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Grain still hitting the market

IN SPITE of logistical issues as a result of the east coast floods, exporters are reporting they are still getting grain onto boats to meet export demand.
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Rosemary Richards, executive director of the Australian Grain Exporters Association (AGEA) said that in spite of some difficulties getting the grain from upcountry sites to port, the shipping stem was still strong for grain exports.

“The shipping program is strong, there’s still a lot of grain moving out, there’s over half a million tonnes booked for February,” she said.

Ms Richards said it was a matter of exporters finding the easiest port to move the grain from.

“We’ve seen some issues, like limited rail access into Geelong and the closure of Fisherman Island for some time in Queensland, but exporters are working around these difficulties.”

GrainCorp said in its latest harvest report that it expects there to only be minor crop losses from stored grain, while early reports after the Victorian floods indicate most grain is deliverable, albeit downgraded to feed quality.

However, in the overall scheme of the Australian crop, the tonnages in question are relatively minor.

“It is unclear in Victoria what area has been abandoned and how bad the downgrading has been, but on a macro level, most of the crop is already off,” Ms Richards said.

She also said there were issues with farmers who could not meet contract requirements because of access issues to either unharvested paddocks or on-farm storage, but said she expected exporters and farmers to work through this together.

Robert Green, Cargill Australia chief executive, said in the December floods in NSW, his company had worked with farmers who had come to them with genuine difficulties in getting accessing the grain and given them an extra month for delivery.

Ms Richards said the plus for both exporters and farmers with late contracts was that there was enough grain that could be accessed for exporters to meet their international customers’ needs, easing the pressure to get grain out of flood impacted areas immediately.

However, she the damage to the rail infrastructure could be felt for months, especially in parts of Queensland, where she said it is expected to be over three months before grain rail tracks are operational again.

Mark Thiele, managing director Elders Toepfer Grain (ETG) said that in spite of a challenging harvest, most exporters were coping reasonable well.

“It’s a regional thing, in some areas there is more of an impact than others, but overall, I’d say the exporters have managed to keep the shipping program ticking along reasonably well, given the challenges.”

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Bus driver caught texting and driving stood down

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A Gong Shuttle driver has been stood down after beingfilmed texting and driving.

The 21-second video, filmed on Tuesday afternoon, shows the buswestbound onBourke Street, waiting at the traffic lightsto turn right towards Stuart Park

While the driver waits, hescrollsthrough his phone withhis arms resting on the wheel.

The bus moves forward twice, and both times the driver keeps using his phone, steeringwith his arms.

Thevideo was filmed by a passenger and posted to Facebook.

The passenger said she caught the shuttle to work in Wollongong regularly but this was the first time she had seen a driver using their phone.

She said the bus was full and she had to stand until Cliff Road, when she found a seat at the front of the bus with a view of the driver.

“Inoticed he picked up his phone and he was usingthat when he was stopped at the traffic lights,” the passenger said.

“You can see in the video when he started to go he was still using his phone and looking up at the road and looking down at his phone.”

She filmed him using the phone before asking him to stop, to which she said he told her to “stress less”.

But he did stop using the phone from that point until the passenger left the bus at Fairy Meadow.

The passenger described seeing the bus driver using his phone as “scary”.

“It just takes one second. There could have been a passengerwalkingacross the roadand he wouldn’t have taken notice of that.”

The Gong Shuttle is operated by Premier Illawarra withNSW government funding.

It is understood the driver has been stood down pending further investigation.

“We have ensured Premier Illawarra are aware of their responsibilities and they are taking the necessary steps to discipline the driver in question,” a Transport for NSW spokesman said.

“Premier Illawarra have also advised us that the incident has been reported to the relevant authorities.

“Premier Illawarra will remind all their drivers not to use their mobile phone for any purpose while on the job and always follow the road rules.”

Illawarra Mercury

Handling sheep and cattle in the dry

Industry and Investment NSW livestock officer Greg Meaker and Agriculture and Food Department development officer Fiona Jones discuss the Stcokplan program.SHEEP and cattle producers have the opportunity to improve farm viability and responsiveness during the dry season through a workshop offered by the Agriculture and Food Department.
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The workshops using the business program Stockplan are funded by the department and the Rural Business Development Corporation.

Agriculture and Food Department research officer Jeisane Accioly said the workshops would be of assistance to farmers in both reactive or proactive situations.

“These workshops take a whole-of-business approach to managing climate risks, minimising long-term impact and improving recovery,” she said.

The workshop provides hands-on experience with a software program designed to explore options for livestock such as feed, sell or agist; feed requirements and cost; stock structure and cash flow effects when trading livestock; and designing a stock containment facility.

“It doesn’t matter if farmers need to cull animals or are at the point of rebuilding their herd, they can just enter any decision and it calculates up to five or 10 years down the track,” Ms Accioly said.

The workshops have been run successfully in NSW and South Australia.

Industry and Investment NSW livestock officer Greg Meaker was recently in WA to support the delivery of the Stockplan program and said producers who attended the course were more confident in their approach to drought management.

Ms Accioly said the Stockplan program was flexible and the WA workshops would be individually tailored to local conditions.

“Basically we can’t run the same course at say, Lake Grace, Moora, Geraldton and Esperance,” she said.

Ms Accioly said the program took into consideration individual social characteristics.

“If it is early in the season and people have to decide if they’re going to feed or sell or agist, and someone has a part-time job and doesn’t have time to feed animals, you have to take that into consideration as well,” she said.

More information and an expression of interest form is available by calling DAFWA’s Bunbury office on 9780 6100.

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Rann concerned for Millicent jobs

PREMIER Mike Rann has expressed his deep concern at today’s decision by Kimberly-Clark Australia (KCA) to scale back production at its Millicent and Tantanoola plants.
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“This workforce reduction at such a large regional employer is obviously a real blow, not only for the workers but for the Millicent and wider South-East community.

KCA informed the State Government that nothing could have been done by the Federal or State Government to prevent this decision by its US parent company, as it was part of the Kimberly-Clark’s global restructuring to ensure long-term viability. The Millicent Mill will continue to employ around 370 people.

The State Government has reached an agreement with Commonwealth Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr, to establish a new $17m Innovation Investment Fund targeting the affected South East region.

Mr Rann says the focus of the fund will be on manufacturing and related services with the State and Commonwealth Government’s working closely with Kimberly-Clark, unions and the wider community to provide support for the workers.

“Displaced workers will also be supported through Centrelink and Job Services Australia,” Mr Rann says.

“I have been assured by Kimberly-Clark that they will also give workers their full entitlements as well as provide access to outplacement and counselling services.”

“While we are doing all we can to help, I want to encourage employers in the South East who are thinking of expanding to give KCA workers a go.”

“This Government, in conjunction with the Federal Government, has a track record in providing assistance for workers affected by production shutdowns.”

In the case of the closure of the Bridgestone plant, some 78 per cent of workers seeking support were placed as at December 2010.

“Under the job strategy, the State Government is committed to creating 100,000 by 2016 and we will be making every effort to ensure the workers affected by these cuts can return to the workforce as soon as possible,” Mr Rann says.

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Live export industry commits to Indonesian improvements

AUSTRALIA’S livestock export industry will deliver further animal welfare improvements in its biggest cattle export market, Indonesia, following the release of an independent study commissioned by the industry’s Live Trade Animal Welfare Partnership with the Australian Government.
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The Independent study into animal welfare conditions for cattle in Indonesia from point of arrival from Australia to slaughter was conducted by a panel led by Professor Emeritus in Veterinary Science at Melbourne University, Prof Ivan Caple, and assessed 17 Indonesian facilities to rate the effectiveness of the industry’s animal welfare programs.

The review found the welfare of Australian cattle in Indonesia was generally good and provided recommendations for further animal welfare improvements in Indonesia. Industry has already implemented or has scheduled these improvements for action including:

improving point of slaughter training materials and further extending animal handler competency through training programs and ongoing review and support structuring journey management guidelines to ensure long-haul transport provides sufficient rest-time for livestock. delivering further feedlot management programs to expand the technical support provided to Indonesian feedlotters. LiveCorp CEO Cameron Hall said the livestock export industry is committed to making ongoing improvements in Indonesia and fully supports all of the recommendations made by the expert panel.

“We’re pleased the study has recognised the good animal welfare standards in Indonesia for Australian cattle,” he said.

“Many of the areas requiring further improvement are best addressed by extending or modifying programs currently being delivered by Meat & Livestock Australia and LiveCorp, with the support of the Indonesian and Australian Governments,” said Mr Hall.

“The industry has long recognised the importance of improving the welfare of Australian cattle in Indonesia, particularly at the point of processing, and this is reflected clearly in our action plan and our annual investment of over $1 million into animal welfare in Indonesia.

“Indonesia is Australia’s largest and most important live cattle export market and is the major market outlet for cattle producers across northern Australia. Ensuring ongoing improvements in animal welfare is critical to the long term sustainability of the trade, and continued improvement in animal welfare in Indonesia is the livestock export industry’s highest priority,” Mr Hall concluded.

Other panel members included Prof. Neville Gregory, University of London; Dr Penelope McGowan, beef cattle veterinarian and member of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA); and Dr Paul Cusack, a nutrition and feedlot expert.

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Stud warms up for Big Country Sale

Brian Kirkwood with Somerview Kakadu, Somerview Bentley, Somerview Hamish and Somerview Rebel, which will be offered at Big Country next month.BRIAN and Glenda Kirkwood of Somerview Red Brahman Stud have been consistent supporters of the Big Country Sale at Charters Towers and are currently making the final preparations to their draft of 11 bulls in readiness for the sale on February 7.
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The Somerview draft has been catalogued from lot 10 to 16 and lot 49 to 52, and features five polled bulls. Eight of the bulls have been sired by Palm-vale Brooklyn which has been a leading sire in the Somerview Stud program since he was purchased at the Rockhampton Brahman Week sales in 2007.

“Brooklyn has been invaluable in our operation,” Mr Kirkwood said. “A polled bull, he has a wonderful nature and is hard to fault in type.”

Three of the bulls have been sired by Kandoona Vantage, another great polled sire at Somerview.

The draft will kick off with lot 10, Somerview Bentley, a bull Mr Kirkwood is confident will attract the attention of discerning buyers.

“Bentley is a really impressive red sire of good, even colour with excellent length and muscling pattern,” he said. “He stands on the same good bone exhibited by his sire, Palmvale Brooklyn, making him a bull that would be hard to dismiss.”

Mr Kirkwood is also looking forward to offering lot 14, Somerview Commodore.

“Commodore shows ideal natural muscling, heavy bone, depth of body and smoothness of finish,” he said.

For more information, please contact Brian or Glenda Kirkwood on (07) 4788 5525.

“He is an attractive Red bull and features a masculine, broad head.”

“Upon semen testing our bulls recently we were thrilled to discover the outstanding semen counts exhibited by the bulls.”

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New Muresk courses kick into gear

CY O’Connor Institute’s managing director John Scott.
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AGRICULTURAL students will be able to study vocational and short courses offered by CY O’Connor Institute (CYOC) at its new Centre for Agribusiness and Farm Technology (CAFT) at the Muresk campus near Northam for the first time this year.

The courses on offer are the first step in the move towards Muresk becoming a multi-use facility offering agricultural higher education qualifications, TAFE qualifications, short-term industry training and farm-based research, following a recommendation in the Cowan report to Education Minister Liz Constable last year.

CYOC managing director John Scott said they would be relocating their agribusiness courses to Muresk which would give them the opportunity to expand the courses offered in future.

Vocational qualifications would encompass all agriculture-related programs within the institute and a broad range of short courses would be delivered on a commercial basis according to market demand.

“The strength of this year’s programs is that they are grounded in real farm skills,” CAFT director Peter McGlew said.

Mr Scott said the agricultural industry wanted graduates to be farm ready, which was an important factor influencing their approach to agribusiness training.

“There are more than 6000 graduate jobs vacancies in Australian agribusiness with starting salaries over $60,000, so there is an enormous shortfall in the capacity of Australian universities to produce people qualified in agribusiness,” he said.

Mr Scott said the move to Muresk would allow CYOC to fully develop pathways from the schooling sector into both vocational and higher education training.

Mr McGlew said he was keen to explore pathways for students from the metropolitan area to find work in rural areas.

“Having a facility like Muresk allows us to give them a range of hands-on skills to make them farm-ready to get work,” he said.

CYOC is also developing an Associate Degree in Agribusiness and expects it to be accredited this calendar year ready for 2012.

“The first year of the associate degree is a higher education Diploma of Agribusiness which provides an exit point for first year students into employment, then rolls into the Associate degree in the second year,” Mr Scott said.

Because the degree has not been accredited yet, CYOC is offering a Certificate III and Certificate IV program this year which Mr Scott hopes to repackage into a Year 13 program in future to allow students to progress directly to university upon completion.

Mr Scott said the model for delivery of higher education was a residentially-based course to preserve the benefits of a practical farm-based environment.

“These are the lessons we’ve learnt from the past when Muresk was a very strong institution,” he said.

To make sure CYOC is positioned well as a tertiary education provider, Mr Scott said he had commissioned a consultancy to write a tertiary education plan.

He is in the process of establishing a steering committee and hoped to attract high calibre people for this task.

After signing a MOU between Murdoch University and CYOC last October, Mr Scott said he had last week started discussing pathways from their proposed Associate Degree of Agribusiness into Murdoch’s Animal Science and Environmental Science bachelor degrees.

He expected to complete the same exercise with Curtin University with their Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Commerce degrees.

Mr Scott said the courses would have strong international appeal.

“We would expect to receive international students, particularly from the Middle East market, because Muresk has a history of supporting people from such places,” he said.

Mr Scott said recent work experience in the Middle East market had showed him that the Middle East culture viewed Australian training very favourably.

Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls has invited CYOC to submit its funding requirements for next year’s programs, specifically the higher education programs, which Mr Scott anticipated being available in March.

A Muresk Advisory Committee chaired by a former director of the Muresk Institute, Dr Ian Fairnie, has also been established to oversee the development of the higher education program in agribusiness.

Dr Fairnie is also the president of the Muresk Old Collegian’s Association.

Courses this year start on February 7 with 16 people already having expressed interest in enrolments.

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School’s out for good for teacher Don

MOTIVATING CAREER: Bordertown High School agriculture teacher Don Walter says educating students about where their food comes from has been a highly rewarding career. He has spent his entire 37 years in the workforce teaching at the school.THE look of enlightenment on the faces of students when they grasp a new concept has kept Bordertown High School teacher Don Walter motivated at the front of the classroom and out in the ag plots for the past 37 years.
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And through his influence, the upper South East school’s agriculture curriculum has broadened from just a few chooks, sheep and cows to include olives, apples and wine grapes, vegetable production, rearing meat birds and replacement pullets, pigs and growing out turkeys.

Many of the thousands of students he has taught have forged successful careers in farming or agribusiness, but equally as important he says all of his former students have a greater understanding of how their food is produced and the role of farmers in a rapidly expanding global population.

“People have got to be fed somehow and the community needs to know what is happening on the land,” he said.

“If they need assistance at least there is some empathy for farmers, but if people have no background they will not be as willing to help.”

Don was born and raised on a mixed cropping and dairy farm at Melrose and Monteith before graduating from Roseworthy College and completing a year at Teacher’s College in Adelaide.

He admits he never dreamed of spending his entire career at the same school but the strong support of the local community, particularly stud sheep and cattle breeders, has seen many projects he wanted to complete come to fruition.

A number of stud breeders have continually donated steers for the Royal Adelaide Show led steer competition which the school has been involved with since 1982, and the school has received strong support in the 25 years it has entered the annual Mundulla Hogget Competition.

“We could never do what we have done without that much parental support, not only in ag but other areas of the school as well,” he said.

Bordertown High School comprises a three hectare farm, with numerous livestock paddocks, shiraz grape vines, a small olive grove, and vegetable plots for the Year 9 students to grow vegetables to sell to their family and friends, gaining small business experience.

For the past 15 years the school has also leased 80 hectares from the Tatiara District Council on the edge of the town where they run 100 Merino ewes, 40 first-cross ewes and undertake a small amount of cropping.

Don believes students have largely remained the same over the years, although fewer now come from a farming background.

Technological advances have altered teaching methods and textbooks have largely been replaced by the internet as learning resources, and students are now able to receive more industry focused practical training by completing the Certificate III in Ag through TAFE while at school.

Don – who has been involved in the Ag Teachers Association of SA for the past couple of decades – says the shortage of ag teachers is not new, but of even greater importance now with a number of his fellow teachers also nearing retirement.

He says more university graduates need to be encouraged to enter the profession, but passion and enthusiasm for agriculture are the grounding needed for being a good educator.

“You have to love the topic and if you love the topic it is infectious to the students and you become a good teacher.”

Don says it is highly rewarding watching students starting with bare ground and ending up with a full crop of vegetables, or increasing their confidence working with livestock.

“One of the times I really enjoy is early spring, when we have had lesson after lesson inside but I can finally take the students out to check the sheep or show them something.”

Among the highlights of his career are the numerous champion and reserve champion carcase awards from the led steer competitions at Adelaide and Mount Gambier, and wins by the school’s led goat teams with wethers in 2002 and 2004.

Don is also thrilled over the years two former Year 12 students have received full marks for agriculture.

Being a ‘frustrated farmer’, Don says his teaching career, along with owning a 4ha hobby farm, have substituted well for a life on the land.

“We have been there for 15 years and it is treated as another school paddock – we put ewes and lambs there to keep the weeds down,” he said.

Don has just commenced long service leave until the middle of next year after which he intends to retire and start the next chapter of his life, but with his wife Sue the assistant principal, he will still have a close involvement with Bordertown High School.

*Full story in Stock Journal, January 27 issue, 2011.

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Muchea sizzles for Gascoyne flood cause

p Cooking the sizzling sausages on Monday morning at the Muchea Livestock Centre was WAMIA compliance officer John Donaldson (left), with Bindoon producers Olive Young and Colin Glover.IF you walked into the Muchea Livestock Centre on Monday morning you would have smelt a nice aroma floating around the yards.
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And it wasn’t the usual cattle aroma, but the smell of a sausage sizzle held on the auctioneers’ verandah to raise money for flood affected victims in the Gascoyne region.

Hosted by the Western Australian Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA), the barbecue cranked up before the commencement of the cattle sale and buyers, sellers and agents from around WA lined up with their gold coin donations.

The sausages for the event were kindly donated by Kevin and Wendy Armstrong, The Beef Shop, Maddington.

With producers giving generously, the morning was a success and in total $900 was raised from the big cook up.

But the fundraising didn’t stop there with all livestock agencies also offering a helping hand.

Primaries donated $200, as did Leeds Agencies, while WAMIA chief executive Renata Paliskis put forward the earnings from the sale of a Murray Grey-Gelbvieh cross steer.

The steer weighed 266kg and was purchased by LSS at 250c/kg or $665.

Another vendor in the Primaries offering, Sandy Bagshaw, Bridgetown, donated all the proceeds from the sale of a Brahman cross cow to the flood victims.

The 346kg cow was purchased by an interstate buyer at 126c/kg or $436.

Elders and FarmWorks donated their commission from the sale of a pen of steers each, while Landmark directly donated to the Gascoyne Catchment Group.

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Take a breather

TOP-UP SELECTION: Saffin Ker Bowen & Wilson agent Jim Oliver, Warrnambool, Victoria, and Margaret Patterson, Drysdale, Ballangeich, Vic, were looking to top-up heifer numbers at the Mount Gambier store cattle sale on Friday, after buying heifers at the Naracoorte sales held on the same day. “FROM chocolates to boiled lollies” was how one vendor described this week’s lamb sale at Dublin.
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After the exhilarating highs of last week, where lambs rocketed into the stratosphere with one pen making $202, this week was understandably pedestrian with prices coming back into the more realistic region with the top price only a lowly $178.

Perception is a marvellous thing and a mystical price like $200 has raised producers” expectations beyond any reasonable level.

Feeder buyers lifted prices on store crossbred lambs to heights on Tuesday that left most reasonably-conservative onlookers gasping for breath.

Most part-time feeders would look at a $40 to $50 a head margin on a crossbred lamb as a comfortable way to make a few dollars.

The work and cost involved in shearing, drenching and feeding is not inconsiderable and the selling cost at the other end is another burden that is often forgotten when budgeting.

So to purchase crossbred lambs for a reasonable $90 to $100 and resell them for $140-$150 is good business.

When people start paying $115-$125 in the hope of returning $160-$170, the gambling really begins.

Anyone who has fed lambs will know that there is always a percentage of lambs that will not fatten at the required rate, despite all of the pampering you can provide.

Then one will die, or the flies will get a few, and broken skins will hurt your returns.

The whole exercise is fraught with pitfalls and many astute sheepmen have not made the returns that market forces so richly promised.

Then, of course there is that thing called supply-and-demand. At the moment, demand is going along, seemingly unimpeded, by the strength of the $A and the ongoing price rises, but if a major processor throws-in the towel then things could change rapidly.

Last year we saw Victorian-based processor Castricum Bros do just that, and suspend operations.

The industry cannot afford that to happen to any more of the processor sector, or the ramifications will be disastrous for those with dear lambs and a big investment in ewes at record high prices.

Noone should be too disappointed with the lamb prices this week.

It is only January and there are many months before numbers are likely to escalate.

Heavyweight lambs at $150-$170 should not be too difficult for anybody to stomach for a while.

Store cattle are attracting the same sort of attention as store lambs, with demand going through the roof.

There appears to be a different agenda for buyers of cattle, with weaner sales recording unprecedented returns for breeders.

I, for one, cannot see how steers at $800-$1000, plus freight, can be a profitable investment.

I hate talking-down the market but there seems to be a premise that export cattle prices will lift.

*Full story in Stock Journal, January 27 issue, 2011.

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