A New Year

2014 has drawn to an end and 2015 has started, I rang in the New Year the only way I know how, starting siphons to irrigate cotton a tradition I have kept up for the last six years. So what will the New Year hold for Agriculture?

First up I think we are hoping for rain, with a large portion of the country being drought declared and a rural debt crisis looming widespread, continued rain is needed desperately. While a subsidy free industry is important for an efficient and financially sustainable farming sector a drought like the one that we are currently experiencing can send many viable farms under and foreclosure isn’t a good option for anyone including the banks. As a sudden infux of farms on the market would drop land values impacting on surviving farms as well. Aside from rain the only way that I can see out of this situation is through low interest loans from the government. So my first hope for the New Year is widespread rain or failing that the continuation of low interest loans.

Secondly I would like to see the strengthening of the farm trespass and immediate reporting of video of animal abuse laws. As animal activists have not only continued to illegally break into and survey farms but some have also upped their agenda to sabotage, such as the recent example in Western Australia where anti live export activists burnt out a truck and cut the break lines on two other trucks. While I can’t imagine that tougher laws will deter these people that are acting out of ideology but it they are caught it may keep them off the streets for a while longer. The immediate reporting of genuine animal abuses would not only be a better outcome animals in distress but would stop groups holding onto emotive footage to use at times of political advantage.

My third desire for 2015 would be the increase of Australian Agriculture’s voice, we have a great story to tell and each year we are connecting with Australians but there is still more to be done. We are still being confronted with waves of misinformation that mislead the general public and fail to accurately portray the image of Australian Agriculture. It is up to us as an industry to tell the story of Australian Agriculture, who we are, what we do, why we do it and fight emotion with fact.

I hope we can achieve these things in 2015, telling the story of Australian Agriculture while getting tough on the illegal activities of activists, but most of all I hope that it rains and the drought stricken farmers get the relief that they need.

Happy New Year to all 🙂

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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

Birds Birds Birds

We’ve just completed our first irrigation since planting, where there’s water there’s fish and where there’s fish there’s birds. Once again birds have descended on the fields and channels for a easy meal, as each channel is drained large carp are left behind in the receding water while smaller fish can get sucked through the siphons and into the rows.

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As some dams don’t go and haven’t been dry in years the fish have a large and relatively contestant supply of water allowing their numbers to be able to build up in large numbers. When we start to irrigate the water and the fish are released out of the dam and into the channels, if the channels are drained through the field like some of our are the fish become trapped in the head ditch and become a easy meal. Only certain fields tend to end up with fish in them, they don’t require a lift pump to get the water to the head ditch as they are largely unsuccessful in making through the pump unharmed.

Fish Trapped in The Head Ditch

Fish Trapped in The Head Ditch

Its not just water birds that are attracted to cotton farms, their is a whole range of bird life that make the farm’s fields, bush land, flood plains and nature corridors. In fact there is even a bird guide for cotton growers that has been put out by a group of industry bodies. A PDF copy is available below.

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I’ll leave you with a quick video that I took off my phone while driving along the head ditch, all I can make out in the video is the pelicans. If you work out any more of them Comment Below.

 

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.

How The 7760 Works

The other week I wrote about the John Deere 7760 and how it has changed cotton picking in Australia, while I mentioned some of its features and its advantages I didn’t mention how it worked. While the 7760 is large machine with many moving parts how it works is pretty simple at a basic level, lets start by looking at some of the main parts.

I believe that their are four main parts that are essential to the piking process; they are the heads, suction (chutes and fan), the basket and the round baler. All of these parts need to work together in order to take the cotton off the plant and build it into a durable round bale (sometimes called eggs) that can be transported to the gin for processing into bales.

Cotton Picker Labeled

The Main Parts Of The 7760

The process for making a round bale starts in the heads where the spindles rip the cotton from the plants as they pass though the heads, the spindles are like of long metal fingers that stick out horizontally and sit on top of one another. While the picker is working they spin at high speeds inside the heads removing the cotton from the plant and delivering it to the back of the heads where they are sucked up by the chutes. The chutes use airflow created by a large fan to suck the cotton from the back of heads and into the basket, while the cotton goes through the chutes it will pass the “Cotton Mass Flow Sensor” that detects the amount of cotton flowing through the picker and will use it help make a yield map of the crop.

Once through the chutes the cotton will accumulate in the basket until it is full, then once the basket is full a alarm will sound in the cab and the operator will use their foot to press a button on the floor of the cab, this starts the belts that feed the cotton from the basket and into the round baler where it starts to form a egg. After repeating this process a few of times a full egg is formed and ready to wrapped. The wrapping process starts with a specially designed non-stick section of the wrapping plastic being fed through rollers to make the initial wrap, this prevents the cotton becoming stuck to the plastic. After the non stick plastic section has made the first wrap a second wrap is made with a sticky section to hold it all together before a third wrap is made with another non stick section to cover the outside. The picker can hold four roles of wrap in storage while using one working wrap, they are easy to load and can be done with only the push of the button.

A couple of other interesting features about the 7760 is that unlike most other farm machinery it’s auto-steer doesn’t run off GPS, instead sensors in the heads detect to the rows of the cotton plant and follow them instead. How ever it still will use GPS to detect where it is in the field and will create a yield map of the field with the data collect from the “Cotton Mass Flow Sensor”.

The Display With Field Map

The Display With Field Map

I hope this helps to explain how the John Deere 7760 actually works to pick the cotton and create a egg, as always if you have any questions or want to leave a comment feel free to do so below. Also be sure to check out some of the new photos on Farming Photo’s including one which recently won a prize at the Moree Show, and make sure you also check out  this weeks Cotton Career.

Back At It

Yes that’s right I’ve got two weeks break from uni so I’m back in Moree and back at work. Which means that today’s post is coming to you live from the tractor. Unfortunately because its live from the tractor there’s bound to be a few typos due the bumpy ride as I type it on my iPhone, so I’ll apologise in advance.

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It’s all go go go here at the moment we’ve got the cotton picker charging ahead in the field with the three tractors following up behind preparing the soil for the next crop.

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When the cotton is picked the cotton picker leaves the plant mostly in tack so the first machine to go through the field after the picker is the slasher-root cutter. This machine slashes the cotton plant above ground and cuts the roots below ground to stop it coming back in the following season. After the cotton has be slashed the ground needs to be prepared for the next crop.

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As this is a irrigation property we don’t use zero till in the irrigation blocks, instead we need to put hills in so the plants have a good seed bed and there are furrows for the water to flow down. To do this we run a plough through once and figs the furrows while building up the hills. However these hills still aren’t a great seed bed and need one final machine to finish it off.

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When the hills are formed the tops are narrow, uneven and filled with clods of earth. To fix this and make it suitable for planting a roller needs to be run over them which flattens out the tops and helps to break up the clods of firth leaving it ready for next season’s crop.

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Again I’d like to apologise for any typos as it is difficult to type while in the tractor. As always if you have any questions or want to leave a comment feel free to do so below and make sure you check out the latest Cotton Career this weeks is Ag Pilot.

John Deere 7760, A Picking Reveloution

This was originally going to be a post about the process of cotton picking but as I started to write I thought it should be about the John Deere 7760, the machine that has changed the way cotton is picked in Australia.

The John Deere 7760 Round Baler is a textbook example of how a technology can be taken up and embraced by an industry, since its release for the 2008/09 cotton season  it has taken hold in the industry with nearly 100% of operators now using it over traditional methods. This uptake has not even been seen in the USA where many smaller operators (under 4000 acres) still use the traditional picking crew, the success of this machine has been so great in Australia that it has been said that the John Deere Dealership in Moree has sold 16 of these machines in the past year, not because they could only find 16 buyers but because head office capped them at that amount (I can’t confirm this as I haven’t spoken to the dealership, its just the word around town).

The main reason for their success is that they have been able to cut a eight person crew down to two or three as there is no longer the need for a boll buggy, module maker or the many tractors needed to run these machines. Before the release of the Round Baler cotton picking was a very labour intensive process, the picker would pick the cotton before dropping it into the boll buggy being pulled by a tractor similar to a header unloading grain into the chaser bin. The boll buggy would then empty the cotton into the module maker which would then compact the cotton into a module the size of a truck trailer, once the module has been built the module maker gets towed on and a large tarp is fitted across the top to protect it from the rain. The Round Baler reduces the labour required and simplifies the process by making the module on board while still picking the cotton, when the module has been completed it is wrapped in plastic by the machine to protect it from the rain and dirt and dropped out the back. If the picker is still working the row the module can be carried along on the back of the picker while it continues to make another module on board, if the picker completes the second module while still in the field the module on the back can be dropped in the field to be picked up by a loader or tractor and the new module gets the piggy back ride.

John Deere was not the first company to release a module making picker as the Case IH Module Express 625 was released a year before in 2007 but it never took off in Australia, I have only ever seen one on display at Ag-quip in 2008 and as far as I am aware only one has ever been bought in Australia. It had couple of problems that left it uncompetitive with the John Deere 7760, one was that it was never able to get a heavy enough weight in the module meaning you needed to make more modules for the same amount of weight, another issue was that it still needed to have tarps put over it unlike the round baler were it is wrapped in the making process. But the biggest problem with the Module Express was that it didn’t offer non-stop picking like the Round Baler does, it has to stop to empty the module at the end of the row when it was full and then start picking again.

The John Deere 7760 Round Baler has changed the Australian Cotton Industry to the point where in five short seasons it has totally replaced the old methods of picking, thanks to the increase in efficiency, reduced labour requirements and the enhanced protection of the module.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below, check out the last post to see some video’s of the of the John Deere 7760 in action as well as the a chain bed truck being loaded with cotton modules.

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If you look carefully you can see a completed module riding along behind the picker