefully benefit our agricultural industry (no matter how small) and the show movement in Australia. Be sure to keep an eye out for guest postings from any of the young agriculturalists I’m heading overseas with.”
South and North American travel, awesome photography, agricultural insights and guest blogs – we can’t wait to see what Lucy will share.