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Autumn 2015

43 Years of Perfecting Farming Techniques

One might expect to find a well-defined grid of tram lines in Melbourne but not at Pampas 65kms south west of Toowoomba. This is where grain growers Lyndon and Lyndelle have two properties ‘Bungaree’ and ‘Carwoola’ and have been innovative in using a tram line layout in their fields.

Concentrating on sorghum, wheat, barley and chick peas they have also experimented with soybeans, mung beans, cotton, corn and sunflower crops. Not afraid to explore new territory they have also undertaken trials on producing different crop varieties on their properties.

Success has come their way at the Toowoomba and Millmerran shows with recognition for their crop produce in winning acclaimed awards from other entrants across the Darling Downs.

“Rotating our fields to avoid a build-up of hard to control weeds is something we do”, said Lyndon. “Our farming operation has transformed to a minimum/zero till practice with configurations of 12m. The winter crop planter is a 12m Boss single disc opener which also applies solid fertiliser for both winter and summer crops. Our John Deere header has a 12m draper front and our 12m John Deere 1720 maxi merge planter is used for our summer planting. Our latest purchase has been a John Deere R4030 sprayer with a 36m boom. Buying the R4030 has meant that we have the latest technology in spraying equipment and is something that I have been looking forward to for some time.

The Sprayer, our JD 7215R and JD 9770 header have Green Star GPS and our 8300 and 8520T John Deere Tractors have Autofarm installed and this has helped with establishing the tram line layout we have.

I try to keep up with the latest equipment which allows for efficiencies such as spraying time and less wheel tracks. Having John Deere allows us to have Vanderfield service our equipment. It is important to us to have the ongoing field service and technology available from them at the Toowoomba branch which is out closest town for service.

Agriculture is rapidly changing with the advancement of technology. It is good to be involved in the industry that I still love even after all these years. And I believe it is an industry that will be around for a long time yet”!

Accelerated Growth In The Sunshine State

An ever expanding network of Vanderfield branches in prime geographic agricultural locations continues to dominate the push into Queensland. Another key region – Gympie is the latest to be added and propels the growth of the company and the number of branches in the group to a total of 15!

In the latter part of 2014 Vanderfield successfully secured the dealership from Hi-Way 1 Truck and Tractor which is situated at 2 Laurenceson Road Gympie. The branch contact number is 07 5480 6888.

Found 160 km north of Brisbane it was first called Nashville in 1867 after James Nash who discovered alluvial gold there. It was the gold rush’s rapid development which was responsible for the formation of the irregular city streets. The following year it was renamed Gympie which originates from an Aboriginal word Gympie Gympie or Gimpi Gimpi meaning the stinging tree.

The city lies on the Mary River in the Wide-Bay Burnett region. Graziers were the original European settlers and gold mining still plays a role in the area’s fortune Along with agriculture, timber and tourism!

A number of historic buildings in Gympie are featured in the Queensland Heritage Register with some banks and stores known for their stunning 19th Century Victorian architecture.

The Mary Valley has a stunning landscape of rolling green pastures and many beautiful forests. The countryside is spectacular with an abundance of curves, gradients and bridges. Steep slopes portray a patchwork of grazing land, ginger, sugar cane, macadamia nuts and other crops. Dairy has traditionally been part of the local agricultural industry but in recent years it has been declining in the region and generally throughout the state.

The Gympie region is considered attractive for its relatively low cost of living. Homes and property are very affordable for new residents and investors alike. Currently with new investment happening there it will be a significant contributor to the area, and its proximity to the Sunshine Coast makes it a great place to live.

An Amazing Trial

Ross Armstrong of ‘Coolibah Plains’ which is found 85klms south east Emerald in Central Queensland reports, “The product backup offered by Muddy River on the Horsch Maestro Planter and Vanderfield was exceptional which I initially trialled and then subsequently purchased through the Emerald branch. Particularly as they allowed me to try the planter in a variety of conditions and in a trial of 300 ha was amazing.

The Horsch Maestro exceeded expectations in all areas, especially the excellent flotation which allowed for faster working speeds. The manner that the frame lifts the plantings units out of the ground makes checking and maintaining the units much easier than any other planter on the market. Then folding and transport of the whole machine is so quick and compact that mobility is unequalled and storage space is minimised”.

More about the Emerald trial on the Maestro can be viewed on www.youtube.com/user/MuddyRiverAg or www.facebook.com/muddyriveragricultural but this is what the trial operators recorded.

“Planting sorghum at 40,000 seeds a hectare in dry land at about 12km an hour we ended up covering just under 20 hectares in an hour. With a full hopper of seed it should be possible to work three 10 hour days covering 1,500 acres without filling up.

As the soils are very sticky when wet, the farmer waits till there is a dry top layer of a couple of centimetres before he can start drilling. The aim is then to place the seed in the moist soil below the dry crust.

The hydraulic down pressure on the row units which are controlled by via the monitor allows the farmer to make sure the row unit runs deep enough. But not too deep, thus preventing them from entering too far into the sticky moist soil and causing blockages etc. This is a very nice feature as soil structure does vary a lot.

For sorghum a number of modifications (all optional equipment from Horsch) needed to be done to the standard row units:

Replace the standard plastic seed box (on top of the row unit) with a steel tube with smaller holes. This is to prevent the sorghum seed from getting stuck in the large holes of the standard plastic box.

Replace standard inserts on the central seed delivery system with ones which had smaller holes.

Replace two scrapers inside the row units. The seed on demand system works really well. It blows seed to the row units until seed covers all the holes in the steel seed tube. When all the holes are covered the air can no longer escape. So no air flow = no seed flow. Once enough seed is used and enough holes are free, air will start to flow and more seed will be delivered to the row unit. It’s a very simple system but it seems to work well.

The Maestro was operated via a John Deere Green Star 2630 display. This is just a little insight into this wonderful piece of equipment”.

A Mix of Great Rewards and Unexpected Challenges!

“Not that it’s worth dwelling on but with the benefit of hindsight there are always changes you would make. One change we would have made would have been to buy a second Manitou MLT840 Telehandler sooner than waiting 5 years”, said Allan Neale of Cooinda Cotton.

“As well as the cotton, we run a Hay growing and selling business called Southwest Hay Supplies. We bought a Manitou in 2010 as we needed a reliable machine to move, stack and load hay which we still own. But then realized another machine was needed as our hay can be grown up to 30 kms away and needs to be loaded and carted back to the main selling shed.

We are really happy with the newer machine and enjoy the improvements from the earlier model. The cab is larger and well laid out inside and quieter. The engine in it is a John Deere so that means it will be easier to service and maintain.

Our Manitou’s are used for a multitude of operations. Not just for loading hay! I’m not sure how we survived without them before as we use them nearly every day for something. They replace several machines, such as a crane, a forklift and a backhoe. Being multi-purpose we use them to load machinery onto trucks, fill planters with fertilizer and or seed and to fix irrigation ditches. Often they come in handy as a crane because with a lifting platform we can do many jobs on buildings at height.

I find the Vanderfield staff approachable and easy to get along with. As I am a mechanic by trade I do a lot of the servicing myself but the staff are always helpful with their advice should any problems arise”.

Farming cotton and fodder crops on serval farms in St George with his wife Kerrie and brother-in-law Scott they also have a dedicated team who work closely with them.

“We farm in the St George irrigation area and downstream of St George and enjoy the lifestyle farming has to offer. Especially being able to work outdoors each day! The most rewarding part is harvesting the beautiful crops we’ve grown all season. The most challenging aspect is working with the weather and never having enough hours in the day”!

An Extraordinary Farming Family Who Helped To Shape An Entire Industry

Synonymous with Bundaberg in Central Queensland are Sugar, Rum and the first cane harvesters built in Australia by Harold and Colin Toft. They traded under the name of the Toft Brothers. This is Brian Toft’s story, the son of Harold.

He describes his father, “As a creative genius and his Uncle Colin as a master salesman. They were innovative pioneers and highly skilled men who designed and manufactured cane harvesters and cane related equipment”

In the early 1940’s Harold was called up for military service in the Second World War but was sent back home to Australia to build harvesters because of the distinct labour shortage of cane cutters. It was a long time consuming process cutting the cane in those days, picking it up and then loading it all by hand. “That same year Dad built his first whole stalk harvester and it was demonstrated in 1944”.

Growing up on family cane farms at Avoca, Alloway and Clayton near Bundaberg. Brian had a care free childhood. Wearing no shoes by choice in all sorts of situations and conditions! Exploring the terrain of the cane fields and a family owned machinery work shop in a factory run by his father and his Uncle.

Brian’s grandfather, his father and all his Uncles were cane farmers so unremarkably when he left school he too followed the same path. What is remarkable however are the changes Brian has witnessed and experienced in the cane industry during his life?

Planting cane and methods of irrigation: In the early days the cane was stripped and planted through a drop planter. Then came a Gough Planter and now a billit planter is used in which GPS is incorporated”.

Today paddocks are laser levelled for better drainage and irrigation and there is a range of watering methods. From spray lines, trickle irrigation, water winches and boom irrigators using lateral and centre pivot.

Harvesting: Brian can vividly remember, “the sugar cane was burnt, cut and loaded by hand! Then came whole stick machines which I drove and once the cane was cut it was loaded by hydraulic cane loaders built by my father and uncle in 1956 with a rotatable grab. This was revolutionary as only one person was needed to operate it. Initially they were told it wouldn’t work and were refused a grant by the Cane Growers Association to build one. However they were confident it would and forged ahead and the loader became a successful part of their business.

In the 60’s they developed several whole stick cane harvesters in varying sizes to suit a range of different cane and growing conditions. These were followed by purpose built whole stalk choppers and in 1968 they made the CH200 over the row chopper with a swinging knife. The CH264, CH364 and the CH464 were the first track chopper harvesters.

The last machines created by my father were the 4000, 5000, 6000 and the 6500 track harvesters and then he retired as the 7000 series was being designed. Just before my father passed in May 1988 he helped me to build a cane transporter in the farm shed and worked with me on modifying our harvester. In 1984 he was awarded the Order or Australia (AM) for his outstanding contribution to the mechanization of the harvesting of Sugar Cane.

It was exciting for me to be able to drive and test out the experimental chopper harvesters from our family factory all those years ago. I felt part of the Toft team”. In 1998 Brian commenced work with Centracks and is now employed by the Vanderfield Bundaberg branch in the Spare Parts department. Not surprisingly Brian completes all the inductions on new cane harvesters in the Bundaberg area and offers valuable phone harvester related advice to customers from his bank of experience. He is a power house of information on cane harvesters and can be contacted on 07 4152 2144

Footnote: Sugar cane first arrived on Australian shores in 1788 as part of the cargo of the First Fleet. A fascinating detailed history of the Sugar Industry can be seen (which includes the Toft Bros) at www.sugarmuseum.com.au

Col Messer VNET Custom Built

Clermont district farmer Col Messer was looking to improve accuracy and efficiency in planting of summer crops in his rain grown minimum tillage farming system. Sorghum has been the predominant summer crop option in his area, but dryland corn and cotton have also become popular alternatives in the Central Highlands.

This has left many growers like Col in a planting predicament. He required the versatility and robustness of a tine planter, that is suited to variable field soil types and has moisture seeking capability, but also needed the precision seed metering performance normally found on a double disc row crop planter. Col engaged Andrew Farquharson at Toowoomba Engineering Services to build a planter that could achieve this. Using his experience from both farming and practising agronomic consulting in Central Queensland, Andrew could see the benefits of integrating the John Deere Max Emerge precision seed metering capabilities onto the top of a traditional “air seeder” tine assembly. Toowoomba Engineering Services worked closely with Steve Frahm of VNET and John Fraser from Vanderfield Toowoomba parts department to achieve this.

Col’s wish list didn’t end there! To gain maximum return on investment, the planter also required multiple GPS control functions to automate the crop inputs being applied. Steve Frahm worked closely with Col over 12 months to understand his requirements and then create a practical “turn key” solution using components from both John Deere and other Vanderfield suppliers.

To achieve inter row seeding capability, the planter required Active Implement Guidance. Although the tractor was already fitted with Greenstar SF2 5cm Autotrac capability, the planter’s castor wheels also needed to steer on Greenstar GPS for precise seed placement. The planter needed to be capable of applying two liquid products over a range of field speeds with accurate rate control from the Greenstar GPS. This allows accurate application of liquid fertiliser or seed innoculants in a range of applied volumes.

The planter needed to have the same “Section Control” capabilities of a John Deere Spray Rig, to eliminate double application of seed and fertiliser. Col could see major savings from this due to the fact a 27 metre wide planter was going to be used in fields with multiple point headlands creating a high percentage of overlap. The planter’s 5 sections have automated liquid fertiliser on/off control and also individual row command on the Max Emerge seeding units, all automated through the Greenstar system.

Seed monitoring, including individual row singulation data is also monitored through the Greenstar display using Intelliag ISO software.

Col now has confidence that his custom planter design will increase profitability through input savings and allow flexibility to plant a range of different crops over a wider seasonal window.

Col Messer
"The technology that has been fitted to this machine has achieved my specific needs. Stephen Frahm and the VNET team know how to listen and work with you to deliver extra value on my GPS investment.

Using John Deere section control has given me an immediate pay back, with 10 to 20% saving on seed and fertilizer inputs in my fields planted so far. The individual row command on the John Deere summer planting units stop planting when that unit passes over ground already planted. This also has other benefits like reduced likelihood of crop lodging of sorghum on headlands.

Next summer I hope to be planting some fields using the John Deere Greenstar variable rate technology. Using the Soil EM Maps collected by VNET and Yield Maps from my John Deere 9770 harvester, I will be able to apply a fertilizer prescription and seeding rate matched to the yield potential of each part of the field."

Questions In The Field With Tim Baillie Of ‘Wilgavale Farming’

Tim is also a qualified Consulting Surveyor with a high reputation for integrity with an intimate knowledge of the land and region in which he lives and gives us a brief snapshot here into how he successfully combines his professional, farming and personal skills into his busy life.

How did your farming ‘career’ start and why? I grew up on an Irrigation property in the Emerald Irrigation Area. I am actually a Consulting Surveyor but a couple of years ago, the property which we farm, ‘Wilgavale’ came onto the market. I have always wanted to farm and purchasing ‘Wilgavale’ presented me an opportunity to do so. It gets a bit tricky running a Consultancy and a dryland cropping farming operation but it seems to work.

How did you come up with the name ‘Wilgavale Farming’ and what do you do? Wilgavale’ is the name of our property. ‘Wilgavale’ is a dryland cropping block.

Do you actually like farming? Yes. I really don’t know how you could farm if you didn’t.

Are there times you get frustrated by it? No.

Can you share any stand out moments for you in farming? My First year of farming went really well. That year I could have planted a crop in concrete and it would have come off.

Does owning John Deere equipment contribute to your success and in what way? Having quality gear just makes things easy.

Wait on! What are your honest thoughts on the advances in machinery and equipment technology? Having a Consultancy background I can really appreciate some of the advances in technology and the work behind it. Things like Auto Steer, Section Control, Yield Monitoring and prescription mapping provide real benefits to farming operations.

What are three aspects of servicing or the Vanderfield team you know you can depend on? Their Product Knowledge, support Network and a genuine interest in the John Deere product!

Is there something you can’t live without at ‘Wilgavale’? Rain

Do you have any farming tips you would like to pass on to others? Wish I did!! The best I can offer is control the things you can and don’t worry about the things you can’t.

The Family That Works Together Sticks

Most farmers long for their children to have the inclination and interest to one day stay on instead of leaving home and continue working with them on the farm so its remains in the family and doesn’t get sold off.

This family have made a strong and cohesive start down that path.

Trading as Rouse Farming at Brigalow near Chinchilla on the western Darling Downs the whole Rouse family - Leon, Susan, Justin and Rachel all contribute and help out. “We do what we do so we can make a living and that’s what we have been brought up to do. The most rewarding part is when we produce a good crop. The most difficult aspect is trying to organise every day when weather conditions vary so much and need to be considered on a daily basis”, Leon explained.

Cultivating and growing 4,000 acres of summer and winters crops the one thing which has made a huge difference especially to Justin’s workload has been a John Deere 4940 Sprayer from the Vanderfield Chinchilla branch. It is their closest branch and the staff are handy when needed.

“It is above and beyond my expectations”, he says. “It’s a time saving piece of equipment which allows me to concentrate on doing other jobs! There is less hours involved in spraying, there’s less chemicals and increased efficiency as I can cover more ground than before and I can spray over sorghum”.

Leon’s attributes a lot of what he does to his natural instincts! When asked if he follows any special farming practices his reply was, “I just follow myself”.

His ideal alternate career choice would be straight out contract work. But all things considered Leon is one lucky man to have his family behind him and supporting him in Rouse Farming.

What Happens When There’s No Land Left?

“The loss of so much cane land has put pressure on the Sugar cane industry in Mackay but the local mill is using a range of measures to get thousands more hectares planted to cane”, according to Steve Emmert, branch manager for Vanderfield in Mackay. Largely brought about by the mining expansion in the region and the need for accommodation has seen new housing subdivisions spring up where once cane fields flourished.

Looking for development opportunities and the most efficient measures possible to plant more cane has become a mission for Mackay Sugar. Adopting innovative strategies to bring about significant gains for their shareholders, David Armstrong of Mackay Sugar has the challenge ahead of him to develop 5,000 hectares before 2017.

“We are trying to promote the leasing in or out of land amongst growers, but leasing is not widespread in the Mackay region. We would also like to see land being bought that can be developed to cane, preferably by our growers as they increase the scale of their operations”, David related.

In a recent Landline story, Quinton Hilderbrand, CEO of Mackay Sugar said, “In 2013 we secured a deal with an American commodity trader – Cargill. Now we have a partnership with its’ subsidiary – Black River Asset Management to buy and develop local cane farms. They operate a massive diversified agricultural portfolio in other parts of Australia so it’s not something new for them.

We are also working on bringing in other investment partners for similar deals. However there is still a place for family farms which will always be the mainstay for the Mackay Sugar supply area”.

Part of the efficiency strategies Black River has implemented is running a large fleet of John Deere equipment to increase productivity and to embrace the most up-to-date advances in technology on the market.