They Used to Pay Me to Do That

This post has no pictures of the other day but just a few from the NT and plenty of memories.
Last Tuesday was one of the best days that I’ve had since leaving “Humbert River Station” in the Northern Territory to go to university.

While I work on a cotton farm there are cattle that run wide and live in the flood country, the farm doesn’t really do anything with except for about once a year when they try and muster them to cut out anything that might make a decent return. Recently the dry weather has brought them out of the flood country and into cotton where they graze in between the plants for the weed Nut Grass, they knock off a lot of the squares and bolls in the process.

We were just about to head home when the manager called us up and said to get the quad or the Yamaha Viking ATV, instead of taking one of the work vehicles I opted to use my Postie bike. I’ve been riding the Postie to work lately to cut down on my fuel bill as I’m able to reduce a $70 a week bill for the ute to $16 for the Postie, despite it having road tires and being servilely underpowered I thought it would be the better choice as it would be more manoeuvrable as well as easier to weave in and out of the scrub in the flood country.

And then I was back there my mind was in the NT, flying through the scrub chasing and turning the scrub bulls, micky’s and feral cows back to where they needed to be, the only differences were the distance was a lot shorter and there was no helicopter hovering above my head. Even the Postie’s lack of power didn’t kill the mood, in fact the only time it struggled was when the cattle ran up the wall and into a dry dam.

After we had pushed them back into the floodway, I said to the manager “You know they used to pay me to do that” he then said “I thought you enjoyed that”. With any luck we may end up mustering them between rounds of irrigation so they’ll no longer cause a problem in our cotton.

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Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Unbelievably we’ve had both of these events off this year as we’re running out of water and had to stretch out irrigations. The farms dams were filled in the 2012 floods and helped put in a full crop in the 2012-13 season, unfortunately there hasn’t been significant rain since then and the dams are running. While the farm has six bores they only pump 25 mega litres a day in total which is enough to run a 100 bays at a time which is far from practical as 100 bays is a standard change in a field. While there is just enough water to see out this years crop the 2014-15 season will be very small unless there is a lot of rain between now and then.

The 40 + degree haven’t been helping the water shortage as the plants start to use more water as the days get hotter, the backpackers are also feeling the heat. Having come from Holland where it can get down to -10 this time of year the Aussie sun isn’t being kind to them, at about midday its like the hand break is pulled on and they slow down.

On the lighter side I’ve been working night shift during which keeps me out of the heat but makes the siphons harder to start as the cool air makes them stiff and they don’t bend over the bank, but they don’t burn your hands either. Night shift can get a bit tedious between changes so when I spotted a fox in a supply channel while driving around checking levels I thought I’d try and catch it. I end’d up catching it and got a photo before it bit my hand and got away.

Until next time kick of your next year with a bang.

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The Fox that Got Away

Intercollegiate Meat Judging Part 1

The morning frost numbed my fingers as I try’d to open the torno cover on the back my of my ute to get the gumboots out that I would need to be able to enter the Cargill Teys Wagga abattoir later in week. By 6am on this frosty Armidale Monday morning everyone had gathered in the car park between the colleges, the bags were packed into the trailer, the  bus was loaded and we were off for the 2013 Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) competition in Wagga Wagga.

The ICMJ is held each year and draws people from all over Australian and the world and while its primary purpose is a competition to see how well students are judging carcasses on there eating quality, profitability and pricing. There are also a series of talks during the week covering the different area’s of the Australian meat industry such as Pork, Lamb, Beef and the retailers perspective.

We arrived Monday night had a good dinner at the pub then went back to Charles Sturt University (CSU) where we were staying. The next morning we had a quick breakfast at Maccas before heading out to the abattoir for a tour of the boning room and to practice judging on the carcasses in the chillers. We were lucky enough to have the “Young Farming Champion” Jasmine Nixon give us the tour of the plant and the sheer size of boning room just blew us all away.

After touring the boning room and the chillers we went to have a look at the a their water treatment plant behind the abattoir where we were able to see the various stages of how the water was processed. The first stage of the process was the anaerobic ponds where bacteria helped to break down minerals and waste in the water while tarps covering the top  of the ponds collected the methane that was emitted, this was then burnt of to cut emissions. However they do have a plan to either turn it into put in place a electrical generator or use it to heat their boiler. The next stage of the process was the aerobic pond where the water was aerated to help to further break down wastes and purify the water, after this the water is either used to wash down holding yards, used in irrigation or discharged to the council facility for further treatment. This process also creates a lot of sludge that needs to be dealt with so it is extracted from the ponds and is dried by having the water forced out of it by a press before being collected by a person who turns it into compost for there own private use.

After visiting the abattoir we went to Knight’s Butchery in Wagga where we were shown around their shop and were able to learn how they operated as well as the importance of value adding. Knights meats has a range of product lines including their “wholesale” meats which were like the packaged meat that you buy off the shelf at Woolworths, there was also their value added section and their deli. This was a great part of trip and we all learned a great deal from it.

Later that night we had the meet and greet dinner at CSU and were able to meet the wide range people of people that were at the ICMJ. People had come from all over Australia, their were two teams from the USA and teams from South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Pakistan as well as person from Zambia who was with the Adelaide University team. These were a great bunch people and it was great to get to know them better as the week went on. We were soon in bed eager for the following days lectures.

As it was a long week and much was done this is just part one of a two part post, I’ll hopefully have the second part up by Sunday.

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Catch Up

Its been almost a month since my last post and apologise as its been a bit of a hectic month with uni exams, a Young Farming Champions (YFC) workshop, work and now I’m on holidays until Saturday, so its given me some time to catch up on a few things.

When I wrote my last Animals Australia were about to launch their Coles bags campaign and were attempting to create a few twitter  storms around Live Export without success. The bags were pulled from sale three days into the campaign by Coles after they received continued  pressure from the National Farmers Federation, suppliers and farmers. While this was a achievement for those who were opposed to the campaign, Animals Australia went onto attack the National Farmers Federation as well as Australian farmers describing them as bullies who against improving animal welfare. Rumours have also been circulating that Animals Australia made a small fortune out of the failed campaign as their regular donors tripled their donations.

I find it ironic but unsurprising that Animals Australia would label farmers and the National Farmers Federation as bullies seems as they were the ones who brought the Live Export trade that to a stop overnight, cutting off the main source of income as well as the foundation of many rural communities. I believe it just shows how disconnected some people are for them to try and shame us for supporting our industry and trying to prevent them from funding another attack on Australian agriculture. Animals Australia also went on to claim that our opposition to their campaign meant that we were supporting battery hens and sow stalls, however its the bigger picture that we are opposed to. We did not want to see a major retailer supporting a group that actively works to undermine Australian farmers. While they claim that they want to improve animal welfare standards yet their actions and website seem to contradict that claim, for start they are a lobby group and do nothing to physically help any animals. The other issue is that they don’t say there’s some things here we don’t agree with you on so lets work together to improve this, instead they just say we don’t like this lets ban it. We believe that this is not productive and will only provide people from non agricultural background with the wrong information about farming practices.

So to anyone who may be supporter of Animals Australia or those who just want to help out and contribute to welfare of livestock and the farmers who care for them, then I would suggest that you get on board with Aussie Helper “Buy A Bale” campaign. Go to www.buyabale.com.au where you can donate money towards the purchase of feed, diesel as well as gift cards to help make the lives of those doing it tough a bit more bearable.

Anyway in other news the picker went into the last of the dry land cotton this week, the crop had been starved of rain early in the season but really caught up late in the season, very late as it turned out but its still a great looking dry land crop. Hopefully I’ll have written another post by next week on the first YFC workshop.

A New Member To The Mustering Crew?

On Friday I was lucky enough to be able to go for a burn in a gyro and I have to say it was the most fun I’ve had in a while, by the time we landed I had a ear to ear grin that would have rivalled the Jokers. So what is a gyro and why did it leave me so excited?

A gyrocopter (also known as autogyro or gyroplane) looks like a cross between a plane and helicopter, the power provided by the rear mounted engine powered propeller while the lift is generated by the free spinning rotor. Today’s gyro’s have evolved into thier own type of aircraft, they are a far cry from old “build Sunday crash Monday  home builds and even further from their distant 1920’s ancestors that looked like a mongrel cross between a helicopter and a plane.

The Original gyro

The Original Style

While today’s gyro’s may look a bit like a helicopter it flies and handles more like a fixed wing aircraft in the air but it there are some key differences, particularly during take off and landing. During the take off roll you start with the stick fully back and slowly push it forward to keep the nose just off the ground it gets airborne, on landing is different in that you land with a very steep approach and very little speed due to stall speed of zero. These characteristics give it some advantages over both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft that may be of use in agriculture and farming.

The New Generation

The New Generation

The gyrocopter that I flew in was the MTO Sport by the German company “Auto-Gyro” (bet thought long and hard about that one), it seemed to be a very stable aircraft in level flight but if you started to play with the stick you’d soon find out that it could be as manoeuvrable as you wanted it to be, with the only disadvantage being  that it can’t go negative g with out losing its lift. One of the biggest advantages is that it can’t stall, the aircraft can fly at almost any speed, with it being able to even drop back to zero without the aircraft plummeting from the sky, instead it just gently drops giving you plenty of time to apply the power (I know I was nervous watching the air speed indicator steadily drop back to zero). Another advantage is the incredible amount of visibility, the open cockpit and lack of wings allow for a brilliantly clear picture of the ground below as well as the surroundings making it easy to spot cattle, check fences and turkey nests. While the cockpit may be open the windshield keeps you well protected from wind and even the rain (so I’ve been told).

300ft

300ft

The hard deck for a gyrocopter is 300ft above ground level (AGL) which is 200ft below a what RA-Aus registered aircraft will be allowed to do, however if you get a low level endorsement you can go as low as you want over your own property (you here some stories of the grass brushing the bottom of the aircraft). Cost factor has to be the biggest advantage of all as a brand new gyrocopter will only cost you somewhere $80k-$100k depending on the options you choose and has a running cost of about $60 a hour compared to the $400 a hour a R22 would cost.

I believe the gyrocopter shows great potential for use on stations for mustering as well as other station duties, I’ve even seen you tube videos of one with a spray boom set up on it. But there is one thing I know for sure and that is I’m defiantly getting my endorsement when I can.

As always feel free to leave your own thoughts and comments below, and enjoy the videos of some gyros in action.

Flying Along

With a couple of days gap the between irrigation cycles  we were able to have to weekend off, so I decided to try my hand at a bit of water skiing. It was good fun (when you eventually get up on the skis) but it can leave you feeling stiff and sore the next day, plus I think I’m the only person who’s been able to run over themselves on a knee board. But it was back to work Sunday night.

I started back at work Sunday night and we’ve been flying along since then, with four fields on the goon Sunday and then six on the go last night, more than enough to keep us busy all night trying to keep the water up to the paddocks while running around doing the changes. Fortunately even with all the fields going we didn’t blow any channels but we did start to fall behind in the changes and had to leave a couple for day shift to do. Hopefully we’ll be able to get through all paddocks and be done this cycle by Australia Day.

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Getting Home

I’ve made it back in near record time travelling the 3000km in under 46 hours, the trip took me through a wide range of terrain from the thick hedge wood around Daly Waters to the low scrub of the Barkly(were fires still burned amongst all the storms) and the open nothingness of Queensland channel country, fortunately the kangaroos weren’t too bad with Mitchell to St George being the only bad section (it took me three hours to travel that stretch I guess its a record of sorts).  I think it’d be better to take the trip slower over about a week so I’d have more time to check out the sights such as the QANTAS Museum, Stockman’s Hall Of Fame and the many pubs along the way such as Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay.

After arriving home it was a quick trip down the coast for Christmas I’m back in Moree and starting work again irrigating on a cotton farm just outside of town, first shift is New Years Eve night. The blog will soon be redesigned to make it more relevant to life on a cotton farm but information from life at the station will still be available.

So stay tuned

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