AgLife – November 29, 2023 edition

Page 1

November 29, 2023

Waiting game Paul Oxbrow, pictured with his son Alex, is starting harvest at his Rupanyup South farm two to three weeks earlier than last season. After storms at the weekend, farmers are hoping for warmer temperatures and wind to enable them to get back out onto paddocks. Story, page 41. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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Two successful businesses making changes in farming! CRSG OFFSET DISC OLD FAITHFUL THAT GETS THE JOB DONE The CRSG rigid frame range of offset disc harrows is one of Baldan’s longest running model lines in their entire product range. This is because it exactly what a plough should be: Simple. Reliable. Strong. And does a great job.

SPEED DISK HIGH SPEED, HEAVY DUTY SPEED DISC The Tatu SPEED DISK is designed for fast and superior in-field performance for consistent agronomic residue management during both seedbed preparation & leveling of paddocks. It is a very efficient, versatile and robust machine that outperforms other similar speed discs.

Rodney Dunn, sales manager from Serafin Machinery seals the deal with Traction Ag general manager, Vince Carbone.

New partnership driving innovation Traction Ag is excited to announce a new partnership with Serafin Machinery and is now stocking the Serafin range across Horsham, Naracoorte and Nhill sites. Serafin Machinery has more than 20 years’ experience as seeding and tillage specialists and has a passion for introducing innovation into the agricultural industry and providing customers with exceptional service, quality products and the best value. By providing a combination of Australian designed and manufactured seeding and tillage

equipment with imported quality products, Serafin can provide the very best range of farming equipment to suit dealers such as Traction Ag, which has local knowledge and serviceability expertise suitable to customer needs. Serafin Machinery has designed, developed and manufactured its own range of no-till disc seeders including the Serafin Ultisow, PastureKing and a custom range of seeding and tillage equipment. This has come about following many years of working with and listening to what farmers want and need. Brazilian companies Baldan and

Tatu Marchesan have been working with Serafin Machinery for many years to supply disc seeders, deep rippers, heavy duty offset discs and tandem offset discs. Semeato, another trusted brand from Brazil, supplies its popular range of no-till double disc seeder drills to the Australian market. Serafin’s European partners, Farmet, have been working with Serafin to supply Australian farmers with their speed discs, deep rippers and cultivation equipment. The Farmet product range is continually expanding, with Serafin bringing in other products including

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Cambridge rollers and new models of seed drills. Traction Ag general manager Vince Carbone said he was ‘stoked’ about the partnership, as he had known the Serafin Machinery business and products for many years. “We at Traction Ag are very excited to offer the Wimmera and south-east South Australia the full line up of Serafin seeding and tillage equipment,” he said. “I have been looking for a few years now for quality-built equipment that will suit our farmers and complement our business and the Serafin range does this hands down.”

S12 HI-LIFT

Traction Ag and Serafin Machinery back up their products with after sales support including in-field servicing.

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Further to this, they also stock a massive range of spare parts including a wide range of consumable items such as disc blades, oil bath bearings and coulters to suit a wide range of seeders and tillage equipment.

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Vince invites all customers to visit Traction Ag sites and see their new stock from Serafin Machinery. “There will be something to suit every farmer and contractor, that’s for sure,” he said.

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Page 39


Two successful businesses making changes in farming! CRSG OFFSET DISC OLD FAITHFUL THAT GETS THE JOB DONE The CRSG rigid frame range of offset disc harrows is one of Baldan’s longest running model lines in their entire product range. This is because it exactly what a plough should be: Simple. Reliable. Strong. And does a great job.

SPEED DISK HIGH SPEED, HEAVY DUTY SPEED DISC The Tatu SPEED DISK is designed for fast and superior in-field performance for consistent agronomic residue management during both seedbed preparation & leveling of paddocks. It is a very efficient, versatile and robust machine that outperforms other similar speed discs.

Rodney Dunn, sales manager from Serafin Machinery seals the deal with Traction Ag general manager, Vince Carbone.

New partnership driving innovation Traction Ag is excited to announce a new partnership with Serafin Machinery and is now stocking the Serafin range across Horsham, Naracoorte and Nhill sites. Serafin Machinery has more than 20 years’ experience as seeding and tillage specialists and has a passion for introducing innovation into the agricultural industry and providing customers with exceptional service, quality products and the best value. By providing a combination of Australian designed and manufactured seeding and tillage

equipment with imported quality products, Serafin can provide the very best range of farming equipment to suit dealers such as Traction Ag, which has local knowledge and serviceability expertise suitable to customer needs. Serafin Machinery has designed, developed and manufactured its own range of no-till disc seeders including the Serafin Ultisow, PastureKing and a custom range of seeding and tillage equipment. This has come about following many years of working with and listening to what farmers want and need. Brazilian companies Baldan and

Tatu Marchesan have been working with Serafin Machinery for many years to supply disc seeders, deep rippers, heavy duty offset discs and tandem offset discs. Semeato, another trusted brand from Brazil, supplies its popular range of no-till double disc seeder drills to the Australian market. Serafin’s European partners, Farmet, have been working with Serafin to supply Australian farmers with their speed discs, deep rippers and cultivation equipment. The Farmet product range is continually expanding, with Serafin bringing in other products including

www.tractionag.com.au Page 38

www.theweeklyadvertiser.com.au

Cambridge rollers and new models of seed drills. Traction Ag general manager Vince Carbone said he was ‘stoked’ about the partnership, as he had known the Serafin Machinery business and products for many years. “We at Traction Ag are very excited to offer the Wimmera and south-east South Australia the full line up of Serafin seeding and tillage equipment,” he said. “I have been looking for a few years now for quality-built equipment that will suit our farmers and complement our business and the Serafin range does this hands down.”

S12 HI-LIFT

Traction Ag and Serafin Machinery back up their products with after sales support including in-field servicing.

Single Disc Seeder

Further to this, they also stock a massive range of spare parts including a wide range of consumable items such as disc blades, oil bath bearings and coulters to suit a wide range of seeders and tillage equipment.

ULTISOW HI-LIFT: EASY TO OWN & OPERATE Proving to be a customer favourite, our Hi-Lift model in the Ultisow range is helping farmers make small adjustments to depth or checking for blockages without ever getting their clothes dirty.

Vince invites all customers to visit Traction Ag sites and see their new stock from Serafin Machinery. “There will be something to suit every farmer and contractor, that’s for sure,” he said.

Traction Ag HORSHAM

Traction Ag NHILL

Traction Ag NARACOORTE

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Page 39


AGT Foods Australia

PLAYING THE LONG GAME How AGT Foods Australia is building its future by developing smart relationships today

By Delaney Seiferling

A

s Head of Procurement for AGT Foods Australia, Leigh Wright has a guiding principle: he always shares the true picture of the market with his producers.

pricing, prompt delivery and extended hours at delivery locations, farmers are most attracted to the fact that they can trust their grain buyers to work in their best interest.

“At AGT, we always hold a competitive price and move the grain as contracted,” he says.

“We have a lot of return farmers here, and that says something about our relationships,” he says, adding that it helps that his grain buying team has been comprised of mostly the same people – all with close ties to their respective farming regions – for the past decade.

“But, when a grower comes to me and says he has a better price elsewhere that I can’t match or beat, I will tell them that they might want to consider that offer – if the buyer is reputable.” He says this honesty is a critical part of developing transparent, two-way relationships with farmers. “We’re playing the long game,” he says. For many farmers, this focus on long-term relationships is why they choose to work with AGT. Luke Rethus is one of those farmers. Part of one of the largest broadacre operations in Horsham, Luke has been working with his grain buyer at AGT for more than a decade. “We have a really great relationship,” he says. “We choose to work with AGT because if we need to sell grain, we know we can rely on them to be competitive, responsive and fair.” AGT is not only playing the long game when it comes to building relationships with farmers, though. This strategic approach to long-term growth and sustainability is apparent in all of the company’s operations, says Wright. Since AGT Foods Australia originated in 2007 in Victoria, it has quickly expanded its local presence, now with operations spanning five states, and facilities and offices in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and recently Western Australia.

“We choose to work with AGT because if we need to sell grain, we know we can rely on them to be competitive, responsive and fair.” “We are a facilities-driven company,” Wright says. “We run our own operations in Horsham, Bowmans and Narrabri. We pack, process, clean, and store in all of our own facilities within the three major growing regions.” The regional diversity of the company is also appealing to farmers, Rethus says. “Having AGT located locally here in Horsham also has been a bonus that has cemented the relationship.” “The company’s growth and expansion in Australia has been possible because of the backing of our parent company,” says Michael Brittain, AGT’s Country Head for Australia. AGT Food and Ingredients Inc., based in Saskatchewan, Canada, was founded in 2001 and now features a significant investment and ownership position by Fairfax Financial Ltd., one of Canada’s largest insurance and investment firms, with a market capitalization of over $33 billion and a diverse portfolio of companies around the globe. With operations in the world’s most productive pulse growing regions, including Australia, Canada, the United States, Türkiye, South Africa and Kazakhstan as well as sales offices in the U.K., Europe, India and China, AGT has grown into one of the largest suppliers of value-added pulses, staple foods and food ingredients in the world. In 2022, AGT also expanded into bulk vessel markets to service clients receiving bulk shipments and providing farmers additional options for marketing their products. “A major part of this success comes back to the mutually-beneficial relationships that have been built between AGT grain buyers and regional farmers,” Wright says. Although AGT prides itself on offering competitive

“Our farmers are more upfront with us and we are honest with them about their options,” he says, adding that another value add of working with AGT Foods Australia is that the company has its own internal capacity to clean, process and pack grain. “We have the ability to clean grain for farmers,” he says. “If they have some crop that’s slightly off-spec or has weed seed or other issues, they know that the majority of the time, they won’t be turned away by us. Our in-factory technologies give us that flexibility.”

“Buyers see our brand and automatically know that this is Australian produce they can trust and rely on.” Another major benefit for farmers is that AGT globally has such a strong expertise and reputation in global pulse markets, Wright says, which translates into diverse and unique marketing opportunities for Australian pulses, grain and oilseeds. “AGT Foods has been a global leader in recognizing and fulfilling global demands for plant-based food and feed products and biomass from efficient production and processing for decades,” he says, adding that they are the preferred seller into many markets. AGT is also one of the few pulse companies that sells its own proprietary brands, a selling feature for buyers in many overseas destinations, he says. “Buyers see our brand and automatically know that this is Australian produce they can trust and rely on. This is partially why, on the export side, we get new inquiries from different sources every day.” Because AGT has operations all over the world, it also has access to valuable, real-time information about global pulse markets, which is valuable to local farmers such as Rethus. “They keep us updated regularly on market trends, any change in commodity prices and proactively contact us on our stocks to sell,” he says. “Farmers appreciate when we can share market information with them that influences their prices, and let them use that information to make their own decisions,” Wright says. Australian farmers are well positioned to capitalize on global market trends right now, Wright says, and AGT Foods Australia’s long-term strategy is to support them in doing just that. “Consumer demand for sustainably produced plant-based proteins, produced using less water, reducing carbon and using advanced farming practices, is rising to feed a growing world population,” he says. “We are just here to help nurture and supply that demand.”

Learn more about AGT Foods by contacting Kelsey Clark at +61 3 5381 2555 or visit www.agtfoods.com today.

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Hoping for a smooth run BY ABBY WALTER

H

arvest has started and stalled across the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians.

Weather conditions had crops ready significantly earlier than last season, but recent rain has stopped headers in paddocks. Rupanyup South farmer Paul Oxbrow said he had started harvest two to three weeks earlier than last season. “It wasn’t as wet as last season – June, July and August were as wet as it has been in a long time during those months, but it was dry from September onward, prior to the storms at the weekend,” he said. “We had some water logging in the beginning in some unestablished crops, but what grew through that is looking good. “The weather has been favourable with a cooler-than-normal spring, so crops were able to access the water in the profile through October and November.” Mr Oxbrow said production was looking to be above average. “We don’t know how far above average until the headers are in the paddocks, but the cool finish will be worth a lot and we’re

expecting a favourable result,” he said. Mr Oxbrow said grain prices were strong in most areas. “Prices for cereals, lentils and chickpeas are strong and canola is reasonable, but it could be better,” he said. “What we’re hoping for now is an efficient and safe harvest.” Mr Oxbrow said he hoped to finish harvest by Christmas. “It was a challenging start to the growing season with a wet beginning and continuous slug damage and baiting in the middle of the year, so it will be good to finish with a smooth run,” he said.

Positive outlook

National Farmers’ Federation president David Jochinke, a Murra Warra farmer, said more crops were looking good as he finished harvesting lentils and prepared to start on canola. “We were disappointed our lentils were a bit frosted, but it was understandable with the conditions – we’re getting something, so the glass is half full there,” he said last week. “Although it’s hard to guess, the canola crops are looking excellent and reasonable wheat and barley crops are sitting there.

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I’m hearing from people who are into barley that it’s going malt, so the quality isn’t bad, but it’s still early.” Mr Jochinke said subsoil moisture from rain last year and into this year helped at the back end of the season, when spring rain was down. “We had a relatively full profile and it would have caused havoc if we didn’t,” he said. “It’s definitely easier to get around paddocks, but we did miss some moisture that would have increased the potential we are seeing.” Mr Jochinke said canola prices had decreased slightly since the start of the season and cereals and lentil prices were strong. “Harvest pressure hasn’t moved demand much, so canola is still above the long-term average and barley is about $350,” he said. “Everyone’s strategy is different, so farmers will decide on what they need for cash flow.” Mr Jochinke said a trend was farmers wanting to harvest crops as quickly as possible to mitigate any risks. “People are investing in more gear to be able to get the crop off FAMILY AFFAIR: Alex Oxbrow prepares to harvest barley at his family’s Rupanyup South as soon as it is ready,” he said. farm. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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BY SEAN O’CONNELL

he hot, dry weather of harvest can be a challenge to people for all sorts of reasons.

For Bree Pease, a psoriasis campaigner who is working on a Donald farm, close contact with dust, sitting for extended periods of time and grease can aggravate her skin. Miss Pease said her psoriasis Instagram page, which has grown to more than 5000 followers since it started three years ago, was intended to ‘help people find their own kind of beautiful’. “I felt really alone, in that I didn’t know anyone else who had it,” she said. “I made the account in the hope I’d find a friend I could talk to. “I have so many messages from daughters, cousins, family members and people in my community. Seeing my page is a conversation starter.” Miss Pease, from Western Australia, said she arrived in Donald on her travels and started working on a farm during harvest. “My family are farmers and I wanted to see how farming differs across the country,” she said. “Donald is such a beautiful town, and it is filled with youth, which really surprised me. “They have welcomed me with open arms and, despite my background – I did need a lot of training – they have all been really supportive. “The main difference between West-

ern Australia and Victoria, I have noticed, is there is so much water here and the climate is very different. “I was shocked by how cold it was when I got here. “I’ve been harvesting lentils and chickpeas, which we don’t grow in my part of Western Australia. “We grow a lot of lupins there. There are not many on this side of the country.” Miss Pease said her social media presence had brought her lots of opportunities to reach other people with psoriasis. “I was flown to Melbourne for a fashion show,” she said. “Some of my images from the page were used on billboards in New York for a month as part of World Psoriasis Day. “I’ve also been able to work with other photographers. Those personal connections have been great.” Miss Peace said representation of diversity in fashion and media was important. “Even though my psoriasis page is very niche, there is a bigger picture,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be as visible as mine. We are all insecure in some way and there needs to be a realisation that it’s okay to present as yourself. “That relation to someone who looks the same as you can be quite motivating.” People can learn more about psoriasis and Bree’s story by visiting her Instagram page @psoriasis_beauty

ADVOCATE: Bree Pease, a psoriasis advocate on social media, has been working on a farm near Donald during harvest.

EPA enforcing scare gun rules Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority is reminding farmers and orchardists to use scare guns correctly. EPA Victoria north-west regional manager Scott Pigdon said farmers and orchardists using scare guns to frighten birds away from crops needed to follow regulations. “We often receive complaints about excessive noise, including from bird scarers, especially at this time of the year,” he said. “There are rules governing their use. It’s important to protect crops, but they can’t be used overly frequently or at the wrong hour of the day.” Dr Pigdon said the EPA used noise logging equipment to measure levels. “In the past, we’ve heard bird scarers going off within the permitted 100db level, but as much as five times more frequently than they should. And sometimes, well past midnight,” he said. “The use of these devices is important to the protection of the crop, but they need to be used within the guidelines.” A scare gun must not be used if the distance between the scare gun and any nearby properties is less than 300 metres and must not emit more than 70 blasts a day. A scare gun must not be used earlier than 7am or later than sunset and a total time of operation must not exceed 12 hours a day. More information about EPA guidelines is available at epa.vic.gov.au/ about-epa/publications/1254-1

Identifying opportunities to reduce emissions while building sector Wimmera and Mallee farmers and landholders are invited to share their views on how agriculture and land sectors can work towards the Federal Government’s economy-wide Net Zero 2050 Plan. A discussion paper for the Agriculture and Land Plan – one of six sectoral decarbonisation plans under the Net Zero 2050 Plan – has been released as part of broader public consultation. Agriculture made up 16.8 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions in 2020-21. This share is expected to increase as other parts of the economy, such as the electricity sector, take up more readily available and lower-cost options.

Modelling from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences showed seasonal conditions from 2001 to 2020 reduced profitability of Australian broadacre farms by an average of 23 percent, or about $29,200 a farm. Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Murray Watt will lead the plan’s development with Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen, and Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek. Mr Watt said the discussion paper focused on understanding and identifying opportunities for the sector to reduce emissions, while building agricultural productivity, sustainability and resilience.

“The government is seeking views and feedback from industry, experts and the community on ways that agriculture and land can contribute to the whole-of-economy emissions reduction task,” he said. “Farmers and landholders are already seeing the impact of climate change on their businesses and have been leaders in sustainability for a long time. “Their expertise in this area will be valuable in putting together the plan.” Mr Bowen said Australian farmers were on the front line of climate change and working with the agriculture sector would help reach Australia’s net zero goals and protect the industry.

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“We know farmers and landholders are best placed to share their knowledge, innovation, ideas and experience to get the best outcomes,” he said. “The Albanese government wants to work in partnership with industry to get this Agriculture and Land Plan right – supporting them to adopt lowemission technologies that boost productivity and reduce costs and maximise opportunities to increase carbon storage in the landscape.” Ms Plibersek said landholders and land managers, including those in Indigenous protected areas, would play a key role in protecting and repairing nature and helping it be more resilient. “Farmers are terrific stewards of

our natural environment,” she said. “When they act to reduce greenhouse gases, they can also have a fantastic impact on improving biodiversity – for example, by better protecting remnant bush or improving planting around dams. When farmers earn money from carbon farming, they will also be able to earn money through our nature repair market. “We are determined to better protect nature and leave it better off for our kids and grandkids – and we know farmers play an important role in that.” Public submissions are available at haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/a griculture-and-land-sectoral-plan and will close December 13.

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Food needs water

Y

ou’ve no doubt seen the footage of hundreds of people taking to the streets simultaneously across the southern Riverina in Deniliquin, Leeton and Griffith last week.

It was yet another protest against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I well remember irrigators burning copies of the original basin plan back in 2010. I was quite shocked at the time. Fast forward nine years and another anti-basin plan at Tocumwal saw an effigy of the then Water Minister David Littleproud thrown into the Murray River. I was again quite shocked and, frankly, didn’t think it funny or appropriate. Somewhat ironically, now in Opposition, Littleproud is dancing to the tune of the very people who threw the ‘David dummy’ into the mighty Murray. I have a friend, a Wimmera farmer, who says he is so sick of hearing stories on Country Today about the ‘bloody plan’, although he agrees it is newsworthy and very important. It just doesn’t seem relevant to him.

Country Today with Libby Price

He was shocked when I said: “Look up a map. Your property is in the basin. You might not be an irrigator, but you are in the basin.” Not only that, but there are also plenty of people and businesses which own water who do not live anywhere near the basin. Another misconception is that the plan was legislated by a Labor government. The plan was the vision of the Howard Coalition government. It was on the tail end of the millennium drought and Deputy PM and leader of the Nationals John Anderson created the National Water Initiative in 2004, which substantially changed the ownership of water. “The NWI represents a shared commitment by governments to increase the efficiency of Australia’s water use, leading to greater certainty for investment and productivity, for rural and urban communities, and for the environment,” the De-

partment of Agriculture said at the time. I recently ran into John Anderson and reminded him of the NWI and how it led to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. He said he was still ‘mortified’ by what has happened since. It was the previous Labor government under the then Water Minister Tony Burke who signed the plan into law in 2012. Interestingly, the legislation had some leeway: the 2750 gigalitre target to return water to the environment could be reduced if there were other ways to make water savings. As it is in politics, the current government blames all the problems on the previous government. Tanya Plibersek is Water and Environment Minister, which in itself gives a clear indication of how the Albanese government is prioritising the environment over agriculture. She is extending the basin plan to make sure it delivers, but at what cost? I am at a loss to come up with a compromise. In the words of one of the new irrigation campaigners, Natalie Akers, food needs water.

95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

JOURNEY: Nuseed Argentina supply chain manager Matias Calamari is working at Nuseed Horsham for two months to learn more about Australian processes. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Expanding relationships, ideas Agriculture innovation company Nuseed is sharing its knowledge and processes internationally. Nuseed Argentina supply chain manager Matias Calamari is visiting the Nuseed Horsham site. The Nuseed supply chain encompasses managing production of seed crops to ensure seed quality and genetic purity, seed testing, processing, packaging and logistics. Mr Calamari said the objective of his visit was to exchange experiences with Australian colleagues, to learn about business and processes to improve processes in Argentina.

“I’ll be working with the different supply chain teams in order to learn about their processes and procedures,” he said. “Because Nuseed is a global company, I also need to improve my English skills, so staying here for two months will be an excellent way to do that.” Mr Calamari said the main difference in agriculture between Australia and Argentina was crop types. “In Argentina, it is predominately summer crops such as soybean, corn and sunflower, while in Australia it is predominately winter crops – wheat, barley and canola

that are the most important,” he said. “This difference is based on the rainfall in each country.” Mr Calamari said Australia had a great culture of enjoying nature. “There are parks everywhere with excellent installations – I love that,” he said. “Horsham is a nice city, quiet, but with a lot of things to do and surrounded by lakes, rivers and mountains. “I am grateful to the Australian people, especially the Nuseed team, for receiving me so kindly and allowing me to learn about them.”

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Transport pressure

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griculture representative groups are calling for changes to freight frameworks that would ease the logistical pressure of transport, particularly during grain harvest.

Grain Growers policy and advocacy manager Zachary Whale said there was a downward trend across the country of rail use for freight. He said part of the reason was chronic under-investment in rail. “Rail requires a monstrous amount of investment, especially rail that has had lower usage or has low axle load where you need to upgrade an entire system,” he said. “The dollars and cents are eyewatering, but it makes perfect sense because it has a lower emissions footprint, is more efficient, it takes trucks off roads therefore reduces maintenance costs and it has an inherent safety benefit for the whole community. “It needs to be part of how we tackle logistics going forward.” Mr Whale said the trend towards more road use meant the trucking sector was becoming an even more important part of how to get grain to its ultimate destination. “The past couple of years we’ve had bin-buster production across most states that meant the trans-

port task on road was acute,” he said. “That goes to the question do we have enough qualified, competent and safe drivers available to pick up the slack? “Agriculture is unique as more often than not farmers have their trucks, which they use on-farm and on-road, and then they use a combination of contractors and commercial carriers to help with the extra, especially at harvest. “But, if the truck industry experiences significant shortages, ultimately that has an impact on how many truck drivers and trucks are available in key regions to help move the grain from ‘A’ to ‘B’.” Mr Whale said most farmers liked the security of being able to transport their grain as a contingency, but was not always possible when large quantities were produced, and on-farm storage was not always available. “It’s about if there is enough capacity in the system to help, and we would also say rail should play a part in that, too. The whole system needs to work together,” he said. “We certainly don’t want everything on-road, but we need enough competent and qualified drivers to help do the job when it is needed.”

Mr Whale said projections indicated production of grain was going to continue to increase. “Therefore, we need to be constantly looking at how we optimise our supply chains so we can get goods from ‘A’ to ‘B’ in the most efficient, safe and costeffective way possible,” he said. “Farmers are great problem solvers and are used to having to roll their sleeves up and get the job done, but we need government to help make sure different frameworks are in place that are fit for purpose. “We need reforms to go towards a competency framework, so we have drivers who have the right skills to do the job and make it less about an arbitrary time-based approach where you need to have a certain licence for a certain amount of time prior to being eligible for the next licence. “That places less emphasis on competency and less emphasis on safety, it’s just time with a licence and it doesn’t take into account how many hours or kilometres you have done on that licence. “Grain Growers and others have said we need government to have a look at competencybased frameworks to make sure our drivers have the skills they need to do the job safely.”

95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

IT’S COMING: Clouds gather over Rainbow just before the heavens opened, dumping rain across the region on Friday night. Picture: JOSH MCPHEE

One day at a time...

Headers were halted in paddocks across the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians as a storm passed through the region last week. The Bureau of Meteorology recorded up to 80 millimetres of rain in some areas since Friday morning. Warracknabeal farmer Ross Johns said rain totals varied across the region, with the tally between 20 and 50 millimetres at his property. “Some areas to the west of Rainbow were up to three inches and north of Nhill were up to five inches, which is the highest recording I heard,” he said. “It’s certainly going to slow us down a little bit in terms of harvesting, but as to the quality of the grain itself, we won’t know that until we get the harvesters back into the paddock. “That could be some considerable time

because there’s more rain forecast this week.” Mr Johns said farmers would have to take the season one day at a time. “I keep telling everyone who works in agriculture that even though the crops are very close and all nearly right to go, we just haven’t got them in the silo yet and anything can happen,” he said. “Some warmer temperatures and wind would be excellent now. “Unfortunately, with the weather conditions, we just take what comes. We can’t change it and we have to adapt our farming operations to the circumstances.” Mr Johns said it was a good opportunity for farmers to have a break and ensure they were managing their fatigue during the busy season.

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Lamb, sheep prices trending low 95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

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BY ABBY WALTER

amb and sheep prices are trending low as the season begins to drop off and farmers prepare to make decisions to sell or hold onto stock into the new year. Horsham Rural City Council commercial enterprises co-ordinator Paul Christopher said due to supply and demand pressures, lamb and sheep prices were low in comparison to recent years. “New season lambs are selling for $170, whereas two or three years ago they would have been $250 to $300,” he said. “This is because the chillers are full. We need people to be buying lamb so the supply chain moves. “Heavy quality lambs for export are making good money, but anything ready for slaughter is going cheaper. “Sheep prices have been hit badly.” Mr Christopher said low prices occurring now had happened before. “We are waiting to see what will happen in the new year and whether prices go back up into the highs we saw recently,” he said. “We don’t know, but it would be nice to get a middle ground. “You want farmers to be getting good prices and consumers to be paying an affordable price for the end product.” Mr Christopher said people who buy

SALE DAY: Horsham Rural City Council’s Liz Reddie prepares Horsham Regional Livestock Exchange for today’s sheep and lamb sales. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER lambs to feed and sell later, or ewes for breeding, were still purchasing stock. “The only difference is the outlay is less for them, so this is positive for anyone who wants new ewes,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to buy fresh livestock, and while some will be disappointed with the prices, for others it could mean next year’s lambs pay for themselves.” Mr Christopher said because lambs could only be sold up to 14 months before their price dropped back, farm-

ers would need to make a call in the next week or so if they held onto current stock. “The season has started to drop off and while the lambs have looked magnificent, they’re starting to dry off,” he said. “They will need to be shorn and put on stubbles or in really clean paddocks as producers weigh up what they could be worth in the new year.”

Market insight

A Meat and Livestock Australia, MLA analysis of the Australian Bu-

reau of Statistics, ABS, latest livestock data indicates Australia is entering a destocking phase for sheep. MLA market information manager Stephen Bignell said the data was reflective of the drier conditions experienced during winter and producers’ response to the El Niño. He said the September quarter showed a 5.7 percent increase in red meat production, an 8.7 percent increase in lamb slaughter to 6.6 million head, and a 7.7 percent increase in lamb meat production to 160,954

tonnes. He said sheep slaughter, in contrast, decreased by 18.1 percent to 2.1 million head, with mutton production back 11.8 percent to 54,189 tonnes, with the decrease largely due to elevated lamb slaughter reducing sheep processing capacity. “Even though there is an increase in slaughter for cattle and lamb production, the ABS numbers are reflecting lower overall value due to the lower values being experienced at the sale yards for producers,” he said. “The gross value of cattle and calves slaughter decreased 2.5 percent to $3.2 billion, while sheep and lamb decreased by 18.5 percent to $956.6 million. “This is the first time since producer receipts have been recorded that quarterly sheep and lamb receipts were below $1 billion in value.” Mr Bignell said the data showed a turning point from a herd rebuild in the past three years to a destocking period. He said the weather in the coming months would be crucial for determining if there would be a longer trend of destocking. “We’ve started to see some positive trends in the weather and a solid market response in recent weeks, and a continuation of positive rainfall will further drive that confidence,” Mr Bignell said.

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Shear-a-thon gaining momentum 95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

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he third iteration of the ‘24hour Shear Madness’ event will raise money for mental health support next month. From 9am on Friday, December 8 to 5pm the following day, six Victorian shearers will shear sheep, non-stop, to fundraise for LET’S TALK. Roger Mifsud, with his sons Brody and Corey, of Stawell, Josh and Brandon Bone, of Nhill, and Phil Edwards, of south-west Victoria, make up the team. The first ever Shear Madness ‘Sheara-thon’ was in 2018, when Roger

and Corey shore 1542 sheep to raise awareness and money for muscular dystrophy. A total of $45,000 was raised and shared between the Gillian Boys Foundation and Save Our Sons Duchenne Foundation. In 2021, Brody joined the shearers to shear 2822 sheep and raise $78,252 for Merri River School in Warrnambool, Skene Street School in Stawell and programs for carers of children with special needs. The fundraiser was in honour of Corey’s son Levi, who has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

LET’S TALK advocates for the need to discuss mental health and break the stigma of seeking support. Shear Madness committee member Brooke Siegle said the team, of about 50 people including shearers, roustabouts, truckies and other supports, was ‘pumped’ for the event. “It’s gaining momentum and everyone is excited to get in there and get it done,” she said. Ms Siegle said the choice to raise money for LET’S TALK was meaningful to the shearing team. “The organisation does amazing things locally and we want to help

break the stigma and spread the word about how and where people can get support,” she said. “We are running a raffle and an online auction with great prizes that will reach people across the world.” Ms Siegle said the event would look different this year due to sheep numbers and logistics. “The shearers will work in three teams of two and shear in 12-hour stints across the 36 hours,” she said. “From 4pm to 5pm on Saturday we will have an hour of power to finish off the event.” Ms Siegle said people and business-

es interested in sponsoring or supporting the event could contact the team via 24hrshearmadness@gmail. com and donations for the auction and raffle were still welcome. She said donations to help support the 50-person team in terms of food would also be welcomed. “We start with zero dollars, so anything, big or small, would be appreciated,” she said. “All proceeds go to LET’S TALK, so the less we have to purchase the more money we can raise and the better that is.”

VFF overhauls membership packages Victorian Farmers Federation, VFF, has overhauled its membership packages in the group’s largest restructure to date. The organisation will now offer a four-tiered membership structure to make it more accessible to join the state farming lobby group. The new structure replaces the previous 30 separate membership types. President Emma Germano said new and existing members could look forward to a simpler, fairer and custom-built membership, purpose-built for farming businesses to enable farmers to contribute to a collective voice for their industry and their community. “Farmers are at the heart of the VFF and our new membership options make it easier than ever to join Victoria’s largest agriculture and farming lobby group,” she said.

NATIONAL CHAMPS: Nhill siblings Josh Bone and Kirsty Pollock were part of the winning Victorian team at National Shearing and Wool Handling Championships.

“It’s about making our membership options work for today’s farming needs. “Fairness and inclusivity are the features of the VFF’s new memberships. We must stand united on the top issues that affect us all.” The new membership options are platinum, gold, silver and bronze. “There’s arguably never been a more important time to throw your support behind the VFF,” Ms Germano said. “Farmers are facing a real fight, whether it be transmission lines tearing up prime farming land, looming animal welfare legislation or the threat of water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin. “We need your voice and there’s no better time to join us than now.” More information is available at vff.org.au/ membership-packages

Dream win for state team Nhill siblings Josh Bone and Kirsty Pollock, with teammates Marlene Whittle and Phil Edwards, won a teams event at National Shearing and Wool Handling Championships. Shearers, Mr Bone and Mr Edwards, and wool handlers Mrs Pollock and Ms Whittle, represented Victoria at the Sports Shear Australia event in Jamestown, South Australia. Mrs Pollock said the team won by nearly 20 points against the other states. She said teams were judged on time and quality of work. “You compete on your own and as a team – Josh finished third and was selected in the Australian team,” Mrs Pollock said. “Marlene is my best friend and she was also selected for the Australian team.” Mrs Pollock said it was special to compete with her brother and best friend and have the success they did.

“I know Josh and Phil are high-quality shearers and Marlene and I know how each other work, so while we didn’t go in thinking we would win, we knew we would work well as a team,” she said. “You have to think positive and know it’s not going to be easy, but still believe in yourself. “I have been trying to make the Victorian team for seven years, so it was amazing to get there and then win.” Mrs Pollock said Mr Bone and Ms Whittle would compete and represent Australia at the Trans-Tasman Golden Shears competition in New Zealand next year. “They will compete individually and as a team,” she said. “Anyone can go, so I wasn’t going to be left behind and I will be competing individually there, too.”

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If the music stops...

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arvest has started across much of Western Victo-

And despite virtually no rain through September and October, the early indications are for high yields, excellent quality and with relatively strong grain prices. To deliver high yields in a season with no spring rain is a combination of good luck and good management. The management piece comes from saving every drop of water through summer with good weed control. It’s about sowing on time and matching fertiliser application to seasonal conditions. It’s really an indicator of the pretty sophisticated management applied to operating a modern farm successfully. The luck is the cool ripening period and minimal frost damage in most districts. So through good management farmers have put themselves in a position to take advantage of the luck that came their way. But what happens when the luck runs out? How prepared are we for the season where there’s no stored moisture; when the frosts are more severe and the heat comes early?

From left field with David Matthews

That’s not an ‘if’ consideration; it’s a ‘when’. Being involved with the Community Bank network has given me some insight into the world of banking. And one of the first things I noticed is how extensively banks consider the different types of risk concentrations they are exposed to. They measure geographic risk, industry risk, strategic risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk, climate risk and more. They ensure their loan and deposit book is diversified enough to withstand a significant ‘shock’ to any one part of their business. So are we doing enough to ensure our farm business can withstand a severe shock event? When I applied bank thinking to our farm it was striking the concentration risk we had in our business. All of our assets in one geographic location, the Wimmera. There was some diversity of market risk through growing dif-

ferent crop types and running a few sheep. But the exposure to seasonal volatility was evident. The response for us was to spread geographies by buying land in the high rainfall zones, and spread industries by buying commercial property in Melbourne. There’s no one answer to managing risk concentration, but maybe it’s something we need to be more deliberate about addressing. During previous droughts, the farm lobby has been quick to seek government support for impacted farms. In an era where a typical family farm may have a balance sheet with $20 to $40 million of assets, I’m beginning to question if it’s reasonable to ask taxpayers to help fund our way through an inevitable risk event. I fear this will eventually erode the confidence in agriculture. Yes, we should continue to advocate for policies that help farm businesses use the good times to prepare for the bad. But isn’t it better to present ourselves as a mature industry that understands and manages our risks? At least then, when the music stops, we’ll have our own chair.

95 Nelson Street, Nhill CALL 03 5391 2106

INTERNATIONAL LEARNING: Agriculture Victoria molecular plant breeder Dr Abeya Tefera attended two United States universities to expand his knowledge and skills to bring back to Horsham SmartFarm.

AI highlight of study tour Agriculture Victoria molecular plant breeder Dr Abeya Tefera is expanding his knowledge to benefit the work of Horsham SmartFarm’s pulse breeding program. On a recent study trip to the United States, Dr Tefera attended a Genomic Prediction Breeding course at the University of Florida with a special focus on applied artificial intelligence, AI, followed by field visits to the University of Minnesota. The course brought together private sector and public organisation scientists interested in learning more about different prediction frameworks and how to integrate layers of data for plant and animal breeding. Dr Tefera said he enjoyed fostering new ties with international peers for future collaboration and he had already applied the skills he learned to inform new AI

processes to study crop development and isolate climate-resilient lentil and field pea varieties. “Our current advanced breeding strategies are already seeing rapid gains in genetic improvement and now with AI, we can incorporate additional data such as climate and crop development processes to selectively breed resilient traits into new varieties,” he said. “Compared to manual methods, AI is making processes more accurate and speeding up the delivery of newer and more resistant varieties within our breeding program. Our research is all about accelerating genetic gain to create higher yielding and more resilient varieties and this new application of AI is a true feather in the cap for our breeding program.”

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The outlook shows while the Israel-Hamas conflict creates some uncertainty in future fertiliser markets, the current impact is manageable. Report co-author, RaboResearch farm inputs analyst Vitor Pistoia, said 2023 had been a calmer year for the market and could be seen as a transition year, even with remnants of 2022 market complications. He said the big picture was currently positive for Australian farmers buying fertiliser, with prices coming down ‘massively’ since mid-2022. “The past seasons have been good in terms of performance, so there has been reasonable cash flow throughout agricultural supply chains,” he said. However, Mr Pistoia said if the Israel-Hamas conflict escalated to the broader Middle EastNorth African region, there could be notable impacts on fertiliser supply – as well as grain, meat and dairy demand. Israel is a significant exporter of potash and phosphorus – in 2022 exporting six percent of the world’s potash and eight percent of its phosphate fertilisers. Rabobank says it remained to be seen how much of those trade volumes would be impacted in coming months. The Middle East-North African region accounts for about 30 percent of the world’s nitrogen fertiliser exports, more than 25 percent of global mixed fertiliser exports, about 10 percent of potassic fertilisers and almost half of phosphatic fertiliser exports.

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The bank’s models indicate a recovery in global fertiliser usage in 2023, up by about three percent, compared to a seven percent drop in 2022. Mr Pistoia said initial analysis for 2024 suggested an increase in global fertiliser use by close to five percent. “Across the country, there is a wide variety of crop and pasture conditions,” he said. “While there is still room for improvement or even deterioration of conditions in the paddocks, some elements are already consolidated and will set the tone for fertiliser demand for the coming season.” Mr Pistoia said the question of how the 2023-24 harvest season would end, still played a part in decisions to fill sheds with fertiliser at this stage. “Undoubtedly, some regions of the eastern states will reduce application rates due to the current dry seasonal conditions,” he said. “Increased fertiliser demand might come from South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales, which have fair to good crop conditions.” Mr Pistoia said another question about how much farmers would increase fertiliser application within budget was based on impacts of the recent drop in the Australian dollar and crude oil hikes. “On the upside, besides lower global fertiliser prices, we have many commodities that have firm to good price levels – especially from an Australian perspective,” he said. “Lentil prices are tracking well due to damaging rainfall in India and there is a good floor for the wheat, barley and canola markets. “The basis – which is the price difference of local markets versus the global reference – is back in positive territory.”

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DUTCH DELIGHTS: Around the table from left, Charlie Gardner, Ben Lawson, David Lutze, Mark Gaulke, Amy Cook, Anna Johansson, Tim Inkster, Felicity Pritchard, Lindsay Knight, Russel Barber, Peter Crafter, David Jochinke and Karl Schmidt enjoy a traditional Dutch meal at Ceus Wolthuis’ local pub, run entirely by volunteers.

A valuable and successful tour

A

Wimmera-based farming group says Australian farmers need strong advocacy to preserve the industry, while adopting efficient and sustainable practices to protect their own futures.

Wallup Ag Group members have travelled to the Netherlands to visit farms, farmers and industry to learn how Dutch farmers have adapted to restrictions on fertiliser use and the banning of chemicals; spray drift minimisation, compliance and sprayer set-up amid strict laws; how farmers are using robotics and heat technology to overcome weed issues as they farm without chemicals; and green farming opportunities such as electric tractors and end-of-life wind farms. Member Tim Inkster said Australian farmers could learn much from their Dutch counterparts, who were constantly evolving to remain in agriculture and remain profitable. He said connections through member Ceus Wolthuis, who moved to the Wimmera from the Netherlands in the 1990s, had ensured a valuable and successful tour. Site visits included farms and co-operatives, an historic pumphouse, biogas plant, machinery and other agricultural dealerships and a factory, along with tourism stops. “The Netherlands’ farmers are operating within one of the most restrictive environments in the world,” Mr Inkster said. “Chemical and fertiliser use is highly regulated and monitored and the public image of farmers is very negative. The opportunities to expand are limited by land availability, so farmers are looking at alternative systems and efficiency gains to remain profitable. “As we farm in a global system and export into the European Union, we may be faced with similar restrictions in order to continue to access these markets, already demonstrated with canola.” Mr Inkster said the tour found Dutch farmers were highly regulated, restricted and compliant, and required to follow European Union rules, overlayed with the government’s rules. With farmland located below sea level, farmers constantly remove water from paddocks out to sea, via a canal system. This water is also used for drinking. Mr Inkster said many farmers were proactive Wednesday, November 29, 2023

in growing as much produce as they could, while also funding new sources of income and compliance with the government. Farmers experience longer dry periods followed by heavy rain. Land costs from 3000 to 5000 euros a lease and between 100,000 and 150,000 euros a hectare to buy – which Mr Inkster said was negatively impacting relationships within families and among neighbours. He said the country was ‘immaculate’ and not a metre of land was wasted – typified by many farm houses being integrated into a farm shed as one building. Mr Inkster said the Dutch government was also compulsorily acquiring land to return to nature – which could make farms ‘unviable overnight’. He said Australian farmers needed to advocate for, and demonstrate, best practice management while mitigating future change. He said value-adding products, diversifying operations or engaging with renewable energy investment might be beneficial and profitable when ‘done right’. “The future of farming in Australia appears to be a double-edged sword,” he said. “We need strong advocacy from our industry to the government and trading partners to preserve our way of farming so we are not restricted in what we grow nor buried under regulations. “The general public needs to be brought along with us at every step. “A subsidy system should be avoided at all costs so we don’t get locked into a reactionary system of compliance and management and lose ownership of our products. “The other side is that we shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand and not prepare for the challenges of a more sustainable-expectant world. “We cannot give reason to restrict us through poor management or selfish decisions that affect the entire industry.” Wallup Ag Group was founded in the early 1990s and has long sought to undertake an overseas study tour. Members presented to their peers unable to attend the tour, and Longerenong College students, about what they had learned. The Grains Research and Development Corporation co-founded the tour.

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HARVEST TIME: Wimmera farmers were well into harvest before storms put a stop to operations at the weekend. The Weekly Advertiser called on farmers to share their favourite harvest pictures. Pictured are a small selection of photos received from across the Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians, including, clockwise from above, Crystal Sanders of Horsham; Chris Schilling of Antwerp, Courtney Gerdtz of Douglas, Laura Schukar of Boort; Donna Glare; and Darcy Polack of Dooen.

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