Category Archives: 2014

October 2014

With many farms having their own poultry for household consumption of eggs and meat, a WOF visit to a modern chicken enterprise was welcome. A chicken meat farm in the Strzelecki ranges was an eye opener for members.

Ilan & Paula Goldman and their two children purchased their property in late 2011 Mirboo North, moving from Melbourne 4½ years ago. They were keen to put into practice the methods of growing chickens developed by Joel Salatin in the USA. The approach is along more natural, organic lines, vastly different from the mass production methods of the big name chicken processors.

The genetics for the Goldman birds were also developed in the USA. Breeder farms supply fertile eggs to the hatchery. In the breeder farms the chickens are sectioned off into about a dozen hens to two roosters from which the eggs are gathered.

Subsequent day old chickens are purchased on a regular basis, from the hatchery located in Queensland, and flown to Tullamarine for Ilan to collect.

Once at Mirboo North the chickens are housed in a heat controlled brooders until they are about four weeks old. At this age they should be fully feathered and able to withstand the outdoors climate. The youngsters are then transferred to transportable shelters in the paddocks and moved daily to graze on grass. Electric fences and chicken netting are used to deter foxes.

The chickens are grown out on their balanced, high protein diet, plus pasture with its naturally available insects and minerals, for up to twelve weeks. The Goldmans mix and mill their own feed, thus ensuring it has no added chemicals. The predominantly wheat-based feed contains minerals, vitamins and meals (camelina, roasted soy bean, blood, fish, meat, bone and seaweed ). No antibiotics or pharmaceuticals are included.

When mature for processing, the chickens are transported, once again, for slaughter at a poultry abattoir in Albion, in Melbourne’s inner west, from where the freshly processed meat is collected the next day. The final product is sold at farmers markets in Coal Creek, Coburg and Warragul and to various speciality outlets (restaurants and butchers)

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.
For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.

 

August 2014

Seven minutes! Yes, the estimated time to convert a grain of wheat or barley into pelletised stock food is seven minutes! While it might sound trivial it depicts the modernity and efficiency of a stockfood processing plant in Pakenham.

Ridley Agri-products in Bald Hill Road was the location for the August activity of Women on Farms West Gippsland. Members who attended the plant tour were overwhelmed with many insights into a very competitive industry so important to farmers. Management was obliging and the feed mills were more than fascinating.

This is a rural industry on the edge of urban Melbourne. Feed pellets are manufactured here for cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, poultry, dogs, llamas and zoo animals. Optimising animal nutrition, streamlining freight movements, sourcing raw ingredients, ensuring sustainability, minimising waste, and keeping customers and neighbours happy are company goals. We learned how these are achieved.

Main ingredients of pelletised or extruded stockfeed are grains and minerals. Wheat, barley and canola meal are staples. Almond husks, soya beans, lupins and salt may be added, depending upon the formula for end users. Qualified animal nutritionists supervise the mix. Seasonal variations, such as higher calcium or protein levels may be required at certain times, say for dairy herds.

Finished product is cooled and promptly delivered, mostly in bulk, within hours of completion, ensuring freshness. Samples of the product are routinely taken for testing and for any back up analysis.

With the mills working around the clock, they are highly automated, mainly through computerisation and the installation of internationally proven technology. This helps control labour costs and quality.

The Ridley processing plant is broadly divided into three areas: an older hammer mill processes products containing meat meal. A newer grinding mill processes solely ruminant feeds, and an administrative section provides oversight. There is also a constant flow of enormous tankers delivering raw ingredients and taking ordered pellets out to farms and other customers.

That one end user is the Melbourne Zoo and another is a research laboratory using mice was not surprising. Even pellets, made with fish meal and destined for fish farms are produced.

FeedSafe Australia accreditation, renewed upon successful annual audits, is essential to maintaining quality assurance at the plant.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.

June 2014

ant challenges, country lifestyle, animals which are endearing yet hardy, and an enterprise with a difference? Try deer farming! Members of Women on Farms West Gippsland learned how raising deer compares with more traditional livestock activities when a visit was made to Gracefield, Neerim South in June.

The Edyvanes, Graham and June, have a hilly 96 acre property, picturesque with tall trees, lush pasture and grazing animals.  Red deer, elk, goats and a few cattle create a charming scene. It is also a life of hard work and market challenges.

While deer are relatively easy to manage overall, in that they give birth easily, need drenching but not vaccination, and tend not to have foot problems, they require tall, sturdy fencing and a calming handling shed.  To achieve the least stress when individual animals are managed, Graham designed and constructed an elaborate ‘maze’ of doors, cubicles and safety restraints.

Venison is sold, mainly through the farm gate and farmers markets. Various roast and BBQ cuts, schnitzels, sausages, burgers and gourmet pies are the main products from the wide range available.

Production of this venison has been affected by the controversial abattoir closure at Trafalgar, with subsequent long distance transport now needed for slaughtering. Yet, it is understood that the demand for velvet is good.  This is the soft covering on growing antlers.  Asian markets in particular seek the velvet for its reputed medicinal qualities.  Antlers are cut off annually, at just the critical stage, and then they re-grow.

The Gracefield herd was originally all fallow deer but the Edyvanes found that a cross between red deer and Canadian elk produced a more tractable animal.  The gestation period of eight months is similar to cattle, with multiple births very rare. Mature stock live up to twenty years.

With their elegance, the deer are an attractive adjunct to the holiday accommodation on the property.  Being adjacent to natural bushland and forests, Gracefield offers guests a post card environment in which to relax and enjoy the animals in the hilly paddocks or the venison on a BBQ.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.
For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.

May 2014

Olives from Gippsland are adding to the region’s wide reputation for a growing range of quality gourmet foods. Women on Farms West Gippsland members learned why when their May activity took them to Jindivick to host farm for the day, Tarago Olives.

Here, 1100 olive trees are carefully managed for olives harvested to produce premium, virgin olive oil, pickled olives and a range of inventive treats such as olive paste and even olive jam.

The trees have been planted to maximize their exposure to necessary sun and to ensure good drainage. The varieties grown are Manzanillo, Frontoio, Nevadillo and Kalamata.

Sam Cabbabe, who planted the first trees on his property in 2004, is clearly well informed, inventive and progressive, being largely self-taught.  Propagation, processing, marketing, soil management, harvesting and tree maintenance have all had to be learned to get the results seen in 2014. Just which varieties were more suitable for which end use was one of the many lessons which Mr Cabbabe has learned.

To get the olives to a commercial level of production the main challenge to overcome has been bird invasion, with considerable losses of crop each year until the area was two thirds covered by bird netting.  Scaring guns, eagle images and other methods had not proven nearly as successful.  Even now, a certain amount of loss has to be anticipated.

After harvest, the fruit destined for extraction of extra virgin olive oil is transported promptly to a pressing enterprise in South Gippsland, then the oil is returned to Jindivick for marketing and distribution to established and highly regarded clients.  It is understood that chefs in a number of premium restaurants in Melbourne value the oil for its freshness and high quality. Mr Cabbabe explained the importance of establishing a personal rapport with his clients and of being responsive to their comments and feedback. The flavour and aroma of his oils are their key selling points.

A word of advice from Mr Cabbabe regarding storing olive oil is that it is sensitive to light, heat and air.  Thus, oil is at its best when protected in a dark, sealed bottle, away from heat.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.
For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.

April 2014

The April visit by Women on Farms West Gippsland was to Devon Meadows.  Here, on the Schreurs’ vegetable property, members learned how leeks, baby cos, endive, parsnips, radicchio, kohl rabi, wombok and other bunched vegetables are grown.

When Peter Schreurs migrated from Holland in 1954 he worked on his uncle’s vegetable farm.  By 1958 he was able to purchase his first 20 acres. Over the decades his holding subsequently grew to the 525 acres he and his three sons work today.

The Schreurs family works in harmony with the environment so that the farm is sustainable.  They have reduced the amount of chemicals used and concentrate more on soil biology, introducing  integrated pest management. It is no surprise that they have won awards for sound farming practices.

Healthier soils present less problems, with use made of pest-specific biological sprays to avoid harm to beneficial insects.  With the help of an entomologist they determined that eliminating certain insects was detrimental.  They use mostly liquid humus and seaweed for plant growth.  All green waste from the vegetables is composted and spread back onto the soil along with green manure crops,  all being ploughed back in before seedlings are planted.

The 400 megalitre dam took three years to complete during which time they suffered a flood and had to cease work.  Peter suggested that it is easier to cope with a drought. They are able to store plenty of water but in a flood water doesn’t drain away.

Of the seven vegetable varieties produced most are planted as seedlings while the others are direct drilled into the soil.  Crops are rotated annually and ph tests are  conducted yearly. Recently, cosberg lettuce, basically a cross between an iceberg and cos, was added to the products grown on the Schreurs property.

The workforce needs vary with about 35 staff employed permanently, increasing to 60 employees during peak times. In summer 600,000 leeks per week are harvested. Distribution of such vegetables, locally, interstate and to Japan is by contractors.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph. 0429488156, or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.

March 2014

Many farming enterprises combine science, patience, weather, soils, investment, disappointments, serendipity and more patience.  Nothing could be truer of the fledgling Australian truffle industry.  This was particularly evident to WOF members in their March visit to the tree nursery and ‘truffiere’ (truffle orchard) of the Carter family in Gembrook.

Colin and Jan Carter,  with their children and  truffle sniffing kelpie, Jack, taught us a great deal about the complexities of truffle production.  WOF members have previously visited another truffiere, at the home of a member at Jindivick.  It was no surprise to hear that truffle growers, with so many challenges to face, work  co-operatively.  Not only do they share  learnings but they present a united force to  government. This  can assist with research and development, as well as with export facilitation.  Colin explained that the contaminant risks presented by imported truffles, especially from China, were recently recognised by the Federal government, resulting in a quarantine ban on this imported competitor.

‘Black diamonds from the soil and with a fruity fragrance’ – that is how the truffles were described.  Actually,  truffles are the edible fruiting bodies of a type of subterranean fungus known as a mycorrhiza (‘root fungus’), which form symbiotic relationships with a host tree, generally from the oak and hazelnut species.  Colin had many such technical facts to share.

With  the family business including a hazelnut propagation nursery, the potential truffle trees are inoculated with the truffle spore very early in life.  The trees can then be DNA tested to confirm the vital component exists.

In their being planted out, the ideal soil is very well limed, not overly rich, and on a well drained site. The truffle industry is slowly growing in Australia, coming originally in the 1990s from Europe from poor limestone slopes in France.

Despite all the science, research and care with propagating the right trees, it is apparent there are still luck, mystery and chance.  Whatever the success rate that an inoculated tree might foster truffles among its roots, the market demand from Australia and Asia exists.  It is up to truffle sniffing dogs like Jack, to find those black diamonds and to reward the work of committed growers like the Carters.
An opportunity was had to see, smell and taste black truffle, with its mushroom character. Jan gave ideas about the culinary use of truffles and how they can enhance otherwise bland recipes.  Rice, pasta and egg dishes get the ‘wow’ factor.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate.  For more details contact secretary, Jean Irvine, ph.56221236 or go to our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.