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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I’m Back!!!!

My last exam was Wednesday morning so as soon as it was over I packed my room loaded up my ute and headed straight back to Moree. I started back at work first thing Thursday morning riding my new Postie bike out to work for the first time, I got it to cut fuel costs hoping I could cut the $70 a week fuel bill for my ute down to under $20. I’ve probably picked the worst time of year to do try this out as harvest has begun and there are semi trailers, b-doubles and road trains all around, you really notice the drop in speed (up to 10km/h) as a road train comes rattling past.

As I mentioned earlier the harvest has begun around Moree and we’ll be starting to harvest the chickpeas on either Tuesday or Wednesday this week, so over the last two days (yes we had the weekend off) we have been checking over the grain and chaser bins. As they where immersed in flood water in early 2012 the bearings have attracted particular scrutiny, all the wheel bearings have been pulled apart checked over and repacked with grease. While other bearings that help with the auger have been replaced completely, to help them slide onto the shaft better all the paint was removed and the stainless steel polished to a high shine removing all and any imperfection making it a ease to put the new bearings on.

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the process as some heavy fella fell on my phone crushing the screen (guilty as charged) and my other camera wasn’t as waterproof as claimed, so until I can work out an alternative my posts will be picture free. Later in the week I hope to have some video up from the chickpea harvest.

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.

Under Threat And Under Water

In late 2011 I was working as an irrigator on a Cotton property just outside of Moree in Northern NSW, everything was pretty constant so when one cycle finished the next one started with their sometimes being a day or two in between. Smoko time consisted of working out if there was going to be a gap between cycles so we could have a day off and staring at the weather forecast on our phones. But there was something different about this week, Friday had a ninety percent chance of over one hundred millimetres of rain or one sixth of our annual rainfall in one day, there was nothing of note leading up to Friday so we assumed it was a typo or glitch. But as the week progressed the prediction didn’t change and then sure enough on the Friday the skies opened up dropping inches of rain. So the rush was on to open up the irrigation gates and starting the pumps so we could get the water off the fields and into the dams all while trying to drive around the slippery roads without sliding into a channel, then during the afternoon the call came through that they were shutting the road to town, two people had to stay to check the pumps and stop the water building up too much but the rest of us were wasting no time getting into our cars and high tail it back home.Pic_1125_027


The rain continued over the weekend with the flood water rising up threatening the town, people where stranded with two people even getting airlifted off a tractor. I ended up getting called up and asked to help fill sandbags that were distributed around the town, with nothing else to do I imminently agreed and after a quick trip to town I was soon filling sandbags with other volunteers. We got a good system going that allowed us to keep up with demand where we had six people lined up in front of the Bob Cat bucket and filling them straight from the bucket, although some people would deem it unsafe no one got hurt and it was the only way we were able to keep up with demand as it was quicker than using the sand bagging machine and way quicker than using the shovel.

The Team

The Team


At Work

At Work


After a few days the road was reopened to four wheel drives only (I didn’t know that at the time) so I got in my Mum’s trusty commodore and started driving to work, when I came across the flood water I was lucky enough to be behind a road train so I sat right up its tail which helped to push the water away with only a bit of the muddy flood water seeping in through the door. It wasn’t the biggest trouble of the trip though, that came when I tried to get up the farms black soil driveway. The two wheel drive automatic struggled for traction as it slipped from side to side and it even managed to push through even more flood water until I reached the shed.

I'm Sure There Was A Cotton Field Around Here

I’m Sure There Was A Cotton Field Around Here

The farm was still that coved in water that the only way to get around was by boat, the old tinnie was getting a real work out traveling along the flooded channels while dodging the submerged cement structures and pipes. This was the only way we could get around to check the pumps that were essential to moving the water off the cotton fields and into the dams as some of the fields were completely under water. Between checking the pumps we were just working in the shed, taking care of the odd jobs that had built up over the year. After a couple of days we thought the farm may have dried up enough to start driving back around the farm, we were wrong; after a couple of kilometres we were bogged axle deep in the soft black soil. Luckily the whole farm has mobile reception so we were able to call for help and a tractor was soon on its way to pull us out and pull us around the farm for the rest of the bore run. Eventually it all dried out but the damage was done and were left with the aftermath.

Getting Around Moree Style!

Getting Around Moree Style!

The flood did a lot of damage dropping massive amounts of silt on the paddocks as well as knocking the squares (flowers) off the cotton that was growing in the river paddocks, levee banks were washed away but the most significant damage was done to a pump site by one of the dams. One of the large underground pipes had dropped a couple of inches and opened up a small gap, even though the gap was small the large amount of water  that ran though it had created a large hollow cavern which we only discovered when a bloke stood on top of it and the ground gave way beneath him. To fix it we had to dig out all around the pipe, jack it back up and support it in place while cement was poured around it encasing any remaining gaps. On the positive side on things all the dams on the farm were filled up including one that had only been full once before.

Big Problem, Big Hole

Big Problem, Big Hole

Shortly afterwards I went on a month long hike from Canberra to Bairnsdale in Victoria, after a month’s hiking I emerged from the bush and started talking to a person at the campsite we ended up at only to find out the Moree had been hit by another bigger flood.