I can’t believe we’re up to D. Can anyone tell me where these past four weeks have gone? (Actually where today has gone… Sorry I’m running late with posting this blog!) What between Outback Paparazzi,
this A – Z of Farming Series
and getting ready for the launch and tour of CrimsonDawn, oh not to mention the kids, the time seems to have whipped by!
Like I said. Today is D… We all had to put our thinking caps on for this one – after all, only ONE of us could do our favourite topic… DOGS! You’ve got all of Amanda’s cute photos for that one. And yes, they will fill your day with cuteness!
Let’s get started with that one:
Amanda: D is for DOGS!
Blue heelers, border collies, kelpies and a mix of each have always been a vital part of our workforce.
Cattle and sheep dogs all have special instincts – and each of the breeds mentioned have their own skills which must be identified and nurtured by their owners to achieve the best working relationship (and happiest dogs) possible.
Australian Cattle Dogs or blue /red heelers (as their name implies) tend to work toward the back of an animal or mob (the ‘heel’ area). They are ideal for cattle which are slower and need ‘pushing’ along. They are incredibly intelligent, strong, loyal and very protective, and brave in the face of adversity.
Never EVER enter a house guarded by a ‘bluey’ without permission!
Border Collies are usually black-and-white and originated in the British Isles.
They tend to ‘roam’ in their working style – skimming the edges of the mob back and forth to keep the cattle from spreading out. Collies love a tidy mob, are gentle with humans, and tend (in my experience) to be a little less ‘talkative’ than their kelpie colleagues!
Sweet Cruel, our super-loyal and loving collie-cross.
Mind you they are almost as energetic and look for all kinds of distactions if you don’t keep them busy.
Like Patch here getting into ‘pig dog’ mode.
Kelpies are an Australian breed but their ancestry can also be traced back to Scotland. They are similar to collies in working style – but look quite different, with their large, alert ears, short red or black fur and distinctive eyebrow markings.
They have the most incredible focus, and stamina and their need to work makes them very restless if they don’t get out often enough.
Among the things to remember about any working dogs like these, is they REALLY need exercise. And if their instinct to herd is very strong, even that isn’t enough for them. Owners also need to be careful not to over-feed our working dogs during their ‘down-time’. I am often in trouble for ‘killing them with kindness’ if I am left in charge of their dinner bowls! (They need to be super-fit and reasonably lean-but-healthy or they can over-heat in the Aussie summer.)
And last, but not least, there are the puppies.
The cutest, busiest puppies you ever did see!
D is for Diversification
Diversify! Diversification! When the backend falls out of one of our agricultural industries – those who are most affected are told they should’ve diversified. Is it that simple? Oh no it’s not usually simple at all, to the contrary diversifying will often be very difficult, incredibly expensive, risky and time consuming. To put it in very simple terms – climate, rainfall, soil type, location, market strengths and weaknesses, cash-flow, property suitability and personal & professional experience are all major factors in a farmer diversifying.
What is diversification to my family and our farm? We live in an area that has fairly consistent, above average rainfall. We have good soil types which grows either decent pasture or very good crops if Mother Nature plays nice. Farmers have had success in all kinds of livestock, the main types for the area being cattle and sheep. But there are also pigs, deer and goats in the region too. In livestock terms, our business only consists of sheep. But we have two different types of sheep – we breed merino sheep for their wool, and we also breed meat sheep for lamb and mutton.
Merino sheep – the backbone of many properties in our region, and have been for years.
Cropping has become an important part of many local farmers over the last 15-20 years. Our cropping program is incredibly important to us – not only does it provide us with income, but it saves us buying in feed for our own livestock too. We do rotational cropping – so we never have solely one type of grain to rely on. We grow canola and barley for domestic and export markets, hay – some for us, and some we onsell locally and the same for oats.
Why is diversification important? Over the years we have seen different industries crumble – it may only be for a year or two, but sometimes longer. This can bring farms close to breaking point if that particular market is their only source of income. Throughout many parts of Australia there is no room to diversify, the land is well suited to what it is being used for, and either crops will not grow there, livestock won’t do that great on the country or one of the other multitudes of reasons why it won’t work. In an ideal world, every market would be strong, it would rain when we wanted it to, and stopped when we were trying to shear or harvest. But the world never turns that way.
You can’t diversify overnight. How many people jump into something because it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, or followed along with what everyone else is doing. Back in the early 2000s my husband planted quite a few plum trees (by quite a few I mean thousands!) What we are left with is a fantastic orchard that produces some beautiful fruit (what doesn’t get attacked) but after taking out all the costs involved with picking, transport, grading and packing them – it’s really not worth doing. Instead, most of the town is visited throughout January by my Father-in-law doing his annual plum delivery 🙂
And my final point is something that has been said to me by a number of wise farmers “IF you are going to do something, pick one thing and do it really well. You are better off excelling at one thing than being average at a dozen”. I agree with this wholeheartedly. Diversification does have it’s place in agriculture – but it’s not as simple as what it may appear.
Fleur: I’ve decided to do a boring one today, but these things are still essential in farming.
D is for Drums
Without drums, farmers would be pretty stuck. They’re useful for all sorts of things. We use them as tables, chocks, sometimes we back set them out in a rectangle, back the truck under them and slowly take the stock crate off and leave it sitting on top of them! (sorry, you’ll have to visualise that, I don’t have a photo.)
These are how most chemicals arrive on the farm. Sealed in thick plastic drums.
This is the smaller type, that smaller croppers (like us) use. They’re actually called Enviro Drums, but I went with D word! They’re refillable, so great for the environment. They also used to have a deposit on them of $120. If you’ve bought ten of these drums, you’re talking about a reasonable amount of money you’ll get back – a great incentive to return them.
This is the top of them – see that brown rubber ring in the middle of the black circle? It seals the chemical in. To pump the chemical into the boom spray, we stick a suction hose (or pump) into the top and it draws the chemical out. Great invention so the farmer doesn’t have to handle the chemical at all. It’s really safe.
Other types of things come in drums too. This is drench (another good D word!) It’s like Combantrin for sheep. It gets rid of worms!
This get’s poured into a drench bag, slung over our backs and a tick plastic tube runs from the base of the bag to the ‘gun’, which is inserted into the sheep’s mouth then we squeeze the trigger and the ewe/lamb/ram gets a squirt of the medicine (drench) and she’s away. (This is actually a process I write about in my new book Crimson Dawn!)
This is drenching in the ‘flesh’ to so speak. I seem to have lost this photo so I took a screen shot from Twitter.
And that ends D for this week.