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

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.

 

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.

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.

Up’s and Down’s

Its been a up and down week for Australian agriculture in media, with #supportliveex trending on twitter for almost twenty four hours while Animals Australia #LiveExShame tag failing to get a mention being the up for the week. Unfortunately Animals Australia also announced this week that Coles will be selling their “Make It Possible” bags, leaving Australian farmers frustrated at Coles to say the least.

On Wednesday night a couple of ladies on twitter found out that the keyboard warriors at Animals Australia were planning a twitter storm with the tag #LiveExShame, they quicklydecided that two can play at that game and launched their own twitter campaign with the tag #supportliveex; within seconds my twitter feed was soon full of tweets from people showing their support for live export and the farmers that depend on it. With such a great response it came as no surprise that #supportliveex was soon trending on twitter reaching number three on the list, unfortunately we were not able to remove bieber from the top of the list but at the same time #LiveExShame hadn’t made a appearance. By this stage it was getting late so I went to bed with the assumption that it would be all over by the morning, however the next morning it was still trending and continued to trend throughout the day and into the evening. The sheer length of time that #supportliveex was trending just goes to show how many people support Australian farmers and how they will not be swayed by the campaigns of groups like Animals Australia.

Twitter Trends

Animals Australia and Coles have announced that as of the 3rd of June Coles will be stocking Animals Australia’s “Make It Possible” grocery bags, leaving farmers and supporters of Australian agriculture frustrated with grocery giant to say the least. It is widely viewed that the funds generated from the sale of these bags will only go back into campaigns against Australian farmers instead of being used to make a real difference to a worthy cause such as helping drought affected farmers and their livestock. These views are well founded as only a quick glance at their website will show you their many campaigns against Australian agriculture and their relentless push for a vegan Australia.

The biggest concern about Animals Australia is that it is a lobby group and a very effective one; it does not run any shelters, give drought assistance or provide either time or money to help improve the conditions of animals in need such as those in drought affected Queensland. Instead they aim to influence legislation and promote a vegan Australia and they are very good at what they do. Animals Australia in conjunction with Four Corners where able to shut down a entire industry overnight through the use of images that were simply designed to generate a emotional response. The industry still hasn’t fully recovered from this ban, leading to a domestic oversupply, reduced prices and a build up of cattle on Australian farms enhancing problems such as the current Queensland drought, meaning that the lack of foresight by Animals Australia has only created animal welfare and environmental problems.

Their campaign against live export is not their only flawed policy, they have many (to many for me to write about) including their support of the protection of feral animals; they believe that because humans brought them to Australia we are responsible for their welfare and attempts should only be made to remove them if it is proven that they are over populated and a non lethal control is used. Feral animals have a hugely negative effect on the environment, native animals and of course farmers, so trying to protect them would only be counter productive to other environmental works and attempts at regenerating native species.

Coles decision to work with Animals Australia will only work to worsen already frosty relations between farmers and the giant, hopefully they will soon realise the error of their way and cease the sale of these bags, I know I’ll be shopping at Woolies now. For more information on the problems that Animals Australia causes farmers read “Animals Australia – The Wolf Amongst the Sheep“. Please feel free to comment and leave your thoughts and opinions on either Coles and Animals Australia or the social media campaign on twitter.

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A sense of humour always helps

The Kangaroo, A Icon, A Pest and A National Identity

Old Skippy is never shy of a bit of publicity, he appears on our coat of arms, he had his own TV show and appears on countless other Australian products along with some that are trying to be passed off as Australian. But has our attachment to this national identity clouded our sense of reason when it comes to managing this animal?

While the kangaroo is a iconic Australian animal it can also be a major pest to farmers particularly in dry years as large numbers of kangaroos can quiet easily decimate a wheat crop and compete with stock for feed; leading to overgrazing and land degradation. This was highlighted when a military base out side of Canberra had to cull kangaroos to put a stop to the overgrazing and land degradation, however while there was a genuine environmental reason for this cull it still attracted world wide coverage and protests by mostly well meaning but ill-informed people.

I always known that there has been opposition to kangaroo culls and the kangaroo trade but I never really paid much attention to the information they were pushing with it until someone retweeted a tweet from @Boycott_Aussie. The twitter page Boycott Australia has put out over 20,500 of pure rubbish to their 40 followers (how they have that many I don’t know), including there latest example “Do you know Australia tells it’s citizens to kill every kangaroo they see because they are garbage?”. Where’d they pull that from? Activists have been know to be a bit loose with the facts but that is taking things to a whole new level in my opinion, however this group is probably the most extreme of the extreme and is reflected in their following on twitter.

However some things they claim is reflected in many other activist websites, the main claim is that they are near non-existent and on the brink of extinction; I’ll just quote The Kangaroo Protection Coalition “Many Australians who have lived in rural Australia for several years, cannot remember seeing a single kangaroo in the wild”.  Again where do they get this information from? Tabloids do a better job at fact checking. A quick drive out of town would soon put that myth to rest as it usually doesn’t take long to spot one on the side of the road. Just from my own experience last weekend when I went out pig shooting, I failed to find a single pig (plenty of signs though) but saw countless kangaroo’s resting under trees and grazing the grass (In case your wondering I only shot them with my camera). Now if we’re going use peoples personal experience of animals in the wild to assess their vulnerability lets use mine; I’ve only  ever seen 5 Koalas in the wild and its official listing is vulnerable, I’ve seen four Short Billed Echidnas which are classified as Least Concern and one Bare-Nosed Wombat is not listed on the threatened species list (accidentally set up my hoochie next to its burrow, I was left wondering what the red eyes belonged to that were staring at me as I climbed into my sleeping bag). So really a persons individual experience bares little relevance on the animals population.

So instead of devoting time and resources to a animal that is doing well for itself why aren’t these people out promoting some lesser known and lesser iconic but still critically endangered Australian species; have you ever heard of the Short-nosed Sea Snake? I hadn’t till five minutes ago, no specimens have been sited since 2000, yea I know what your thinking but that’s a snake its no where as cute as a kangaroo. Well then what about the Gilbert’s Potoroo? There’s only 40 left alive, again I had never heard of until five minutes ago. Endangered animals include the Woylie, Quoll, Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Dibbler, Various species of bandicoot and the list goes on. Surely these lesser known but endangered animals are worth as much if not more time than the kangaroo.

While I still believe and maintain that the kangaroo is a icon of national importance and must be protected to a extent, their is still room for culling programs and harvesting to help protect the environment, crops and pastures. I also believe that the people who campaign so hard for the Kangaroo should work to direct their effort towards raising awareness and promoting the protection of other lesser known endangered Australian species. Feel free to leave your comments and opinions below as I’m keen to hear what people have to say on this issue.

You'll Step In Front Of A Truck For Me

You’ll Step In Front Of A Truck For Me

But Have You Heard Of Me?

But Have You Heard Of Me?