Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Surveying Our Farm Water Scheme

On Saturday just gone Shayne from Forbes came out to the farm out our request to survey the pipeline and associated infrastructure that constitute our on-farm stock and house water set-ups. He uses digital equipment that draws on satellites and a base station, and will provide us with a digital file that will enable us and those that follow to accurately locate the pipeline in case of need. This is to some a discretionary and unnecessary exercise but we've heard countless stories of farmers who for various reasons need to locate pipelines on their farms and struggle; resulting in some cases in having to actually lay new lines when they may not have had to do so.
In this photo you can see the antenna (left), rover (leaning against the wooden post) and base station.
The antenna and base station are powered by the large battery you can see near the base of the antenna. The base station is positioned directly over a semi-permanent marker that can be re-used in case of need. This marker is a galvanised iron short star post hit in to level with the ground surface and has had a depression placed on the top of it using a hole punch.
The 'rover' is mobile and has a pole on the bottom that can be removed when appropriate to help make sure accurate elevation (metres above sea level) recordings are taken.
In this next photo you can see Shayne at the back of Ochre Arch (Weddin Mountain in the background) setting up a second semi-permanent marker, which in this case is a wooden square section 'dumpy' that has been hit into the ground and a galvanised nail hit into the top as a centre.
At the semi-permanent marker locations Shayne sets the equipment up to run for quite some time (3 minutes) to allow for much more accurate coordinate and elevation recording.
This next photo gives a better view of the semi-permanent marker. You can see how Shayne has stabilised the rover on top of the centre-point using a support stand.
In this final photo you can see Shayne putting his quad bike back on the specially designed trailer he has for transporting it. Pretty neat, actually.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Shearing Shed Practice Changes Over Time

We lived away from farming for almost 30 years. It has been curious to see how sheep shearing and shearing shed practices and equipment have altered during this time. Below is a list of what we've observed as being different so far.

  • Wool Presses are now hydraulic electric powered rather than ‘human’ powered dramatically reducing the amount of time and effort involved and enabling higher bale weights/reduced bale numbers
  • Combs are wider, reducing shearing times by around 30 % depending on sheep type and wool condition
  • Shearers now carry and use their own hand-pieces meaning that they can be confident this critical piece of gear will perform properly
  • Shearers also now carry a range of combs and cutters which are changed to suit the sheep and wool conditions.
  • It is no longer the farm manager’s responsibility to have grinders in place for the shearers to use to sharpen combs and cutters. Each shearer as a rule now has his or her own sharpening grinders and sharpens their combs and cutters at home.
  • Each shearer has a ‘counter’ which they set up at the entrance to the catching pens. Each time they enter the pen they click the counter by a single digit. This means that it is no longer necessary for the rouse-about to ‘count out’ the number of sheep shorn for each shearer at the end of each run, saving time and reducing the likelihood of arguments over daily tallies. There is a low risk of shearers abusing the trust by doing more clicks than sheep shorn as the farmers generally have a good sense of total numbers of sheep to be shorn.
  • Music is played in the shed via ghetto blasters while shearing is underway. The shearing sheds thus really do ‘rock’!
  • As the old petrol motors and overhead gear wears out electric motors are installed at each stand.
  • Light-framed collapsible wool pack holders are used to hold wool packs upright and open for temporary storage of smaller quantities pending ‘proper’ baling using the hydraulic presses.
  • Wool packs are light and synthetic instead of hemp avoiding the risk of loose hemp fibres contaminating the wool.
  • “Raddle” (colouring for distinguishing different sheep classes identified during shearing) is now in spray can form rather than chalk making the marking process quicker and the colour much more distinctive.
  • Shearers and shed staff provide their own food, rather than it being supplied at the shearing location. There are still some places that provide food for shearers but this is by far in the minority (1 in 10 sheds).
  • Many local farms now have their shearing done on a contract basis rather than directly employing shearers and shed staff. The contractor takes responsibility for ensuring appropriate numbers of skilled workers are on hand, pay the team members direct, and issue a single invoice to the farmer covering the lot. The contractor does charge a fee for doing the administration.
  • Special solid board sweepers are used rather than straw brooms eliminating the risk of straw strands contaminating the wool.
  • It is now reasonably common place for women to work in the sheds.
  • Shearers use back support frames to reduce the risk of back injuries.
  • There are a myriad of new OH&S requirements in shed design. One is that the grates in the catching pens are supposed to be parallel with the direction sheep are dragged from the catching pens rather than perpendicular. The latter means that the sheep are more readily able to resist being caught making the work more difficult for the shearer.
  • The old-style wool ‘paddles’ (two flat boards about 1 metre in length connected by leather or canvass) used for picking up wool from the floor have been replaced by separate plastic paddles.