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Agriculture on the Wimmera Plains

My Paddock

These are a few short articles that I wrote for local newspapers regarding the events that happened around the farm.

April 2005

With diesel the price of beer and wheat still being sold on special, it isn’t surprising to find that the happiness index of most people is moving from strained to ridiculously strained. However there is a high correlation between happiness and rainfall.

Last week I had the privilege to be invited to Grains Week at Brisbane. The conference is designed to bring grains related agribusiness and political lobby organisations together in an attempt to tackle national issues like the Single Vision project. While there I met farmers from all over Australia and the same common theme kept coming up about rain and what the future held. If it rained they would grow a crop and that would make the bank happy.

My yearning for water has also led to a little scuba diving action. I went to Robe with the Caves & Waves club for a catch and cook weekend. For my first time “cray” bashing I only caught a cold and a fair number of bruises. Still fun was had by all even if it did involve a bit of 4-wheel off road shenanigans.

I also attended the VFF Grains Conference in Bendigo as a delegate for the Wallup Gentlemen’s Club. The issue of standing proxies were furiously debated and I do believe that the VFF got the message that if they wish to be involved with lobbying and voting with agribusiness, they must be transparent and be well informed or not vote at all.

Meanwhile there has been some farm work getting in the way of my social life. A few weeks ago all of the merino sheep were classed and rams were put in to keep them company. Tractors have also been set out to be inspected before a busy cropping and a few internal fences have disappeared. All in all, I’m just sitting and waiting to get into the 2005 program.

Mail Times

February 2005

You could have been excused if you woke up last week and thought that you had slept in for a few months. The thundering clouds and 65mm rain in the gauge had a distinct feel of late autumn about it yet the T.V. guide insisted that the cricket season was still a goer. A few more heavy rains before cropping are still needed to help fill up the incredibly dry subsoil and would help stir the flagging confidence of everyone. Most belts in the area are pulled so tight that we’ve been out of holes for two years and now have to make a few new ones.

The run of light years in our area has led to the dawn of a new summer pass time called Header Racing. Requiring a cropped paddock (amount of available grain varying), a machine lines up at one end, belts down to the other, slows to turn the corner and then, after having a brief glance to see if a quick pit stop at the field bin is necessary, repeat the procedure on an adjacent race line. In fact a few major harvester manufactures are looking into suppling spoilers and higher road gears as optional extras on selected machines.

One of the esteemed Wallup Group farmers captured the sentiment of the whole year well with, “it was like the southern end of a camel heading north!”

I would like to mention an email I received last week about a campaign called “Eat an animal for PETA day”. Apparently this day was started in America and basically on March 15th all you have to do is consume a serve of Australian meat (beef, lamb, pork, fish), dairy product (milk, cheese) or purchase a woolen product. I also think donating to guide dogs, riding your horse or even playing with your family pet is also appropriate because apparently PETA is opposed to the use of animals in these ways as well.

Well its official, I must be getting older. On the weekend I was doing some handy man jobs around the house which required an inspection of the ceiling. So I got the ladder out and proceeded to maneuver myself into the man hole located in one of the high cupboards in the bathroom. Now last time I attempted this was five years ago and I slipped in quite easily. This time there was no-way near enough butter in the house to get me up, in, across, up and through the hole. After a little Winnie-the-Pooh goes visiting (stuck) action I managed to slip my legs over my head and popped out. Mowing the lawn seems like the far better option. I hope that everyone has plenty of jobs to do outside the house and we all see the northern end of the camel this year. Cheers.

Mail Times

November 2004

It’s a good sign that summer is starting to fire up when shady car parks are more sort after. Usually you wouldn’t think twice about parking anywhere but as I’ve learnt many times before, blistering hot seats and steering wheels aren’t my thing.

Now since the calendar was getting close to the end of November and the weather also warming up we thought that we’d better have a nibble at a few barley paddocks. Getting a paddock of Feed 1 is like winning lotto around these parts. But it is really hard to get enthused about harvest when the scrap steel around the yard is bringing similar, if not better, money than the barley.

Just as the flag leaf on the crops started to turn we took the huge leap of cutting a fair area of our wheat for hay. Most of it had been hit hard by the hot winds and frosts with almost two third of the tiny heads gone. Technically we called it “stuffed”. Still as hay we managed to yield over a tonne an acre which is far better than taking the header for a drive.

This year I almost considered putting in a centre pivot watering system in just to keep my agronomist happy. Its primary purpose would be to spray the knockdown, pre-emergence, post-emergence, insecticide, fungicide, nitrogen and then to desiccate the crops. If water was permitting I would also consider using it to jet the sheep out in the paddocks and possibly a little bit of irrigation if time allowed. It seems that our current generation of crop species are getting sicker a lot easier compared to ye good olde days.

However the big question around Murra Warra is how many more rabbits do we have left in the hat? These past years have been kicking the guts out of us and yet we are still here with help from the banks who have been providing us with some deep reach hats. With a year that could have been, it is easy to forget that it is still quite amazing to grow the crops we have on a little under 250 mm for the year. And hearing some stories around there are far worse areas about. I really do encourage everyone to grab a few sausages and beers and head over to your neighbours, when you get a chance, because we’re all in the same boat, HMS FarmVegas.

Anyway I hope that your harvest exceeds your expectations and if you’re in the area pop in because I don’t think I’ll be doing much work around Christmas.

Mail Times

October 2004

Things are starting to get moving at the Jochinke Ranch with the business end of the season fast approaching. The wheat has its flag leaf completely out, the barley is pushing its awns through and even the lentils are growing. However so too is the grass around the farm yard and the weeds out the back that I call my garden. It’s nothing that a bit of farmer gardening can’t fix (slasher and boomspray).

Last week I had the pleasure of test driving a tractor fitted with a loader from one of our local dealers. I was under strict instructions to put it through its paces around the farm. We had no drawbar work to do so I decided to use the loader to clean out the feedlot. It handled well in the slop and needless to say it was a little dirtier and smellier after I’d finished. Well it saved getting my tractor dirty.

All of the woolly things with legs are chewing their cuds with anticipation to get into the “muesli” paddock this week. The paddock consists of a broad range of cereals, pulses and oilseeds from varying vintages out of the barn sown for spring sheep feed. It’s similar to your standard spring clean out but you burry the evidence instead of dusting it.

I also just recently attended the 4th International Crop Science Congress held in Brisbane. With such a fancy name I thought that I had better get a hair cut and a few new shirts to look the part. There were over 1000 delegates from all over the world presenting scientific papers ranging from systems agronomy to the direction research should take to meet the world’s future needs. It will be an interesting place if we do reach the estimated 9 billion people by 2050.

My friend Carlos from Madrid is also staying with me for the week. To give him the Australian experience, I thought that I would take him to the Wallup hall for our annual Melbourne University student visit. It involves farmers showing the practical side of agriculture to students who have studied the science for almost three years. A heavy season of socialising is also thrown in for good measure.

Anyway I hope that everyone is enjoying spring and that the crops everywhere are ticking along well. Bye.

Mail Times

August 2004

Once again the weather has proven more useful for flying kites than spraying crops on the Jochinke ranch. It has been a hard winter for our sheep too with almost no pasture growth. We are thankful that we cut hay last year to meet our daily feeding requirements. 

Earlier in the year one of our white suffock rams decided to start his job ahead of schedule. The ewes were 3 mile down wind and two paddocks away but he still managed to find them. I am quite impressed with the job the old fella did but he stuffed up our shearing and now we have to wait until mid spring to knock the wool off the girls. Our two guard alpacas that we purchased are defiantly worth their weight in neck chops. We haven’t seen any crow or fox activity in our lambing mobs when the alpacas are present. 

Our press wheels have done a great job achieving an even plant germination over all of our crops. This has been a problem since we started stepping towards the no-till theory of farming. I would like to thank everyone for all of the inquires into the wheels availability for sale, but I have decided to keep them for at least another season.

The Wallup social calendar has been hammered once again with the annual Speed field day bus trip. The field day is a great farmer’s social day out but it is the trip home that causes the most shenanigans. It is a well known fact that the Wallup bus stops at all the places starting with “W”. Wascelles, Wopetoun, Weulah, Wirm, Warracknabeal and finally finishing at Wallup. It should be an Olympic event!

In hockey the Wimmera men have finished the regular season on a high snatching victory by a lazy eight goals. This weekend we play our semi final against our nemesis Willalooka in the 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 grand final rematches. It’s time to kick some Willy butt.

Anyway, I hope that with the onset of spring we all get enough rain to make it a great season. Cheers.

Mail Times

June 2004

The spiders in the rain gauge should be happy this month, they have regularly had an indoor swimming pool and I clean out the mud. This has also translated well in the paddock with ideal sowing conditions. All of the cereals are all in with the odd paddock of barley greening up the brown soil. We still have a few lentils and chickpeas to go but the windy weather has meant spraying windows are few and far between. The soil has also become quite cold which is not good for the sheep feed situation. Our hay stocks from last year are coming home for us now.

Telecommunication access in our area improved dramatically with the introduction of CDMA mobile phones. When they work they offer sufficient mobile access over the entire farm and are reasonably solid little things. But how tough are they? So I accidentally decided to conduct a small destruction test on mine. The darn thing slipped out of my pocket and fell on the ground one afternoon. That was innocent enough; everyone’s dropped their phone at sometime. However after placing it on the ground I happened to manoeuvre my four wheel drive ute over it and left it there over night to receive an unforecasted 7 mm of rain.

It was only until I had a quite morning the next day that I realised I had lost it. I looked all over the farm for the phone, I even calling out its pet names to help find it. Eventually the phone was found in the last place I looked, out in my paddock. After a quick wipe on the jumper to remove the mud and a short pray I peered through the flattened, foggy screen to find that I had missed 4 called and had 3 voice messages. Well what do know, it worked! But just for a little while until I tried to dry it out, but that’s another story.

Our Wimmera hockey team played in Yanac last Saturday against a team from South Australia. The Yanac field gave us a good home advantage with the wind and sleet going down hill. It was a very cold day and everyone put in for a percentage boosting 18 to 1 victory. The Wimmera boys are heading to the finals.

I hope that everyone is close to finishing cropping and that things have gone reasonable smoothly. I have decided to leave my phone out for July and August just to help the rainfall along. Cheers.

Mail Times

May 2004

The best beach weather always occurs when you want it to rain; well at least it is good living weather. However I am starting to think that my “rain” gauge needs a service, so far we have only had three spiders and half a cup of dust this month.

Currently it is a game of nerves to whether or not we sow canola. In the old money we have only received 70 odd points which is making a low risk cropping program very attractive again this year. There is still plenty of time to have a good old fashion May/June wet break so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Due to the past dry seasons we have decided to invest in a set of press wheels in an attempt to improve crop establishment. Hopefully better seed soil contact in our current drier conditions will help make every drop of rain go further. However if it gets really wet I will know of a cheap set of second hand press wheels for sale.

We are also hosting a Wimmera Farming Systems barley trial this year. It is really interesting to see how current cultivars perform against new breeding lines on your soils and under your farming systems.

During the end of March I was privileged to get a gursey to Grains Week 2004 in Perth. It is an annual conference organised by the Grains Council of Australia that nationally represents Australian grain growers. At the conference a “Single Vision” was launched that proposed a strategy for the grains industry to reach the year 2025. Common industry issues such as research and development for business growth, grower communication, industry infrastructure and biotech and GMO’s were all recognised as areas that needed attention for the whole industry to move forward. One of the most interesting things highlighted by the strategy was the amount of overlap and splintering in the grains industry. It sometimes makes you wonder, who is really working for our common good?

Anyway I hope that everyone is almost ready for the break. I’m forecasting it will not be before May 19th mainly because I will only have all my sowing gear ready by then. Like Shane the truckie said, “Only a good old rain will cure this dry spell!”

Mail Times

March 2004

Retention, I think that this is the word that best describes 2003. As a generalisation we had a fairly good harvest compared our previous attempt. Unfortunately the silos were doing a two for one offer on the Chinese feed malt that we harvested. Two loads for the price of one, compared to grain prices last year. However it was good to see trucks lined up at hoppers and dirt being shifted for bunkers to accommodate our hard work.

I lived every farmer’s nightmare by blowing a main brake value while unloading over a hopper during a busy period. Thankfully two other hoppers were also receiving that grade at the time. Later I was able to share my calamity with a B-double driver who had hit the wrong trailer tail gate button in the cab while unloading, leaving a sizable woops of grain near the hopper. A friend of mine who witnessed both events reported that both used the word “bugger”.

Last week I attended the VFF Grains Group Annual Conference at Mildura as a part of the Wallup contingency. One of the most interesting resolutions passed was the establishment of a revokable Power of Attorney for all consenting shareholders in the main large private companies that operate in Victoria. These include ABB Grain Limited, AWB Limited, GrainCorp and the Grain Growers Association. 

It would work similarly to a proxy dealing only with voting rights and has nothing to do with the ownership of the actual shares. As farmers we do become sick of continuously being bombarded with paper from all sources with most paper being filed under “K” for kindling, to help light the fire. Unfortunately only around 15 -20% of eligible growers vote in Annual General Meeting of these company’s to elect Board members and decide on various resolutions that influence our industry. 

This system, coupled with the VFF Grains Group mandate to look after the interests of its members, makes this option attractive to anyone who owns shares and does not currently vote. 

On a lighter note the Wallup tennis club has broken the drought by wining their first premiership for 18 years. A father and son combination of Rob and Alexander McRae sealed the victory in a tie breaking last set to win. Many tears were shed, especially when the team was told the pub had no beer.

I hope that everyone gets a good break soon.

Mail Times

November 2003

The Romans gave us the Aqueducts and the French gave us fries, so how in the world can a pineapple attract tourists and make millions? Yes that’s right, build it bigger! It was absolutely fantastic to see the Jeparit hall full for a community event too raise interest, and a little laughter, about farm viability in 2050. Even if the best team didn’t win, the night was still a success because people were socialising and enjoying themselves. 

The result of the audients vote for family farms and vibrant communities means that everyone needs to be socially aware. Having a community is more than just living together, it is to have a common unity which comes from everyone being active and working together. I think that the cliché of “United we stand, divided we fall” can all too often be forgotten for personal gain over social wealth. Sometimes our democratic and capitalistic society seems unfair but it is these two social and economical systems that allow us freedoms that we so frequently take for granted. We all have freedom of speech so let’s use it and be heard to make our vibrant and viable communities more than words in a debate but reality.

Anyway off the soap box and back to the Jochinke paddock. Everything is ticking over really well in our area with all crops looking 100% compared to last year. The crops look so good that most farms in the area are fitting Mylanta drums to their headers to alleviate the indigestion and heartburn of the upcoming harvest.

The Wallup social calendar has been overloaded for the past few weeks. Grand final day, Melbourne University student’s day trip, Melbourne cup day, annual CFA BBQ and not forgetting the “stuff-up” trip. Even if a few stuff ups occurred and the prices aren’t records, it will be good to see some grain at the silos. I’ll hopefully catch up with you there, aclamaciones (cheers).

September 2003

“Put the wagons in a circle and saddle up” was the war cry heard all over Melbourne as the Wallup Topcrop group headed to the big smoke on a footy trip. As a part of our Wallup community recovery from the drought, a bus load of local lads headed down to visit the Bureau of Meteorology, the Port of Melbourne and of course slip past and catch a game of footy. Now all we need to do is recover from the recovery trip.

The windy weather has been less than favourable for our spraying program over the past month. However while work in the paddock was being delayed, the “to do” list around the house has been drastically reduced. I’m quite luck that I have a front door facing west and a back door opening to the east which has allowed nature to give the place a good dusting while getting rid of any bad smells. Also the place looks a fair bit neater since the marshmallows have been slashed and the orange trees pruned.

Well the 2003 September finals campaign of the Wimmera men’s Hockey team resulted in a fantastic display of Victorians beating South Australians. However with the half time score line of Willalooka 1 to Wimmera 0 things didn’t look promising. In the second half we managed to score 2 goals and with that score board pressure, held on to make it back to back premierships. Thanks to all the people who keep the club going and to all the players dedication to pull out all stops when partying. We are the Wimmera boys, the Wimmera boys are we!

Locally the Sailors Home Hall will be celebrating its 80th birthday on the 26th of October. A few weeks ago we had a working bee to clean up the yard around the hall and after we finished it was great to hear a few stories of past incidents from some of the people who were involved. Don’t worry, the story about the car incident hitting the hall is safe with me.

With the sheep lambing well and the crop potential promising, 2003 could be my very favourite year out of the last seven. I hope that everyone finds enough moisture to get through spring so that we can all have a good chat at the silo line up this harvest.

Mail Times

August 2003

We may have lacked the ingredients (water & barley) last year but I hope that they never lose the recipe for beer. This year so far we’ve had good rainfall to get all of the crops in and going. All of the wheat is well established while the Gairdner barley has gone to sleep. The lentils are pushing through while we have another week before the chickpeas emerge. The potential is there for everyone to use their field bins during summer so long as we keep getting the odd splash during the rest of winter and spring.

The term Sheep has officially achieved an interim word description upgrade to “favourable” as apposed to “vulgar language” on the Jochinke farm. The interim upgraded status of Sheep is mainly due to the rise in wool and meat prices but also we’ve discovered that they can divine water as well. Every time we want to shear or handle sheep it seems to attract rain. It has been suggested by a few of our neighbours that we spread out our shearing over spring, just to help the crops along.

At a recent VFF meeting at Nhill I caught up with a few friends who said that the crops were growing really well with a few paddocks even boarding on too wet. This is also the case at a few of my friends down at Hamilton. It’s going to be hard to get the rains exactly over the catchments areas in the Grampians without washing a few crops out.

It’s August again which means the annual Wallup bus trip to Speed field days are not far away. Usually if you buy a ticket you get a seat but this is not always the case with the Wallup group. Last year I found out that the boys are very prompt with departure times and that they only conduct head counts once they reach Warracknabeal.

This year we have two celebrities on the bus who feature in an art exhibition at the Horsham Gallery. Farming always seems to get in the way of the social calendar this time of year.

Anyway I hope that everyone is getting all the rain that they need and that the crops (especially barley) are looking good. Adiós

Mail Times

June 2003

Happiness is when the dust on your veranda turns into mud and washes away, well that is unless its gold dust.

The start of this season has been a bit different to the ones I’ve experienced over the past few years. The early rains gave us a very good strike of medic, stemless thistle, marshmallows and weeds in general. This caused some slight changes to the rotation of pasture paddocks for the sheep. However without all of the weeds that germinated in February, we would have been force to drastically de-stock.

The start of sowing sort of kicked off reasonably smoothly. Well except for the exhaust fall off the truck, the small engine on the grouper cracking its block, the starter solenoid on the tractor died, got a flat tyre on the tractor, 2 main delivery lines on the boom spray cracked and the foam marker would only work on one side. Sometimes all you can say is “bugger”. At least the second paddock was more straightforward.

At least it rained and all of the cereals are in and starting to emerge from the soil. After the few showers last week everyone at the Jochinke ranch has enough confidence to sow a few lentils and possibly some chickpeas too.

This year we’re hosting a Birchip Cropping Group wheat variety trial. We managed to choose the windiest day ever to sow, making the handling of bags and cleaning of the seeder box very annoying to borderline frustrating. It also put our new fences to work catching the bags that continuously wanted to jump out of the ute and run away. And of course as soon as we finished sowing the trial, the wind dropped, dust cleared and it became a lovely afternoon. “Bugger”.

Anyway I hope that everyone is getting close to breaking the back of their cropping with relative ease and that rain isn’t far off coming for anyone who still needs more to finish. Buen suerte, good luck.

Mail Times

May 2003

Well there’s one thing about our area, we’re not wearing out our rain coats or gauges, yet. In between all of the brown it is still easy to find farmers quietly confident of a good season. The February downpour has soaked down into the subsoil with the dry topsoil waiting for the breaking rains. Most days you can see the odd tractor preparing ground.

We’ve been filling in time with a bit of fencing and general cleaning up around the place. The fire wood has been cut and stacked ready for the cold while the boom and seeding equipment are itching to get out the shed. Hopefully we will get crops in before the Anders grips need to come out.

North Wimmera had its biannual brigade meeting at the Wallup hall a few nights ago. It was pleasing to hear that there weren’t any major fires in our area this past season. We’re hoping for the same next season. Filling points could be a problem next summer but after a brief discussion we decided that the Dooen isn’t that far away.

April also saw my hockey career kick off again for the 2002 premiers, team Wimmera. Months of television watching and thumb twiddling had not been favourable preseason training however the boots still fit and I could still run to the phone. Nonetheless by the end of the first half I felt like the boots were made of concrete and that I would never get to the phone. Wimmera did well under trying conditions to score 4 goals, our problem is the other team got 6. Luckily we’re not playing for sheep stations at this end of the season.

Mail Times

March 2003

A young farmer verses drought

It’s funny how you get to hear a lot of predictions at the start of each season from everyone ranging from the guy who delivers your fuel to the agronomist. Each using a different mixture of nature observations, radio reports, internet surfing and a healthy dose of advice “x”. However I don’t know weather the magpies roosting in the pump shed or if American satellites caused the drought, but something did.

Eight years ago I finished high school and due to circumstances, started working our family farm. One of the first things grandpa did was to sit me down and hand on some of his advice. He said that farming is hard work and you don’t always get your seed back. Those times pass and if do your best at everything you can, the other things will look after themselves.

Since then I’ve seen two years completely written off, four somewhat lean ones and a miracle one when small amounts of rain fell exactly at the right times. In amongst these seasons I’ve learnt farming by brail. I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember but I honestly thought last season was the one that would help me forget them all. Instead it helped me remember them.

It’s a hard thing to fathom not having a single grain too sell from the harvest. The crop yields weren’t measured by bags per acre but by bushels per paddock. The truck that is usually lined up in at the silo didn’t even leave the farm.

Feelings of having no control, frustration and self doubt creep in. Then the questions start of “What could have I done?” The whole process is totally academic when the answer is almost, “Absolutely nothing”. As sure as it was dry it will get wet again and the only thing you can do is strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Hard times make seeing the bigger picture difficult too. Remembering that the wider consequences of the situation go further than the end of your drive way can often be forgotten. We’re all in the same boat and there is help and support out there.

The guys at the local Wallup Topcrop Group held numerous drought stress relief meetings that sometimes ended in ad lib rain jigs or just comparing whose crop hadn’t died yet. Everyone seemed to have a few scrawny crops that were just hanging in but, unlike the previous season, we simply didn’t get the timely rains to get the yields. It really does make you realise that this country gives and takes.

So as another day drifts by I think to myself that things aren’t all that bad. Our budgeting for the coming season needs a major overhaul and I’m getting a few jobs done that I’ve been dodging for years. At least I’m still here and I can say one thing, I drank more barley than I produced in 2002 and wish never to repeat it.

Weekly Times & Stock and Land

January 2003

Interesting is a broad word but it certainly captures the past few weeks here. The harvest didn’t hold much joy for myself or many of my neighbours. At night you couldn’t even find any lights running about and during the day you could count the trucks on the road with one hand. However we did get a bit of mowing done and managed to get a bit of our seed back. If we do have to buy a bit of seed in it will present us with the opportunity to try new cultivars.

The hot changes and dust storms have produced a bit of fire wood around the farm with a lot of the bull oaks and sugar gums losing limbs. Even one of the buildings got into the act and let a few sheets of iron fly. I wouldn’t really call it good kite flying weather though.

The sheep are starting to find it hard too. Because the crops died they have still got feed but the balance between overgrazing is quite fine. We have already ripped up a few acres of lay ground to prevent it from blowing. I don’t really like it, but the option of losing soil or not is a pretty easy decision to make at the moment.

It has been the first time that I have finished harvest before Christmas. And since I had a bit of time on my hands I decided to head down to Tasmania for a few days to remember what water looks like again. Most of the people said that it was a dryer season for them too but the rains have come at the right time. Down south the cherry season had just started and one packer said that he thought that this would be the best season ever for them. It was also quite green along the northern farming area too with the poppy and cereal harvests starting to get into gear. I also had the opportunity to have a brief walk around an alkaloid plant that processes the poppies. All crops are grown under contract with farmers having access to speciality planting and harvest equipment from the company. The way everything fits together is very impressive.

Well I do hope that everyone is able to get away for a few days and that you all had better success in growing crops than we did. I’m thinking that we’ll use a bit more water next season. I hope that everyone has a better time in 2003.

Mail Times

November 2002

There are two things about a drought, you know that they will always make them and they sure do make you appreciate all the other years in between. It’s not only the farmers how are effected but the people who service them, their families and the towns that they live in.

I think that we’ll be lucky to have anything to sell from this season. This means that I’ll miss out on my dose of lining the truck up in the summer heat and hearing the season news at the silos. Most of our wheat is has not filled but the barley may still surprise us. The lentils and chickpeas are still an unknown. Both have a few pods that are extra close to the ground this year so even if they do set it will be hard to get under them. All I really want is my seed back at the moment.

The sheep that we still have on the place are surviving on very little indeed. They will probably clean up most of the straw due to the plants closing down well before the heads were filled. I’m guessing that we’ll have to tie a few paddocks down over summer this year.

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Monsanto Australia and Bayer Crop Science information and feedback session held at Longerenong. They explained the Crop Management Plans they had for the commercial testing of GMO canola next season. It was quite informative and demonstrated the potential for these crops in a farms management programs. However it is the contamination and the real need for these products that concern me a little. It seems that the gene flow potential is very minimal with the greatest spread coming from hygiene of the grain handling equipment. Also one of the produces has the potential of placing more pressure on a herbicide group that is already extensively used. That ever the decision on the GMO release, the technology has many potentially good and bad points for both growers and the industry. All I can suggest is read information put out by both sides then form your own rational opinion, because there is a lot of mud out there.

On a lighter note I think that the year can be summed up by the old phone exchange that fell over on the Blue Ribbon road a few months back. The words on the roof really do capture my thoughts of this season, Bugger!

Mail Times

July 2002

I think it was Leonardo da Vinci who stated that, “water is the most powerful of all elements” and that “it is needed for live itself to exist”. This little sentence practically describes the whole of my farm and the area at the moment. All we need is a good rain dance to turn things around.

Well the cropping program is all but complete. The good news is that we didn’t have any huge stuff ups with the new seeding gear. We have hung off sowing all of the chickpeas for the moment. Shearing is coming up soon but the feed isn’t growing all that fast. We haven’t had to feed yet but I think that we’ll need to start soon.

Two weeks ago I was selected to attend a Research Horizons course at the Bread Research Institute in Sydney. The course ran for three days with 16 farmers from all over Australia attending. The focus on increasing the awareness of how GRDC invests its levies into grains research, what our product is used for and how quality issues effects our markets. I managed to find some time to have a couple of beers with the other participants who all agreed that it’s unseasonably dry all over this big brown land. Hence we decided to temporally change the name growers to seeders until it rains and we get a bit more growth.

This week the Wallup group has organised the annual bus expedition to Speed. It gives us all a chance to get out of the district and see how our northern brothers are going plus have a bit of fun. For the last couple of years we’ve seen good crops on the lighter country and it will be interesting to see what it’s like this year.

Anyway I hope that everyone still has some moisture left under the crops and that we all have a reasonable season.

Mail Times

June 2002

I do believe that the rain dances preformed down at the Wallup hall contributed to this latest spot of weather. We have floated the idea of taking requests but the appropriate paper work is still in the pipe line.

It is a little interesting to note that the break around here is occurring around the same time as last year. If it turns out the same I’m sure that the rest of my neighbours, the bank managers and I would be very happy. Although the stressful rain tolerant periods of, will my crop survive or should I ring up the Wallup boys to get a rain dance going, would keep it interesting.

Well the new seeder is up and running after a few minor plumbing problems that turned into some major time losses. I’m still no expert but if the fan stops spinning when you turn the corner, there usually is something wrong. So after a bit of head scratching and loads of ringing around, looking through manuals and general frustration, the boys were able to fix the bug and hook up a YK2 compliant air cart to a tractor that was built before the seeders were even invented.

The fencing odyssey has almost concluded with the assemblies in, the wire out and me completely out of time. Some days I think that I must enjoy fencing because I’m sure that I started this project in February. Other days I think that I’m procrastinating but I’m not really sure which. The knowledge that the sheep can’t get out on the road is reassuring however new the new worry is they can only get through the internal fences to the crops.

Anyway I hope that it has rained where ever you are and that the brown turns to green for everyone.

Mail Times

April 2002

You don’t have to have a good sense of humour or a developed appreciation of beer to be a farmer, but it sure helps. We’ve really trying to make it rain around here. Every time the shears come out a cold front passes over but obviously we haven’t tried to crutch or shear enough sheep yet. It’s getting to the stage were one of the shearer's thought he saw two trees fighting over a dog. We’re going to try to get some clover harvesting done to see if that can get some water to fall.

The fencing odyssey is drawing to an end with only a few more metres of wire to string up before we’re officially finished. The old Fordson grader did a really good job but when the steering broke it did cause a few operational hazards. At least we have plenty of firewood for the next few years.

The safflower trials at Longerenong have all been harvested. The little hege plot harvester decided that it would only work for an hour between each break down which almost caused a few mental breakdowns in the process.

The VFF Grains Conference was another good success this year with the organisers deserving a huge congratulation. I found the most interesting session was a panel discussion about were the grains industry should be headed with regards to Australia’s best interests. Although it was a futuristic I do believe that it made most of the people who attended think about what needs to be done about the bigger issues to ensure that we remain competitive. I’m not sure what the right moves are but if we want to keep moving ahead we need to make sure that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train.

Anyway I hope that everyone’s pre-sowing preparations are going well and that we all get muddy boots soon.

Mail Times

February 2002

Well harvest is finished and all the tools are in the shed but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all clean.

We still have some medic to be harvested that is used in the pasture phase of our rotation. The crutching of our bleeps (sheep crossed with a description) has been penciled in for the end of the month with the joining of the merinos to occur shortly afterwards.

In between these two jobs we’ve decided to upgrade a few of our three line rusty wire and white ant hotel post fences with something a little more modern. As a part of our fencing tradition we fire up the old Fordson Major grader that will always be worth more to us than anyone else. It isn’t pretty to look at but with a little patience and a few quiet words, it gets the job done.

On top of all this we’re also currently mowing our cereal paddocks preparing them for the next phase in the rotation. Motivation for this job decreases as the temperature rises due to the air conditioner not working at full capacity. There’s always fun to be had at the Jochinke farm.

The Grains Conference is being held in Horsham again in mid March. It’s a great forum to have our say on issues in the industry and socialise with growers from other districts. Whatever happens the Wallup crew always seems to have a little bit of fun.

This weekend the district will farewell a family from the area. Along with everyone else, I wish them the greatest of successes in the next stage of their lives.

Mail Times

November 2001

Its that time of year again when we’re trying to reassemble our 1000 piece jig saw kit that we call our header. Our preventive maintenance program has worked quite well for the past few years even though my only mechanical training has come from fathers meccano set. Having a good parts book is also quite handy when you get to the end and have to identify the “spare” parts that are left over.

A bit over three weeks ago we cut some fairly good medic hay in one of our pasture paddocks. Naturally this attracted some rainy weather that has been excellent for the crops but a little frustrating for baling. Fortunately we got a few days of drying winds that saved the hay from turning into salad and allowed baling to proceed.

The other week our fire brigade was presented with our standard issue fire engaging equipment. Each member now has their own helmet, gloves, goggles and mask but we’re still waiting for the overalls and boots. These are due some time in February, so the overalls in the truck will have to do for this season. Anyway I hope that everyone has a great harvest with good yields and fantastic prices.

Mail Times



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