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GFC outcome “acceptable” as CLAAS shrugs 2010

Landpower group CEO Richard Wilson says new CLAAS technology is being trialled in the southern hemisphere to meet projected machinery demand.
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SHRUGGING the worst of the global financial crisis sees European machinery giant CLAAS describe its performance as “acceptable” with its Australasian distributor forecasting a “strong sales year ahead” for both sides of the Tasman.

CLAAS’ annual report details that while world sales last year were down around 15 percent – in line with post recession global industry performance – market share and gross margins rose.

With its liquidity said to be at a record high, the family-owned CLAAS company singles out four noteworthy milestones it made to 30 September 2010, namely:

International sales A$3.4 billion/NZ$4.4 billion Gross margins improved to 23.4 percentProfit before tax on income A$106m/NZ$138m Free cash flow A$297m/NZ$386.7m – previous year A$365m/NZ$475mMeanwhile, Landpower group CEO Richard Wilson, responsible for distributing CLAAS products throughout Australasia, courtesy of NZ based Landpower Holdings Ltd, described the results as “fantastic,” ahead of plans in 2011 to trial and release new combine harvesters, tractors and fodder machinery in Australia and New Zealand.

On CLAAS’ just-released results Richard Wilson said: “We think it’s a fantastic outcome given the buffeting other original equipment manufacturers have been taking.

“We have new generation tractors and fodder equipment being trialled in the southern hemisphere,” he added.

Interestingly, CLAAS invested A$175 million/NZ$224 in R&D last financial year to underscore its commitment to and acknowledgement of the growing importance of food production – in line with world population growth trends.

Richard Wilson says despite the tragic floods and crop losses in Australia, also the tough harvest conditions in New Zealand, there’s a strong push in Australia to take advantage of the once in a quarter century record soil moisture levels in the summer crop production belts of the eastern states.

“All the indicators are that winter cropping will be at record levels also, as producers seek to catch up, once again, after a decade of drought,” he said.

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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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Hard times at Theodore

LEFT: Trevor Brownlie shows he is still in good spirits at a Cotton Australia barbecue last Thursday, kindly accepting a cupcake from Diane French, Nandina, Theodore.
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THEODORE irrigators Trevor and Lea Brownlie have had a pretty harrowing time these past few weeks.

Not only have they lost about 450 hectares of cotton on their two farms, Farley and Mahnal, they also spent several days in hospital with a bacterial illness contracted from floodwaters that doctors initially struggled to diagnose.

They had a team of doctors at Moura, Theodore and in Brisbane working on the illness leptospirosis which had Mr Brownlie in hospital for almost two weeks.

He admits things were pretty bad at one stage.

“The easiest way to describe it is I was like a 90-year-old man on his death bed,” he said.

“I thought it was just fatigue and thought ‘oh, a bit of rest will do’ but I was just lying on the couch shaking and shivering for two days.”

The Brownlies contracted the illness, which normally infects cattle none of which they have while wading through floodwaters cleaning up their ruined farms and houses.

“I would have been in floodwaters for about eight hours every day for about three weeks. I thought it was just fatigue because I was only getting about two or three hours’ sleep every night,” Mr Brownlie said.

Mr Brownlie said once in hospital, he suffered hallucina-tions, severe fever and his blood pressure dropped below critical levels.

“I had a full video set I just closed my eyes and I was in the movies,” Mr Brownlie wryly said. “I would just shake my head like that and into the next movie.

“I never actually got to the end of the video set … my doctor said ‘sorry about taking your videos away’ but it’s okay, I was grateful.”

Mr Brownlie said his children Ryan, 20, Frazer, 15, and Rose, 18 really stepped up to the plate while he was in hospital.

“All we let them know was that I was in hospital … they knew I was bad but they didn’t know how bad,” he said.

“I just laid all responsibility on Ryan and my young fella (Frazer) and said do what you can, help clean up and they did a magic job they were just tremendous.”

Since returning home, Mr Brownlie has been back into the recovery effort, but will suffer side-effects for some time.

“I’ll be shaking for a couple of months on tables I’ll be rattling pretty well,” he joked.

“I was in hospital and I thought we were fairly hard done by, but then I saw what happened in the Lockyer Valley and my heart just went out to them.

“We didn’t have any deaths here, touch wood.”

Mr Brownlie also thanked Ben Conroy and Luke Fay who, despite having their own houses ruined by floodwaters, have been helping the Brownlies with recovery.

“They’ve just been helping out cleaning stuff that has washed away among the trees and everything,” he said.

Mr Brownlie said they were trying to recover about 3000 siphons worth about $25,000 which had been washed away.

Like many other farmers in the region, this is the second year running they have lost a cotton crop following the flooding in March 2010.

“It is devastating. We’ve copped two years now,” he said.

“We’re basically going to be three years without a substantial income.”

Mr Brownlie said he was considering a winter crop. However, it was a risky option.

“Well we’re going to try and get a cash flow going but the problem is with a lot of winter crops, you want a short crop, but it is very vulnerable to the weather,” he said.

Mr Brownlie said outside assistance had been a huge help.

“We came back wandering around, wondering where to start.

“Next thing some bloke will come in and give you a lead with where to start and mentally it’s got us looking back up the mountain again, knowing we can get over it.”

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Wool a fitting gift for a future king

HANDFULS of wool from Australian woolgrowers nationwide – with no dags allowed – will be made into Royal wedding gifts for Prince William and his bride Kate.
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Australian Wool Innovation this week launched an appeal for Australian Merino wool to be turned into suiting cloth and for crossbred wool to perhaps make a blanket for the Royal couple, set to be married on April 29.

AWI chief executive officer Stuart McCullough said a gift would be a fitting gesture of thanks after Prince William’s father, the Prince of Wales, initiated the five year Campaign for Wool last year.

The idea of dressing Prince William for his wedding to Kate Middleton was raised by South Australian wool grower Tom Ashby at the AWI annual general meeting last year.

“It would be an appropriate gift after the brilliant campaign the Prince of Wales began which has helped to re-connect the world with our natural and biodegradable fibre,” Mr McCullough said.

He said Prince Charles had not been formally notified of AWI’s gift project. “But I do believe there has been some seeding of the (wedding gift) idea.”

Woolgrowers from across Australia are being urged to donate a small sample of their natural fibre to be turned into Australian Merino cloth for Prince William to wear on his wedding day, but no dags allowed, Mr McCullough said.

“I presume if they are sending us dags, they won’t put their name on the back – it might be a message,” Mr McCullough said.

The donated wool will be made into a unique fine suiting fabric and sent to the famous bespoke tailors of Savile Row, London. If enough wool is sent then suits could be made for Prince William and his bride, Mr McCullough said. Any leftover fabric may be auctioned online with proceeds going to a charity to be nominated by the young couple.

Woolgrowers of all descriptions willing to take part are being urged to send a small sample of their wool to AWI, complete with their name and property so a list of woolgrowers donating can be registered with the gift well before the Royal wedding.

Despite the variety of wool qualities that could be donated by Australian Merino and crossbred woolgrowers, Mr McCullough said AWI was “fair dinkum” about the project.

“If we have to take off the coarse end, we will take off the coarse end and make something else as well.

“We are deadly serious about this – if we get 100 grams from 3000 farmers that is 300 kilograms of wool,” Mr McCullough said.

“We only need a kilogram of greasy wool for a suit, but I think we will aim to get him 60 metres of fabric.”

Woolgrowers of broader and non Merino wool are also being urged to donate also and from this wool a suitable gift such as a blanket or rug may also be made.

Hamilton wool grower Michael Blake supported the Royal gift idea and said he had a Merino show fleece that he could take some wool for a donation.

To take part, woolgrowers have until February 10 to send a sample of their wool in a standard envelope, complete with name, property, fibre diameter and email address to: Wool fit for a Prince, c/- AWI, Level 30, 580 George St, Sydney, NSW, 2000.

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Farmers hopeful of rain predictions

p Corrigin farmer Dave Crossland remains hopeful that predictions of wetter than normal conditions for most of WA during the next quarter are right.WAFARMERS has welcomed the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BoM) prediction of wetter than normal conditions during the next quarter.
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A BoM report predicts a 60 to 75 per cent chance of exceeding median rainfall in most parts of WA.

Its modelling is based on sea surface temperatures in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

BoM meteorologist Patrick Ward said wetter conditions were favoured for much of WA, particularly in the west, extending all the way down from the Pilbara through to the South West land division.

University of WA Oceans Institute professor Charitha Pattiaratchi said satellite data obtained from NASA showed the ocean northwest of WA, which is the start of the Leeuwin Current, was already several degrees warmer than normal.

He said past La Nina events had brought above average rainfall to WA and the current La Nina was one of the strongest ever recorded.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said BoM’s prediction was refreshing news for farmers throughout the State, especially given that 2010 was one of the driest seasons on record.

“Soil moisture is currently very low in many areas of WA, so above average rainfall over the coming months will put farmers in a better position as they enter the new cropping season,” Mr Norton said.

Corrigin farmer Dave Crossland said the predictions were encouraging.

“I suppose you’ve got to pin your hopes on something even if they are still guessing a little bit,” Mr Crossland said.

“You’ve got to gain a bit of confidence and faith in the start of the year out of that.”

Mr Crossland had been carting water every four days for his livestock until 20mm of rain at the beginning of January filled some dams.

When he spoke to Farm Weekly, he was spraying for summer weeds but said he would gladly put up with more melons if it meant more water in dams and subsoil moisture.

“Whenever we’ve had big rains in summer the season hasn’t turned out that flash, so I don’t know whether you’d read too much into that or not,” Mr Crossland said.

Moodiarrup farmer Michael Baxter said BoM’s predictions did not make him feel much better.

“I don’t think they really have that much idea,” Mr Baxer said.

“They quite often make predictions and are usually miles out.”

Pastoralist Will Scott, Wynyangoo station, Mt Magnet, said he believed in the El Nino and La Nina effects but BoM had predicted all sorts of things for years and got it wrong nearly every time.

Mr Scott said he believed BoM predictions were often wrong because all its funding had been directed towards climate change.

He said Australia’s good rains came out of the Indian Ocean, but BoM’s predictions were based on NASA research which was focused on the Pacific Ocean.

“The predictions are probably quite right, but they could be wrong – they don’t know,” Mr Scott said.

“My guess is as good as theirs, and hopefully they are right.”

Mr Scott said conditions at Wynyangoo were beautiful and green after the rain they received before Christmas, but if follow-up rain did not happen in the next couple of weeks, things could get a little tricky.

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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

UPDATE
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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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