Future Farmers Network are recruiting four members to participate in the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) real-time training program. Courses are delivered in Nepal by the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD).
The four placements will be funded by the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. The funding included course fees and in-country costs – airport transfers, accommodation, meals, training materials, personal protective equipment, and disinfectants.
Two positions are available for the course in Kathmandu, Nepal on 25-29 November 2019, and two on 2-6 December 2019. All other expenses, including airfares, travel and medical insurance, and medical vaccinations, are the responsibility of the participant and/or their sponsor. FFN will work with the recruits to find a suitable co-sponsor to reduce the costs after they are selected for the program.
Raising general awareness of FMD is an important objective of this program and the Department expects that participants will share their learning with other stakeholders (eg. farmers, veterinarians, industry bodies) after the course. Activities may include, but are not limited to, print media and radio interviews, presentations and training courses, distribution of the course report, informal discussions with stakeholders, development of posters and other materials.
Applicants must be financial members of Future Farmers Network
Applicants must actively work in the farming industry and see large numbers of livestock as part of their work.
Applicants must be available for the course dates detailed above
Applicants are to record a 2 minute video addressing the following question:
Applicants must upload video to content sharing platform of choice and the send the link, plus a 100 word bio on themselves and their involvement in the livestock industry, to FFN via firstname.lastname@example.org. The content must be in a format that is shareable by FFN on social media.
Applications close 5pm Wednesday 28 August 2019.
What are you waiting for? Get cracking on that entry, and spend a week in Nepal! Read More
Opinion by FFN Board Member and AgThentic founder Sarah Nolet
Aussie farmers, supported by the research and extension system in which they operate, have been driving the creation of new technologies and farming systems since well before “agtech” was a word.
Examples range from GPS-guided tractors and new varieties, to raised beds and controlled traffic.
But “agtech” is a new phenomenon, characterized by the entrance of new players (e.g., startups and venture capital investors), new business models (e.g., software-as-a-service), and new technologies (e.g., robotics and machine learning).
If we can avoid the hype, agtech holds huge potential for Australian agriculture.
There are three big trends driving the growth of agtech.
First, technology has dropped in cost and increased in performance, meaning that even very complex technologies are accessible.
You no longer need billions of dollars or many years to bring products to market, so big companies are no longer the only source of innovation.
Second, shifting consumers preferences are putting new pressures on our food and fibre system.
In addition to healthy, safe, affordable food, consumers now also want convenience, premium eating experiences, and to feel confident that products are good for their families and the planet.
The traditional big players in food and agriculture are now scrambling to partner with agtech startups to create additional pathways to their traditional R&D activities.
And finally, agriculture is a massive and growing industry – it contributes over $40B annually to Australia’s economy and is the fastest growing industry.
Investors love big markets, and entrepreneurs are drawn to the opportunity to build companies that can do good (for the environment, for people) and do well.
But despite all the agtech activity, and potential, the industry can be frustrating for farmers. Products often seem (or in the worst cases, are) half-baked, and as startups race to be the winner that takes all in any given area, the spread of similar products is confusing.
This frustration with the “hype” is not to be understated or ignored.
Farmers are working incredibly hard, facing levels of uncertainty and constraint that most non-farmers would find overwhelming.
Adopting technologies that are failing to solve problems and add value is not what agtech is about.
Agtech is about new ways of solving industry problems. Here are three examples where agtech has potential to deliver.
Rapid business model evolution. Agtech startups are bringing solutions to market that break down existing barriers, challenge old mental models and processes, and ultimately deliver lasting value to producers.
Rejuvenated regional communities. As farming continues to use more digital technology, new skills and new jobs will be required to support farming systems. And new technologies can help rural and regional communities to stay connected.
Producers as more than agtech customers. Agtech presents new ways for producers to get involved in innovation. Producers can be innovators, advisors and even investors, helping to shape agtech solutions.
Last year the National Farmer’s Federation set to grow agriculture to a $100B industry by 2030. Technology and innovation are critical to achieving this.
But embracing the agtech revolution may mean we can aim even higher.
If we are able to export our knowledge, innovations, and know-how in the form of agtech solutions that avoid the hype and deliver real value, maybe we can leave $100B in the dust.
Mixed farm operator James Hegarty has taken out the 2019 Rabobank Business Development Prize from a field of some of Australia and New Zealand’s leading young farmers.
Mr Hegarty, who manages Ben Nevis Station near Skipton in south-west Victoria, was recognised with the award for the strategic business plan he developed for the operation, after completing the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, a specialist course designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of emerging farmers.
The plan – which 33-year-old Mr Hegarty developed as a management project after undertaking the FMP last year – is already delivering tangible benefits to farm profitability and sustainability just 12 months after implementation.
The Rabobank Farm Managers Program is an annually-held course developed for younger Australian and New Zealand farmers looking to enhance their management capabilities. The program covers topics including global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership and succession planning.
Taking the learnings from the FMP and implementing them into the farm business he manages since graduating from the program 12 months ago, Mr Hegarty has been able to achieve improvements in Ben Nevis Station’s business productivity and efficiency, technology adoption and farm infrastructure.
The business plan Mr Hegarty created as his management project for the program also helped him transition from being involved in his family’s merino sheep operation near Longreach, Queensland, to taking on the farm managers’ position at ‘Ben Nevis’ Station.
Now responsible for the day-to-day running of the prime lamb enterprise, which sees the business turn off 3500 lambs a year, he also oversees a 670-hectare cropping program of wheat, canola and barley.
Mr Hegarty said the FMP – through the business planning sessions – not only allowed him to document and then implement goals for ‘Ben Nevis’ Station, but also articulate his personal goal of purchasing a small farm within the next five years.
“I hadn’t really thought of doing a business plan prior to attending the FMP, but after completing the course I drew up a pretty detailed business plan of where I thought the business could improve and then set goals of where I wanted to go,” he said
“I sent it to my boss straight away, because I wanted him to see what I had done at the course and also where I thought the business needed to go. And I also wanted him to see my personal goals, so he is prepared for us to do that, because I want to buy a small place and still work for him.”
One of the first changes Mr Hegarty implemented from the business plan was to increase sheep numbers.
“In the business plan I had goals like increase our ewe numbers,” he said. “So this year we have already done that by joining an extra 800 ewes.”
Increasing the weight gain of prime lambs was also a goal, with lambs sold directly to Coles at 45 to 55 kilograms liveweight. And this process, he said, was aided by investing in new technology in the form of an auto-drafter.
“So at weaning, for the first time ever, we weighed every lamb and then set targets for those lambs,” he said. “It has helped us monitor our weights better and also monitor weight gains, and we were able to offload our lambs two months earlier than normal.”
This has not only benefited the bottom line of the business, Mr Hegarty said, but also given pastures a longer rejuvenation period. “It has allowed us to spell our pastures, whereas before our lambs were eating out our pastures ahead of our pregnant ewes,” he said. “So by getting the lambs off earlier, it has allowed our pastures to be ready for when we lamb.”
The business plan also identified ways to improve farm business infrastructure – with five kilometres of fencing, two kilometres of new drains for water runoff and 140 hectares of raised beds completed in the past 12 months on an adjoining lease block – as well as, pasture improvement through targeted application rates of fertiliser.
“This year I developed a fertiliser schedule and set targets for when we apply fertiliser on our paddocks,” he said. “We also did some soil mapping, which I hadn’t done before, for some variable rate fertiliser.”
Mr Hegarty said the mapping identified that lime could be applied at 1.7 tonnes to the hectare, almost 0.7 tonnes to the hectare lower than previous application rates – a considerable cost saving to the business.
Since completing the FMP, Mr Hegarty said, he had also worked on improving communication channels with key people in the business, setting up weekly meetings. And he had also begun communicating earlier with contractors.
“Because we use a lot of contractors, I learned that it was important to keep in touch with them more,” he said. “So I have on-farm meetings with them twice a year to outline what is to be done and we set dates for when I need them here for sowing, harvesting or fertiliser spreading.”
This process, he said, had ensured the business is able to get contractors when it needed them. “If you don’t give them enough notice or be organised when they get there, it doesn’t really work,” he said.
Now in its fifteenth year, more than 500 Australian and New Zealand farmers have graduated from the FMP.
This year, the The Rabobank Client Council Southern Queensland/Northern NSW and Future Farmers Network sent one member to the FMP in Christchurch, New Zealand, on a fully funded placement.
Want to hear about the big questions agribusinesses need to tackle when considering a loan?
Future Farmers Network and CQU Australia are pleased to be delivering a short free webinar for young agriculture professionals that provides a review of the implications of borrowings and what different legal structures mean in terms of borrowing.
The webinar will be led by CQU Australia lecturer, Desley Pidgeon – a qualified financial planner who has worked predominately in Agribusiness banking.
Register now to understand the hidden implications of borrowing, determine how your business structure affects your loan status and learn the implications of debt for trusts, partnerships and family business structures.
FFN and CQU warmly invite you to submit questions through the registration process so that we can adapt the webinar appropriately.
Special thanks to FFN Bronze Partner RuralBiz Training for supplying the webinar technology.
The webinar will be held on 4 July 2019 at 6pm AEST
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 third study looks at Increasing Lamb Survival to Boost Production. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.
Increasing lamb survival to boost production Lamb prices are currently soaring – just imagine if you had 20 percent more of them in the paddock at marking time.
One-in-five lambs born in Australia die within days of birth, costing the industry over $1 billion each year, so improving the marking rate can make a big difference to the productivity and profitability of a sheep and wool enterprise.
It’s a key area of research at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, an alliance between Charles Sturt University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
Calcium and magnesium supplements – a low-cost risk management strategy
Graham Centre research, funded by Australian Wool Innovation, has shown the value of supplementing calcium and magnesium to pregnant ewes, even when they appear healthy.
Clinical calcium deficiency (hypocalcaemia or milk fever) and clinical magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesaemia or grass tetany) can result in ewe death and may increase lambing difficulty and complications from birth.
This new research, led by Charles Sturt University Professor Michael Friend examined whether ewes with sub-clinical deficiencies in calcium and magnesium – those that are not visible – are also more likely to lose lambs.
Testing on commercial farms found that even if the pastures showed no deficiencies in calcium and magnesium, the ewes grazing those pastures often had subclinical deficiencies.
Part of the project involved PhD research by Forough Ataollahi, who carried out a small-scale trial comparing pregnant ewes whose diets were supplemented with calcium and magnesium, to pregnant ewes with no supplementation.
Her research found calcium and magnesium supplementation put pregnant ewes into a better metabolic state, improved the immune response in twin newborn lambs and increased their weights at four weeks of age.
Small increases in lamb weaning weight can make a profound difference to weaner survival. Early weaning can be an effective strategy to increase productivity and also to ensure that ewes have more time to recover body condition.
Many late pregnant ewes appear to be sub-clinically deficient in calcium and magnesium, despite grazing pastures which should provide sufficient amounts of these minerals
Calcium and magnesium supplementation form birth to lamb marking resulted in increased lamb marking weights, and supplementation to weaning increased lamb liveweight gain.
While supplementation may not improve lamb survival in all flocks, a loose lick supplying calcium, magnesium and sodium can be a cost effective method to increase growth rates of young lambs and reduce mortality risk
The research into the impact of calcium and magnesium supplements on lamb performance will be presented at the Graham Centre Livestock Forum on Friday 26 of July at the Convention Centre at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.
The Forum will also showcase research including increasing lamb growth rates on pasture, research into the use of caffeine to increase lamb survival, the effects of grain processing on the performance of weaner lambs in feedlots and breeding for quality lamb meat from Merinos. Download the program here
FUTURE Farmers Network member Alex Davies is headed from his farm at Coonabarabran to New Zealand next week.
The young sheep, wool and grain producer has been awarded the inaugural Future Farmers Network Rabobank Farm Managers Program opportunity.
Rabobank’s Southern Queensland & Northern New South Wales Client Council awarded a place on their annual Farm Managers Program, held in Christchurch, to the FFN Member who displayed a clear ambition and desire to help the sustainability of their industry.
Alex’s ambition was clear to selectors, through both his work on the family’s 4000 acre farm Box Ridge, and his work across the wider industry and community.
“I love Ag – when your passion is on the land it makes it really easy to get out of bed and go and do whatever needs doing, and there is such a diverse range of jobs – spraying and spreading to shearing and drenching – pretty much anything. I love looking at a good line of sheep and some beautiful Merino wool,” he said.
Alex has been back on Box Ridge for seven years, and works alongside his parents in the day to day running of their 4200 Merino ewe flock and 1500 acres of dual purpose crops.
He says succession planning, farm debt and drought are the biggest issues facing the agricultural industry, and he hopes to gain valuable skills at the Farm Managers Program to use both on-farm and for wider advocacy and extension work.
“I didn’t go to uni and always kicked myself that I don’t have a piece of paper to my name – I have spoken to a lot of people who have done this and it sounds unreal – so it was a no-brainer to apply,” he said.
“(Learning about) succession planning is going to be a big one, just because of the situation my family are in at home, and also managing people and employees, preparation for a managers role, I will get a lot out of that.”
In the future, Alex hopes to manage a harmonious and successful team on-farm – and get plenty of rain of course.
“I look forward to the seasons returning to a normal rainfall if there is such a thing these days, and working alongside a team that at the end of the day you can be proud of what you’ve achieved and what you’ve produced.”
Alex was judged the winner from 27 applications and will attend the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, a one-week residential course held outside Christchurch New Zealand from 23-28 June 2019, with the course ($5900), flights and accommodation paid for.
Rabobank Knowledge and Network Experiences manager Matilda Stump said they were “thrilled and overwhelmed” with the calibre of applications
“Reading through the applications everyone on the panel felt very inspired and excited about the future of our industry and the leaders coming through,” she said.
“Alex Davies’ application stood out for many reasons as someone who has clear ambitions, would benefit enormously from business management training and who would really make the most of the networking opportunities and mentoring the program offers.”
Chair of the Rabobank Southern QLD and Northern NSW Client Council Sally Rigney said the calibre of candidates meant selecting the winner was a big challenge.
“Reading the FMP applications and seeing the depth of talent in the next generation of Australian agricultural producers inspired us with hope for the future.”
“It was a very tight contest among our final four but Alex Davies from Coonabarabran won through due to his clear vision, can-do attitude and obvious thirst for knowledge.”
“For Alex you could see the opportunity to attend the FMP would be life changing. Alex is someone who wants so much more for his family partnership and probably wouldn’t have access to this type of learning and knowledge without the financial support of our Rabobank Client Council scholarship.”
Designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of farm managers, the Farm Managers Program covers global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership, and succession planning.
Facilitated by experts in these fields, the program is designed to develop management expertise and ensure farmers leave with a highly practical skill set that can be applied from day one.
The Rabobank Client Council Southern Queensland and Northern NSW is excited at the prospect of turning this into an annual initiative in partnership with Future Farmers Network.
Would you benefit from $1,000 to further your studies or career? FFN and CQUniversity are offering members the chance to take home a major bursary to support their Ag journey and assist in their pursuit of a career in agriculture.
FFN is offering two (2) x $1,000 scholarships to attend any Ag focussed event or course. Funds can be used for registration, travel and accommodation costs. Applications are open until 30th June 2019.
This is a great opportunity for FFN members to further your networks, knowledge and take a hold of your future.
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 second study looks at Integrated Weed Management. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.
Why does integrated weed management matter? A key focus of research at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation is integrated weed management to reduce dependence on herbicides and boost returns to grain growers.
The Centre, an alliance between Charles Sturt University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), has a long history of weed science research.
For the past 25 years herbicide resistance testing at Charles Sturt has evaluated specimens sent in from around Australia.
Charles Sturt Emeritus Professor Jim Pratley said the testing has shown the trends in herbicide resistance over time.
“Our work has identified the first resistance in ryegrass to glyphosate and to triflualin, and in wild oats to mataven,” Professor Pratley said.
“It is clear that weeds have responded to farming practice and there is a need to have diversity in management practices so that one control measure does not encourage a weed to proliferate.”
The growth of no-till and conservation farming has also led to a different cohort of weeds, particularly in the summer fallow. Changes in climate are also creating weed problems not before seen in some areas, for example fleabane in southern Australia.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) invested in Graham Centre weed research focused on not only managing herbicides for weed control but seeking out non-chemical measures to reduce dependence on herbicides to preserve their efficacy for longer.
Competitive crops to beat the weeds Research is examining the mechanisms and traits that make certain cultivars or genotypes of wheat, barley and canola better at suppressing weeds.
Professor Leslie Weston said one mechanism under study as a means for effective weed suppression is the ability of plants to exude chemicals into the soil around the roots, or root exudation, as a defence mechanism against competition from neighbouring plants.
Other cultivars effectively suppress weeds due to competition for resources such as water, nutrients and sunlight due to their early vigour, both above and below-ground, and their canopy or root architectural traits.
The research into wheat and barley genotypes has found that crop height and vigour are important early in the season for competitive crops and subsequent weed suppression.
Before flowering, certain crop cultivars can release significant quantities of allelochemicals from an actively growing root system which contribute to plant defence against pests, including weeds.
Tillering characteristics, both above and below the ground, along with canopy and root architecture are also important for the crops ability to out-compete the weeds.
These characteristics may also improve the yield potential by providing greater access to moisture and nutrients.
It’s hoped the findings can be used by plant breeders to incorporate these weed suppressive traits into more commercial grain cultivars.
Weed suppression in the summer fallow Another area of research has focused on the role of crop stubble and residue on weed suppression over the summer.
The research is examining both the physical or mulching impact but also the chemical interactions including the change of nutrients and metabolites in the soil.
Heavy stubble suppresses the establishment of weeds
Leave the stubble for as long as possible
Disc planters are one way to be able to manage heavy stubble loads
Cover crops provide options in mixed farming rotations Graham Centre research in the south west slopes of NSW has examined the role of cover crops in suppressing winter weeds.
The research over three-years has examined annual legumes like sub clover, bladder clover, gland clover, serradella and biserrula, and mixtures of pasture species including lucerne, phalaris and cocksfoot.
The research assessed the impact on weeds including barley grass, sow thistle, poppy, ryegrass, fumitory, capeweed and Paterson’s curse.
It found the rapid establishment of pasture species, as well as optimal production of biomass, contributes to suppression of winter weeds.
It also suggests that newer varieties, like the hard-seeded annual legumes biserrula and serradella are able to supress competition through the release of chemicals and interactions with soil microbiota.
Variety and species selection is important
Careful grazing management of cover crops is needed to ensure there is enough biomass to out-compete weeds for resources like water and sunlight
Research aims to understand the chemical mechanisms that help some of the newer varieties of annual legumes to suppress weeds
Contacts: Graham Centre plant systems research pathway leader Professor Jim Pratley: email@example.com
Charles Sturt Herbicide Resistance Testing Service Dr John Broster: firstname.lastname@example.org
Plant Interactions Research Group Professor Leslie Weston: email@example.com
Photo: Inspection of weed research trials at the Graham Centre’s annual Twilight Field and Crop Walk held in September each year
Starting up a new business, returning to a family business or simply reviewing a current business structure can be an overwhelming process. In particular, the varying business structures available to you under the lens of agriculture can come across as complicated.
Future Farmers Network and CQU Australia are pleased to be delivering a short webinar for young agriculture professionals that provides a top-level overview of Agricultural Business Structures.
Whether you’re setting up your own agricultural business or walking into an existing one, this short 30 minute webinar will give you the skills you need to understand the most common top-level agricultural business structures.
The webinar will be led by CQU Australia lecturer, Desley Pidgeon – a qualified financial planner who has worked predominately in Agribusiness banking.
The session will provide the introduction to the most common business structures in Australia, briefly touching on the pros and cons of each with a focus on tax implications within the structures.
The session will conclude with questions that you will need to consider when deciding on the best structure for your current situation and/or what you might do in the future.
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 first study analyses the value of hard-seeded annual legumes in mixed farming operations. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.
The value of hard-seeded annual legumes in mixed farming systems has been examined by researchers from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and these drought-tolerant pastures are already making a big difference to one Riverina farmer.
Seven years of research at the Centre, an alliance between Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), has included hard-seeded annual legumes like biserrula, arrowleaf clover, French serradella, bladder clover and gland clover.
NSW DPI soil research officer, Dr Belinda Hackney said biserrula has proved to be incredibly tough, particularly in below average rainfall years where its deep root system allows production of more forage and seed than traditional shallow-rooted annual legumes that often struggle to survive under these conditions.
“Biserrula has very high levels of hard seed and persists in the seed bank enabling it to survive a number of cropping years and regenerate on-demand without the need for re-sowing,” Dr Hackney said.
“Biserrula can be used as part of an integrated weed control strategy to help control problem cropping weeds such as annual ryegrass. It has lower palatability than annual ryegrass and sheep selectively remove it from the sward helping to reduce reliance on herbicides.
Biserrula is very drought tolerant – in 2018 on 90 mm growing season rainfall, biserrula produced more than 170 kg seed/ha compared to sub clover and annual medic that produced less than 10 kg/ha.
Biserrula establishes readily on well drained soils of mild to moderate acidity. It is not suited to use on heavy textured, high clay content soils that may be subject to waterlogging
Biserrula has established well using summer, strategic dry and conventional stand-alone sowing options.
Under very dry summer conditions, summer sowing may be less effective due to slow rate of hard seed breakdown.
Proving its worth on-farm Hard-seeded annual legumes have become a key part of the rotation on Mike O’Hare’s mixed farming enterprise at Beckom in the NSW Riverina.
About half the farm (900ha) has been planted to biserrula with the remainder a mix of bladder, gland and arrowleaf clovers
Mr O’Hare said “Not only is biserrula able to survive we get a false autumn break but it performs at the other end of the season too, hanging on for an extra grazing at the end. If we get late rain on a clover paddock you’ll see weeds but the biserrula out competes them, providing feed not weeds.”
Mr O’Hare said the goal is to establish the pasture in the first year to maximise seed set, the second year provides an opportunity for heavy grazing before spraying out in spring to provide a fallow break for Canola to be sown in year three. Year four will see wheat planted and then the biserrula regenerates after the cropping phase of the rotation.
The next step for research New research, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)* is investigating the role of hard-seeded legumes used as on-demand pasture breaks in cropping rotations.
Dr Hackney says the research includes species completely new to Australian agriculture as well as those mentioned in this article and is focusing on their ability to supply biologically fixed nitrogen and reduce reliance (and associated input costs) on fertiliser nitrogen.
Choose a legume suited to your soil type, rainfall, intended use and management needs.
Weed control prior to sowing is key to success in pasture establishment.
Don’t compromise on sowing rate. Use an appropriate rhizobia delivery mechanism matched to sowing time and soil moisture conditions.
*This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program), the GRDC, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). The research partners include the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Murdoch University, CSIRO, the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), and Charles Sturt University (CSU), as well as grower groups
Dr Belinda Hackney | Research Officer, Soils
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Photo: Mike O’Hare in a paddock of biserrula during greener times. Photo by Ted Wolfe