Some of the Young Farmers spend the most important part of the year (Grand Final, TBfree NZYF Conference, duck shooting) in places like Australia seeding or Britain or the US/Canada for harvest or shearing like my mate Shaun Bradley from Taihape. He's written a bit about his annual experiences in Western Australia.
The goings on in a day of a Wheat seeding programe on a Western Australia Farm.
Chilwell – is a family run farming operation consisting of 3 brother and a father.
Andrew Fowler, the eldest son is the director of the company and pretty much the big boss. He overseas the cropping programme consisting of about 17,500ha of canola, barley, wheat and ryegrass. Simon Fowler is in charge of the stock side of things. Running around 25,000 merino and perendale X ewes and about 2,500 cattle. Tim Fowler is.........well no one actually knows what Tim does but he is very good at looking occupied....yeh you get my drift. Richard, the father, just sifts about doing odd jobs here and there and then buggers off into town for a few days a week where they have a house.
The main block, Chatham is around about 100kms east of Esperance down the SE of WA. Esperance is a seaside town with amazing beaches and a great relaxed vibe to it.
In total the Fowlers run have around 25,000ha to look after. 10,500ha is owned by them and the rest is made up of lease land and share cropping. The land is spread over 6 different properties within a radius of about 30km from the main shed. The Company employs around 10 full time staff, not including the 3 brothers. There are 4 stockies, and the rest are cropmen and cropwomen, a grader/loader driver and a mechanic. During the Seeding and Havest times, casuals come in. There are 11 toyota landcruisers on the joint plus a couple of dualcabs for late night missions to town to drink the pub dry.
I came about this job through the mate Matt Wrenn who is full time out here, Matt is from Oringi back home in NZ, Oringi is half way between Woodville and Daniverke. Matt drives one of the big Nitro sprayers that are used excessively with a cropping programme.
The 2012 seeding season is the Fowlers biggest programme they have put in, recently aqquired lease land has jumped the programme from 11,500 to what it is now. Putting the crop in are two New Holland pivot steer tractors, 500hp, with a 60ft bar. Tractors run for around 21hours a day, 2 shitfts are run with day shift starting at 6am through till 3pm then night shift from 3pm through to 3am.
Before we seed the paddocks, a team of 3 sprayers have been getting paddocks ready for the last month or so. A knockdown spray a week or two before the paddocks are seeded to kill all weeds, grass and clover. 24Hrs before the paddock is seeded a pre-emergence spry is applied to stop any weeds that werent killed by the Roundup. The sprayers are kept very busy after seeding spraying the crops for more weeds and any insecticides and bugs that may appear. There are 3 sprayers out here, 2 self propelled (Nitros) theyve got 120ft booms on them so can get through the work, and a tow behind sprayer behind a tractor.
So im on night shift for seeding, you may think night shift is a bit average but infact its far better than during the day. So I usually wake up around midday, doing the usual chores, make lunch, washing and all that. Around 2:30pm I leave the house and go and pick up Keeri-lee, she is on nights with me. Kerri-lee is a local lass from esperance who has been driving tractors since she left school, she is 19. We arrive at the paddock round 3 and take over, during the day Brooke is on my tractor. Brooke is also a local Esperance girl, and Matts girlfriend. On the other tractor during the day is Neo, shes from Ireland and is out with her partner Colm who is on a sprayer.
So we rock up, get our debrief from the girls and then get into it. Every 20ha we get out and check all the pipes for blockages so that all the tynes are seeding. There is about 60 odd pipes and it only takes a few minutes to check and clear the odd blockage. Every 60 -70ha we get refilled with seed, fertiliser and liquid fert. Nights is good because everyone else is at home so we dont get bothered and were left to our own devices, and also at nights the suns not out so it doesnt put me to sleep. When we get closer to 3am we decide whether we park up at 3 or push on for another hour and get the paddock finished, depending on the paddock sizes.
Because this place run a lot of stock the sizes of the paddocks are on average 100ha so as to keep control on the grazing side of things and making mobs of stock also more controlable. But we do get bigger paddocks, on some of the new lease blocks we can get up to 300ha for one paddock so we would be stuck in there all night. On average we can get around 240ha seeded in a night, all up we average around 400ha for a day.
So then when we finish we shut the tractors down, jump in the ute and make a b-line for home and bed.
Seeding for the Fowlers this year will take about 2 months, at this stage we are nearing the end with about 4000ha remaining. Everyone is starting to look forward to the finish and abit of time off. We do get to take a day off when we want and if we want it. Most have taken a day off a week. I have a bit of a different attitude to the rest, mainly being a kiwi and having a kiwi attitude ive not taken anytime off since we really got busy so will probably end up going 5 weeks straight. Its interesting to see different peoples views on that, as being mostly non kiwis here they dont really understand that and think its mad. Maybe it is? I dont know, but thats just me, Im here to get the crop in so thats what ill do, its money for jam. Being on nights ive not been to the pub at all so have saved plenty. But the time will come where I do make it to the pub, then lookout cause itll be a blowout of all proportions. We are busy planning our cutout and farewells as we all head of in different directions and different countries.
Myself I'm off to England for the harvest up there. I am looking forward to that an experiencing what that will bring, but at the same time am also looking forward to heading back home to NZ.