Sunday, May 18, 2014

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

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