Saturday, December 31, 2011

Australian Year of the Farmer

2012 Marks the Beginning to Australian Year of the farmer, so what not get on board and show your support either as a Rural producers or as someone who doesn't necesarily know that much about how their food and fibre are produced.

Check out there website here: http://www.yearofthefarmer.com.au/

Just so nobody misses the big moment, here is a subtle remeinder:


Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Lights

As I mentioned in an earlier post every Christmas finds itself enabling me to do more and more things to light up the night (and do untold damage to my parents power bill).
This year we upped the ante with our Christmas lights. So we decided to do words with rope lights. So after a couple of hours, three bags of zip ties and a large amount of fencing wire (much to my fathers delight) this is what we came up with:

Peace: 20m long











Joy: 10m long

To go with our words display this year we also had our traditional house display and also one of our pencil pines in the front paddock.





 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's Christmas Time!

Okay so I am slightly late in posting this, but hey better late than never.
Christmas the time when family gather, food is abundant (unfortunately the relationship between food consumption and waist line size is proportional) and I find new and more imaginative ways of doing creative things to may parents power bill (more on this later)!

For my overseas colleagues who read this blog I thought I'd let you in on a bit of an insight into an Aussie Christmas, as I have been dutifully told that we do things "weirdly" (in a nice sense) - Quote from a Texan friend.....

We have our similarities in that we still exchange gifts and spend time with our family but we do other unique things:
 
1. Christmas in Australia is usually a warm affair so we eat and drink cold things to substitute.
  • Popular choices are prawns and beer (or the occasional cocktail) - No Christmas is complete in Oz without copious amounts of prawns (or shrimp as they are sometimes called, but shrimp in Oz are something different)
  • Other choices include cold leg hams, chicken and turkey. We are very lucky in our areas to have several butchers who do their own smoking and source only local hams to provide us with an excellent selection.
2.  Deserts are often varied considerably.
  • We have the traditional selection of Christmas Puddings & Christmas Cakes - I have friends who often make there's 12 months in advance and leave them to mature.
  • We also eat another Aussie delicacy called Pavlova (this is a very contentious issue with our nabours accross the Tasman who claim that they came up with it first) or Pav is a baked meringue topped with freshly whipped cream, fruit and chocolate. 
3. Sporting matches are abundant
  • An Aussie Christmas is not complete without either The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race or the Boxing Day Test
  • Most Aussies will watch either the Boxing Day Test (Cricket) or the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, or both on Boxing Day
    • I personally go for the Sydney to Hobart as I can track it online.
4. Trips to the beach are a must.
  • Or if you are like me and live four hours from the coast, any excuse to go for a swim in the creek is fine.
    • Relevant excuses include having to fix the flood fence.




5. If you live on a farm, there's always something to do.
  • Cows and horses have no sense of timing, so there is always something be mended, a flood crossing to fix or a cow (or 20) to preg test.











Image Sources:  
http://www.spill.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Camils-prawns2.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/MCG99.jpg

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Views on Courier Mail Live Export Column

I had the (dis)pleasure of reading through an editorial from the states biggest newspaper this morning (The Courier Mail). Now don't get me wrong usually I like reading the Courier as there is often some very quality journalism that occurs....... Today: Not so.

After reading through columnist Paul Williams views on live export I was left considering where he got his facts from?
Comments such as this really got me a bit annoyed:

"Indeed, Europe is an interesting case. From exporting millions of live head a decade ago, the continental trade has slowed to a trickle, and will soon phase out altogether - all on the strength of changing public opinion"
 I query Mr Williams, on this statement. Firstly yes Public Opinion does have a terrific impact (as we have learned this year) but it would not be the only underpinning factor. Considering where Europe is located geographically in the world in comparison to the markets it supplies, when you compare that to Australia and our geographic locale you will discover the distance are a lot shorter for Australian exporters.
"Given the grief this trade has caused both sides of politics - remember the 2003 debacle under John Howard when 57,000 live sheep were stranded in the Middle East on the Cormo Express? - one would think that, even for base political purposes, the major parties would seize every opportunity to extricate themselves from a practice that causes acute international embarrassment."
Mr Williams then goes onto mention The Cormo Express debacle and the impact that it had on Australian politics and the impact that it hard in tarnishing Australia's reputation in the eyes of the world. Whilst this situation was regrettable and upsetting and highly disappointing to see. I would also mention that the Governments snap decision to ban live exports this year left livestock producers in somewhat of a similar situation. Producers running out of feed and unable to move livestock to other markets, were moving to considering shooting them to prevent suffering. If the Government were concerned about welfare in Indonesia, they should have been equally concerned about the ramifications that would have occurred as a result of this snap decision. Did they realise what this would do when they were making an election campaign out of it?
"Opponents cited the usual arguments of the loss of a $1 billion industry and local jobs as their defence to keep a cruel status quo.
But neither has to be. First, when Australia exports live animals, we also surrender Australian slaughterhouse jobs (not to mention valuable DNA hard-won after years of controlled breeding).
Animals humanely stunned and slaughtered in Australia can be a jobs boon for the Northern Territory."
This leads into Mr Williams closing remarks where he maintains that it would be fine to see the cessation of an industry that contributes large amounts to the economy, though in his defence he has stated that there would be more jobs retained and profits by moving the processing operations on-shore. Had Mr Williams listened fully to the opposing parties rebuttal (from the ALP conference telecast which he has based this article on), he would have found that the feasibility for setting up a chilled meat processing division in Northern Australia is not viable due to the wet season that occurs every year. There is a reason why properties shut down or move to skeleton crews during this time as the rain inundation that occurs makes most means of travel (bar air services) unpassable.
The other point Mr Williams makes in this article is that we are destroying sought after DNA bloodlines that have been hard fought for. The cattle Live Export trade in itself would not be sending genetically productive animals to sale and then onto meat markets. The animals that are commonly sourced for these markets are steers (castrated males = no genetic input to the herd) and animals that are deemed non-productive (eg: Spayed Heifers/Non-Pregnant Cows/Infertile Animals). Animals that are being exported overseas such as Dairy Cattle are not being sent for the meat industry they are sent for the purposes of genetic improvement in other herds overseas.

I understand everyone's right an opinion, but what I don't agree with is writing an opinion piece in a major Australian news paper without researching the points being made in it.

You Can read the full article by Paul Williams HERE

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some Humour For The Day.....

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook and I thought it was hillarious so I thought I would share-
First there were City Rockers, now step aside and meet: Council Workers:
Enjoy.......

Monday, December 5, 2011

How Transparent is Transparent?

*Now please don't get me wrong I don't advocate animal cruelty or the actions of a minority.

This last week has seen a spate of recordings being made public from the wrong doings of some individuals. These instances have been appropriately investigated and those responsible punished accordingly. The statement that has come out that really perplexes me came last week from Animal Liberation Group: Animals Australia, which called for closed circuit CCTV cameras to be installed in all Sale Yard and Meat Processing Facilities in Australia.
This point I find curious, if these installations were to install CCTV cameras then who would be the independent advisor that would analyse the content of these films and report any actions that warrant reporting? This person would have to be objective and non-biased. So you would assume that the operators of these facilities would not be able to, and an organisation like animals Australia would not be appropriate either (taking into consideration this group has its own agenda's and actively promotes veganism amongst its members). This task would have to fall to a department within the Government and the likelihood of this happening is low, owing to the amount of restructuring occurring.
The other point I find increasingly interesting is the point brought up during the Country Hour segment (ABC Qld)  most livestock saleyard facilities operate around once a week (some more, but not a large number), these facilities also occupy a large area (many hectares in some cases) to install CCTV cameras and monitor them across large areas and instances where they are used one is just not viable.
Other processing facilities work as a private entity and therefore have procedures in place to monitor the movements of employees and visitors through Sign In & Out, visitor identification and secure access areas.

More and more recently these actions are being reported by the general public through the use of mobile phone technology. 
"public are using phones and cameras to film the treatment of animals at cattle sales" Source: ABC Country Hour
Phones these days are equipped with a multitude of options allowing them to capture video and images and allows this footage to be sent to other third party users or uploaded to other servers rapidly. Clearly it is hard to ban these devices from facilities (though some environments prohibit their usage) and it is not illegal to film in a public area (again private environments are subject to differing rules). Restricting the usage of cameras and other recording devices whilst difficult to do would also be viewed as if producers had something to hide and this does not bode well with the presentation of our image within the market as this makes us look secretive and have something to hide.
Again its only a small minority that are giving cause for defamatory action against the industry, so its important to ensure that the standards of welfare are maintained across the board. It only takes one person doing the wrong things and for a member of the public to record these actions, leading to the industry being damaged again. This is all too easy in this day and age where you have people who may not be animal rights activists but are just looking for their five minutes of fame on TV.

My question to you is: 
  • Just how transparent is transparent? 
  • Are we being transparent enough?
  • What are ways we can improve or changes we need to make?
Now understandingly transparency is hard to do particularly in industries where biosecurity standards have to be maintained.  I'd like to know, please comment below and tell me what you think.

Image Sources-
Smart Phones: http://public.cenriqueortiz.com/images/feature-smart-phone.png
Security Cameras: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_qLAIskTQXUc/TDh2TkbhwOI/AAAAAAAAApo/f6uSdtLYjGY/s1600/surveillance-cameras.jpg
ABC Screen Capture: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/201112/s3383429.htm

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Homeward Bound

All packed up and ready to roll!
Heading home for the holidays, as usual I am taking the wonderful Queensland Rail (Follow them here: @QueenslandRail) Tilt Train (I think this is trip number six). So I have now packed all my gear that I am taking home for the Summer Break. and it is all waiting patiently in my common room for me to pick up and pack into a friends car.




So for the trip home as I am taking the Tilt Train, here are some fun facts about Australia's Fastest Rail Service:

  • Queensland Rail (QR) Operates two different Tilt Train Fleets: The Diesal  Brisbane Cairns Fleet and the Electric Brisbane, Rockhampton Fleet.
  • Just like planes all the trains have names: At last count there are The City of Cairns (BNE to CNS), City of Townsville (BNE to CNS), City of Maryborough (BNE to RTON) and The City of Rockhampton (BNE to RTON).
  • As the name suggests the Tilt Trains can in fact tilt as they are going around corners. 
  • The train is also I high speed capable of speeds in excess of 160kh/hr, with the top speed (not used for conveying passengers) being clocked at 210km/hr
  • The Tilt service offers all the mod cons you'd get on a plane such as Economy & Business Classes, in-seat entertainment centres  and meal service.
  • You can even have a shower on-board whilst travelling (you can brag to your friends that you had a shower at 150km/hr!)
  • The Brisbane to Cairns services currently feature a new art program showing up and coming artists as well as indigenous artwork incorporated into the trains external liverey.
So there you have it just a few facts and pointers about the Tilt Train!

Source: Wikipedia- Tilt Train (Here)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are You A Keen Photographer?

Amateur or Pro, Point and Shoot or DSLR, Nikon (and dare I say it) or Cannon?

If you enjoy having a crack at photography why don't you have a go at the 2011 "Champions of the Land" Photo Competition being held by Australian Womens Weekly in conjuction with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

Simply by capturing what you think best befits the theme you can go into the draw to win having your image published in Australian Womens Weekly. The five finalist winning images will be published in full colour in Australian Womens Weekly, with the overall winner recieving a 64GB iPad and further publicity.

You can submit up to three images, however they must significantly differ in content. The image/s are required to be accompanied by a 25 word story describing the story behind the image.

So what are you waiting for? Get Cracking.... Entries are due 29th November 2011.



For Further information Check Out Author and Photographer Fiona Lake's Blog: Here
Full Terms & Conditions Can be Viewed: Here

*The piece will be updated with the email to send through the images to
*Quality of this image is reduced, as it was taken with a camera phone...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Collision of Worlds

Disney this week just released on iTunes the eagerly anticipated sequel to the film Cars: Cars 2 (No this isn't a movie revue). Attached to this they also released the new soundtrack to the film of the same name.
One of the title tracks of this album is called "Collision of Worlds", sung by the unlikely duo of Robbie Williams & Brad Paisley (Check out the Music Video Below).


But fun videos aside, the underlying message of this song is that though we call things by different names, they are essentially the same and we are more like each other than we first thought.
I have been having some great twitter chats with people over the last couple of weeks, some Aussie and some Americans and have been discovering some great similarities between myself and them. Like for instance one follows the Australian Racing Superstar "Black Caviar" from all the way over in the middle of the US (just ask @milkmaid58, how big of a fan they are).
Another one that I found was the similarities we find in the labelling of products, for instance cheese in Australia is labelled as containing "possible traces of milk" (I am not kidding, check out the picture below), and after posting this to Twitter I have had a number of responses saying that yes this in indead the same overseas (this labelling is a topic for another day).

"Contains Milk"- Taken from the side of a Brie Container.
Would have thought the contents being milk might have been obvious?

But I guess the main message of this (aside from trying to link Disney and Food Labelling Standards) is, that if I had not gotten onto social networking I would have never met these people and been able to share my experiences and learn new stories and information.
So if you haven't already, get out there and have a crack at it.....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I like cows....

The news of late has been nothing but turmoil with issues that don't have any bearing on me being jammed down my throat and more pertinent issues such as the loss of lives of Australian Troops overseas or the current national outlook being shoved aside. After having a wonderfully entertaining twitter chat today with @AlisonFairleigh and @4FarmersFutures , I have come to the conclusion that news today (more specifically celebrity gossip) would be better if were about cows.

Here are just two examples of why this would be better:

1.  The Kardashian Divorce
In all honesty never has there been a piece of information that I consider to be less newsworthy, I do not need to be reminded every waking hour that yes they split up after only a little over a month together, compounded all the more annoyingly by the media circus surrounding Ms Kardashian's recent trip to Australia

'
Source: Craft Juice (Here)

  • Solution: I like cows- they don't ever get married....., they don't ever get divorced (because they don't get married!)

2. William and Cathryn: Is she pregnant or not?
 As much as I am a traditionalist and don't mind every so often hearing news of the Royal Family, why oh why must the media speculate as to whether the Princess is pregant or not? I get sick of turning on the TV to see the latest "all star panel" debating and speculating if Kate is indeed preganant just because she avoided eating some peanut butter, couldn't she just be allergic to nuts?

  • Solution: I like cows because there is no speculation as to whether they are pregnant or not. And if someone questions it, all you need is someone with good dexterity, a pair of overalls and a long glove. Problem solved!
Therefore:




I like cows they don't seem to come with half the drama the rest of the world has, and its pretty hard to get an entire news team to argue over their marital or pregnancy status, it's just too hard to do. When in doubt there's always a simple way to remedy the problem:

If in doubt ask the farmer!




Monday, November 7, 2011

Lest We Forget....

At the Eleven Hour of the Eleventh Day, of the Eleventh Month we pause to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty, protecting the freedoms and liberties we value so much as a nation.
It seems that all to sadly of late we have been reminded of the grim realities of war that our troops overseas are facing, as only this week they have been forced to farewell three of their fallen comrades.

This Remembrance Day I urge all to pause for a moment and remember not just those who have fallen, having paid the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, but also those still serving in active duty in lands afar.
Keep them in your thoughts, hearts and minds and we pray to them godspeed and safe returns home to all serving.

Coming from a small town rural area, it is hard not to notice the impact that wars have had on the community, one only has to look at the local cenotaph and see the name. If only those names could speak, what stories would they tell? Whether it was WWI or right through to the current conflicts, it is hard to say that there has not been a single person touched and affected by the stories of war. With the advent of mass communications and social media the exposure to the harshness of war is all the more easier, so sometimes it is good to stop a while and not just remember, but also think of the luxuries we have today and how that could have all been different if there hadn't been someone there to protect and defend those values.


 As fellow blog writer Alison Fairleigh (Talking Fairleigh- Fallen Soldiers) so eloquently put it:
To honour our fallen soldiers is as Australian as meat pies, footy and BBQs - it's stitched into the very fabric of our society.

It can't be said much better than that.

Source: Herald Sun (Link)

 In writing this piece I was not only touched by the stories of human courage and sacrifice, but also those of the animal contribution to the wars. Whether it be the faithful steed not able to return home from war or the  Explosive Detection Dogs (EDD), constant companion to their handlers and platoons. So often we count the human cost of war but we also need to look back and remember the animals that have served alongside, more often than none their job they do is not their intended purpose, often they are there providing terrific morale boosts.

This Friday please stop for a moment and remember........
Lest we Forget.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Just A Race? What's the Big Deal?

 The Race That Stops A Nation

Today was as always is for the first Tuesday in November the Melbourne Cup. Or as it is more widely known in other circles: "The Race That Stops A Nation". Wherever you are in Australia and overseas it is traditional to watch or listen to the big race. Whether it be in a school hall, board room, common room, the cab of a tractor or University students study during Swotvac (yep that was me).
Recently I had an international friend ask me just why this race is so significant to Australians, well here are some brief points and did you knows about the Melbourne Cup:

  •  The Cup is in its 151st Year of running (as of 2011)
  • The Cup is traditionally held on the first Tuesday of the Month of November.
  • It is the richest two mile handicap race in the world.
    • The 2011 Prize pool was $6, 175, 000.00 Plus trophies valued at around $125, 000.00.
  • The race for length is one of the longest in the world coming at 2 miles (3, 218m, though the current race length is 3, 200m).
  • Why does the Cup have three handles?
    • Well the famous Cup has three handles: One for the Jockey, One for the Trainer and One for the Owner.
    • It hasn't always been like this though over the years the cup has taken many forms from trophies emblazoned with Horses, to War Bonds (WWII Cup Years), to its present state (since its inception in 1916).
    • The cup is actually hand made from pieces containing 1.65kg of 18-carat gold.
  •  Now for some Records:
    • Makybe Diva is the only mare to have one the cup more than once (she has three cups)
    • Makybe Diva currently has the longest record for most consecutive Melbourne Cup wins (she has 3)
    •  The current record holder for the fastest time to run the Cup is the winner Kingston Rule (1990), who ran the race in 3min 16.3sec.
    • Australian Trainer Bart Cummings holds the record for most Cup wins as Trainer (12). 
    • The widest winning margin for a horse is tied at 8-lengths with both Archer (1862) and Rain Lover (1968).
    •  The heaviest weights to be carried are Carbine (1890, Winner) with 65.5kg, Makybe Diva (Heaviest Weight for Mare, 2005 Winner), 58kg and the heaviest weight carried of all time was Pharlap (1931, Placed 8th) with 10 stone 10pounds.
    • 2011 saw French Horse Dunaden edge out contender Red Cardeaux by one of the closest finishes in cup history, with commentators declaring its win by not a nose, but a nose hair.


  • 2011 also saw some interesting statistics:
    • Including this interesting tidbit I picked up from Twitter: 
 "Power use across our Sydney network dropped by 100 megawatts during #MelbCup - Same as powering down 1 million computers to sleep mode"
Now that's what I call the race that stops a Nation! (Literally)




These fun facts aside, the Melbourne Cup is a terrific boom for not just the local and Australian economies, but also the horse racing industry. What better location is there that showcases the efforts and achievements do we have each year that showcases the efforts of the Racing industry than the Spring Racing Carnival.
Whilst we don't breed breed Thoroughbreds I know only too well the sense of admiration and pride that those that race can experience, the feeling that you are being recognised for all your hard work and efforts. From Jockey, to Owner, to Strapper there is no stronger sense of enjoyment than to see your horse compete in such a prestigious field.

*Statistics & Data Sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne_Cup
*Data assumed correct at time of publication.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Photo Friday- 28th October 2011: "Christmas in October?"

 It's Christmas Time!

Yes you did read it right: Every year the college I live at while studying at Uni has a huge celebration for Christmas.
This year I was pleased to be able to help the student Exec putting on this event. I was able to secure eight big LED spotlights to light the room and the pillars, and a big smoke machine to provide the occasional fog (or blizzard). This topped off with Christmas Carols and the staple viewing material of The Grinch (quoted as being a treasured College heirloom).
Our catering team and chefs provided a wonderful meal with Christmas Ham, Turkey and Beef, with all the trimmings, cold meats and of course over 10kg's of Prawns! Dessert was a sumptuous affair with our Dessert Chef preparing beautiful rich Chocolate tarts and the Aussie favorite: Pavlova.





Friday, October 21, 2011

Photo Friday- 21st October 2011: "Where Are You?"

Where Are You?

Not just a somewhat humorous (but ultimately not well conceived) slogan for a former Australian Tourism Marketing Campaign, but also a great way to find out just where you are.
On a recent trip home I took the oportunity to fly home rather than the usual train ride home. This gave me the oportunity to get some wonderful shots of the lands from above. One particular shot that I managed to catch is the mighty Burdekin River from above, so for any North Queenslanders Where Are You?







Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Interesting Watch.....

For those that may have missed it last nights episode of Q&A on the ABC touched on the live export debate (albeit somewhat briefly- though thirty minutes in not nearly enough to debate the trade.).
The link to the question is in the right hand side margin "chapters" section. Click the section labelled "Live Cattle Trade" (29:19).


Here's the link: ABC Q&A- Adventures in Democracy

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Farming 201......

So you've passed class 101, lets move onto some more advanced techniques......
  1. Roundup when used appropriately is always a great substitute for weeding the garden.
  2. Do not use point one for killing off bindi's in the grass or around the prized rose bushes. Will lead to a very unimpressed mother.
  3. A fresh round-bale is nothing but a great play toy for foals, What do you mean I'm meant to eat it?
  4. The higher the value the more likely it is to become the favourite chew toy for the Dachshund pup. - If it's RM Williams it gets moved to favourite by default.
  5.  A blue cattle dog can work hard all day make decent threats and be rather imposing, however - get so much as a whiff of a thunder storm and she is trying to get in the house.
  6. You can don't need the horse they are up at the fence trying to steal a pat (or your lunch), however when you need them its a different story - they generally pick the corner furthest away to sit in.
  7. Crop duster pilots have right of way - they will buzz you while you're checking cotton for bugs, scares the crap out of you.
  8. Beware the auto-irrigator, watch where its going and avoid it all costs.
  9. Its always the nice, new & expensive toy that gets broken first leaving you to go back to the old one.
  10. A Steiger Tractor can out pull a Cat D-5/6 Any day....
  11. Never underestimate a horses uncanny ability to tell that it's rocks in the bucket you are jingling to get them to come to the fence.
  12. When preg/testing AI'ing always make sure you have at least more than one glove left, punching through the fingers on the second cow in not the most pleasant experience.
  13. It's always the sweet and innocent looking calf that you have to watch out for.
  14. Always assume no matter how quiet, sweet and/or innocent the calf looks that it will give a well trained SWAT team a run for their money - Learnt that on Dairy Prac
  15. Be mindful that the calves in the calving paddock will try and but you as you have one leg over either side of the barbed wire/hot wire. - Again Lesson Learnt
  16. Calves will headbutt you if they want to suck on your fingers and you won't let them, where is totally their prerogative.
  17. Always make sure the hot wire you have just pulled back is not earthing on the bolt that holds the gate onto the post.
  18. The most awkwardly/precariously placed fishing line will always yield the biggest fish - its just retrieving it that's the challenge.
  19. Holding welding glass over your eyes when welding in not a substitute for a welding helmet - It's not safe but it does make people look hilarious!
  20. If it doesn't fit you're probably not hitting/kicking it hard enough.
  21. Hitting, it bashing it and swearing at it don't actually constitute doing something about the problem, it makes you feel better and the repair bill bigger.
  22. Be careful when using the whipper-snipper with the brush cutting blade around trees, it prunes really well.
  23. You reading the paper or doing that bookwork does not take precedence over the cat.
  24. That cat will use your laptop as a bed during winter as the heat vents in the keyboard provide great warmth.
  25.  Coky's gates made from brand new barbed wire are nothing short of painful to use for the first six months.

If all else fails here's some humor from GraphJam.com A great and enlightening source of practical yet humorous data analysis, enjoy: 
 

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