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Claying pays through increased production

SOIL IMPROVEMENT: Victor Harbor farmer Alister Carmichael says clay spreading, and now delving, is the cheapest way he and his family can improve their farm without buying more land and (inset) the delving machine at work.HAVING experienced good results from clay spreading his unproductive, non-wetting sands, Waitpinga farmer Alister Carmichael has this year turned to clay delving as another method of improving production.
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The 1090-hectare Carmichael property Santa Cruz, located seven kilometres west of Victor Harbor, runs mainly livestock with a small amount of cropping.

“The end result we want is better pastures,” Alister said. “Clay spreading, and now delving, we think is the cheapest way we can improve our farm without buying more land.”

Alister says that about five years ago he started inquiring about clay spreading and delving on the Fleurieu Peninsula through the local natural resource management board and Rural Solutions SA.

“I was finding that not much had been done locally about clay spreading or delving, and any machinery was based either on Eyre Peninsula or in the South East where they had been doing it for a long time.”

As a result, the Glacier Soils Group formed and trialled small areas of clay delving and clay spreading with funding from the National Landcare Program. Further projects, funded by Caring for Our Country and Woolworths, have provided technical support and offset some of the costs associated with clay spreading and delving and overcoming the difficulty of getting machinery to the area.

“We were finding that contractors were reluctant to travel to the area for less than 12 hectares, so working as a group has been of benefit,” Alister said. “The incentive payments through the project have also made it easier for us in terms of funding.”

Since then, Alister has clay spread about 35 hectares a year (175ha total), and is very pleased with the results. He has observed better and more even germination, better efficacy of chemicals as everything is germinating at the same time, and better fertility.

“We began in our worst paddocks and we’re starting to see each paddock that we’ve done getting a little better each year,” he said. “This year is the first year we’ve tried delving on a broader scale, so we’re keen to see what the difference is.”

The practice of delving involves ripping up subsoil clay lying one metre or less beneath sandy topsoil. An implement fitted with large ‘ripper’ tynes is used to break into the clay pan and bring clods to the surface. Clay is allowed to dry before being broken up and incorporated into the topsoil with normal tillage operations.

Alister says that using a delving contractor they completed 35ha one week ago. His initial assessment of the two methods is that while delving is cheaper, the incorporation of the clay is harder.

“We’re expecting that incorporation will take longer as the delving has left the surface a lot rougher,” Alister said. “But at the same time, delving has allowed us to break up the subsoil clay and hence get better root growth and mix up the soil profile as well.”

*Full report in Stock Journal, January 27, 2011.

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Farmer wins flying fox battle

Relocating flying foxes has been the battle of a lifetime for Jack Long.JACK Long sits on the stump of a tree in a house garden at North Eton, which until six months ago had for seven years been the roost site for a colony of an estimated 5000 little red and black flying foxes.
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Jack began farming in the Pioneer Valley at Mia Mia in 1964 with an eight-hectare cane assignment from the North Eton Mill, and on his other 40ha he ran a few cattle and grew tomatoes and cabbages for the Mackay market.

Over the years, the assignment increased to eventually cover the whole farm, and now in his late 70s Jack is semi-retired, running a few steers on the 14ha of the farm he still owns.

Always leading from the front, he can be relied on to get things done.

This got him elected to the board of the mill, and about 18 months ago he was embroiled in the battle North Eton residents were having over flying foxes.

The Mackay Regional Council considered the problem a State Government matter, and the State Government didn’t want to know about it.

A letter from the relevant minister pointed out that flying foxes were a protected species under the Nature Conservation Act 1991, and no damage mitigation permits would be issued to enable them to be moved, as moving them only created a similar problem elsewhere.

The Environmental Protection Authority had the answer, stating in a letter in 2007: “The key to removing the impact is planned revegetation”.

In other words, to grow an alternative roost site for the flying foxes.

Another government suggestion was to “provide artificial roosts away from the township”.

“When I was asked to help,” Jack said, “I found the flying foxes didn’t mess beneath their roost site but evacuated their bodies as they flew away in the evening. That meant the whole town was impacted, including the bowls club which was losing members and unable to hold tournaments because nobody turned up.

“Residents couldn’t hang their washing outside. They couldn’t leave windows or doors open because of the smell; children couldn’t play in their yards; and if they wanted to sell, there were no buyers; and even though there’s a shortage of rental properties in the Mackay area, they couldn’t find tenants prepared to rent.”

Working on the principle that the squeaking wheel gets the oil, Jack began each week phoning any politician and state or local government official who had any likelihood of being able to help.

This resulted in him arranging a visit to the site by the Member for Mackay Tim Mulherin, who agreed nobody should have to live in such a polluted environment. That prompted a high-level meeting with council, government officials, members of Parliament and the public, which, with the persistent phone calls, eventually resulted in a six-month damage mitigation permit being issued to the Mackay Regional Council in late October 2009.

The permit enabled the flying foxes to be encouraged to move by using smoke, noise, fog or intense lighting even though none of those had ever solved the problem before. However, there were also restrictions. If the females were pregnant or there were young present, they couldn’t be moved and they were not to be stressed.

As flying foxes breed during the wet season, that meant the permit would almost expire before they could be encouraged to move on.

Investigations into how other places had handled the problem were studied, including a situation in the Northern Territory, where at Katherine the roost trees were removed.

With only a few weeks left on the permit, the Mackay Regional Council spent more than $30,000 having a contractor cut down three of the 40-year-old roost trees and severely prune the other four, but to avoid stressing the flying foxes, the work had to be carried out at night when the foxes were not in residence. Without their roosts, they stayed away for a week, and then about 1000 found a couple of mango trees 40 metres or so from their original site that suited them. These trees were heavily pruned and the problem was solved.

The colony now lives a few kilometres away in the forest on the Eton Range where they no longer impact humans.

It’s nine months since they left. The residents are happy, the bowls club is back in business, and Jack’s phone bill has returned to normal, but he said it was the biggest battle of his life.

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Bush lessons

Brothers, Tommy and Phil Emmanuel.THESE days, in cities throughout the world, people queue for hours to shake Tommy Emmanuel’s hand and have him sign an autograph.
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He’s probably the world’s best guitar picker today – certainly the awards and honours that have come his way point to that.

In America, his magic hands have seen him dubbed the Wizard of Oz.

It wasn’t always like that for the Muswellbrook-born, Gunnedah-raised guitar maestro.

He “vividly remembers” the days in outback NSW towns when he had to “hit the streets with the guitar and give it hell” in a desperate bid to raise enough pennies to eat and buy fuel for his family to move on.

But rather than shy away from talking of those days in the way many big stars want to hide their past,

56-year-old Tommy Emmanuel, said it was in fact country Australia that provided him the solid foundation on which he had built his career.

“From those people in the bush, I learnt two lessons that have served me well through the years: how to work hard and how to treat other people the right way,” he said.

“I’m very grateful for where and when I was born.”

The days he spent as a kid touring rural Australia playing the guitar, with his family band and then later with country music star, Buddy Williams, also instilled in him the importance of having a willing attitude, he said.

“I have etched in my mind times we were stranded and broke in places like Nyngan and Bourke and Phil and I would go out onto the streets and play like hell,” he said.

Tommy and his brother, Phil Emmanuel, were inducted into the Australian Country Music Roll of Renown at the Tamworth Country Music Festival this year.

They have just wrapped up an Australian tour celebrating 50 years in the industry but that doesn’t mean they’ll be slowing down.

In typical Tommy humour, the legendary guitarist told one 2011 Tamworth audience the two “had to keep going until we get it right”.

The brothers, who performed together at the Sydney Olympics closing ceremony to an estimated 2.85 billion viewers, said they had a kind of mental telepathy, that when they played together it “makes a third player that is better than the both of us”.

Their performances together at times involve sharing the one guitar, with each having one hand free.

They are simply incredible.

Tamworth, Tommy said, holds a special place in their heart.

While he was playing guitar by the age of four – self-taught with some instruction from his mother – and had played his way across Australia by the age of 10, Tommy says ”it all started for me here in Tamworth really”.

“We busked on Peel Street and made our first recording here in 1960. That, of course, was back when we had teeth and hair,” he laughs.

Seriously, he said, he had never wanted to do anything other than entertain people with his guitar playing and get better and better at it – and even after 50 years he hadn’t stopped learning.

“I’m a better player today than I was yesterday,” he said.

“Music is a language of its own; we can go to a foreign country where we don’t speak a word of the language and we still relate through music.”

The NSW Department of Education eventually put a stop to the Emmanuel family’s touring, insisting Phil and Tommy go to school regularly.

Through the years, Tommy has referred to himself as “an uneducated country kid from Down Under” which has fascinated international audiences who can’t believe he had no formal tuition and has never read music.

His humble background, and outlook, makes all the more impressive the long list of prestigious awards he has, from Guitar Player Magazine’s Legend Award to Grammy nominations, Nashville Music Awards’ best country instrumental, the only non-American ever inducted into the National Thumbpickers’ Hall of Fame in the United States and the Chet Atkins’ Certified Guitar Player title – a rare distinction shared by only three other people in the world.

That’s only naming a few.

While Tommy Emmanuel’s stardom is largely linked with his pop associations – he was with ’70s rock band, Dragon, toured with Tina Turner and played with the likes of Eric Clapton, Air Supply and was a member of the John Farnham Band – country music is his love.

“When I was a kid, country music was not so known and somewhat looked down on. Now it’s the coolest thing on the planet,” he said.

“It’s always been that way to me.”

He described the latest Tamworth country music honour as very rewarding and said it “inspires us to keep reaching higher, to set standards for the next guitar players the way they were set for us right here all those years ago”.

Now based in Nashville, Tommy firmly believes “if you are lucky enough to have a God-given talent, you should consider it a gift”.

“Always try to play with conviction,” he says, in the way of advice to the next generation of pickers.

“Never listen to critics. You know what they say, there are those who can do and then there are those who criticise.

“You must be dedicated and you must have the willingness to risk everything.”

In Tamworth, Tommy Emmanuel is royalty but the paparazzi-like attention doesn’t phase him.

As the tiny digital cameras edged closer and closer to his lightening-fast fingers while he performed in Peel Street, he didn’t show an ounce of frustration.

“Hey, get a photo of this,” he simply grinned.

“I’ll play two tunes at once.”

And he did.

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McKay clears air on coal

Jodi McKayHUNTER Minister Jodi McKay says more must be done to redress the imbalance of the coal industry’s impact on communities.
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The member for Newcastle also said the Roads and Traffic Authority had failed to levy major Kooragang Island projects for a share of the cost of a duplicated Tourle Street bridge.

Ms McKay supported an air quality monitoring network in the Lower Hunter and said sites were being examined for monitors along rail lines to the port through areas such as Maitland, Warabrook and Tighes Hill.

Her comments came yesterday after the state government declared the proposed ‘T4’ fourth coal terminal would be assessed under major project planning laws.

The federal government gave the multibillion-dollar Port Waratah Coal Services proposal ‘major project facilitation status’ to help smooth the assessment process.

Ms McKay said she supported the project but recognised it would be ‘‘controversial’’.

She said the RTA should seek contributions under any approval for the terminal for funding towards the cost of a duplicated Tourle Street bridge and Cormorant Road.

The government opted to build a new bridge at the site with two lanes instead of four and demolished the old two-lane structure.

It has since begun planning for a second two-lane bridge.

Ms McKay said the RTA had not sought contributions from Kooragang Island industrial projects for the road upgrades and it should work more closely with the Planning Department.

On dust impacts, Ms McKay said she supported a dedicated team to respond to coal monitoring and compliance, but skirted questions yesterday on whether cabinet colleagues supported her stance.

‘‘This is an industry that supports more than 15,000 to 16,000 direct jobs and we have to acknowledge that if that is to continue that there has to be an approach that also supports the communities affected by coalmining,’’ she said.

Ms McKay rejected suggestions her comments were in part angled to Greens voters or a preference deal.

Newcastle Greens candidate John Sutton said party members were yet to consider any preference deal, but climate change and coal policies would be ‘‘key considerations’’.

He said it was ‘‘disappointing’’ Ms McKay continued to ‘‘actively advocate’’ expanded coal exports rather than the need to moving away from coal.

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Off-farm work not always the answer

Darrin Lee and Stephanie Bligh-Lee with Courtney and Ellie. Darrin, interviewed by the NEAR project team, worked off farm on a two and one roster from November 2007 until March 2008, conscious that his income was providing for the family’s living expenses but not the farm debt.A COMMON public misconception is that farmers struggling through drought can fix their financial problems by ‘getting a job on the mines’.
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The Agriculture and Food Department’s North Eastern Agricultural Region (NEAR) strategy is working to improve business and community resilience to drought.

As part of this strategy, the department says it has been examining how to approach off-farm employment in a dry season.

Money to be made through off-farm work does little to help reduce farm debt.

This thought was echoed by respondents to a survey conducted by the department under the NEAR strategy.

Farmers interviewed who worked off farm in 2006 and 2007 all understood that their wages would not be sufficient to reduce their debt and the action of getting off farm may be more beneficial for mental health than for the finances.

An income from off-farm employment has the ability to reduce or stop drawings on the farm business.

Such an income is often sufficient to provide all day to day living expenses and it might even be used to take a holiday without feeling as if the farm is paying for it.

The mental benefit of an off-farm break cannot be underestimated during a drought.

It counts for a great deal more than money.

Interviews with growers revealed working off farm provided immediate relief from potentially depressive situations on farm.

This ‘clearing of the mind’ was listed as the biggest benefit for farmers enduring a dry season.

Working away from the farm will shift the focus to new and different tasks and provides time to consider all relevant facts without the immediate, ongoing impact of drought stress.

When returning to the farm, better decisions are made to the benefit of the business.

Another aspect addressed by off-farm employment that improves mental health is succession.

Of the growers interviewed, most had begun to consider succession more seriously since faced with drought and the requirement to work away.

Having a dynamic succession plan provides reason for off-farm employment.

Being employed outside the farm is longer-term thinking than selling up and leaving the industry.

Employment is short term and the reason for going off farm is to be able to continue farming beyond the drought.

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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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