Saturday, May 24, 2014

May 24

          Today was free for the students to do what they like! This was very exciting for everyone, a little rest and relaxation on the beach for the last day in Australia?  We all started off the day heading to the Markets, which were closed according to our resort receptionists, so we took off to a shopping mall instead to find some good bargains on Australia authentic souvenirs. Kali and Katelynn took off in a taxi to the Brisbane Markets which were in fact open, after their 60 dollar cab ride to the markets and some great shopping they found a wonderful lady who offered to bring them back to the hotel. Although most people would be skeptical of an offer like this the two girls didn’t mind. They said the nice lady was in a midlife crisis and probably needed them more than they needed her but they were happy to help in any way they could, as she was more than helpful for the girls.
            Caitlin, Jackson, Sara, Amy, Kristen, and Kaitlin started off by going paddle boarding and kayaking. As most of them had never paddle boarded before everyone did exceptionally well.  It was only $20 for 1 hour, which was plenty for everyone, making it a cheap afternoon. They then hit up Subway for a quick lunch and some shops along the road before making their way to the beach. Amy and Caitlin didn’t find it amusing to get wet in the water but the rest of the students had a blast being smashed by the large Australian waves.
            The rest of the group went over to King’s beach where the water and sunshine was gorgeous.  Matt, Claire, Emily, Brooke, and Melissa had fun sitting in the sand, frolicking in the water and trying to swim in between the big waves.  Claire and Emily were happy to find one of the cafe’s that actually had a large selection of both Coke and Pepsi products.  After a long day on the beach, the group headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the evening.

            For supper all the students gathered at the resort restaurant for a three-course meal. Although our tucker (food) took over two and half hours with 45 minutes between each meal the food was at least good. As you can tell the students really enjoyed their last day in Australia! I think we all really enjoyed the trip and the especially with our bus driver Bill. He was probably the highlight of most days with his glorious stories. All the students send out a big thanks to him for all the hard work he did and crap he put up with.

May 23

The day started at Ken and Carolyns' beautiful home, which was our second farm stay. They made us a big and delicious breakfast that consisted of bacon, sausage, eggs, fruit, yogurt, and cereal. When we were finished we all hopped in the back of Ken's red utility truck. He took us on a long and bumpy, but very fun, ride around his property. We saw part of their 7000 acre property that was mostly made up of forest. It was cool to watch him move his cattle to a new pasture. He had them running towards him with just a holler.
We returned to the home, said our goodbyes and headed for our next visit. On our drive we went passed a few sugar cane fields. It was the first time we'd seen them while in Australia. Our next stop was for lunch and a visit to a crayfish farm. Cherax Aquaculture park holds a species of crayfish called Red Claw Crayfish. The farm consists of 57 ponds, filled with anywhere between 180 kilos of male crayfish, or 200 kilos of female crayfish. Each pond is monosex, meaning the males are kept from the females. The ponds are covered with barrier nets to keep snakes and turtles out of the ponds. After four months in a pond, the owner has a 1\2 tonne expection rate that he will get from the crayfish. Its was very interesting to hear how the owner keeps his habitat and farming at its best.
Then for lunch we had, of course, crayfish. It was a first for many, and one refused, but mostly everyone thought it was a good feed! After our meal we made our way to the crawfish ponds. Many of us didn't know very much about aquaculture but we learned a lot on an animal away from what we know, and aside from all the sheep and cattle we have been around the whole trip.
Next, we headed for our last stop, the Sunshine Coast! You could feel the excitement in the bus from all of us as we got closer and closer. We were all very ready to see the ocean. We arrived and checked into our resort. Many of us spent the night going for walk along the beach. Those who went to the beach during the night noticed tiny luminescent blue lights in the sand everytime we took a step. We have yet to figure out what they are though!

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 22nd

Day 10

Today we loaded up the bus and left Toowoomba. We had a half an hour bus ride to our first visit at a cropping farm.  The Black's run a 4,000 acre cropping operation outside Dalby. Brothers Jim and Laurie and Jim's son Peter ran the farm. They were impressively technologically advanced with their farming equipment and management practices.  On the 4,000 acres they grow barley, wheat, and chickpeas in the winter months, and summer months grow cotton and sorghum.  Jim and Laurie's great grandparents settled in the area from Northern Ireland and through generations haven grown the farm and passed it through the family.  The farm started as traditional and conventional tillage operations, and then they realized how the tillage was negatively affecting the land.  They then switched to a no till system and later implemented controlled traffic on their fields.  Controlled traffic is when they drive all of their equipment on the same wheel tracks. Recently they started using strip tillage.  They have done a great job of keeping up with all of the new technologies that have taken over the agricultural world. Peter told us about some difficulties with controlled traffic farming such as not being able to use duals on tractors and their grain cart having to be modified to stay in the same wheel tracks while driving beside the harvester. They had an interesting spray system which had the ability to broadcast spray an entire field and/or spot spray with infrared technology.  The spot sprayer was 40 meters when folded out and known as a weed seeker.  Each nozzle had an eye on it that gave in the capability to pick up larger weeds and only spray on that plant.  This saved greatly on spray that is used.  The Black family was very friendly and were great to visit with!

For lunch we stopped at The Woolshed  at Jondaryan built in 1859. The property is now a museum with a cafe, animal nursery, (we got to pet a young kangaroo) and machinery displays. The centerpiece of the museum is the oldest original operating Woolshed of its era. Lunch was very authentic including damper, a bread, corned beef and a large salad with shredded beat and carrot on top.

The next stop was at Rick and Alice Greenup's Santa Gertrudis ranch.  They run about 6,100 head of Santa Gertrudis and commercial cattle on 70,000 acres of land.  For those that may not know a Santa Gertrudis is 5/8 Shorthorn and 3/8 Brahman.  Each year they sell about 300-400 bulls and sell limited females because they are currently in a growing stage of their operation.  We were able to see around 40 of his breeding females that had their calves weaned early due to the severe drought that Australia has been suffering.  Along with seeing the cattle we were able to see some of Rick's horses.  He had two mares tied up that were sisters and both quite successful.  In Australia they have a sport called camp drafting, which Rick showed us some of.  It is really similar to cutting in the US but it is timed.  Along with cutting the cow out of the herd you have to run the cow through a figure 8 pattern and through two poles to mark the end of the ride.  This all has to be done within 40 seconds.  One of the horses Rick showed us was a very successful camp drafting horse and he has been offered $80,000 for her, but has kept her instead and has been breeding her with the hopes to create more champions like her. They sell only a few horses a year, however.

Then, we headed toward our farm stays. Three of us went to this sweet old widow, Carolyn Harris's, house and the other ten, Julie, and Bill went to Ken and Carolyn Passchendaele's. The ten there had to hand milk a few squirts from their one milk cow before we could have any adult beverages; everyone succeeded. Carolyn Harris and her trio came to the Passchendael's for supper. We had a great time hanging out, talking, and eating on the veranda.  There were lots of appetizers and we had steaks for supper besides; nobody went to bed hungry!

Brooke, Kali and Claire

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 21st

Day 9
May 21st

Our day started at 7:30am when we left for the Dalby Sale barn. Every Wednesday there is a sale from 7:00am to 4:00pm selling all types of cattle from Brahman to Angus to Herefords to crosses of all sorts of breeds. It was a spectacular maze of pens and alleyways with cattle running here and there, looking confusing to us but flowing in perfect order for the cattlemen and women working there. Every sale, 4,000 cattle are run through, with 230,000 cattle sold each year. Some things that differ from the US is that instead of the cattle coming to the buyers, the buyers go to the pens. The price is set in cents per kilogram rather than our units of dollars per pound. The animals are also not weighed before they are sold so the buyers don't know the weight before they are bought.

Auctioneer selling pen of cattle
groups of Hereford cattle to be sold
sale information
Ian, the yard manager of the sale, told us that the cattle prices depend heavily on rainfall, so if there is plenty of rain, the prices could be $340 per head higher than if there was a drought. For each animal that goes through the sale barn, they must have an NLIS (National Livestock Identification System) ear tag. If an animal loses it's ear tag, the sale barn will put a new tag in at a cost of $30 to the owner.

At 11:00 am, after the sale barn tour, we continued on to the Sandalwood Feedlot. 12,000 head of cattle currently reside there, but as many as 15,000 to 16,000 were there last month. The feedlot itself can hold 18,000 head of cattle at one time. This feedlot is a custom feeder, which means they take the producer's cattle and fatten them to a certain weight determined by the owner. The owner can then take the cattle and sell them where they desire. The price to custom feed the cattle is $5 per head per day. Other expenses such as sick treatment, is not included. There were many different types of cattle there such as the Waygu, or Japanese cow, which is a cattle breed known for its high marbling. Everyday, staff ride on horses through the pens checking for sick or injured cattle. Their death loss is less than 1%, compared to Australia's average of 2%.

JBS sign
After the feedlot tour we went to the JBS Beef City feedlot and packing plant. This company has been operating for 40 years. At the moment they have 20,000 head of cattle and a maximum capacity of 26,000 head. These cattle are fed twice a day at 6 am and again at 9 am. They have three different feed trucks but only use two trucks at a time. Each truck does does 15 to 18 loads a day and it takes 6 hours to feed twice a day. The cattle's ration includes wheat, barley, cotton hulls, cotton seeds, cotton meal, corn silage, almond hulls, molasses, and vegetable oil.

Next we toured the meat packing plant which slaughters around 1,100 cattle a day with 70 head per hour. We saw the whole process from slaughter to packaging. This plant only slaughters grass fed beef steers. They export meat to 38 different countries with most of it going to Japan. Only about 2% of the meat stays in Australia for domestic consumption. JBS has 1,000 employees between the feedlot and packaging plant but with 850 of them working in the packaging plant.

Our day ended by returning to Toowoomba for supper and our last night staying in this town. Our time is winding down here in Australia, which is hard to believe since it seems like we only just arrived, but we are getting excited to return home.

pens in a new facility

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 19

group picture
Day 7 started off by taking a trip to the New England University to visit the Agricultural Business Research Institute. ABRI's mission is to develop and implement world-class agribusiness information systems with emphasis on the needs of the livestock industries. The institute has been very successful since its establishment in 1970. A few inventions: pedigree and performance systems for cattle, sheep, goats, breed secretariat services, dairy herd recording, herdMASTER On-farm software, Australian cattle genetics export agency, and beef cattle breeding services. We met with Steve Skinner, the manager for their international beef recording scheme. He educated us on the general cattle industry in Australia, and expanded on their most renowned invention: BREEDPLAN. It is the world's most widely used genetic evaluation system for beef cattle. Within the BREEDPLAN system evaluated growth, carcass, and fertility EBVs together in a multi-trait model and much more. The database can be used for over 40 million animals. BREEDPLAN and their other databases are used throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.

group picture
For dinner we ate at the Apsley Arms Hotel where most of us had steak, salad and French fries. As Minnesotans, we like ketchup with our french fries, but this ketchup, or as Australians call it, tomato sauce,  was nothing like our American ketchup. The fries just weren't the same without it. Oh well, at least the steak was good!

Walcha Dairy sign
We continued on to the Walcha Dairy, passing by acres and acres of lush green pastures filled with Holstein and Holstein crosses. It was an incredibly beautiful sight watching the these animals graze. As we pulled up to the farm, we saw cure little calves romping around their pens, kicking up their feet. We also saw some buildings, with one building looking like some sort of tin shed, where we found 800 cows on their way to be milked on an 80 cow rotary parlor. Each cow is fed 7 kg of wheat and a pellet nutrition mix while milking. A full rotation takes about 7 minutes so from start to finish it takes two and a half hours to milk and clean up. Milking times are set at 4:00 am and 2:00 pm every day. After milking, the cows are let back out to pasture where they graze on perennial rye grass, clovers and other grasses.

New calves at Walcha Dairy

Workers milking cows on an 80-cow rotary system

There are many crossbred animals found on this farm with the main breed being Holstein, or as Australians call them, Fresians. They don't artificially inseminate their cows but use a bull for breeding. Their main breeding objective is to have the highest amount of milk production per cow. They don't keep the bull calves, but do raise all their heifers for replacements. The heifers start out at the main farm and then after 8 weeks, when they are weaned, they move to another farm to be raised until they are close to calving, returning then to the main farm.

It was hard to leave Walcha Dairy after spending an hour and a half learning about their practices, but we all loaded back onto the bus to return to Armidale for one last night. Tomorrow we head to Toowoomba for some more adventures.

Katelyn and Amy

May 20th

Day 8

A quick trip down the road from Armidale to where we got to visit with Sam White of Bald Blair Angus, a commercial seed stock producer. Established in 1898 on an original 10.000 acres, the family has seen several periods of growth and fluctuation within the business. Today Sam’s enterprise consists of 1100 breeding females (600 hd commercial and 400 registered), 300 head of bulls and close to 1,000 head of meat and wool sheep.

Angus bull at Bald Blair
Sam white in front of "crusher" calf table
While this is still a decent sized operation, Sam has reduced his registered and elite groups by nearly 40% in the last three weeks as the result of ongoing drought conditions that have significantly reduced forage and water supply throughout his paddocks (that’s Aussie for pasture!).  In attempt to keep the cyclic seasons on track, Sam has opted to sell anything that doesn’t meet his requirements for criterion such as ideal structure, body condition score (6-12 mm of rib and rump fat), calving ease (if proven), age, and performance records. In this particular part of Australia, calving takes place in late July through September, breeding in October, castration and processing in November, and weaning in February. Five stock yards make up Bald Blair Angus with the home place having both the yards and sale facilities. This central location makes for easy and efficient chute handling equipped with rounded tubs, separate calf tables and “crushers” (Aussie for squeeze chute). The White family was a great example of Australian herdmanship and conservation at its finest with many improvements and investments being made on the land’s forage and water resources each year. Bald Blair is a very successful registered Angus breeder.

Bald Blair's 3-year-old cows
Bald Blair's 3-year-old cows
From Bald Blair Angus we headed an hour north across the boarder from New South Whales into Queensland to the Queensland College of Wine where we grabbed a quick lunch and had a chance to taste some of the popular white and red wines produced at the college. With the sampling came a quick lesson on wine tasting etiquette which involves a rather serious process of color evaluation, glass swirling, sniffing, and gurgling. The tour finished up with a quick look inside the wine processing facility full of various lab materials and oak wine barrels stacked to the ceiling.

Charolais bulls at Palgrove Stud
Palgrove Charolais of Dalveen, QL was our final tour of the day. David and Prue Bondfield are both the owners and driving force behind the success of the Charolais breed in Australia and as a result, a phenomenal commercial seed stock program. They are the largest registered Charolais producer in Australia and arguably the second largest in the world, with a program that originates back to the first registered shipment of Charolais semen into the country in 1969. Today Palgrove sells an average of 1000 bulls a year, with a producing heard of over 5,000 head on 25,000 acres spread across 5 properties. Producing bulls to fit their customers (and market) needs are the number one priority and as such they also offer quality beef genetic options through Charolais-Angus cross, Charbray (Charolais X Brahman), and ultrablack sire options for sale. These flexible options let producers further target individual markets, be it live exports, grass-fed/lean beef exports, domestic markets, feedlots, and so on. Palgrove is the first to bring the ultrablack breeding into to the country for a great pairing over cattle in the northern tropical climate of Australia where survivability and docility are major selection factors. In addition to the superior genetics they provide, Palgrove is a great example of proper marketing, financial decisions, and risk management. Land and livestock are seen as separate enterprises with a large interest in research and the future of the industry.

Elite Black bulls at Palgrove Stud
Tonight we will be staying in Toowoomba, QL and preparing for tomorrow’s trip to a large local sale barn and Beef City tour!

Elite Black bulls

-Jackson and Katelynn E.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 17th

Day 5

Our morning started off at the farm stays which we were placed at. Many of us had breakfast of mainly cereal, fruit, and toast. Since 3 of the families knew each other after breakfast we met up at the wool shed to have a look around. First the families neighbor Rory showed us his bull whip, which was handmade from kangaroo. This whip was around 6 feet long and resembled a bull whip like we have in the states. Rory gave us a demonstration of how to crack it. We continued into the wool shed which was built in 1894 and still used by this family. In this shed they can give their sheep vaccinations and ear tag them back in the chute. This shed is also used to shear their 8,000 head of sheep. Once the fleece is off it is laid out onto a large table and the edges or "skirt" are taken off because it decreases the value of the wool when sold. In this shed there is also a machine used to pack the wool into bags. These bags can weight up to 440 pounds. After the shed we were taken out into their paddock and showed their cattle. They run about 260 cattle (mostly angus and hereford). We were all then taken out into another one of their paddocks because the families wanted us to see some wild kangaroos. We saw a couple of kangaroos but from a distance. Kangaroos in this country are like deer. The famil would have liked to show us their new air seeder but because of a time crunch we were unable to see this. From what I saw they mainly have New Holland machinery and at this time were planting canola.

Our first stop for the day was at De Salis Wines, a family owned business.Charles Svenson gave use a tour of his cool climate vineyard, which had around 20,000 vines of grapes used to make different wines. Besides only having vines Charles also has some sheep which are allowed to graze between vines to cut back the grass and provide fertilizer. This vineyard makes white and red wines in large wooden wine barrels for added flavors. Charles did not become interested in wine making until age 32. The winery consisted of around 22 acres and was on an old volcano site. Charles was a very business and scientific guy who was very passionate about creating top of the line wines. After our tour we had the chance to taste six different kinds of wine.

De Salis Winery grapevines
oak wine barrels
the pricelist
Later in the afternoon we traveled to the farm of Ian Taylor, near Dubbo. Ian Taylor runs an intensive irrigated cropping and grazing operation with his son Chris. This farm had an 8 km frontage to the Macquarie River, which supplies 7 center pivot irrigation systems. The irrigated crops grown are azuki beans (pulse), wheat, corn, and canola. These crops are all grown for the Pioneer Seed Company and grown under their specific instructions. Ian cattle operation consist of 300 angus cross Charolais, and he just recently sent some of his cattle over to Russia.

Sara and Melissa
azuki beans

hybrid corn field

replacement heifers

May 18th

Day 6

We started our day at 8 am and left Dubbo with a two and a half hour bus ride to our first tour: Benham family farms "Kooiyong".  We met with Steve and Andrew Benham, the father and son that run the operation.  They are mostly a cropping operation with seasonal crops year round. The farm consists of 5,472 acres, with 892 acres they lease next door.  They have irrigation system and dams that cover 123 acres when full.  This adds to a grand total of 6,240 acres for cropping and grazing. Their irrigation crops consist of cotton, sorghum, canola, wheat, and barley.  Their winter crops are wheat, barley, and canola. The summer crops are grain sorghum and cotton.

koala in tree
Our first stop on the tour was out to one of their pastures to see a Koala that had set up a home in one of the eucalyptus trees right next to their sheep herd.  We walked through his machine shed and saw all the machinery needed to run his operation including his cotton picker, planter, a water truck, and a cotton baler.  We also saw an interesting selection of old McCormick and John Deere tractors that he had on his property. After touring his main property, we loaded into the bus and went on a driving tour of his crop paddocks.  We saw his extensive irrigation system including several dams and collection ditches.  We also learned about the many regulations that comes with water use in Australia.

Andrew shows his cotton crop
We stopped at one of his cotton fields and got a chance to see a full cotton plant and learned the process of harvesting the cotton plant and separating the cotton from the seed and their different purposes and uses.

We also took a trip to to his sorghum fields.  Right now, that part of the county has been in a drought the last couple of years. Steve said they would feed most of it to the cattle when the grass got bad. On our way back from our paddock tour we spotted another Koala in one of his pastures.  Of course this became the highlight of our trip as we all jumped out to take pictures and see how close we could get! Bill said that was very rare, he hadn't ever seen a Koala that close.
Koala in the field

Amy Diedrich gets close to the koala

We stopped at Gunnedah services and bowling club for lunch at 1. Apparently it is sort of like a VFW. This lawn bowling, sounds like bocce ball, is pretty popular.

As we were driving we saw a bunch of cattle in the ditches and crossing the road. At home you would think there was a gate open. Bill, our guide, explained there is a government program producers can participate in when their pastures are no longer grazable. They were allowed to graze freely during the day as long as they had supervision, but had to be penned up during the night.  The cattle must have been used to cars because they let us get pretty close before feeling the need to move.

After a quick lunch, we drove another hour and a half to the Tamworth Marsupial Park.  The park featured free ranging kangaroos, several aviaries, some emus, and a family of wallabies.  There were several species of birds including parrots, finches, cockatoos, and a friendly duck named "Willie."  There were also rabbits, guinea pigs, and a golden pheasant.  The park, which is run by volunteers within the community of Tamworth, is full of twisting, winding trails that took you all over the park including a lookout tower, several picnic areas, and a playground.  The park was free and featured a family friendly environment that allowed people to get up close and personal with Australian wildlife.

emu at the park

parrot on the ground

We ended the night at our hotel in Armidale where we will be for the next two nights.

Clairie and Brooke

Saturday, May 17, 2014

May 15

May 15, 2014

carrots offered in Sydney Market
The group was off to an early start this morning with a 5:30 am departure to the Sydney Markets, the central hub for all produce and floral trade done in the area. A tour of the flower, banana, and produce “sheds” revealed a bustling community of growers, venders, shippers, buyers, and consumers. Here, the market offers fresh products to individual and wholesale buyers from 5-9am five days a week, and several smaller vendors offering their produce through the weekends.
flowers at Sydney Market
flowers at Sydney Market
flowers at Sydney Market
Australia is home to the world’s largest genus of plant life, which was on display within the flower sheds of the market. Native foliage most notably of emerald, topaz, ruby, and pearl colors are delicately harvested, packaged and put on display down every aisle of the sheds.

 As a main warehouse of sorts for the market, the bananas are a popular enough commodity to have their own section of the market. Here, green unripened bananas are transported in from the north daily where they are then placed and stored in heat and gas regulated ripening sheds. The green bananas are placed under 13-15°C conditions and infused with their own ripening gas until they reach an optimal maturity to be transported more prominently to grocery and convenient stores

Dairy cows at Leppington Pastoral Company
Our next stop was the Leppinton Pastoral Company, a 2,000 head family owned and operated dairy in Bringelly, New South Wales. The dairy is unique in comparison to other Australian dairies in that it more similarly resembles that of dairies back home. The free-stall, “climate control” facility features a Magnum 40 double 36 Westfalia- surge Harringbone parlor with the bulk of the milking components and electronics being housed bellow in a “subway.” Milking happens 24 hours a day with each cow getting milked three times a day. Outside of the milking parlor, the cows have an option of paddock turnout, and individual, sand-bedded stalls. Each barn is equipped with automatic fans and misters that turn on when temperatures reach 20C. According to our resident dairy experts, the Leppinton’s have excellent conception and pregnancy rates within their program while their milk production rates are nearly average in comparison to a majority of dairies back home. 

Cows in the parlor being milked
From there, we took a three hour southern trek through some of Australia’s less productive eastern country side into the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra. Canberra became the capitol of Australia when the country failed to agree on a location for the capital in a debate between Sydney and Melbourne.  Once in Canberra we found our way to the United States Embassy where we were able to visit with the FAS Agricultural Counselor, Hugh Maginnis, on the commodity regulations between Australia and the US. Topics of discussion included comparisons of US and Australian imports and exports, the Australian-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the World Trade Organization, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Lastly, we trekked up to Mount Ainslie, where we could look out on the city of Canberra and see the lights of the Capital. A full moon was about to rise, but the cold temperatures got to most of us and ended up leaving early. We then went back to the hotel, which was a shock to all the students, saying it was smaller than our SDSU dorm rooms and the bathrooms resembled a “porter potty” or “camper bathroom.” We then went out for dinner in the center of Dickson, where we all wandered to find a place to eat. Many of us went to a local pub, where we got to cook own steaks. The night ended early for most of us, who got a good night’s rest before the next day’s adventure.

Katelynn and Caitlin