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Summer 2014

A Bank of Farming Knowledge

Trevor and Karen Manwaring of ‘Trekarman’, live 3 kms NorthWeat of Biloela in Central Queensland. They took over his parents’ property 20 years ago, and it’s important to them to continue in the Manwaring family way of farming.

“We feel it is important for this wealth of farming knowledge accumulated over three generations to be passed on to the next otherwise it will be lost. After all farming is a specialist field! We have 3 boys and 2 daughters who all love farm life and are eager to help out at times. Particularly if it involves driving something green and yellow and is fitted with GPS”.

Trevor is both excited and nervous about where technology is heading. Nervous because he feels, “I may not be able to keep up with it all! But getting GPS has been a revolution in itself. Straight rows every time without much effort, makes tractor driving a pleasure”!

Everything about their latest John Deere 6150R meets his expectation. “I have to fight my boys for the drivers’ seat. The roomy cab with all the latest modern conveniences through to its impressive performance and reliability is all I want it to be and more”.

Diversifying into cotton to overcome a water shortage is a strategy they have employed but growing grains, pulses and hay is also part of their plan.

“Back in 1995 we installed our first lot of sub surface trickle irrigation to help improve our water efficiency. At this time underground water levels were critically low. But since the floods the underground aquifer has risen significantly giving us more water security for the next ten years. So we use a broad spectrum of irrigation techniques including trickle, flood and spray-lines.

We have also purchased another 600 acre property which has a water allocation attached to it to give us even more water security”.

At ‘Trekarman’ tram tracking is utilised to help reduce soil compaction, GPS navigation is used and minimising tillage to keep as much stubble cover as possible are just some of the techniques adopted to produce better outcomes.

“The cotton industry”, Trevor says, “is a professional industry and over the last forty years there have been many advancements and improvements. A major turning point was the introduction of Bollgard cotton which dramatically reduced the need for the use of pesticides and herbicides. Thus making it a more manageable crop to grow.

We have a passion for farming it’s in the blood and we can’t imagine doing anything else.

Although it can be challenging at times it is also very rewarding and satisfying when you achieve a high yielding crop. We are always discussing and planning how we can improve on our techniques and how to develop other strategies which will increase our productivity. And of course we are always adding things to the never ending machinery wish list.

John Deere has been a very big part of our farming operation since my father bought his first John Deere tractor a 3130. It is still in use today! Quickly we learned that John Deere was a leader in its field for row cropping”.

When asked if he had one power or wish in life what would it be Trevor answered, “That there were two of me. One working while the other one of me was off fishing somewhere”!

A Letter of Thanks

For an elderly Sunshine Coast couple Keith and Kathy Elliott on a long road trip it turned into a real life adventure in the most unexpected way. Stopping off in Kununurra in WA an unfortunate incident happened which shook them to the core. But just as quickly their confidence was restored in the good will and kindness of the local people and the overwhelming support and level of concern and compassion they received there. This is a letter of thanks and appreciation from Keith and Kathy:-

We stopped off and booked in to the Kununurra Caravan Park after a long day’s drive that particular day to get there. My wife Kathy and I settled down for a good sleep that night. It was a little too good as we didn’t hear intruders break in and take the keys to our Landcruiser and our money.

Our ute was found some 200 klms away absolutely wrecked the following morning. Faced with this awful dilemma we didn’t know what to do or who to turn to! Especially as we were a long way from nowhere without a vehicle!

A local resident John Currey offered to drive me to the crash site so I could retrieve our personal belongings and what I could from it. Being a round trip of some 400 klms it was an extraordinary act of generosity on behalf of John.

The Vanderfield Toyota Kununurra branch manager Grant Vaughan went to great lengths to assist us. The dealership is directly across the road from the caravan park and within days we took ownership of a new Toyota 200 series wagon. But this was after Grant had the suspension upgraded for us on the vehicle. The parts he used were allocated for another job but that customer graciously allowed Grant to use them without wanting to know the reason why Grant needed them so urgently.

The Kununurra Town Caravan Park kindly allowed us stay on without charge to ensure we were comfortable and safely accommodated so we could regroup and recover from our ordeal. Again such a blessing!

So within a week we were back on the road again heading home this time. Shaken but with grateful hearts thanks to so many people in Kununurra. Our belief in the true goodness of complete strangers has been a restorative experience for us both. We deeply and sincerely thank you Kununurra and will always remember you for all the right reasons! Keith and Kathy Elliot

Footnote: Grant said, “Guy Hassall and myself were only too happy we could be of assistance to this couple. It was an awful thing that happened but personally I think the way the community came together to help out is a credit to Kununurra and its residents”.

Smarter Than Using String

David Kiepe of Westbrook near Toowoomba has the amazing capacity and ability to fit more into his day than the average person. Working on his 90 acre property and Contract Baling throughout the day he then manages to juggle his schedule to include a full time job at night. Just how does he do it? According to David, “I put a program together and just hope it works out for me”!

Focus on function

Having used a competitor brand auto Baler for most of his 35+ years as a Contract Hay Maker, David reported his new John Deere 864 Baler as the best he’s used. The switch to a computer operated round Baler has certainly made an impression on him. “In fact when baling wheat I timed the bales coming off at one per minute. Producing 2000 bales in twelve months I get better volume and it’s quicker as I produce more bales per hour”.

One essential difference

“As there is no string involved I don’t get bales falling apart and I don’t have to worry about string dropping down and getting caught anymore either. The John Deere net is a lot better to use. It locks in on itself and another advantage is I can bale when the hay is drier. The finished size of the bale can be adjusted to vary in diameter but personally I like the look of the bigger 1800 size bale. To my eye they look better”.

An important distinction

In 2012 David purchased a John Deere 6534 tractor from the Vanderfield Toowoomba branch. An important operational difference is the forward reverse shuttle built into this model. David says, “It’s good as I find it a lot quicker than changing gears all the time”.

Perseverance In Full Bloom

Working alongside his father and brother Adam Robertson learnt how to grow flowers in Tasmania and has now forged a successful commercial business venture with his wife Trish. After marrying, Adam and Trish chose to live in Bundaberg and established Robertson Flower Farm 14 years ago.

Adam felt Bundaberg had an ideal climate for winter flower production with dry, stable weather and the fertile volcanic red soil was similar to Tasmanian soils. Despite this it was a big adjustment for Adam coming from the ‘Apple Isle! At first he found it hard going and said, “To be honest when we were notified we were starting the water year on 0% allocation, which coincided with the middle of our production we wondered if we had done the right thing and almost threw it all in and went back to Tasmania”!

Fortunately we were allocated to use 10% water and it all settled down from there. Robertson Flower Farm now grow three different flower ranges – which include both perfumed and non-perfumed Oriental and Asiatic Lillies which are second only to roses in popularity – Gladioli’s of all colour and varieties and more recently ever popular Sunflowers. The bulbs for the Lillies and the Gladioli are sourced and ordered from Holland each year and arrive by sea freight in February. Stored at zero degrees they are planted weekly from March until September.

The bulb crops are imported under Australian quarantine regulations which means they have to be grown to a strict set of guidelines including crop hygiene. Regular inspections take place to ensure quality control and to make sure the plants are healthy.

Now into their second growing season the Robertson’s newest crop is ornamental sunflowers. As Bundaberg is almost frost free in winter the aim is to be one of the major suppliers of sunflowers when southern suppliers cannot produce them. Their ‘sunnies’ are sold under the brand ‘winterSun.net.au’. Many are also finding their way into the Coles and Woolworths supermarkets bunched flower range.

“Crop flowers are not that easy to grow in that they have to be perfect without a single blemish and being exposed to a range of weather events can make it interesting from a growers’ perspective”, reported Adam. “Currently we supply the flowers markets in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and also local florists. We ensure the general public have access to our flowers as well so every Friday we open a road side stall for them.

We have now started to apply compost with a custom made bed-former to provide better nutrition as well as to improve the soil. The John Deere 6150R Tractor from the Vanderfield Bundaberg branch handles the weight of the machine quite well and is involved with all our ground preparation work. Another advantage is I can cover two rows in one pass so that’s a plus. Our other John Deere Tractor the 5820 model handles the lighter jobs on the farm”.

Adam is very impressed with the John Deere Greenstar Guidance System in the 6150R. “It’s much easier to use and it loads up quicker than the previous technology we were operating with. There’s no sitting around waiting for it. Having the Vanderfield base station on The Hummock (the only hill in Bundaberg) is beneficial too.

While I concentrate on all aspects of the field work and the growing of the flowers Trish supervises the packing shed staff and looks after our marketing”.

Flowers brought this couple together and now their business ‘Robertson Flower Farms’ is blooming. Thanks to their perseverance, optimism and their belief in their ability to successfully grow flowers in a subtropical location.

Open every Friday during the picking season, their road side stall can be found at 451 Bargara Road Bundaberg.

In The Field

This is a brief chat with Hamish McIntyre of Moolabah Agriculture Pty Ltd of St George who predominantly grows cotton but who operates a diversified and multi layered business.

Where do you farm in relation to the township of St George?

Within a radius approximately 150 km from St George which is on the western downs of Queensland either on our own land, or on land we lease, or in some cases we have cattle agistment .

What do you grow on a seasonal basis?

We grow on average 4,800 hectares of cereal crops for both grazing and grain production. Over the years we have produced a large variety of crops including cotton, seedless watermelons, lentils, mung beans, chick peas, oats, barley, sorghum, sunflowers and corn depending on water availability.

Have you diversified into cattle?

Yes we have an Angus based beef cattle herd of about 4,500 head.

What is your most reliable source of income?

Growing cotton under irrigation is our primary source as it has the best gross margin per ML of water.

What was your reason for investing in a John Deere 8335RT Tractor this year?

We bought it for doing the heavy work and for straightening our rows on our 1,900 hectares of irrigation country around St George. The steering system, compaction reduction, horse power, 3PL lift ability all helped to attract us to this model.

Has it lived up to your expectations?

The John Deere GreenStar we have combines well with the 8335RT, it certainly steers straighter therefore it delivers a greater degree of accuracy. So yes it has definitely lived up to our expectations.

How important is it having a local John Deere dealership in your locality?

We find we can totally rely upon the Vanderfield St George branch staff, in particular their back up service if we have any concerns.

New Royal Flying

New Royal Flying Doctors Service facilities at the Roma Airport , John Deere is an integral part

Completed and officially opened in August 2014 the new RFDS hangar and Patient Transfer Facility at the Roma Airport was built at a cost of 1.4 million dollars.

It is a multiple purpose facility used to

  • accommodate the crew who are involved in aero-medical taskings to and from the Roma region
  • provide a Patient Transfer Facility with an enhanced comfortable, family –friendly indoor waiting for patients and carers with more privacy
  • house the Roma based King Air B200 aircraft

“The Flying Doctor is delighted that the Roma community now has these much needed facilities to help us to better deliver our services, which involved 254 landings and more than 200 patient transfers in the last year,” said Mr Nino Di Marco, CEO of the RFDS Queensland section. With generous support from the Federal Government through its Health and Hospital Fund Mr Bruce Scott, Federal Member for Maranoa said, “The opening of the new Hangar and Patient Transfer Facility was great news for the Roma Community and the RFDS”.

A primary role at the airport facility is filled by a John Deere 1023E tractor. It is used to tow the King Air B200 onto the tarmac then back into the hangar and helps in repositioning other RFDS aircraft.

Matt Joppich one of three RFDS pilots commented enthusiastically, “It’s marvellous simply because it’s so easy to use. The John Deere name stands for itself and personally I would like to thank Charlie Millard, Vanderfield branch manager for helping us. Having a local dealer here in Roma is important should we need any back up support at any time in the future “.

The RFDs Queensland Section operates 24/7 from nine regional bases which form a strategic network to support the delivery of quality health care in regional, rural and remote areas across the state.

Manitou Celebrates 40 years in Australia

It has been 40 years since the first Manitou rough terrain forklift hit the ground in Australia. At this time, the Manitou MB20C rough terrain forklift, manufactured in France in the early 70’s was leading the way of rough terrain material handling in Australia and it made the Manitou brand renown worldwide. The Manitou machines have passed through the ages known for their performance and durability, and the proof: there are still some to be found today operating in Australia, 40 years after being imported.

40 years of distribution and service through the Manitou dealer network

Manitou has progressively built its leadership in rough terrain handling through an important network of historical importers and distributors, all over Australia which includes Vanderfield and have increasingly developed their presence and service network within the country. In 2006 the subsidiary Manitou Australia was created in Sydney to bring more support to their growing distributor network and offer material handling support to new areas in Oceania. Today Manitou products are distributed and serviced by more than 40 regional dealers.

Manitou offers a unique comprehensive range of products to cover all material handling needs for farmers. It all started with the rough terrain and semi-industrial forklifts, followed by the telescopic handler: a very versatile machine than can be easily fitted with forks, bucket, bale handler etc …… and tow a trailer. Later Manitou integrated a full range of rough terrain and industrial Access Platforms and in 2008 it integrated a line of compact equipment from a sister company: Gehl, a US brand that manufacturers Skid Steer, Track Loaders and Compact Articulated Loaders. A new outstanding Telehandler - the MLT840 was launched in 2013 and was awarded Telehandler of the Year by PowerFarming for its outstanding performance, comfort and fuel efficiency. More information on Manitou fuel efficiency among its competitive machines can be found at http://reduce.manitou.com

The MLT840 is now also used in the V8 Supercars Championship as the Official Lifting and Recovery Vehicle.

The Manitou Group will be releasing important breakthroughs in the material handling sector this year: one of them is announced as the biggest telehandler ever made in the world. Coincidence or not, this super-sized telehandler is said to be a 40 tons capacity machine which is a nice way for Manitou to celebrate and play with the number 40 this year 2014.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life In The Kimberley

Three times the size of England one of Australia’s hidden treasures is the Kimberley region with an immense and complex landscape that encompasses spectacular gorges, waterfalls and cave systems. Pockets of lush rainforest and an astonishing array of wildlife makes it one of the great wilderness areas of the world!

‘Crossing the Kimberley’ Variety 4WD Explorer held in October was a 10 day adventure with an emphasis on exploring roads less travelled. An exciting mapped course soaking in the scenery, meeting the locals and having plenty of fun is what Roger Webster of the Vanderfield Emerald branch and his wife Michelle enjoyed and participated in.

Busy fund raising for the event prior to leaving Roger and Michelle received a kick start from a John Deere D105 ride-on mower donated by Vanderfield. This was auctioned at t heEmerald Cotton Growers and Irrigators Ball. Keen bidding saw the mower go to Cowal Agricultural Holdings. Roger believes, “supporting the charity was an easy choice for us as it’s a great organisation to get behind. We like to support Variety as much as we can and ‘Crossing the Kimberley’ from Darwin to Broome is a wonderful way to do it”.

Variety-the Children’s Charity is a national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to empowering children who are sick, disadvantaged or who have special needs. They receive no direct government funding but support children from newborn babies to 18 years of age.

In 2013, 74% of their funds went towards a Future Program for education and learning, 21% to the Freedom Program which supports mobility, communications and experiences and 5% was directed to their Caring Program for health services.

Regional areas in Queensland receive a significant proportion of Variety funds where many remote towns are often overlooked yet where many sick children have the greatest need. The drive was a great success and Roger was please he didn’t have to call upon Kununurra or Katherine Vanderfield breakdown service for a hand.

For more information on Variety the Children’s Charity go to www.variety.org.au

Choosing a FARMING Future

“All I ever wanted to do was to be a farmer and I still do”, related Brian Gibson of Dulacca Farms.

“Over the years we have had a complete mix of equipment brand names and dealt with various dealerships but now we own about half John Deere. With the increase in technology we’re looking to move more to one brand particularly to utilise our GPS Guidance system. Changes in methods and the natural progression and advancement of technology is all part of the course of farming now. We have gone from Chamberlain tractors, headers without cabins and one way ploughs to air conditioned cabs, no till and self-steer.

Now with several John Deere tractors and three headers after it seems a life time of other brands working as a contractor and for other contractors we like reliability of this brand and the ease of setting up they provide.

The benefit of owning John Deere equipment is that we can work alongside a large professional dealership which is located reasonably close to us and we are fortunate to have developed a good relationship with them.

They have a sound knowledge of our set up and stock an extensive range of spare parts. If it’s not in stock they make sure it’s available the next day”.

Leaving school at just 14, I worked on the family farm at Allora and then at Oakey. After meeting and marrying Kaylene who was teaching at Oakey my father luckily helped us to buy a property at Dulacca where land prices were keener.

Now our family are very involved in all aspects of our farms. Our son Stephen started working with us after he finished Ag College and our daughter Ann Maree, a qualified agronomist and her husband Matt Bach have been with us since 2010.

Our eight properties are located in a 20 klm radius of Dulacca stretching from our western boundary at the end of the Western Downs to around Drillham.

We run a fairly intensive dry land grain growing operation and plant for both Summer and Winter yields.

Wheat is our main crop and we rotate it with sorghum to combat disease. Occasionally other crops are grown to combat crown rot and nematodes.

Each year we undertake soil testing and apply fertiliser when needed and try to maximise the use of all rainfall. Our most important farming practice is to store moisture and utilise it in the most profitable manner. We also keep a close watch on the long term health of the soil.

Our family strategy is to get in and have a go. We take calculated risks and work hard to pull them off. We find buying good land when the opportunity presents itself and the timing of planting is important. Then we prioritise well and remain focused on what is happening in the paddock”.

One gets the impression that the Gibson family keep a close eye on each other, the sky, the ground and all things in between to succeed in doing something they enjoy, and find strength in farming!

Contributing And Helping To Grow An African Community

Friends and associates of the Brimblecombe family in Forest Hill east of Toowoomba are asking Linton why he is moving his family to Uganda for three years to set up a commercial farm. His standard response is, “I believe my ability will have a positive effect on the community there and it will in my opinion be greater in Uganda than it would here, so why not go”!

Linton who is a 4th generation farmer of 24 years in the Lockyer Valley and his wife Melinda together with their children Mitch and Kate will be leading a group of people to help set up a commercial farming enterprise in Northern Uganda. Starting from scratch! Linton said, “In Australia we can no longer cut down trees or build dams so I see a need to move where there is an appetite for development. Where we can actually contribute to the infrastructure of a community and enhance it”!

The exciting part about this personal journey Linton says, “Even though we are moving to a completely undeveloped part of Africa, we are able to take with us modern farming techniques and tools”. Linton is planning on stretching the limits of John Deere’s thinking by utilising the benefits of GreenStar technology, using John Deere FarmSight and all the precision Ag Systems available including no till systems.

“I am fully aware of the challenges Africa holds including the lack of support, however the internet and telephone communications systems has made the world a much smaller place. Even in central eastern Africa getting in touch with the world can be at our fingertips. The way of overcoming isolation and lack of infrastructure is in the planning so I am taking with me a full inventory of parts.

In the initial stages a rotation of corn and soybeans will be grown. The rainfall and soil conditions are certainly an attraction but the lack of infrastructure and support will be daunting but a challenge I am looking forward to meeting.

The benefits of such a venture in the Northern Ugandan community will be immense. In the short term a fresh source of water will be provided and in time employment opportunities will be created providing income which will hopefully have a flow on effect towards education and an improved standard of living”. Linton and his family and team have received good support to date towards their humanitarian undertaking but would welcome others investing and sharing in their inspiring journey too.

An update: Linton, Melinda and their daughter Kate have not long returned from Uganda. Their purpose was to make further arrangements to enhance their plans in readiness for their proposed future farming project prior to their departure.

Encouraged by the visit Linton said, “Although there are some significant challenges before us in terms of logistics and other objectives the program is on schedule. I feel more confident than ever about the soil types, rainfall and the general ability to farm there.

It will be a steep learning curve but having an attitude of not only making money but one of good will towards those we will be working and living with is an integral part of the whole scheme. I am a realist however I firmly believe the positives will far outweigh the challenges”.

Linton can be contacted on 0417 771 584

Faust Farming

Since becoming Farm Manager for Faust Farming, Shane Butler has actively set out to initiate better farming techniques and be a catalyst for change - Shane originally began his career as a Plant and Harvester Contractor in the Burdekin approximately 20 years ago.

He then went onto Contract Farming in 2003 in the Burdekin; in 2006 became the Farm Manager for SISL Cane Farm Management where he was employed for 7 Years, then spent one year at Lance Smith’s Farm before accepting the Position of Cane Farm Manager for Faust Farming in January 2014.

Faust’s have been a part of the Proserpine community since 1895 when their family opened up a General local store. But in 1910 they became involved in Cattle and then eventually the Sugar Industry in the early 1990’s.

The Faust property “Breadalbane” is roughly 4,000 hectares in total and the farm house is situated 2 kms south of the town of Proserpine. A total of 1200 Hectares are under cane currently with the potential for a further 800 hectares to be opened up over the next 2 years. Its proximity to the Mill, makes it a major asset to the local Sugar Cane Producing industry.

With the support of Peter William Faust and the rest of the Faust Family, Shane had instigated some major upgrades this year to the infrastructure and equipment on the farm. For example the purchase of a new John Deere 7200R and John Deere RTK Ag Management Guidance system and various new implements!

Shane also has implemented some new farming practices on the property setting up 4.5km of underground piping for Flood irrigation with water recycling pits to improve watering monitoring methods, EM Mapping and soil testing. He has also introduced consistent 1.8m Row spacing across the whole farm, Bed forming, implementing a variable rate line and Gypsum regime and adopted other more progressive methods of Cane Farming.

Combine this with the use of contractors who use John Deere Guidance for the Ground preparation, Spraying and Planting all have assisted in the rapid improvement of the farm has shown. Add to this the plans for further development and constant revision of improvements, the farm is on track to reach its full potential sooner than later.

Faust Farming is working with Reef Catchment and is now a member of Catalyst, which is a group of forward thinking farmers who are willing to trial experimental farming practices. The aim of Catalyst is to help improve not only the industry, but also the environment, through more efficient and safer Sugar Cane farming practices.

A 56 Hectare plot of their farm is currently being used for a Water Use Efficiency Trial, which is a joint venture between Faust Farming, Reef Catchments, John Deere Australia and Vanderfield.

Vanderfield Mackay has established a Water Use Efficiency and Precision Agronomy trial at Proserpine with the cooperation of Faust Farming. This ongoing trial will showcase the latest technology available that cane growers can use to assist with irrigation scheduling, field drainage modelling and prescription management of crop inputs in their farming system.

Interested farmers will be able to remotely monitor meteorological conditions and soil moisture by logging into MyJohnDeere.com and connecting to the John Deere Field Connect™ data station installed by Vanderfield Mackay.

The sensors on the John Deere Field Connect™ data station will be used as a decision support tool by Faust Farming for irrigation scheduling.

In addition, VNET Precision Farming have collected soil Electromagnetic data and RTK GNSS elevation data. This information will be used to identify changing soil characteristics across the field at multiple depths.

Also a range of topographical derivatives have been extracted from the elevation data to model field drainage and to simulate changing water flow characteristics across the field.

VNET Precision Farming has used all of this information to identify the ideal location in the trial field for the soil moisture sensors to be installed.

With the support and the confidence the Faust Family have shown in Shane’s management decisions and the investment they have made in the past year, prospects looks bright for this well-known family, their farm and their future.