Sunday, 30 April 2006

Technology and Lamb Marking

A couple of weeks ago I helped my wife’s brother ‘mark’ some of this seasons lambs. What follows gives the reader an understanding of what can be involved, and also highlights some of the technological and regulatory changes that have been introduced over the years.
The activities involved in marking lambs varies widely between livestock breeders but in the vast majority of cases it includes (at least) the application of some permanent ‘mark’ on the lamb this signifies ownership and removal of the animal’s tail.
The list (that comes to my mind) of possible activities during ‘marking’ is:
* MARKING – A small piece of the lamb’s ear is removed using registered (to the owner) design marking pliers to allow future identification. Males are marked in their left ear (right ear when looking at the sheep face on) and females in their right ear, enabling easy sex identification during subsequent handling (such as sorting or drafting). Some farmers also remove small pieces of the ear to signify the lamb’s year of birth. Recent legislation in NSW makes it compulsory that a manufactured ear tag is attached to an ear, identifying the owner and year of issue (different colours). The legislation does not remove the requirement to mark the ear via the marking pliers and thus the ear tag requirement is additional rather than a substitute. Some breeders use more sophisticated identification techniques such as technology readable micro-chips and bar codes enabling record keeping at individual animal level.
* TAIL DOCKING – Tails are removed to reduce the likelihood of fly strike around the base of the tail and reduce the time and effort in shearing (wool removal) the animal. Removal methods include cutting with a knife, application of a small rubber ring (cutting off the circulation and in time the tail falls off) and cutting with a hot (gas fired in most cases) knife which cauterizes the wound (eliminating blood loss and speeding recovery).
* CASTRATION – The testicles are removed or deadened to prevent the selected males from breeding, creating wethers. Doing so also makes handling of the flock easier through reduced animal fighting and avoids the meat becoming too ‘strong or gamy’ in flavour. Removal is by using a knife to remove the end of the scrotum and then manually extracting each testicle with a pair of specially designed pliers; although in days gone by the person performing the procedure would use his or her teeth. Many farmers these days prefer to place a small rubber ring over the entire scrotum using a specially designed tool, cutting off the circulation and in time the scrotum and contents fall from the animal.
* MULESING – Some breeders of merino sheep have the skin around the lamb’s rear and in part down the back legs removed using shears to reduce the risk of fly strike. This practice is under fire from the US based organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), on animal welfare grounds. Australian Wool Innovation is responsible for developing a strategy acceptable to both PETA and the industry.
* PEST & DISEASE CONTROL – Some breeders take the opportunity at marking time to inoculate lambs against pests and diseases via injection, drenching (oral) or external application (liquid onto the wool). Antiseptic and fly repelling liquid is applied to the wounds to reduce the risk of infection and fly strike.
As you will probably appreciate, there are now many different bits and pieces of technology available to assist breeders in the lamb marking process. The main one that has not been mentioned above is lamb marking ‘cradles’. These come in various designs and are all for the purpose of restraining the lambs during the overall marking procedure. Prior to the invention of the cradles the animals were restrained by one person whilst another did the marking. The cradles now make it possible for one person to do the marking on their own.

Saturday, 29 April 2006

Measuring the capacity of dams or tanks

Whilst still on the subject of water, I thought it worth recording a simple methodology for calculating the volume of earth that needs to be excavated (or alternatively working out the capacity) to create a dam of a desired size in megalitres. The calculation is taken from the trusty 'Elders Notebook' that many farmers carry. At the bottom of the page in the notebook the source of the information is shown as Southern Rural Water (telephone 03 9742 6513).
The formula in the context of the above diagram is:
a) Length at bottom, multiplied by the width at the bottom: 30 X 9 = 270
b) Length at the top multiplied by width at the top: 126 X 89 = 11,214 (Surface area)
c) Sum of the lengths, multiplied by sum of the widths: (126 + 30) X (89 + 9) = 15,288
d) Sum a) plus b) plus c): 270 + 11,214 + 15,288 = 26,772
e) Figure at d) multiplied by the depth: 26,772 X 16= 428,352
f) Figure at e) divided by 6: 428,352/6 = 71,392. (NB. I've no idea where the '6' comes from!)
As all the measurements are in metres, the calculated capacity is in cubic metres. To convert this figures into megalitres (ML) divide the figure at f) by 1000: 71,392/1,000 = 71.392 ML
Some other bits of trivia:
* The length of 1 metre is in fact 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the North Pole through Paris to the equator. Looking at this another way, the distance from the North Pole through Paris to the equator is 10,000 km. So if the earth was a perfect sphere and the distance from the North Pole through Paris to the equator was exactly one quarter of the distance around the circumference of the earth, then the distance around the earth would be 40,000 km. Quite a hike, or swim, or perhaps more accurately a bit of both!!
* 1 gram equals the mass of 1 cubic centremetre of water at 4 degrees Celsius. Or put another way, 1 kilogram is the mass of 1 litre of water at 4 degrees Celsius.
* 1 litre equals the volume of 1 cubic decimeter (100 X 100 X 100 mm) of water
My thanks go Harvey Matthews for sharing the dam capacity calculations with me.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

How much water falls on a farm each year?

Ever wandered just how much water falls on your own land each year?
I decided to do some math and get my head around the physical quantity that falls on Ochre Arch on average each year. Using metric areas and quantities makes the calculations much easier.
Here are some figures that readers could use to make calculation for their own places.
* 1 mm of rain on a square metre of land produces 1 litre of water.
* A hectare of land is 10,000 square metres. If the shape of a hectare happens to be a perfect square then its dimensions are 100 metres by 100 metres.
* 100 mm of rain on a hectare produces a megalitre (1,000,000 litres) of water (10,000 sq metres X 100).
* 1,000 litres of water takes up a cubic metre of space
* The length of an Olympic swimming pool is 50 metres. If such a pool is completely full and is 10 metres wide and 2 metres deep then it will contain exactly 1 megalitre (50 X 10 X 2 X 1,000 = 1,000,000 litres) of water.
To work out how much rain falls on a property each year one needs to know the average rainfall each year in millimetres (mm) and the total area of the property in hectares. The calculation steps are:
A. Calculate megalitres of rain per hectare per annum.
The easiest way to do this is to divide yearly rainfall in mm by 100. Example: If the yearly rainfall is 550 mm then the number of megalitres per hectare per annum is 5.5 (550/100)
B. Calculate megalitres per annum for the whole property
Multiply the number of megalitres per hectare per annum by the total number of hectares on the property. Example: Megalitres of water per annum that falls on a 385 ha property that averages 550 mm of rain each year = 2,117.5 (5.5 X 385).
Our property, Ochre Arch, happens to be 385 ha and the average rainfall is around 550 mm per annum. Thus one could say that each year the equivalent of 2,117.5 Olympic swimming pools of water fall on the property. That’s a lot of water!!

One Way to Stop Nuisance SMS Messages!

Last year I bought a new mobile 'phone through 3CDMA. The allocated number was obviously 'pre-loved' and as a result I have been receiving an ever-diminishing number of unwanted SMS messages and 'phone calls.
There has been one person who gets 'smashed' (his words, not mine) every 6 to 8 weeks and in moments of extreme disorientation resorts to sending messages to 'friends' in the wee hours of the morning. Last Sunday morning I received 3 SMS messages at around 5.00 AM, the first 2 of which were quite sane but the third was, shall we say, not particularly friendly and also containing a colourful range of four letter words.
In the interest of community service I decided to see what could be done to prevent receipt of further messages from this person. The telephone company was unable to help as it does not have technology capable of blocking calls from specific numbers. I then rang my local police station (it was around 10.00 AM by this time) and spoke to a most helpful Constable who explained that there were 2 options I could take if I wanted to go further. The first was to initiate formal procedings, and the second was for her to call the person and suggest that he or she cease the practice. I chose the second.
About 5 minutes after hanging up the 'phone the Constable rang me back to let me know that she'd called the number and left a message for him to call her back at the station. About an hour later the Constable rang me back again to let me know that the person (which for the purpose of the exercise I'll now refer to as SC) had called her back. After explaining to SC (who was 23 years old as it turned out) that it was a Commonwealth offense to make harrassment calls he expressed 'extreme remorse' and assured her he would cease the practice.
For mine, the action taken by the local Constable was superb. And I believe SC will most definitely think again before communicating with his friends in such a manner.
There were some other learnings for me:
1. The approach taken by the police was very balanced in that the first priority was to find out the 'perpetrator's' name and pass it back to me ... in case he or she was known to me.
2. The Constable also asked that I check with the other members of my family to see if they knew SC. After all, it was quite possible one of them my have used my mobile.
3. It occurred to me that SC would know my telephone number and could retaliate if he found out my name and address. Unlikely, of course, but one can't be too careful. Anyway, the greeting I'd recorded on my mobile did include my surname, and I have since changed it so that it is now only my first name.

What's Ochre Archives all about?

G'day there
In September 2005 we had a visit to our farm at Grenfell in New South Wales from Sue Hudson who is a fully qualified Aboriginal archaeologist. She discovered, much to our delight, that the arch you can see in the photo is made for ironstone and was mined underneath by Aborigines when they lived in the area to obtain ochre for colouring. The name of our property at the time was the same as a city in Ohio in the USA ... and was thus a bit too American sounding for us Aussies. We'd been searching for a new name for the place that was both unique and reflective of some physical characteristic. And thus "Ochre Arch" came to light ... and we have now formally changed the property name.
Since buying "Ochre Arch" we have made many other discoveries, and recently created a newsletter which we've called Ochre Archives. We sent copies to family, friends and acquaintances and the feedback has been excellent. One of the receivers of the newsletter (who calls himself "Griffeaux") liked it so much he has motivated us to create a blog site. Our intention is to publish all sorts of stuff that we learn - mostly about the farm, but also covering stuff in general that we pick up as we continue to travel through the 'rich tapestry of life'.So we are now on our way ... and hope readers enjoy what we publish. Feedback is most welcome!!