Category Archives: 2010

November 2010

Women on Farms West Gippsland (‘WOF’) finished their 2010 calendar with a three day exploration of rural activities around Bairnsdale. Forty five members enjoyed a well organised and highly memorable trip to the east, appreciating the difference in rainfall, terrain and soils from what is familiar in West Gippsland.

While the return train journey was a highlight in itself, the farm enterprises visited were impressive and diverse.

Leadoux Turkeys welcomed the WOF group to their semi-intensive turkey property, with the birds housed in deep litter sheds and later in grassed yards. The turkeys are slaughtered and processed onsite, with the product subsequently sold at farmers markets and selected butchers.

On the Mitchell river flats the enormity of intense vegetable production was impressive. The scale of Bulmer’s vegetable farm had many of us in awe, let alone some of the statistics. For example, five million lettuces are planted per annum! This vast farm sells mostly through Sydney markets, where refrigerated transports deliver specially chill-packed vegetables including broccoli, capsicum, sweet corn, spinach and many lettuce varieties.

At Tamcal’s property near Swan Reach, the goals of ‘opportunistic’ beef feed lotting were explained, as well as the horse breeding program. Here the intention is to breed a stockhorse cross equine suitable in conformation and temperament for showing. Members with a keen ear for details were amused to note that the property visited was once owned by Slim Dusty, the late country singer.

Culinaire Herbs, Kitchen Garden and Cooking School provided an opportunity to appreciate and taste the products of the rich soils. Lunch, featuring produce from the garden, was served on a verandah overlooking the scenic Tambo River.

Now, what a treat to visit a feather farm! Also located near the Tambo River, Tambo Fine Feathers proudly showed WOF members the range of birds nurtured for their exotic feather production. Pheasants of many colours, peafowl, guinea fowl and several domestic roosters, are kept in separate pens to ensure that the feathers produced are in excellent condition for sale to craft workers, fly fishermen and milliners.

The final visit was to a wildflower farm at Sarsfield. Here, on 38 acres the current owners are developing their Sydney and Japanese markets. Twice weekly, refrigerated trucks, the same which convey the Lindenow lettuces, take proteas, waratahs, leucospermum, and other wildflowers to interstate agents and outlets. The relatively harsh growing conditions are balanced by sandy soil and reticulated

water. WOF members learned about the exacting processes involved in selecting and preparing flowers for sale. The number of hands and agents required to deliver flowers fresh to distant markets caused interest. There was also admiration for the couple who have taken up this property, their having moved out of the corporate world into the joys and new knowledge of flower production.

This multi-farm, Bairnsdale adventure was a highlight of the year for WOF, giving an appreciation of how different farming can be in adjacent regions. Evening meals gave opportunities to talk excitedly about the enterprises visited. Many WOFers also made sure they tasted the local produce and wines.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women – no need to be a farmer to participate. Phone our Secretary for membership information – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or, for information about the 2011 calendar of activities go to www.womenonfarms.org

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

October 2010

The alpine trout business at Noojee proved a popular venue for the Women on Farms West Gippsland October farm visit.

This was the second local fish farm inspected. Previously we had been to an indoor barramundi enterprise at Garfield. By contrast, the Alpine Fish Farm covers a number of open hectares on the Latrobe River flats. The river is essential to the farm, with the operators licensed and regulated to use precious river water.

Trout of various species (brown, golden and rainbow) and salmon are raised to market size in a carefully managed series of holding ponds. The oxygen content of the pondages is critical to the health of the fish. Key determinant of the size of the fish, more so than age, is nutrition. Fish pellets sourced from Tasmania have proven to be key to rapid fish growth. The pellets are around 40% protein and are obviously highly palatable, by the frenetic response of the otherwise invisible fish when pellets are scattered over the ponds.

The Batarilos, Michael and Mate, have owned the farm since early 2009. While they were preceded by a number of previous owners, it appears that financial success of the business was elusive. When Mate explained the number of very costly inputs – electricity, water and heavy earth-working machinery, for example – it was more than evident that fish farming exceeds the usual farming overheads.

Most locals have visited the farm to purchase fresh fish or to try trout fishing from the heavily stocked ponds. Yet, the Melbourne fish markets and fish outlets are the main income sources. Others include the supply of trout youngsters to farm dam owners and to water management bodies such as Blue Rock Dam. Onsite, in addition to the raising ponds, there are facilities for the cleaning, smoking and sales of fish. Many WOF members took the chance to buy the prize product. The biggest delight of the day was a live catch! One of our more senior members threw in a line to haul back a trout in less time than it took to bait the hook!

The WOF group was most impressed with the energy and vision of the owners, and was equally grateful for the considerable time given to explaining the details of this fascinating local, rural enterprise.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women – no need to be a farmer to participate. Our November activity is a multi-day series of farm visits in the Bairnsdale area, for which prior bookings have now closed. Phone our Secretary for more details – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or, for information about the calendar of activities go to the website www.womenonfarms.org

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

September 2010

On a foggy morning Women on Farms arrived at Margaret Young’s property in Yarragon South. Margaret is a member of Women on Farms and two years ago bought her dream property of 15 acres set among the climbing hills.

Margaret was a school teacher and after retiring decided to return to her childhood roots, going in search of a property which would fulfil all her requirements. Sold her house in Caulifield quickly and bought the property she now calls home.

Margaret’s house is surrounded by a one acre garden which is work in progress. The garden is divided up into ‘rooms’, herb garden, orchard, bankment plants, hen house and just a delight to walk around. There is a flowering plant to see in whichever way you look and lift your eyes above ground level and one is spell bound by the wonderful northerly views looking down towards Yarragon and beyond.

The 15 acres are agisted to another family who run cattle. The property has two dams. The largest dam required work to stop the leakage upon Margaret’s arrival, all the water had to be drained out twice. Thanks to a wet winter this dam is now over flowing and we were able to see trout jumping during our inspection time around the dams.

The meeting was a relaxed and friendly one with time to chat and many members went home with plant cuttings from Margaret’s garden. Margaret also shared with us something of her previous life when she joined an older performing women’s circus. Margaret has been called upon to stilt walk in the local community and she is happy to perform to keep her skills up.

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. Our October farm visit will be Tuesday 5th October to the Alpine Trout Farm, Noojee. Phone the secretary for more details – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or for information about the 2010 calendar of activities look at the website www.womenonfarms.org

August 2010

Cold and drizzle, mud and hilly paddocks – none deter members of WOF West Gippsland! Such was the situation for the August farm visit to an organic farm at Piedmont. With the Latrobe River streaming past and the adjacent forests looming tall and damp, Liz Clay and Wally Brown showed members over their property.

Winter months tend to be dormant ones for fruit trees and vegetable crops. Yet it was an excellent time to see the benefit of green manure crops, composting, fallow paddock management and weed control. With Liz explaining the hard work over many years to control blackberry and bracken fern infestations, the clean result proved the value of the commitment.

Organic farming links to a holistic approach to the environment and life in general. Liz explained the importance of the practices which emphasise avoiding chemical residues and maximising the inter-relationships across soils, climate, plants, animals and the humans who set out to manage them all. In a small acreage in a valley setting near Noojee, Liz and Wally aim for optimal returns from a diversity of products, rather than from any monoculture. Their rich clay soils see harvests of potatoes, maize, beans, peas, carrots, lettuce, strawberries, leeks, beetroots, hazelnuts and more.

Members learned of the requirements for certification and accreditation of organic farming properties. The supporters of farmers markets provide a keen if not guaranteed demand for the certified produce from organic farms such as this.

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. Our September farm visit will be on Tuesday 7 to the small mixed farm of one of our members at Yarragon South. Phone the Secretary for more details – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or, for information about the 2010 calendar of activities look at the website www.womenonfarms.org

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

July 2010

About 30 members of the Women On Farms group met at Radfords Meat Processing Plant in Warragul on Tuesday , 6 July.

We were greeted by Robert Radford, Paul Sheedy and Paul MacFarlane. Radfords processes meat for the domestic market. They have won numerous awards and accreditations. With a work force of about a hundred, most are sourced locally with no foreign workers brought in.

They can process up to 60 cattle per hour. Each beast carcass can be traced by its ear butt, from the farmer to the butcher, all over Australia. Cattle are rested before going into be processed. This reduces stress and gives better quality meat.

Due to new generation ethnics, more and more of the beast is being utilized. Offal, once discarded, is now in demand by the Chinese and Vietnamese communities. Companies come to Radfords with some very interesting requests. Foetal blood from unborn calves was once collected before the process became too expensive.

On the day they were processing sheep, and members going into the facility had to don plastic coats, hair nets and shoe covers. Groups of 8 were taken for a tour of the processing floor, new chiller and boning room.

Outside, Radfords has put in a water recycling plant, as no town water is available and trucking in water was very expensive. Radfords is the first meat processing plant in Australia to install this process, using overseas technology with local tradesmen and other processors are showing interest in the process. They are able to process 80,000 litres a day and the water so purified is better that town supply. There is no need to irrigate effluent as before. The filteried solids go into compost. Radfords is still finalizing tests to get permission from Government for treatment lagoons.

We then moved on to Lardner Park where we had lunch in the Board Room. The Chief Executive Officer of Lardner Park Events talked about the history of Lardner Park and their plans for the future. He then showed members through the recently opened Entertainment Centre, a venue which impressed all the members.

June 2010

Tasting the final product was a fitting conclusion to the June farm meeting for WOF West Gippsland. Welsh Black cattle at Tynong were visited, being the proudly owned stud herd of Jill and Allan Furborough.

With so many WOF members involved in cattle production, especially beef cattle grazing, it was enlightening to hear about a lesser known breed in our area. The Furboroughs gave a detailed description of their passion for this beef breed. With the cattle shed tidied and adorned with show ribbons, it was evident that part of the marketing strategy for the cattle is competitive showing.

In fact, at the conclusion of the visit, once the gourmet sausages were enjoyed, Jill gave a demonstration of her grooming techniques to prepare her stock for shows. With interbreed classes important – that is, where the Welsh Blacks are compared with other breeds such as Angus and Murray Greys, the value of grooming was evident.

Key qualities which the cattle displayed to WOF visitors and which, we understand, are evident in the show ring are: docility and ease of handling, excellent carcass conformation, vigorous and fertile bulls and cows over an extended life span and hardiness in all climatic conditions. Jill commented that during past summers when days of mid 40 temperatures have been challenging, these cattle, with their British origins, have coped very well.

The Welsh Black breed is now so much better understood by WOF members who are always grateful to those farmers prepared to take time out and explain their choice of farming enterprise as well as the more detailed aspects of successful management, whether cattle or carrots!

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. Our next farm visit will be on Tuesday 6 July to Radfords’ abattoir on Lardner Track, Warragul. Phone the Secretary for more details – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or, for information about the 2010 calendar of activities look at the website www.womenonfarms.org

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

May 2010

Our May farm visit was to familiar environs for those members with cattle – dense, green pasture in undulating paddocks. The particular point of interest, however, was the cattle shed. This farm is a dairy which minimises grazing and maximises cattle comfort (and hence their productivity) through the provision of a ‘live-in’ free stall shed. The massive structure is 200m by 20m, covering what was at one stage a feedlot pad. Now, the shed shelters, feeds and protects the dairy herd from weather extremes.

John and Cobie Giliam of Nilma North kindly hosted our group, explaining the aims, economics and practicalities of their enterprise. John and Cobie are 3rd generation dairy folk with progressive, achievement oriented eyes. They see the future of dairying continuing to flex under climate change and market fluctuations. The free stall approach they have developed has been in operation for over 12 months now, with the herd gradually adjusting to shedding and reduced, if any, open grazing. John explained the greater efficiencies in pasture management of cutting and carrying pasture to the cattle rather than have them trample and degrade the high production paddocks.

This is important to the aim of self-sufficiency with fodder.

The herd of 320 cows has 280 presently in milk, with the shed housing close to 240. Not only is the management of the herd intensive, but so is the work in monitoring cost inputs and outputs. Members were impressed with the statistics John keeps as a way of measuring the true efficiency of this approach to dairying. We understand that such free stall barns had their Victorian origins in the west of the state. Barn-housed dairy cows are common in the northern hemisphere where colder weather has a significant impact on milk production.

Once again, members felt proud that such a modern and results focussed farming enterprise is in our own area. Thanks were extended to the Giliams for having us with our myriad of questions, curiosity and passion for all things rural.

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. Our next farm visit will be on Tuesday 1 June to see a welsh black cattle stud at Tynong North. Phone the Secretary for more details – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or, for information about the 2010 calendar of activities look at the website www.womenonfarms.org

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

April 2010

Red-Eared Slider Turtles – heard of them?  Heard of Cane Toads?  From what research officers at DPI’s Ellinbank facility described, some of their research may be critical to whether Victoria has to contend with a pest problem as damaging as the cane toad blight in Australia’s tropical north.

This study was among those presented to the WOF group when our monthly visit in April took us to Ellinbank.  Here we were hosted and feasted on current research presentations.  Now, back to the Red-Eared Slider Turtles which were brought into Australia as ‘pets’ from the USA and which, when foolishly released into dams and creeks seriously threaten native aquatic species.  DPI officers cautioned that this research is new and thus tentative.  We all felt that we needed to spread the word to keep an eye out for unusual dark shelled and red-eared turtles in local dams, streams and public reserves.  See them – call the DPI!

Other topics presented included studies into behaviour and psychology of dairy cows.  A benefit of this work is appreciating how to maximise cows’ trust and stability in order to minimise potential loss of milk production.  Down the hill we inspected large feed pads and undercover feeding areas where experiments are undertaken into the impact of different regimes of fodder and cow management.  The DPI milk a total herd count of up to 500 cows, with various studies into feeding strategies, methane minimisation and drought preparedness in place.

Climate and rainfall patterns, as linked to global barometric changes, are part of the climate change studies.  Separately there is a well-researched and supported program for new landholders needing to understand the land: soil health, weed management and pest control, for example.  This valuable help is freely available upon enquiry through new.landholders@dpi.vic.gov.au.

All in all, DPI impressed everyone with the range of activities being undertaken on our doorstep.  We saw the evident commitment of the staff involved in such important support for the rural community in Gippsland.

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.  Our next monthly visit will be on Tuesday 4 May to a ‘free stall barn dairy farm at Nilma North.   Phone the Secretary for more details – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or for the 2010 calendar of activities go to  www.womenonfarms.org

For enquiries about this article, please contact:

Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.

March 2010

The  community of Bayles is  home to a  successful business with international reach.  WOF members visited the food drying plant established  by the Scalzo family.  The factory was developed over 15 years ago in  original dairy premises.  However, now there is an array of equipment for spray drying liquids, roasting nuts, cooking and drying meats, and blending various seed mixes for the bread industry.

The Scalzo brothers, of Italian origin, found a market niche with their food drying industry which reportedly has few competitors in Australia. Cashews from Vietnam and whole linseed from Canada are among the imported foods to which the Scalzo processes add value.  Many of the dried products, especially the meat extractive powder, go off shore for instant noodles, mainly to  Korea and Malaysia. Meat sources include beef, pork, chicken,  lamb and even kangaroo.

That this food business generates foreign income is impressive given the small workforce required to run the complex plant  at Bayles.

The energy needs of the drying equipment are so high that heat is generated onsite via boilers fuelled with brown briquettes from Yallourn.  However, electricity use is essential for the large freezers and cool rooms storing raw product.

An impressive aspect of the inspection was  the emphasis on hygiene, meeting numerous regulatory requirements as well as being ever ready for audit by  authorities such as the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service.  International concerns about mad cow disease have necessarily imposed standards around the  use of beef products.  Further, sampling is routinely undertaken for microbial presence, with off-site testing undertaken and recorded.

We all gained a sense of this enterprise being a leader in its field. No doubt staff loyalty is an element of Scalzo success in the important food industry.

After lunch a visit was  made to Bandicoot Corner, a small reserve of Crown land managed by  the Cardinia Environment Coalition (CEC).  The reserve provides a safe haven for two species of bandicoot and other native wildlife.  A CEC volunteer gave a short guided tour, with WOF members keeping alert for bandicoot sightings.  This quiet corner of the former Koo Wee Rup swamp did not deliver a  bandicoot on this occasion.

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.  Our next monthly visit will be on 13 April to the DPI facility at Ellinbank.  The focus of this visit will be dairy cattle and the testing  which DPI undertakes.  Phone the Secretary for more details – Jean Irvine on 56221236, or, for the 2010 calendar of activities go to the websitewww.womenonfarms.org

For enquiries about this article, please contact:

Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.