Monthly Archives August 2019

Future Farmers Network directors regularly give their opinion on the latest news, events and issues in agriculture for an article for Farmonline and The Land. Here’s the most recent yarn from WA director Henry Gratte. 

I was recently asked “What do you expect for the industry”?

I answered that I expected the industry to handle all of its problems like it has in the past – by turning them into a solution. The industry through my life has had problems with soil erosion, so the industry turned to no-till farming. This has had an impact on better germination through the tough starts and less wear and tear on the machinery. There are many examples were the different segments of the Agriculture industry, whether, diary, cropping, wool or pastoral has had a problem and the solution has improved the whole industry.
The question then asked was why is it important for young people to be engaged in agriculture and for young people not involved in the industry to learn about it.

We as active members of the agriculture industry have a unique position in the social structure without even realising it. One of the three basic human rights is food, and we as an industry have become so proficient at this basic human right that our friends and families living in non-rural communities don’t even give it a second thought anymore. By being involved in agriculture we are all contributing to the basic social structure and improving the society that we live in. We also have a duty of care for the environment around us, we need to keep the waters clean and the air fresh. By being active members of this wonderful industry that works with the world around us is a pretty special thing to do.

FFN Director Henry Gratte

The people not involved in the industry need to know about our industry for the exact same reason. In living memory there has never been such an interest in where food was produced. There are practices carried out on a daily basis considered to be bad practices by people living in the cities, and considered essential by farmers or industry professionals. Practices such as burning off or herbicide applications are looked down by our consumers. By being engaged with people not involved in our industry we can convey the point that these are not terrible practices as they may have been portrayed as but essential efficient practices with a lot of good science behind them or years of practice to ensure the sustainability of the industry.

This is where the great opportunity of the industry lies especially with social media. By bringing the fruit season to the forefront, by showing the grain being harvested that is that clean you can eat straight out of the header box, by showing all the tree lines that were planted twenty years ago for salt management and the proactive care the whole industry has taken for the land, the industry has some great solutions to the problems already. It will take a continued work of good will and the slow burn of a patient and wise industry to continue to find the solution for this problem but we are in good hands with the new generation of industry professionals who have studied from the learnings of the past and are keen to grow.

There are further ways that new entrants, young people, can work with the current industry professionals to expand this great opportunity for the future. The simple solution is to get involved! All actions start at home and in your local community, by supporting and working towards a strong local community then you have a solid base to start making a positive change a little bit further out, further into your specific field i.e., beef, wheat production, grain marketing or even the accountants that are only appreciated at tax return time. To start making small differences it has to be as simple as volunteering at the local sports club or the bushfire brigade.

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More great member bursary applications this month! Don’t forget that after you have been a financial FFN member for three months, you can apply for our monthly member education bursary worth $500. 

Joshua Fittler won a FFN Member Bursary to attend the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo, Victoria. The Armidale based ag-trepreneur held a stall for his startup Resurrect Refugia.
“We sell drench susceptible internal parasites of sheep for the elimination of drench resistance. The Australian Sheep and Wool Show is the largest event of its kind in the world. The best of the best sheep breeders come together to compete in showing of their sheep as well as a number of other exhibitors showcasing the latest in fashion, science, technology, cuisine and shearing.”

Sally Downie of Trundle in NSW has also been awarded a FFN Member Bursary, and will use it to assist in the costs of attending the Royal Agriculture Society of the Commonwealth Understanding and Assistance Mission, being held in the Caribbean Islands later this year. 10 delegates are selected for the trip to represent the RASC and promote agricultural shows, as well as participate in extension work. “I hope to gain an amazing experience from which I’ll develop skills, insight and networks to apply to my studies and career in agriculture. I want to share my experience and what I learn with other young people to encourage them to be involved in agriculture.”

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Alex Davies and his fellow Rabobank Farm Manager Program attendees.


FUTURE Farmers Network member Alex Davies has come back across the ditch with a paddock full of new ideas for the family farm.

And he can’t wait to start implementing them, as soon as the season gives everyone in northern NSW a bit of a break. 

The Coonabarabran sheep, wool and grain producer won a fully funded scholarship to the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, held in Christchurch, New Zealand last month. 

He said while everyone there would have got something different from the varied program, his key take home was “making the most of what you have, on a more dollars per hectare basis”. 

“There was no one there that had a similar set up to me, everyone was really different, so it opened your eyes a bit to what you can do with the country,” Alex said. 

“You see someone doing it one way and you might be doing it very different, but at the end of the day it is another perspective – and it was great to get those other perspectives. 

“We have country that is not as productive as it could be, the plan is to get stuck into that and maximise return.” 

Alex was able to attend the renowned business management program because of the support of the Rabobank Client Council Southern Queensland and Northern NSW. 

He describes the course as the best thing he has ever done for his career, and he is still talking to his fellow attendees and farming peers daily. 

“I was pretty devastated when it was finished actually, I was just like a sponge soaking it all up,” he said. 

“I will now get more into the business planning side of the operation – the business planning topic was really informative, getting into the office side of things is a big one that I want to get into.”  

The presentation that stuck with Alex the most was from a New Zealand dairy farmer who had previously attended the course and was using new initiatives in staff management. 

“I was impressed with the way he had his farm structured, he didn’t have any land when he started and now has thousands of cattle,” Alex said. 

“And the way he works his staff and really good people management staff – his staff all got a milking calf and they could breed them up and accumulate more and more each year – he had a really trust oriented workplace.” 

As well as people management, Alex was hoping to learn more about succession planning during the program, and he returned with one key message. 

“Get started as soon as possible. The longer it drags out the more difficult it will get.” 

The program was intensive, with 10 hour daily sessions and then an after-dinner group project, but Alex did get time to do some exploring after the course, touring local farms with new friends made during the week.

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2019 has seen FFN partner with Charles Sturt University to provide FFN members with access to a series of the University’s studies directly relevant to young farmers. This fourth study looks at grazing dual purpose crops. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.

Take home messages:

  • Grazing dual-purpose crops with cattle can lead to high liveweight gains during winter
  • Cattle grazing dual-purpose wheat should be supplemented with minerals including calcium, sodium and magnesium
  • Best practice grazing management required for cattle grazing dual-purpose canola to reduce the risk of negative animal health outcomes.

Dual-purpose crops such as wheat and canola have become an important part of the mixed farmers operation.

These crops are most commonly available for grazing during June and July, when there are often large numbers of yearling cattle in southern Australia that are being hand fed over the winter achieving very little liveweight gain.

Research led by Dr Jeff McCormick at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and Charles Sturt School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences has found the availability of large amounts of high quality forage through dual-purpose wheat and canola crops could fill a common feed deficit in the southern beef operation.

A study carried out by Charles Sturt University Agricultural Science Honours student Mr John Paulet in 2018 showed that after an adaptation period, cattle growth rate could exceed 2kg/day when grazing canola, and it should be grazed for at least a month to achieve the most benefit.

Traditional grazing management of forage crops is to introduce cattle gradually to the crop to allow their rumen time to adjust and avoid animal health issues.

Commonly Australian farmers are reluctant to do this as it is perceived to take up too much time.

The study found that there were no animal health differences between those cattle introduced immediately to the crop, and those were gradually introduced, with all groups having hay available in the paddock at all times.

And in fact those with the slowest introduction took longer to adjust than those with the shorter introduction, as they were getting a bulk of their feed from the silage available to them when they were removed from the Canola.

Wheat crops contain a level of sodium and magnesium lower then generally required by livestock.

The study showed that supplementing these minerals in a loose-lick increased the average daily gain of steers by 25 per cent – when feed quality was high early in the season.

Those gains were not seen when loose-lick was supplemented to steers grazing the wheat crop later in the year, presumably because of the lower Crude Protein level of the crop.

To minimise the risk of cattle health problems grazing dual-purpose canola it is suggested to:

  • Reduce pre-sowing sulphur fertilisers for grazing crops.
  • Ensure cattle are well fed. Hungry cattle are more prone to health issues.
  • Introducing cattle to the crop mid-late morning during the adaptation period will reduce risks of cattle gorging themselves.
  • Although this trial did not demonstrate any negative health problems adapting the animals over a period of time will minimise any negative outcomes.
  • The research found very low nitrate levels in the canola leaf, so ensuring that there are high forage levels available will allow animals to select the leaf and reduce the risk of nitrate toxicity.
  • Provide hay in the paddock to allow cattle to select different forage. This will enable cattle to substitute hay for canola in the diet and increase dietary fibre levels.
  • During the adjustment period the cattle need to eat the crop. If they are grazing fence lines or any other non-crop areas it is unlikely the animals have been adjusted.
Dr Jeff McCormick
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Two Future Farmers Network members have recieved $1000 bursaries for exciting educational and networking opportunities thanks to our partner Central Queensland University.

West Australian Sarah Hyde will use her scholarship to attend the second evokeAg event in Melbourne in 2020. Sarah works with the Facey Group – a farmer run group that aims to improve on-farm practice to keep farms healthy and profitable into the future in the Wickepin, WA, region.

What do you hope to gain from the event? 
As the Executive Officer of a local grower group it is important to expand networks and to ensure that knowledge and opportunities are current and relevant to farmers. With technology advancing at rapid rates I think that this is the most relevant forum to expand knowledge currently offered in the agrifood space. I believe it will also be able to challenge me to explore opportunities at diversifying our current business model and looking for more sustainable revenue streams for longevity of the group. I believe that this event will allow me to expand networks and a personal professional development opportunity.

Chloe Kempe from Ferny Hills in Queensland will use her scholarship to attend the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Centre – Seed Business 101, a technical training course providing an accelerated program of learning for young managers within the see industry. This event is held in St Charles, Illinois, USA.

What do you hope to gain from the event?
My understanding of operating a seed business across all functional areas will be greatly enhanced, advancing my agribusiness management abilities. This leading course will connect me with seed industry professionals from around the world, broadening my networks. Knowledge of best management industry practice gained from this course will benefit my Australian employer and colleagues. Following the course, I will engage the seed industry through verbal and written communication with the Australian Seed Federation, and the agricultural sector more widely, through involvement with pasture R&D and commercialisation, including a current CRC-P for Northern Australia led by my employer, Agrimix Pastures.

FFN thanks Central Queensland University for their ongoing support of young people in agriculture.

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