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

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,

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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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

From the udder side of the fence

I would like you all to meet our latest Young Farming Champion – Jessica Monteith

How lucky is the dairy industry to welcome this young lady into our midst

Jessica’s story ………..

My life motto has always been “To live with Passion” and I have always focused on the words of Nelson Mandela – “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.

Nelson Mandela Quote

In other words I throw my self 100% whole heartedly into everything I set out to achieve. A life without goals is a life without passion.

Growing up my best friend lived on a dairy farm only a short push bike ride from my house. Right from the start I was always fascinated by the dairy and the cattle and we would follow her dad and grandfather around the farm pestering them with questions and always wanting to help, or more likely hinder their efforts when it came time to feed the calves. I never realised it at the time but these are the cherished memories that inspired me and determined my life goals

I have been lucky enough to meet many people over the years who have helped me achieve many accomplishments that I never would have thought possible, these people I see as mentors whom have shaped my understanding and fuelled my passion for Rural Industries in particular the dairy industry to which I am now devoted.

This passion began when Graham and Jane McPhee of Hillview Park Holsteins in Finley  asked me to join them to help prepare their cattle for International Dairy Week. This annual event  draws around 2000 head of cattle from across Australia. Not only are Jane and Graham the roots of my passion they have helped kickstart my own dairy herd by giving me the best gift ever – the pick of a calf from their calf pen. This calf Hillview Park AJK Eve was my first Holstein and foundation dam of my own Curramore Park Holstein stud.

AJK Eve First calf

I have found the dairy industry is full of people who are very keen to open doors and nurture new entrants and introduce you to others who share your passion.

One of these is Natalie Cochrane of Eagle Park who owns a dairy farm with her husband Tim at Terara just north of Nowra. After I began showing cattle with Natalie I began to fall in love with her signature breed – Illawarra cattle.

Sydney Royal 2012

Sydney Show 2012 and a gorgeous Illawarra Cow

Whilst I had not grown up on the land I found there are plenty of farming people like Natalie who will work with you and show you the ropes and support you to live your dream. My little herd of registered Holsteins and Illawarra’s which now live at Terara on Tim and Natalie’s property continues to grow slowly between breeding and purchasing new genetics from local breeders.

As part of my involvement in the dairy industry I have been lucky enough to compete and succeed in youth events and attend shows across 5 states of Australia meeting many wonderful people along the way who have become friends for life.

My first trip to Sydney show saw me come home with a blue ribbon from competing in the Youth Challenge. This team orientated event involves a group of young people working together in a range of activities that show how well the team can prepare a team of cattle for judging at the show. I came home with a renewed sense of accomplishment and next year went one further winning the  paraders class against others in my age group who had many more years  experience.

One of my biggest achievements was mentoring the South Coast and Tablelands Youth Challenge team to our first ever representation at International Dairy Week and coming away with success. The smiles and excitement of the team after beating some of the best dairy youth in the country will stay with me forever.

Youth Challenge Team

The IDW Youth Challenge Team

Whilst breeding and showing dairy cattle first spiked my interest in the dairy industry, it is the diverse range of opportunities that agriculture provides which keeps me actively involved now.

Sydney Royal 2009

Sydney Show 2009

My role in working with youth in agriculture is helping young people understand the important and pivotal role that farmers and agriculture play in our past, present and future. I also hope it is influencing them to realise the opportunities that agriculture and agricultural related fields can hold for them.

I am now completing a Traineeship in Financial services through Horizon Credit Union whilst also completing full time study for a double degree in Agricultural Science as well as Agribusiness Finance through Charles Sturt University. I am hoping to follow a career path in finance related to and working one-on-one with our farmers to develop their industries and operations to work to full capacity as well as continuing to work with the next generation. The fact that I don’t come from a farming background helps show that exciting agriculture related careers and opportunities are available to everyone.

Once I have all my qualifications I aim to specialise in Succession Planning and Share Farming in the hope of not only keeping the next generation of farmers on the land but also keep generations of farming history, skills and knowledge maintained by giving young people the opportunity to work on land without the need to buy the land they farm on.

The past 5 months have been a whirlwind of achievements and success for me. After winning the Berry showgirl competition, I then made the top 15 in the state out of 650 young women from across NSW. From there it was off to the Sydney Royal Easter Show where I was awarded First Runner up in The Land Sydney Showgirl Competition. This is a feat that still amazes me and when people ask me if I have come down yet I reply that I have no yet had the chance to go up!

Showgirl with Jane Mcphee

1st runner up Sydney Royal Easter Showgirl 2012 with Jane McPhee

From humble beginnings I honestly did not even expect to do well in the local competition and when I see the Runner Up sash stretched across my bed I have to pinch myself to make sure its real. Showgirl was always something I wanted to have a go at after seeing many inspiring young women from our area do well in the competition and witnessing how it helped them get to where they are today. I did not quite understand though just how many opportunities being involved in the competition held for me. The people I have met and networked with along the way will undoubtedly be further influencers in helping me reach my full potential and allow me to give back to the community that has supported me .

The Showgirl competition has inspired me to get even more involved by recruiting and inspiring other young women to step outside their comfort zone and have a go. I will also use my award as a vehicle to share the great story of Australian farmers and agriculture with the community.

Year of the farmer ambassador

But most of all I want to be a real life example of the doors that agriculture can offer to exciting career pathways and inspire other young people who may have never considered a career in agriculture. Sadly when I was at school the consensus was and it still seems to be that many students are deterred away from considering tertiary education options by careers advisers due a perceived lack of opportunities and lack of money in the industry.

I want to debunk these misconceptions and promote the many facets of agriculture and career options not just on farm but the many people and businesses who support agriculture in rural communities.

Not coming off a farm makes me even more driven to prove that you do not have to be born on a farm in order to pursue and succeed in an agricultural field.

Follow Jess on Twitter @jm458

 

Be inspired

Art4agriculture Young Farming Champion  Emma Visser considered herself very lucky when her prize winning video won her a place at the ABC Heywire Summit. See previous post here.

Nick and Emma Eng Shoot (10) 

When industry invests in young farmers like Nick and Emma we are helping them gain the confidence and skills to be role models that inspire other young people to follow them into farming

Emma’s co-Heywire winners (35 young regional Australians) for 2011-12 have just released their report ‘9 ways to Improve Regional Australia for Young People’. It details nine ideas developed at the 2012 Heywire Regional Youth Summit in Canberra, and it has been submitted to the Federal Government. The heywirers tackle the topics they believe are most pressing: from lowering the road toll, to helping migrants adjust to life in regional Australia, from fostering community bonds in mining towns, to using technology to promote Indigenous heritage. Their ideas have already received interest from schools, academics, the Government, the media and NGOs.

The superbly laid out report brochure ( there are some very bright design minds behind Heywire) can be downloaded here: Take a look I can guarantee you will be inspired

Check out a summary of their ideas here:

http://www.abc.net.au/heywire/stories/2012/05/3499082.htm

Please encourage young people (16-22) like Emma you work with or know to enter the Heywire competition at: http://www.abc.net.au/heywire, for a chance to win a trip to next year’s Heywire Regional Youth Summit. Entries close 17 September 2012.

As Emma says professional development and a chance to be heard opportunities like Heywire should be grabbed with both hands by young people

Back to Emma and her thoughts on the long term outcomes of opportunities like being a Heywire Winner and a Young Farming Champion where you are provided with professional development and the skills set to confidentially share their story with urban audiences

Emma sums it up

“I have told my story so many times I don’t need a script. My story comes from the heart, it resonates with the audiences I want to reach. It is inspiring young people to follow my career pathway into farming. It inspires young people to step out of their comfort zone and it inspires young people to see the value in collaboration. I am nineteen years old and through Heywire and the Young Farming Champions program I have the skills and confidence to spend next 80 odd years making a difference”

Life is what you make it and agriculture is the life I want

This is the second in our series on Cotton Australia’s Young Farming Champions for 2012.  As it turns out Billy Browning is very special indeed. Not just because he is our first male young farming champion but because everyone I have spoken to tells me he has a view of the world that we all readily admit we embraced. That is life is what you make. Grab it with both hands and make it happen. One of those people was John Bennett from Landmark who said “Simple words from me can not describe just how remarkable this young man is. I have no doubt that in years to come our industry and indeed, society will benefit from the experiences that Billy receives now.” Like Cotton Australia we are thrilled that we can play a small role in defining the future by investing in agriculture’s rising stars like Billy

Did you know that our family farm will produce cotton this year that will make over 860,000 pairs of jeans. Even better than that cotton is only part of a portfolio of food and fibres our family farm produces to feed and clothe Australians and many other people around the globe

My name is Billy Browning and I am pretty excited about that.

Billy Browning (1)

In fact I am pretty excited and proud of Australian agriculture in general.

Let me tell you why

Did you know rural, regional and remote Australia occupies 99 per cent of Australia’s landmass and supports 7.7 million people and is the source of close to 70% of our country’s export earnings?

It may also interest you to know the agribusiness sector employs close to 1 million people and has a combined value of over $200 billion per year. Our farmers are custodians of over 60 per cent of our landmass and the world’s third largest fishing zone.

We grow and produce over 93 per cent of our domestic food supply and export 80 per cent of total gross value. Not only that but our scientific research base is world class and our disease free, high quality produce underpins increasing overseas demand as our four billion Asian neighbours seek greater quantities of animal protein.

When you look at it like that you can see agriculture and its related support sectors are of great importance to our national economy and wellbeing. It is once you realise this that you can see the opportunities for young agricultural enthusiasts and the networks that are available.

I am excited my future lies with agriculture and this is my story…

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I was born and grew up in the small town of Narromine located in the central west of NSW.  It is here that my passion for agriculture first started. I live on a 3rdgeneration property located on the Macquarie River called ‘Narramine station.’ It has been my home all my life and hopefully will stay that way.

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Harvesting wheat, Narramine Station, Narromine, December 1903

A convoy of five stripper harvesters and 10 strippers make short work of 5500 acres of wheat grown on the property. On the right can be seen a genuine one-horse-power tread winnower beside grain bags awaiting transport. The railhead at Narromine shipped as many as 103 waggon loads of grain in a day during the harvest.
Find more information about the Melvin Vaniman collection of photographic panoramas in the State Library of New South Wales’ catalogue:
acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemdetailpaged.aspx?itemid=413018

The property is 2276 hectares and was purchased in 1975 by my parents. 62% of the farm has access to irrigation water (in the good times) and we have both irrigated and dry land broad-acre cropping. We grow wheat, canola, cotton and corn just to name the major ones depending on the seasonal conditions and availability of water. This year water is in plentiful supply and we have 400 hectares of irrigated cotton.

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To harvest this crop we will be employing 18 people for cotton picking  which include 4 picker drivers, 6 module makers, 2 boll buggy drivers, 2 truck drivers and 4 ground crew.

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The machinery on farm today looks a whole lot different to 1903!!!!!

The previous ten years of drought has led to many on farm innovations and we have realigned our farm business strategy to adapt to limited amounts of water and ensure long-term sustainability with increased hectares of dryland production. (Art4ag says BTW great story on this in The Land from 2010 can be found here)

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Me as a young farmer

My parents tell me that my third word was ‘tractor,’ behind ‘mum and dad’ that is. As a kid I would always be going to work with dad and often known for falling asleep on the floor of the header during harvest. By the age of 5, I was driving manual vehicles around the farm and by the age of 13, I was part of the workforce, driving tractors as a contractor on neighbouring properties.

I also tried my hand fairly successfully at junior competitions at local shows gaining 1st places in sheep wool and cotton judging

My passion for agriculture increased when my parents sent me away to boarding school in year 7. At Knox Grammar School I studied agriculture in year 11 and 12 and this is where I became fascinated by the science and technology that underpins agriculture.

Case cotton pickers

The future – How can we be the change that needs to be. 

Firstly currently agriculture is facing a workforce shortage due in part to the ageing of its workforce.  Within seven years, close to 57 per cent of our existing workforce will be over 55 and half of our agricultural scientists are already nearing retirement.  I believe we can attract talented young people to agriculture by showing the innovation and productivity gains that drive the farming sector in this country using young people from within the industry to spread the message that farming is the business to be in for all the right reasons

Secondly it is fundamentally important that we get young people on farms to make the direct connection between the food and fibre and the farm.  On-farm experience is where the greatest knowledge is gained, even if it is only a few hours, anybody that is even considering a career in agriculture should try and gain as much experience as possible in my eyes. The truth is; it is not hard at all to gain experience, there are so many industries out there that are willing to take you around for a day or that are running workshops. For those thinking of being agronomists, call up your local agronomist and just simply ask whether you can go for a run with him to a local farm and just gain an insight, for those wanting to focus more on the economics of agricultural, make a simple phone call to your local bank and ask whether they have an agricultural branch and whether it is possible to come in and just ask some simple questions, their answer will be yes. That is the greatest factor about the industry is that everyone is willing to give everyone a chance.

Obviously my love for agriculture has grown via the farm, I work full-time on the farm when I am home. I am involved in all operations, irrigation, harvest, picking, spraying, earth-moving, sowing and general farm maintenance. This has led me to realise the important relationship between farm inputs and outputs and why smart business thinking is they key to sustainable farming. This realisation has lead me to studying agricultural economics at the University of Sydney.

Support Networks Abound

I am fortunate enough to have gained a Sydney University Rural Sustainability scholarship and be an Horizon scholar. I mention these scholarships to show people that it is possible to get into university and follow your dreams even if you don’t get the marks or have the funds, there are so many scholarships on offer for people wanting to be involved in agriculture and wishing to enter the industry, you just have to go searching!

So this is my story to date and i hope it has show you like me you can have a bright future in the agriculture sector. I encourage those with an interest or even a niggling to go and ask questions as many questions as you would like There are plenty of people wanting to help.

Although I haven’t decided on what part of the industry I want to end up in, I know that I am trying to make the most of the opportunities out there and taking on everything along the way.

Just remember it’s a learning curve – and mistakes will be made along the way but my experience tells me there are plenty of people and support networks in agriculture and the rewards are worth it .

Cotton on to Cotton with Tamsin

Art4agriculture has a brand new partnership with the cotton industry and we are very excited about it

Cotton Australia is investing in their next generation of farmers and inspiring people who support farmers and we have identified a number of cotton industry rising stars who will be sharing their stories with you via Art4agricultureChat over the coming months

Our first cab off the rank is Tamsin Quirk …….

 

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About Me

If anyone had said to me seven years ago that I’d be a student at the University of New England completing a Bachelor of Agriculture I don’t think I would have believed them.

Coming from a non-farming background with both my parents in the health industry, I felt like I didn’t have the skills nor the knowledge to go into an agriculture related career.

Not only have I have learnt new things and developed new skills, I have formed lasting friendships and networks that are truly invaluable.

As A Kid

I grew up in Moree in NSW and it is cotton country.  Its is also quite famous for its Hot Mineral Baths which were were discovered accidentally when searching for irrigation water in 1895. 300,000 visitors of all ages visit annually and many believe in the healing powers of the Artesian mineral waters.

The streets are filled with Toyota land cruisers and an array of other utes and 4WD’s – I love coming home from the city, or uni, to see three or four muddy big Toyotas parked down the main street. Another thing I absolutely love is the dress code, every second person is wearing a pair of boots and jeans with their sleeves rolled up, and then you’ll get the occasional Agri-Business guy walk past in his polished R.M Williams boots and moleskins. There is always and will always be a rural feel to the place which is what I love, and I think “how could you want to be anywhere else?” It’s so easy-going and has such a sense of community. Everyone says hello in the street and everyone knows who you are.

I’d lived in town until I was 12 and had never really been involved in agriculture, but once we moved out onto a bit of land, things changed.

My first introduction to the cotton industry was in primary school and I remember looking out the window and seeing the huge pieces of machinery being escorted past the school during harvests and cotton season, and being inquisitive as to what they did and how they worked.  Check out the latest innovations in Cotton Picking here

Cotton Picker

Can you imagine how city people look when they see these monsters driving down the main street of Moree

Where it all began…

For one of my year 9 and 10 elective subjects at school I chose Agriculture. This was when my passion sparked. I had never reallyknown where I wanted to go in life until then. My agriculture teacher specialised in agronomy and this opened up an exciting world I had never really been exposed to. She was so enthusiastic about Ag. Walking through a paddock to check the veggie garden, the whole class would be pulled up to get a 5-minute rundown on a weed she’d just walked past and it was amazing to see someone so passionate, confident and knowledgeable; and it wasn’t just one weed, it’d be two or three on the way down and at least another one on the way back. I suddenly wanted to know about all the ins and outs of crop production and with cotton being so widely grown in the area, it was hard not to become involved. I soon was topping my Agricultural class in year 10 which resulted in me receiving the Dallas Parsons Memorial Award, which is given to students who have worked hard and been identified as having a bright future in Agriculture.

Years 11 and 12 saw me add Primary Industries to my studies and then I really saw my future opening up, I was topping the classes again and I couldn’t wait for every Ag and Primary Industries lesson. Although both the classes weren’t very big (with only 5 girls sitting the HSC Agriculture exam and me and one other boy sitting the Primary Industries one) I  had so much fun and learnt so much about the important industries that feed, clothe and house us from doing the subjects. I got to the point where I wanted to do nothing else as a career, and Agriculture was my soul focus.

Hard work, passion and commitment delivers cotton to my door

Coming towards the end of year 12 I set my eye on winning the Auscott Scholarship.Every year the local Auscott cotton ginning company awards this scholarship to a local Moree year 12 student who has worked hard and has persistence and enthusiasm for the career that they want to take. The scholarship is worth $11,500 for every year of study for 3 or 4 years. After a long process of waiting in anticipation I was shortlisted and then had a phone call to say that I had been chosen to be the recipient. The scholarship will be a massive aid for helping to pay for my accommodation and textbooks as well as giving me a contact network as I go forward to a career in the cotton industry.

Cotton Scholarship

Auscott “Midkin” farm manager Sean Boland with the recipient of the award Tamsin Quirk, and her parents Shayne and David Quirk –  Photo courtesy of Moree Champion read the full story here.

Learning, learning…

As my knowledge for agriculture grows, so does my passion and I realise and appreciate how lucky I was to have grown up in a community underpinned by the cotton industry. Our local cotton farms are family run businesses and cotton is the economic and social lifeblood of our community

I realised that not everybody had highways that looked like some-one had just busted a thousand pillows open all over the side of the road, and trucks all loaded up with wheat and cotton weren’t a regular thing in the main streets of other towns.

Cotton Cotton Everywhere

Does it get more beautiful than images like this?

The most important thing growing up in Moree has shown me is how important it is to have young people in the industry with a fiery passion and a desire to educate those who aren’t fully aware of the valuable role our farmers play in feeding and clothing not only Australians but many other people around the world.

The cotton industry is very lucky indeed to have Tamsin don’t you think?