A tornado of a week Part 1

 

I was offline most of last week bunkered down in Sydney with some bright minds looking at innovative ways to fund Art4Agriculture over the next 5 years but more about that later

Lots of Archies

The week started with an early morning call from ABC Illawarra to do some press generated by this story in the Illawarra Mercury on the roll out of the Archibull Prize on the South Coast,

Archibull Prize Illawarra mercury

I for one m very excited to have local schools involved this year   

From there it was off to Sydney to NSW Farmers HQ for the official opening of their new offices in St Leonards and a great night was had by all. On show at NSWFA HQ are two of our Archies and wow did they spend some time in the spotlight

MB

‘Sweetie Pie’ with NSW Farmers CEO Matt Brand

Smiling Faces NSW Farmers opening Katrina Hodgkinson Fiona Simson and Andrew Stoner

Hon Katrina Hodgkinson MP Fiona Simson President NSW FA and Hon Andrew Stoner Deputy Premier cut the ribbon

Jules 2

Jamison High “Jules” on display in the foyer

Lots of controversy

Then there was the controversy around the results at the Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show

the big cheese 2

Having spent three days as a steward at the show the previous week what I can say is the judges take their roles very seriously. The addition of iPads to tally the results was very impressive and certainly added a new dimension to the judging process

Cheese Judging Ipads

If anybody doubts the RAS dedication to the process of getting it right just come and watch the Haloumi judged. Each piece is cut to exactly the same size and fried for exactly the same amount of time and three stewards on hand to ensure each entry is presented to the judges in perfect continuity. I must admit I felt a bit under pressure for that one  

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Getting ready for the judging of the best non-bovine dairy product

 

For all cheese lovers check out Channel Cheese TV here

About Channel Cheese

Join cheesemonger Alison Brien as she goes behind-the-scenes and under-the-rind of the cheese world.

Alison was one of the judges at the Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Show and I noticed she had her videographer there so you should see some insights into the judging process loaded on Channel Cheese TV shortly.

 

The week just continued to get more ‘interesting’ with the ACCC announcing it was launching an investigation into Coles and Woolworths over possible misuse of their market power and indications of “unconscionable conduct” in relation to deals with their suppliers. and on top of this a mini tornado hit our region last weekend with some devastating consequences  more on this in my next post

So excited the cows are back

I was so excited when I woke up this morning to see the cows were back and wow what a picture they made.

Clover Hill Dairies the cows are back 

Mystical Jamberoo Valley after the rains

For too many eastern seaboard farmers sadly last week’s rain was a calamity. For us it was like we had won lotto. My office window overlooks this paddock and every 14 to 21 days up until 6 months ago I could reliably look out the window and for three mornings straight watch the cows strip graze their way down the hill. It has been so long since the cows were in this paddock I had almost forgotten how magical it was

As you can see this morning they were already well down the hill and there was no strip grazing fences to be seen as there was only enough grass for just one feed from the whole paddock

But there was grass none the less and it wasn’t long before the water trough beckoned and I could see the gorgeous girls up close and personal

the cows are back

Below in the distance you can see our young girls grazing on the fresh new shoots on one of our lease properties

Clover Hill Heifers

The girls wandered off to the midday milking

Clover Hill stroll to the midday milking

and it was all action – men and machines everywhere 

Hive of activity at Clover Hill

Making the most of every opportunity to grow the next round of lushest, sweetest grass paradise can deliver to produce nature’s perfect nutrient cocktail for 50,000 Australians every day  

Bowling Greens

Maybe even in the not too distant future it will look like this again

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and as HT said its just great to feel like you are farming again

Transparency and integrity Coles that is all we ask

As drought morphs into floods I reflect on the week that has been. I popped into ABC Illawarra to do an interview on the Archibull Prize launch and of course got asked for a quick grab on the Milk Price wars. Just a little quid pro quo what harm could that do?.

I haven’t heard the interview but it has almost necessitated me going into hiding. I was inundated by calls from radio stations and newspapers wanting to follow up my comments and then when I declined industry bodies who were asked to comment on my comments.

Coles is in damage control and the consultants have been engaged to tell Coles side of the story. Let me tell you mine in pictures. Pictures, I can now only bring myself to share because I know the rain will bring the grass and a little sanity back  

Months of almost no rain has meant we have no grass to feed our cows and this has meant we have had to buy in feed to hand feed all our cows – all 1000 of them ( and yes that is very very very expensive)

Sproules Gully

Bare hills not much clover to be seen here 

Yard Paddock 2

This means this mixer wagon goes up and down the road every day, all day bringing feed mixed at the Lemon Grove farm to all the cattle on the home farm and our young stock on our leased properties

Mixer Wagon

In the last week we have had to feed the cows along this fence line as our mixer wagon went in for repair and the loan machine didn’t fit on the feed pad, so we had to sacrifice another paddock for the greater good     Orchard Paddock

Not a pretty site

I look forward to sharing the good news that comes with the rain but back to the $1 dollar milk.

Coles what we need here is transparency and integrity then you wouldn’t need consultants to interpret and press releases for spin.

Firstly acknowledge that consumer well being is not your first priority, in fact your tills and your shareholders are front and centre all the way as this story reiterates ‘ Sydney drivers get slugged as supermarkets sweep profits’

Secondly that what your Down Down Down campaign and the subsequent  Milk Price Wars is doing is setting a national artificial floor price for milk  that is preventing the true market price of milk being realised.  You can blame the export market, the processors and the drought and farmer inefficiencies ad infinitum. Cows are not machines and farmers would all be doing something else if they wanted to make a motza. Please remember Coles real people farm and we just want a fair price.

Transparency and integrity Coles that’s all we ask   

 

Milk in the bathtub

Whilst this is a little light hearted relief thanks to @guswhyte it makes sense doesn’t it –  after all milk is cheaper than water 

The dangers of putting everyone in the same basket.

I have been writing my two blogs for over 12 months now and have yet to have anyone send me a comment that would cause me offence. Now it would be highly unlikely that anyone would take umbrage at the activities of Art4Agriculture. But there is the chance that like the divine Milk Maid Marian this blog may attract the “haters” every now and then. The “haters” in this case being those extremist  vegans who think all livestock farmers are the right hand of the devil and its their right of passage to tell you so at every opportunity.

Now apparently the “haters” from both sides have been active on twitter this week which has prompted these excellent posts from Alison Fairleigh and Milk Marian Marian ( note the comment by @JohnKeily1)

Lets not forget the world is full of bizarre people and a couple of things that have happened to me in the last 48hours have highlighted this very strongly.

Just check this out I will guarantee it will have you shaking your head as well. Today I was out and about like last Sunday walking the gorgeous Kiama Coastline this time from Bombo beach to Minnamurra with my trusty camera to add to my weight load . Along the way we spotted this painted on the front of a house.

Tree Vandal  (2) 

Obviously some extremist  “nature lover” was very unhappy that the occupants of this house had done something?? to a tree in their front yard. Also in front of this house was this little car

Tree Vandal  (1) 

It too had fallen victim to the wrath of the “nature lover”. Whilst I was taking this photo the mother of the owner of the car approached me and I got the real story. This little car belongs to her daughter who just happened to be staying with friends next door and had nothing to do with the occupants of the house her car was parked in front of. Well “nature lover” who is the real vandal here?.

After our walk we ventured down to the Kiama Markets. Can there be anywhere more beautiful to hold markets? Kiama Markets

You can get 2 bunches of roses for $10, buy extraordinary eclectic pieces made out of spoons and all the gorgeous produce you could think of from the South Coast as well as enjoy food cooked on the biggest barbeque I had ever seen.

 

Well I was walking along minding my own business, taking lots of pictures with my beloved camera.

Camera

And out of no where this man invades my personal space and starts haranguing me about what an abomination cameras are. According to him it is an absolute to disgrace to reduce the world to “rectangles”. Well I did engage him for just a moment sharing with him how much pleasure its gives me to be able to record my journey on my camera. But he wasn’t listening and continued to rabbit on in a very loud voice and I walked away.

Now what does all this have to do with animal welfare and vegan extremists you ask. Well yesterday afternoon I had a call from a friend who told me something that really distressed me. Apparently a local farmer parked his ute in the main street of my gorgeous little village of Jamberoo in front of the newsagency and remained there for a least twenty minutes. Now here comes the appalling bit. On the back of his ute he had a dead cow just lying there for all the world to see little kids included. Just what was he thinking you ask and just how much damage was he doing to the reputation of our other local farmers I cant even begin to think

As I said the world is made up of bizarre people who do just don’t think before they act. All I ask vegan extremists is that you don’t lump all livestock farmers into the one basket. Like 99% of the people in this world, most livestock farmers are good, caring, sensitive people with values and it hurts when you attack us.

As for the farmers who feel the need to fight back like Alison says

Some of the best advocates for Australian agriculture and farmers are people living in cities. You don’t have to be a farmer to “get it”. Give credit where it is due and don’t lump all “city people” into the same basket.

and this sage advice from the US

Be proactive, not reactive.

It’s not about engaging activist crazies in fire fights where everyone comes back bloodied. We can reduce their clamour by building a wall of trust with our customers. It’s as simple as talking with them on an ongoing basis, joining them in conversations about food and addressing their concerns.

• Build bridges with people influential in the food community, who drive opinions and are willing to engage in a conversation about food.
• Meet customers on their own turf and invite them to ours. Answer all concerns they have about food, whether the issues seem real to us or not.
• Talk about our desire to continually improve sustainability, quality and safety on the farm.
• Tell your personal story about how you use fewer resources to produce more, and let them know how you care for your land and animals.
• Be transparent. It builds trust. Share values with your customers.

To move public opinion… to counter the activists… “We must open our doors–and maybe more importantly, open our minds–to consumers and their perspectives about food and agriculture,”

as Marian also rightly says

The ethics of food is so complex. Vegans following a conscientious diet are told they are inadvertently starving Peruvians, causing deforestation and even eating with blood on their vegetarian hands. It’s not easy being green and I don’t blame vegans for being so passionate about their choice. 

I personally have seen my vegetarian friends attacked by perfect strangers asking for justification of the choices they have made. Like my gorgeous vegetarian friends I am doing my best to walk away from the battles I cant win.

 

Come on everyone its time to fight the good fight

Picture Perfect

Recently the farm hosted Rural Press journalist Matt Cawood ( @matt_cawood) and I have discovered he is an awesome photographer ( he did have a pretty impressive camera with him)

You can read Matt’s story in The Land here

So I thought I would take this opportunity to share with the you some of beautiful photographs he took at the farm

Lynne and Paradise Chime 2

Firstly me with the absolutely adorable Mandelyn Paradise Chime. Chime was a twin who came out backwards and I raised her from the day she born  and she is just so friendly and she just loves having her ears scratched.

Louise

This is Louise bringing the cows home for the midday milking.

Chrissy in the Dairy

This is Chrissy in the pit milking the cows at midday milking. Note the very curious cows in the background 

Calves in front paddock

The calves in the front paddock. Wow how fantastic is that view

Picasso Cows arboretum

Picasso Corner which 5 local schools revegated in 2008

Desert Pea

The entrance to the dairy

and look at these two divine photos

Bluebird 

How special is this one

Bluebird 2

and last but not least our drum art which are hosting some of our endangered or vulnerable  species trees

Barrels

Matt is an very interesting story himself and there are some wonderful insights here “Australian agriculture reporter leaves isolation for London’s meeting of minds” which includes this quote that I like

“Agriculture is the most fundamental human activity. Without it, we don’t have cities, the Internet, cappuccino. And we are quickly realizing that how we conduct agriculture determines the health of the planet.”

All photos by Matt Cawood .Thank you so much Matt  for sending them to me

One of those days that makes your heart sing

We used to host lots of school visits which was pretty full. These these days we restrict the tours and host extra special children. Sometimes that’s preschool tours for children of our staff and friends and overseas visitors with children. Today we hosted an extra, extra special group of students and they were super excited as Win 4 were coming to and they were all going to be on the news

Well yesterday we got 18 mm of much needed rain and today we all woke up to perfect sunshine.

There were some really special moments

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As you can imagine Peena the lamb didn’t just fascinate the cows

Look at this shot of the cow licking Peena

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The kids had a great time feeding the very well behaved calves

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Peena assisted the camera man whose name was Attila and yes he got teased at school

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I got interviewed

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We visited Picasso Corner and Megan and Renae got interviewed

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and the cows on the hill made a superb backdrop

Well done Emma who does a great job of making all this happen smoothly and here is the WIN 4 footage

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Defining Excellence

Today is Father’s Day and it is the simple things in life Michael is enjoying today. Now that the infection in his knee is gone just to see him being able to walk without pain is a joy to behold.

Michael’s eyes lit up when Nick arrived at the back door and suggested he join him on the gator to round up the cows for the midday milking.

Then he spotted her, his favourite cowIMG_5266

This is Mandelyn Damion Simola. She has this fancy moniker like all our cows that is made up of three parts. The first part is the name of our stud ‘Mandelyn’ (Mike and Lynne) the second part is a reference to her father who is called ‘Erbacres Damion’ and the third part is in honour of her mother who was Parabel Broker Simola. Before we started milking 3 times daily in 2005  we used to show our cattle quite a bit and we did very well with the Simola family.

Now Damion Simola ( we call her Damion for short) is result of the technology known as Embryo Transplant which is explained rather impressively here.

In the dairy industry we have two ways of getting our cows acknowledged as setting a standard of excellence

You can take them to beauty pageants aka shows and/or you can participate in the classification system (explained here

Michael puts Damion Simola under microscope  

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From the front

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Comparing Damion to a herd mate “Don’t look at her, look at me I’m the best” says Damion

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From the side

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What do you think Lynne. “Am I the best one”

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Damion has made Michael’s day and he climbs back in the gator and yells out to me ‘ Nick is going to ring the classifier I am positive she is going to go ‘Excellent’ (highest accolade)

I hope so Michael you deserve a few wins, things have been pretty tough lately BTW Happy Father’s Day  

Show me the love

Did you know that one teaspoon of healthy carbon-rich soil can contain almost as many organisms as there are people on the planet, that is, close to 7 billion living things – and a greater diversity of life than the Amazonian rainforest.

At Clover Hill Dairies our soil organic carbon varies from 5.5% to 12%. Now for anyone not au fait with soil organic carbon stats I can assure you that’s damned impressive and I am very proud to share this with you. I am even more proud to tell you that extensive soil carbon tests on many dairy farms in our region show similar results. That’s a lot of living organisms our regional dairy farm soils are proudly feeding and supporting.

Why am I telling you this?

Because Coles uses it marketing power and financial might to run loss leader marketing strategies with our Aussie farmer’s produce – like milk.  Marketing campaigns that give Australians the impression they are the reason for cheap groceries in this country when its our farmers who should be getting the credit for this

This behaviour is crippling NSW dairy farmers. The destructive pricing policies just have to stop because it doesn’t stop with our dairy farmers – it is undermining the financial viability of our great Aussie farmers.

I don’t have millions of dollars to spend in TV advertising campaigns to right this wrong. In fact my business like all Dairy Farmers Milk Supply Coop and Lion suppliers will take a heavy battering this year from the fallout from these Coles destructive pricing policies

But I do have voice and I have taken a pledge to get out there and tell every single Australian the real story behind food at rock bottom prices in this country and why they should be proud and loud of our Aussie farmers

This week I am speaking at ABARES in Bega. Since I first put forward the title of my presentation a lot has changed in the NSW dairy industry and the new title “Show me the Love” more reflects the need for everyone to think differently about the way farmers are embraced in this country

By the end of my talk I want nothing less than a pledge from every single person in the room to use their  LOVE to wake up Australia and get them behind our farmers!!!!

What do you reckon? Can I pull it off?

Show me the Love

 She certainly hopes I can because her future depends on it. 

A Sucker for Good News Stories

Must admit I was feeling a bit overwhelmed today for a number of reasons which I wont bore you with.

I know we all have those days when we just want to scream, when you seem surrounded by self interested, non productive green house gas emitters, who you wish would just get off the planet

Well I was having one of those days and then this arrived in my inbox and I smiled and all was once right again with the world.  

Bobby 

This is Bobbi and she is a Jersey Holstein cross 3 weeks old little heifer we gave away yesterday to some wonderful people who as you can see are giving her a life of luxury.

Bobbi has a new mum. Just to add to the liquorice allsorts mix her new mum is a Brown Swiss. 

I had call yesterday from Bobbi’s new owner who was distressed about Bobbi’s new mum

Apparently her next door neighbour’s Angus bull had jumped the fence, impregnated her Brown Swiss cow who is a companion for her horse and sadly the resulting offspring did not survive

At Clover Hill the team is thrilled Bobbi is now surround by all this love, cuddly blankets and fireside moments.

What do you reckon. I think marshmallows and hot chocolate might be on the agenda later tonite for Bobbi         

Why Coles should stop the Milk Price Wars

Today Young Farming Champion Jess Monteith and I went to visit her friends Tim and Natalie Cochrane. You can read an earlier post about  Jess here

Jess wasn’t born on a farm but after meeting people like Nat and Tim who own a dairy farm at Terara just north of Nowra and helping them show cattle she fell in love with all things dairy . Jess’ little herd of registered Holstein and Illawarra cows now live at Tim and Natalie’s property with each new drop of calves helping set up a future for Jess to start providing milk for lots of Australian families just like her friends.

The visit today was to get some more photos for Jess’ Archibull Prize in school presentation. Jess is being sponsored by Paul’s Milk and will visit Caroline Chisholm College at Glenmore Park in her role as a Young Farming Champion.

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Jess and her favourite cow Eve

I was struck today by all these young people full of hope for a bright future in the dairy industry not just Jess but Tim and Nat who have two small children

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Tim and Nat milk four hundred cows. Generations of farming families and cow families make them and their cows the team they are today

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The next generation wait their turn to join the herd

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Everybody waiting and wondering if there will even be any dairy cows let alone farming families on the flats at Terara if the crippling milk price wars don’t stop soon.

AJK Eve First calf 

Jess’ favourite cow Eve on the day she was born

People in the dairy industry have a very close relationship with their cows. The nature of the industry means husbands and wives work side by side and often their children join them in the dairy.

image  

This photo says it all

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Dairy farming today is technology rich and phenomenal efficiency gains mean we can produce 60% more milk from 50% less cows than we did 50 years. They tells us if we do x,y, and z we can achieve further efficiency gains and maybe even survive this senseless round of milk price discounting being conducted by Coles.

But we can only work so many hours a week, what we need is smart young people like Jess working in agriculture and we need a milk supply chain culture that values people       

The dairy industry needs to be able to invest in our young people and nurture them. Tell me Coles how we do that on milk that is being valued at 15c/litre.

Help the dairy industry invest in Jess’ future Coles. You can do this. Its easy

STOP USING MILK AS A LOSS LEADER