Category Archives: 2012

September 2012

Green hills against blue skies, Friesian cows peacefully grazing, native birds calling and property owners taking a break. Yes, it sounds idyllic. The day that WOFWG members visited the MacKay’s dairy property ‘Arnum’ at Poowong East was a temporary reprieve in a spell of wild, wet weather. The aims of the visit included hearing the MacKay’s farming philosophy, seeing this approach in practice and observing the principles of LandCare and wildlife protection in situ. For our members it was a most satisfying experience.

‘Balance’ and ‘care’ appear among the corner posts of farm management on this 500 acre enterprise. The Mackays are located amidst the steep and challenging hills of the Poowong area, with its high rainfall and testing terrain.

The dairy herd consists of 240 Friesian/Holsteins, purpose bred as durable not necessarily volume milkers. Genetic selection for strong legs and good feet is essential due to the hills. Heifers are crossed with lowline bulls and offspring subsequently marketed as pre-packed meat. Around the dairy, a 28 unit herringbone, there are extensive sealed areas, the most significant being a large under-cover feed pad. What a wise investment for cows and humans when wet days can be the norm. The concrete pad also contributes to the preservation of pasture and to protection of new born calves, sheltered from fox predation.

The MacKays have farmed ‘Arnum’ for over 40 years and are working to their original aim in their buying the property in the early 1970s. Peter explained that they would like to leave the farm as a better place for animals, people and the environment. With the thought put into managing and recycling cattle effluent, soil erosion, stream purity and vegetation, they are on track. WOFWG members were impressed with the evident improvements made over the decades to this challenging dairy farm.

WOFWG’s October activity is a fascinating visit to Mal Stewart’s Wine Services (consultancy and bottling) at both Drouin & Yarragon.

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, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

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

August 2012

WOFWG members went happily back to their childhoods for August’s farm visit to Animals on the Move (‘AOTM’), a unique farm based on a compact property at Gembrook.

Leonie Woodham and family took on the enterprise over fifteen years ago. They built it up and diversified its activities. They now offer franchise opportunities to other animal lovers to take animals into the community. On top of this success, AOTM has won business awards for its administration, business model and efficiency.

WOFWG members appreciated that there are also career opportunities for young animal lovers, with the enterprise being a hands-on venue for training and certification of animal carers. The business has appropriate accreditation from government regulatory bodies to keep and display protected species. A significant benefit of this is that the features, nutrition, health and habitat needs of these animals are explained to enthusiastic audiences. This widens the understanding and appreciation of these animals, hopefully ensuring their greater respect and protection. In vans, trailers and specially designed containers, trained handlers take animals into the community.

There is a wide range of farmyard and Australian native animals. Younger animals, such as lambs, calves, rabbit litters and chickens are very popular with junior school groups. Leonie explained that each of the AOTM programs is unique, designed to encourage a caring and nurturing approach towards animals in domesticity, as well as in the wild.

AOTM aims at a range of client groups, not just educational opportunities for school children. Displays are booked for corporate or public events and also for markets or aged care centres. Animals which participate are not just the usual farm yard creatures – sheep, cattle, goats, gees and so on, but also reptiles, birds and other wild life.

WOFWG’s September activity is a visit to the MacKay’s dairy property “Arnum” at Poowong East. Here, WOFWG will see the principles of LandCare and wildlife protection put into practice.

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, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

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

July 2012

Winter’s cold starts and short days did not deter an enthusiastic bus load of members travelling to Bendigo for the annual sheep and wool show. The long day proved to be as popular and fulfilling as it did in 2011. A number of members returned for a second look at what is new in the sheep industry.

Victoria’s 135 year-old Sheep Show was said to enjoy a new era of attracting the next generation of farmers, foodies and fashion enthusiasts, all interested in the versatile qualities of Australian sheep. It was not only sheep which produced the fleeces on display. Alpacas have an established popularity with breeders, spinners and yarn makers. This year, one of the stands informed visitors of a demand for alpaca meat.

It is understood, however, that alpacas are not yet slaughtered in Victoria but are, in one special NSW abattoir. The wool fashion parades drew the attention of some attendees. Others wandered around to spectate sheep judging, shearing competitions, sheep dog trials and demonstrations of new machinery. Shearing and general yard management of sheep create occupational risks.

The inventiveness of farmers who design equipment to protect handlers from injury was admired. It was apparent that this year’s good wool prices and increased demand for quality breeding stock will see investment in new labour saving purchases. In the main ring, the ongoing competition among sheep dog trainers was almost addictive. A record 250 dogs competed over five days. Fortunately, the specific rules of sheep dog trials were explained. It was thus easy to see why just one dog observed, Spot from Tasmania, delighted the crowd and confirmed her handler’s faith in this very professional border collie cross.

WOFWG’s August activity is a visit to a mobile animal farm at Gembrook.

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, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

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

June 2012

Peter Harry, Head of Corporate Affairs, Port of Melbourne welcomed us to the Port’s Education Centre, where he gave us a brief overview of the Port and its activities.

This included the Port’s historical development and how it is both geographically and economically connected with Melbourne. Handling around 2.5 million containers annually, it is Australia’s largest container and general cargo port.

The port deals with clean trades including around 1,000 new motor vehicles daily. The Port of Melbourne has 34 commercial berths, including two modern purpose-built, four-berth international container terminals. Multi-purpose berths handle cargoes ranging from timber to motor vehicles, and there are specialised berths for dry cargoes, including cement, grain, sugar, fly ash and gypsum. Dedicated facilities are available for a variety of liquids such as molasses through to crude oil and petrochemicals, using the latest handling methods. The Port has a wharf length of 7 kilometres, and different berths handle different cargoes.

The Port of Melbourne Corporation solely manages the Port, it is not an operator, and they are available at any time to transport 24 international carriers. Peter then expained the trade flows, and the commodities involved in both exports and imports. Milk powder is one of the largest exports to Asia.

There is already a visible increase in the figures to March this financial year (both imports and exports). The drivers for this continued growth are the population increase, our increased rainfall (there is a correlation between the rainfall and grain containers), and the regional economic performance.

Peter then spoke on Port Phillip Bay, gateway to the Port. It was interesting to see the shipping routes, and to hear of the Bay’s good environmental health and as a recreational asset. For water sports and fishing the bay has 264 kilometres of coastline, it supports penguins, dolphins, seals, and 3 million people. We left to the Port’s Education Centre to travel by ferry around the Port. It was an interesting and informative afternoon, travelling to Williamstown and then back around the various docks, and disembarking at “Jeff’s Shed”. We saw many aspects of the Port’s operations, and despite being a cold day, the trip was most enjoyable.

May 2012

The truly extraordinary collection of military memorabilia, taking Bernie Dingle and his wife over 25 years, was a special experience for WOF members in early May. Following Anzac Day commemorations, this museum vist was more than fitting.

What appears as a simple sign to a ‘Light Horse Museum’ off the Freeway at Nar Nar Goon is no indication of the vast array of weaponry, wagons, saddlery, photos, honour boards, medical items and stories which Bernie has put together.

WOF members were silenced as they listened to profoundly sad tales of the losses of Australian horses sent to war, of dogs, carrier pigeons, mules, camels, and of course, of men and women.

The museum is a complex of tableaux and authentic horse drawn military vehicles, of uniforms and of so many reminders of the cruelty of war, then and now.

On a less emotional level, field catering for armies of men, as they fought in WWI front lines, proved fascinating. Bernie has found and restored a number of wagons, often pulled by mules, carrying huge panniers of hot food, baking bread and boiling the billy, for hungry and needy troops. Without adequate nutrition and clean water, men and animals at war are more than vulnerable to disease and death.

As the WOF members explored the sheds of artefacts, Bernie told story after story, quoting astounding facts of battle losses, of horse-laden ships at sea, of women nursing the injured under leaking canvas and of heroic acts. It was some vital acknowledgement of animals at war, to hear of the ‘Dicken Medal’ for animal bravery equalling the Victoria Cross.

Finally, WOF members were relieved to learn that legalities are in place to ensure the collection is kept together in the future for the sake of history.

WOF’s June event is a trip to Port Melbourne and the Docklands, with a cruise of the import/export shipping areas so important to the agricultural economy.

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, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

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

April 2012

April’s farm visit was to hilly Loch, to the Charolais and Red Angus stud run by Noelene and Geoff King. When “Hazel Downs” was purchased by them 14 years ago they commented that the farm required a great deal of time knocking into shape to be a productive beef cattle property.

Now it is capable of running a one head to the acre. This stocking rate also requires considerable time hand feeding through winter. Also, silage and hay are cut, with fertilizer applied annually on a rotational basis.

Noelene commenced her stud cattle interests in 1983. Geoff had Shorthorns and Noelene had Herefords. When they came together they decided to diversify to Charolais. Whilst the Shorthorns have been replaced with Red Angus, the Kings find the Hereford, Charolais and Red Angus cross exceptionally well.

In addition to breeding their ideal animal, over the years the Kings have nurtured cattle management in many young people who have come to their Loch farm. They enjoy teaching how to prepare and show stud cattle. Each year they take cattle to the Stud Beef Victoria Handlers Camp.

Noelene is Chair of the Royal Melbourne Show Beef Cattle Committee and Geoff is a member of the Victorian Charolais Committee. Both are life members of the Berwick & District Agricultural Society and members of the Dandenong Agricultural Society. In recognition of her enthusiasm, commitment and willingness to share knowledge, in 2010 Noelene was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her involvement in agricultural shows and the promotion of youth in agriculture.

Geoff and Noelene particularly enjoyed showing WOF members how to train cattle for showing. They use a traditional and sensitive “whisperer” approach to gain the animals’ trust. It was great to have an interactive opportunity on this farm visit, with some of the WOF women having an enjoyable go at leading the cattle on display.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. You do not have to be a farmer to participate. For more details on the next event contact secretary, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

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

March 2012

The first farm visit for 2012 was to a familiar local enterprise at Darnum. Pig breeder, Bronwyn Cowan, an original member of our organisation some two decades past, welcomed members back to see progress with her niche piggery.

Given the rain of the previous week the paddocks of pigs of all ages and breeds, were happily enjoying the muddy conditions and the occasional bursts of sunshine. WOF members walked along the farm lanes while Bronwyn gave valuable insights into pig husbandry and intelligence. One fascinating observation she shared is of the tendency of sows with large litters to share the responsibility for providing milk for all their piglets. Charming as this image might be, WOF members were also guarded. Bronwyn explained how fiercely protective sows can be if any of their young brood are handled by humans very early in life.

The focus of the visit was on the challenges, pitfalls, opportunities and satisfaction of running a viable animal enterprise on a small scale. With the aim to produce both an optimum product and return custom, the pork leaving this farm has developed a solid reputation with which larger commercial productions cannot compete. Notwithstanding, this open range pig farm has to make a profit and does so through farmers’ markets in strategic locations.

Landrace, Tamworth, Saddleback, Berkshire, Wessex and various crosses in between satisfy Bronwyn’s interest in preserving rare pig breeds in Australia. Given that pigs were along the livestock arriving on the First Fleet in 1788, pork production has remained a mainstay of the Australian diet. Producers such as this farm at Darnum, compete successfully with the huge import trend towards cheap pork from North America. While fat levels in the meat have been reduced over time, flavour has been maximised, partly by pigs’ diet, by the open range approach and also by slaughter at the optimum time.

The production of market desirable pork is a goal which it appears that Bronwyn and her partner have well achieved.

The next event on the WOFWG calendar is the annual state-wide Gathering, this year in Buchan over 16-18 March. Members are keenly looking forward to this long weekend of fun events, farming activities and rural catch ups.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. You do not have to be a farmer to participate. For more details contact secretary, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

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