Are we just too precious?

Since reading an excellent blog the other day titled “Grow it, kill it, cut it, cook it” by Janette Jenyns (QLD) ) it has occurred to me that perhaps we have all become a little bit too precious and ‘not in my back yard’, or rather ‘not on my plate’.

I believe one of the reasons we find ourselves on the back foot as farmers, is because what we see on a daily basis as normal, is quite confronting to the non-farmer. By saying that, I do not mean that we are desensitized – in fact the opposite – I believe it makes us more aware and better able to appreciate what we have at a much higher level.

Growing up on a farm (actually, it was a property, but we are all heading towards generalized lingo), I watched my parents grow food from all sections of the ‘food pyramid’  – we had a milking cow, a vegetable garden, fruit trees, sheep, pigs, cattle and chickens. In fact, when my parents were first married and didn’t have a brass razoo to rub together, they even shot feral rabbits and made hearty stews!

I’m sure some of the reason was because they lived a very long way from the nearest grocery store and were cash strapped, but having taken on some of these ‘grow your own projects’ myself, it is also about the satisfaction of growing your own food.

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Perhaps we are not sensitive enough to a non farming background? As non farmers, are people too precious to be told of or exposed to the truth behind the “black styro-foamed, glad-wrapped, parsley topped” rib fillet purchased at the local butcher? Is it any less gruesome to eat a piece of meat that arrives on their plate at Cha Cha Cha, Brisbane, if they remain blissfully unaware that it was grazing in a paddock 800km away one month ago?  Why is it more gruesome, or off putting, to watch it be killed, cut up, barbequed and THEN presented on a plate? Personally, I would find it much more reassuring to know of the process – the strict transport, saleyard, feedlot, abattoir to supermarket legislative framework that lands prime Aussie beef on your plate.

Loadtrucks

I mean come on, let’s not beat around the bush here – milk does not originally come from the containers on a supermarket shelf – it comes from the udder of a cow via suction cups on her teats. Same goes for yoghurt, cream, cheese, butter and anything else they package up as dairy these days. Meat – chicken, goat, beef, pork, fish, crustacean, insect (whatever!) – it was once alive, no matter how it arrives on a plate. Vegetables and fruits – sorry, but they were once alive too.

mango

An alarming number of children have no idea where their food comes from. Perhaps highlighting the alarming number of parents who must also take our food production for granted.

There is no correlation with animal cruelty and farmers selling or using their animals for food or fibre. Farmers are not cruel. But we are practical. And Efficient. And Productive.  And in Australia we receive minimal subsidies in comparison to the rest of the world and its free trade agreements. And everyone wants a ‘down down’ price, while costs go up. But somehow we still manage to feed, cloth and supply families. Possibly even your family!

And one of the most precious things to us is the land we are custodians of and the animals, food or fibre that we are growing which supplements the worlds growing human population.

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The death of saleyards….and factual reporting

The Weekend Australian lead with an article “Going Going Gone: death of the saleyard” last Saturday. An article that was loaded with conjecture, unproven assertions and a raft of opinionated quotations that did neither side of the argument any favours.

On what basis (because there was no reference to a report or study) was the RSPCA able to claim that “cattle suffer undue stress when they are repeatedly mustered, yarded, loaded on to trucks into town and then kept for 24 hours in cramped sale yards before auction, after which the whole process is repeated.”

Sadly, the RSPCA (among others) is a wolf in sheep clothing. Appearing to be working with farm and government groups towards a united animal welfare policy, all the while continuing to strive towards animal rights and wrapping the movement up and pitching it to the public as animal welfare. And when the general public reads information that strikes out at farmers with sensational and emotive references, we would all be well advised to consider whether the author is really looking out for animal welfare…or animal rights.

transport

What is the difference between animal rights and animal welfare I hear you ask?

Animal welfare is “a human responsibility towards animals in Australia and encompasses all aspects of animal health and well being, including proper housing, management, population control and habitat management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane killing.”

Animal rights is a philosophical and personal view .

In case anyone is in any doubt about Australia’s animal welfare stance, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is a good place to start to view public policy. There is also the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy Website.

NB: update – RSPCA issued a statement saying “While RSPCA Australia strongly encourages the direct consignment of farm animals because of the inherent stress caused by multiple transport and handling, we recognise that for many producers saleyards will continue to be part of the supply chain.”

When did it become acceptable to pull so called ‘facts’ out of thin air?

As farmers, we love our animals. If you could only see my husband’s face when we find a new born calf learning to stand up; or when an abandoned kid goat turns up at the front gate. On Twitter this week, one Tweet wrapped it up perfectly. “Ironically the reason I farm is because I love animals so much, but they’ll never believe that (@MichaJohansen).”

To highlight another piece of misinformation floating around, Animals Australia (AA) is now trying to compare Australian antibiotic use in beef with the USA’s antibiotic use. AA has pulled a figure (un-sourced) out of thin air – “Here in Australia an estimated 70-80% of all antibiotics are fed to farm animals — mostly for growth promotion and to help animals survive the unhealthy and unnatural conditions of factory farms.”

Spreading fear about harmful dosage levels of antibiotics in cattle

Spreading fear about harmful dosage levels of antibiotics in cattle

There is an excellent fact sheet by the Australian Lot Feeder Association specifically debunking the antibiotic usage myth in Australia, but there is also excellent information in relation to what is deemed acceptable at the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority .

So, let’s stick to the facts, rather than conjecture, when mounting a rebuttal against each other. Let us all assume that it is unacceptable to pull so called facts out of thin air; to use blogs (such as this one) as anecdotal evidence; or presume that your conversation with a handful of co workers over lunch can in some way be deemed as a good example of what the community as a whole thinks. And while we are at it, stop forwarding emails and sharing information without checking the source or content first – what happened to free thinking?!

By all means, hit each other with peer reviewed papers from well positioned magazines, government and independently appropriated research – but do not trivialize the issue with personal vendettas and ideological fervor.

Herd mentality.

Herd mentality.

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It’s raining, it’s pouring

I headed to town on Wednesday for supplies as we were worried (and very hopeful!) about  ex cyclone Oswald and the potential for flooding as it slowly drifted down the coast from Cairns. I spent the day racing around doing odd jobs, wrapping everything that had to go in the back with garbage bags in the vain attempt to keep it dry, and then headed home.

I slipped and slided the first 70km of dirt road, getting very excited about the weather, to only come up over the range and hit a dustbowl! I arrive home with a muddy car, in a cloud of dust to a husband who had just pulled more cattle out of another drying up, boggy dam.

We scanned the weather maps from BOM to Weatherzone to Higgins, preparing ourselves for the worst, but hoping for the best.

And then, 10pm that night, the rain came.

It will never cease to amaze me how things can go from one extreme to the other. Over 6 inches (125mm) of rain in 24 hours changes the whole game.

The river runs underneath the sand most of the time.

The river runs underneath the sand most of the time.

Today, it is running about a foot below the bank

Today, it is running about a foot below the bank

At the Sellheim River crossing, the change has been swift.

After 12 hours

After 12 hours

24 hours later

 
24 hours
Today - 36 hours

Today – 36 hours

Water is lying about everywhere and I could post photos of it all day! Rainy days on the station are almost better than Christmas! It brings relief and inspires hope.

Water is everywhere!

Water is everywhere!

Full dam!

Full dam!

Flowing water - dams filling!

Flowing water – dams filling!

And the garden just laps it up!

Garden

Garden

Cut off from the world for the next few days, we will wait for the water levels to drop and then head out and fix the fences that have washed away, check all the dams and stock and revel in the green tinge that will have swept the country side!

Hoping that many others have benefited from the beginning of the wet season!

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A hot, dry January

It has been a very hot, dry and busy January, but  ex cyclone Oswald is hopefully going to push some much needed rain down our way and bring some relief.  Thought I would give you all a brief overview of what we have been doing since Christmas. Sadly, no holiday for us until it rains!

The cattle yards have been given a new lease on life – out with the old wooden rails, in with strong, termite resistent steel!

Welding

It was very timely, because not long afterwards we trucked cattle out.

Loadtrucks

Our son watched on from the safety of the rails, but it won’t be long and I’ll be hard pressed keeping him out.

Douglasyards

This dam had only half a foot of water left in it and this was the last time we were able to get the foot valve deep enough to pump water to the turkeys nest.

DamDry

So we mustered all the cattle up and moved them down to another watering point.

Movingcattle

holding them up until they settled.

BlockingUp

Time is up for the lovely young couple here from England, they are heading off to Asia for the next leg of their exciting travels. I made them a cake for smoko – it was supposed to have Bon Voyage in red icing, but I had to help put the crate on the truck and ran out of time. So Bye in chocolate covered raisins was all I could manage.

Bye!

Heading off down the road to our local pub to pick the boys up a carton of beer for tonight – only a 140km round trip! But at least I will be in the airconditioning!

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Giant, cicada killing wasps…

And that really isn’t any exaggeration!

IMAG1269

Cicada killing wasp

They are orange, quite intimidating at approximately 2cm long and their population is expanding rather rapidly – burrowing little ‘mole holes’ down the western side of our lawn.

Anyone else have these little flying crreatures residing in their neighbourhood?

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‘mole holes’ in our lawn

I hopped online to research what sort of wasp (or bee!) this might be. While it isn’t a dead ringer for the web images, from its behaviour I have deduced that it is a cicada killing wasp or eastern wasp. Whether it is or not I remain uncertain (and have emailed an Entomologist to confirm) but given the significant number of cicadas being dragged to their unceremonious death the name has stuck.

They appear to be developing a community beside my clothes line and if they keep this up I may need to request an application for a zoning permit.

Many websites claim they are good for the lawn, relatively harmless, not aggressive and if they do sting are nothing more than a pain scale of 1 out of 5. 1 being less than an ant. I am content to let this point remain unproven.

Wasps in Action

I found this delightful little blog called Show Me Joe and he has a whole page dedicated to methods of eradication. Because my dear friends, even though I hesitate to disturb ecosystems, I read that they lay an egg every time they drag some paralyzed prey into their burrow. And each wasp appears to be having quite a successful go at desimating my cicada population.

Might be a quiet summer. :)

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Letter to Four Corners.

Letter to Four Corners..

From a NT Cattle Producer.
A media organisation should not allow journalists to use their medium for a personal agenda.

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The world has got to eat

Nothing has really changed since I last blogged. Perhaps a few more exhausted, frustrated farmers. Another Animals Australia campaign tugging on heart strings and wielding doctored images.

We take these threats to our industry very seriously because it is our livelihoods and I take my hat off to those who have been frequenting social media sites spreading the truth, staying abreast of these minority groups.

It seems that the farming fraternity is being attacked from all sides – animal extremist groups, the misinformed, governments, greens – even from within our own ranks.

How to fix it? I’m not sure there is any one answer, but I have some ideas of what needs to change.

Society needs to wear the cost. If the consumer would like changes in welfare requirements, than they need to accept the cost increases for the end product. The large supermarkets, apart from many other injustices, do a great disservice to our industry by promising no increased prices at the checkout. Essentially, if we as a community desire a higher standard of welfare, then society needs to be prepared to pay the price and therefore maybe better educate themselves on the necessity of the changes. As caretakers of the animals we farm and the land we manage, we have a responsiblity. Therefore so should those who benefit from our produce.

Agricultural groups need to merge and minimise. There are too many different groups, doing too much of the same, from too many angles, using the same old ideas and splitting seed funding into small, ineffective amounts. Perhaps one umbrella group that oversees and advocates on behalf of a limited number of smaller groups that represents the different farming industries?

A shift in social conscious. There appears to be a generation of Australians who have little to no understanding of primary production. Or anything really – they appear too insular to even try. They are drawn to social media, and finding their 15 minutes of fame – which is appropriate because they seem to also have short attention spans. Social media, while being a wonderful tool, has, in my opinion, meant that we are overloaded with information. Reducing these pieces of information to Facebook statuses or 140 characters also affects the way this material is read and then interpreted. Society needs to take more responsibility (both as author and reader) for the information that is posted, retweeted and blogged.

Unbiased education. Not just within our children’s education system. The supermarkets have a responsibility to their Australian suppliers to help educate rather than dictate. We as farmers need to blog, talk and join agricultural groups.

Unbiased media coverage. This is not just a problem in our industry. However, even newspapers like the Queensland Country Life are biased (towards us).

Funding for research. We are always looking for new and improved ways to manage our farms. Research should be swung towards aiding greater capacity over smaller areas and addressing the food shortage issues that will realistically be upon us twenty years. It is my belief that climate change is unstoppable (man made or otherwise) therefore instead of pouring money into proving whose fault it is, we should be investing into how to minimise its impact.

Divestiture powers. Similar to the United States of America, break up companies that hold over a certain percentage market share.Australia’s population is too small and our land mass too large for smaller companies to effectively compete with large corporations, therefore reducing competition.

Tax incentives.  Financial incentives to attract people into rural areas. Encourage those with agricultural debts to pay their capital so that we don’t have sky rocketing rural debt. Reduce welfare handouts through times of drought and better equip farmers and any other small businesses directly affected to set themselves up through the good times for the bad times. That money would be better spent funding fencing grants, pasture renewal, water sources, feral animal control etc.

My list will continue to grow I’m sure.

We need to face up to the truth – that the extremists will not desist and will only become stronger. We need to retaliate with strong support from our industry leaders, a well informed, sympathetic government and a united farmer front – hopefully we are still around producing food when we most need it.

Let’s face it – essentially , the world has got to eat.

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Let us recap to rejuvenate!

It occurs to me that I haven’t blogged for about 3 months. Have you noticed that when you haven’t done something for an extended period of time, it almost takes the equivalent amount of time to psyche yourself back into it. One of those vicious circles.

The main problem with blogging is that sometimes there just isn’t anything to say. People who know me are thinking ‘but you jest!’, however, since motherhood came along I have been consumed by sleep (or lack thereof), laundry (never lacking here) and milestones – none of which I am interested in writing about.

While my priorities have changed and the sands of my intrigue have shifted, I am determined to not become one of those parents whose sole diatribe is a discussion about every minute detail about their children. (Mum, sorry, you are not on this list.)  I am determined to remain highly opinionated with a reasonable amount of good humour and a good dollop of practicality. Oh and hopefully I’ll throw some photos in too!

So, to recap the blogs vision, View from a Bush Verandah was set up following a two day social media course hosted by Meat and Livestock Australia. The aim was to write about our life on the land, things that affect us, tid bits etc. It followed a horrendous year of farmers being attacked by animal welfare activists using the mechanisms of social media. Primary producers have rallied together since, not only learning to utilise this online technology, but discovering its true power, understanding its potential and realising its influence. I truly hope that the fear mongering and scare tactics being used by animal welfare activists (or should I refer to them as terrorists?) are mostly disregarded by the wider, educated community.

I believe that primary production is one of the many vital Australian industries that provides essential resources to the populations of the world. Those who till soil or work stock tend to be tough and have a sole focus, however the representative bodies set up and funded by these very people are continually striving to educate, research and implement new technologies and methods that help a best-practice product reach the consumer.

So, along with the rest of the social media crew – keep up the good fight! There is an amazing group of people out there in cyberspace whose wisdom, sense of humour and capabilities never cease to inspire me as they strive to promote, educate and champion farmers.

Every family needs a farmer! ;)

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Guide to the Thought Process of Animals Australia

In response to: http://twitter.com/#!/AnimalsAus/status/176877787515334656/photo/1

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Back away from the breast

No doubt some of you read the article in U on Sunday, 26 February 2012 by Mia Freedman titled “Staying abreast of the situation”. Breast feeding has become, to summarise in her words “in some cases, the pendulum has swung too far, from positive encouragement to negative pressure and borderline bullying”.

I was only just speaking with a friend about it today when she raised an excellent point. As women, we are our own worst enemies.

As a soon to be mother, the information that is available from conception through to post natal care is daunting, confounding and simply down right confusing. I know that I had to ban myself from googling anything to do with pregnancy and rearing a child.

The Judgements run rife.

As far as I am concerned, each to their own. If you think you will be better off booking a caesarean rather than going through a natural delivery – do it. If you are unable to breast feed – don’t. If you think dummies are the best thing since sliced bread and use disposable nappies because it makes your life easier as a mother – go for it. Who are we to judge an individual situation, where each woman and child is different and each family situation is unique. Rather, we should be focusing our energy on supporting the decisions that woman make, defending the rights we fought for through the 20th century to make our own educated choices.

And when it comes down to it – if we lined up a random selection of adults would you be able to pick those who had been breastfeed or formulae fed, delivered drug free or emergency c-section? Let’s get real and just ignore the impossibly beautiful people like Gisele Bundchen who have made such extreme statements as there should be a ‘worldwide law’ forcing all mothers to breast feed for 6 months.

Yes, I completely agree that breast feeding is the optimum source of food for your newborn, however, mothers should not be made to feel like failures at one of the most vulnerable, yet exciting times in their lives. Judgements should be reserved for the parents who actually mistreat, harm and/or neglect their children. Not being able to breast feed is hardly a reason to ostracise a mother – rather it is a time for reassurance and support.

I do think that the Australian Breastfeeding Association has done an outstanding job of promoting ‘Breast is Best’, but let’s not get too carried away. Maybe they should add ‘but don’t panic if you can’t’.

Ladies, arm yourselves with a Plan A, Plan B and C (D-Z if necessary), trust your instincts and most importantly – surround yourself with people who acknowledge and respect your choices.

P.S. if any of the midwives at my hospital think they are going to manhandle my boobs they will be firmly told to back away from the breast until assistance is otherwise requested.

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