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Nuffield Australia 2012 Spring Tour

All video presentations in this report can be found together on our 2012 Spring Tour channel at  Links to individual video presentations are also listed below. As the videos focus closely on individual presentations there are no separate downloadable files as has been the practice for previous conference reports.

Thursday, 25 October

By Andrew Dewar, Queensland Scholar

On Thursday morning, 100 Nuffield Scholars and supporters were given an in-depth perspective of paddock-to-plate distribution, as well as highlight some of the major advancements in equipment technologies.

We boarded the buses early, en-route for Brisbane Produce Markets, where we were hosted by Vanessa Hughes from Brismark, who owns and runs the 50 hectare site in South Brisbane. It is also home to some 50 produce agents, 4000 employees and 160 forklifts. The business markets a staggering 600,000 tons of produce annually. During our time at the markets, we were able to see firsthand the “organised chaos” which is the selling floor of any central produce market system. It was also great to see on display the abundance of amazing produce which Queensland produces.

New also visited the “Woolworths Distribution Centre” which is a huge, state-of-the-art, automated distribution facility. This was specifically built to distribute goods between 160-200 stores in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

A third visit took the group to John Deere’s head office in Brisbane to see the latest and greatest in technology that John Deere has to offer. One of the highlights of the John Deere factory was their new training system which John Deere is introducing, enabling real time training to mechanics and operators from virtual classrooms anywhere in the world. From there, we boarded the buses and headed up the hill to Toowoomba.

Following lunch, the group attended the afternoon session of the ABARES Regional Outlook Conference, at Burke and Wills Hotel, Toowoomba. These conferences deliver commodity forecasts and research results directly to rural and regional communities and each program is tailored to the region.

The afternoon speakers provided thought-provoking information, from local agricultural data and innovative business practices through to the global commodity overview. They included Nuffield Scholar Ronald Thompson, representing Origin Energy, who addressed the group about both sides of the fence on CSG, Annette Smith from Taylor Byrne, who is the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award 2012 winner representing Queensland, and Ruth Armstrong from Yanco Farms, also covering the topic of farming and CSG.

The final session was chaired by Chris Russell, an agricultural scientist and judge on ABC TV’s New Inventors Show. This panel session had five speakers and explored innovation, the role of science, regional development, future industries, new technologies, the digital economy and social media.

At 6:30pm, the group walked a short distance to the Church Room at Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, for a conference dinner. Over 130 guests heard from speakers including Crosby Devitt, a Canadian Nuffield Scholar from Ontario who outlined his farm business and Nuffield topic of investigating how grain research partnerships involving farmers and farm organizations are structured. He has been examining ways that private and public entities form partnerships with farmers to better meet the growing demand for increased grain productivity. >>> watch on video

The second speaker was Nicola Waugh, from Hamilton, New Zealand, a 2011 Nuffield Scholar who studied farmer adaptation to change with the threat of regulation, with a particular focus around environmental regulation. She investigated different roles of both public and private organisations and what New Zealand could learn from this. >>> watch on video

The final, keynote speaker for the evening was Dr John Williams of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. His thought-provoking presentation focused on the future of the Murray-Darling Basin and how the Wentworth Group is advocating for 4400 GL to be returned to the river. His science-based evidence and recommendations were followed by a number of questions from the group.   >>> watch on video | Download presentation (5.4 MB)

Friday, 26 October

By Nicola Raymond, Nuffield Scholar 

Nuffield held it’s Presentations Day at Burke and Wills Hotel, Toowoomba. Following an opening address by Nuffield Australia Chairman Terry Hehir, the delegates listened to 11 scholars presenting the findings of their study tours. They included:

Christine Ferguson from Wanaaring, western NSW, who received the 2010 Nuffield Scholarship supported by Meat & Livestock Australia to investigate goat grazing management in arid areas and market opportunities for rangeland goat meat. >>> watch on video

Ian Duthie from Orford in Tasmania, who received the 2010 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation to study shell-fish culture techniques. >>> watch on video

Adam Jenkins from South Purrumbete, Victoria, received the 2011 Nuffield Scholarship for a primary producer sponsored by Rabobank. Adam studied agricultural cooperatives and agricultural board structures, with an emphasis on dairy cooperatives. >>> watch on video

Robert Blatchford from Gurley, NSW, received the 2011 Nuffield Scholarship supported by Grain Growers Association. Rob investigated cover crop options for cotton to reduce evaporation from the soil surface and store moisture for future crops. >>> watch on video

James Male from Yerong Creek in NSW received the 2011 Nuffield Scholarship supported by Meat and Livestock Australia. James studied the export lamb industry, focusing on lamb finishing systems and maximizing the margins on grain finishing lambs. >>> watch on video

Clinton Scharfe from Port Lincoln in South Australia received the 2011 Nuffield Scholarship supported by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. Clint investigated new technologies and how they could be applied in the South Australian prawn industry. >>> watch on video

Ryan Smart from Keith in South Australia received the 2012 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. He studied ways of managing farm energy use to capitalise on carbon and maximising energy use efficiencies on-farm. >>> watch on video

Ray Vella from Marlborough in Queensland received the 2012 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia. Ray studied beef genetics and pasture management and investigated which breeds of cattle best maintain the quality of beef in harsh environments. >>> watch on video

Damian Murphy from Dumbalk North, Victoria received the 2012 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by the Geoffrey Gardiner Dairy Foundation. He investigated the different finance schemes in place around the world which young farmers use to start building their asset in agriculture. >>> watch on video

Rhys Arangio from Fremantle in Western Australia received the 2012 Nuffield Scholarship awarded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Woolworths. Rhys studied ways to reduce whale depredation in fishing operations. >>> watch on video

Dave Reilly from Loxton in South Australia received the 2012 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by Woolworths. Dave studied management of date palm plantations for premium date fruit production. >>> watch on video

Following the presentation day, over 160 Nuffield Scholars, sponsors and supporters travelled to Picnic Point, Toowoomba, for the Annual Awards Dinner. At this dinner, the Honourable Neil Andrew, AO and 1975 Nuffield Scholar, presented the George Wilson Oration. >>> watch on video

At the Awards Dinner, 18 newly selected 2013 Nuffield Scholars were presented with their awards. Please go to the “Scholarship Winners” section under Scholarships for more information about each of the 2013 Scholars.

Saturday, 27 October 

By Tim Harslett, Queensland Scholar 

The Saturday leg of the spring tour started with the National AGM. Upon the conclusion of this, two coach loads of Scholars and partners embarked on a day tour.

The first stop was the historical Glengallan Homestead. Glengallan station was one of early large stations in the Warwick area. The homestead has undergone a $2 million National Heritage Trust renovation to restore it to its original glory. Whilst there, we received a history talk and received a traditional morning tea.

Next stop was Clive and Margaret Smith’s “Mulgowan” in the traprock country. The Smiths have developed a reputation for high-quality fine wool. The visit revolved around the shearing shed, with an engaging hour with stock management and marketing strategies dominating the discussion. At “Mulgowan” they buy in all their stock and sell them off as mutton when they get to an age where their wool is not a high enough standard.

From Mulgowan, it was a short drive into the Granite Belt for a visit to Harslett Farm. Lunch was prepared by the Rotary Club of Stanthorpe. Over lunch, Angelo Puglisi from Ballandean Estate (south of Stanthorpe) discussed the virtues of wine from the region. Angelo did his best to get people believing they should break down their prejudices of where a wine is from and enjoy each wine for what it is.

After lunch, the group alternated between a tour of the Harslett Farm vegetable nursery and the paddocks. Tim Harslett is a 2008 scholar that investigated mechanisation in vegetables. He explained how the horticultural industry of the Granite Belt exists because of the cool climate associated with the elevation.

The final destination was to David and Prue Bondfield’s “Strathgarve” property, north of Stanthorpe. The Bondfield’s have developed a reputation as one of Australia’s premier Charolais cattle studs. They have five properties in Queensland and northern NSW, but their Stanthorpe home base is where much of their premium genetic improvement program happens. This stop was a captivating discussion and exhibit of their herd.

Sunday, 28 October to Thursday, 1 November

By Ashley (1987 NT Scholar) and Lyndee Severin 

A 2012 Post-Spring Conference tour was arranged for scholars to Dalby, Roma, Jericho and Longreach, visiting Nuffield scholars’ properties in the region.

It was just a small group – 11 of us in total – which made it lovely and personal for everyone.

We had an early start from Toowoomba and travelled towards Roma. We stopped off at Drillham for a visit with David Raff (1980 Nuffield Scholar) who runs a Raff Angus Stud with his son Andrew. Their farm is next door to one of Palgrove’s farms so we could see the young Charolais bulls in the paddocks, which was a lovely follow-on from the earlier visit.

David and Andrew provided great detail about their operation – some contradictory to other studs – but isn’t that always the way? The Raff’s are breeding bigger framed cows to counter the concerns of breeding down the size. They are using gene testing extensively as they believe strongly in balancing visual aspects of an animal in conjunction with breed plan. They believe they need, and should, trust in a mix. We have all experienced what he called the little black pig! A lovely lunch was also provided at short notice. One of the standout discussions was about succession planning and the Raff’s are showing how it can be done. They are also facing the spectre of gas drilling and we got to see and hear from this firsthand experience. This visit was followed by a trip to the Big Rig and Oil and Gas Museum in Roma which had really interesting displays and certainly was a great follow-up from the gas drilling seen earlier in the day.

On Monday, there was an early start to visit Michael (2004 Nuffield Scholar) and Helen McKellar’s 18,000 acres near Morven. It was very interesting to hear the truckies talk about the ‘terrorist minibus’, whilst we tried to miss the big trucks on the roadwork’s.  Michael and Helen showed off their new homestead, rounded up some lunch ‘help’ from 70km away, and allowed us to have quite personal conversations about how they have ended up where they are. There was a real combination of organic production, targeted sales with a local producers group, diversifying to spread the risk, challenges of paying the bills and looking after their land, all with the constraints and possibilities they face.  They are also facing mining issues and the red country/green country maps from Queensland were a strong talking point. Farmers who have done the right thing in the past to protect country are now often penalised in the new regime, whilst those that cleared heavily and completely don’t face the same constraints – is this a good or bad thing?

Michael is heavily involved with South West NRM and we spent the afternoon in Charleville at their headquarters. This was a very different approach to what we see in the NT that’s for sure! Neil Judd, the CEO of South West NRM, articulated the question as to whether primary industry and environment are mutually exclusive or not?  How do we know, how can it work?  With some level of disappointment we realized he didn’t have all the answers, but it was certainly refreshing to see a possible glimmer of light and reason in this discussion.

There had been a planned visit to the Cosmos Centre to view the night sky show, but because of rain, we were unable to do this. As it was rain, no-one minded very much.

Another early start on Tuesday had us headed on a big travel day. We arrived at Jericho fearful that die to the heavy overnight rain, there was a strong possibility that our visit to Natalie and Glenn Williams’ property visit wouldn’t happen. However, a tentative excursion by them showed the road would be passable. We took the minivan as far as we could and then cross-shipped to the 4WDs and headed bush. Natalie remembered, a little too late, that the boys were up the back, but a little bit of muddy water never hurt anyone! Natalie and Glenn run 18,000 acres with rotational grazing, sophisticated dung sampling/water medication processes, a commercial Brahman cow herd with ‘soft’ British breed bulls working only three months a year.  They have used off-farm income to make significant capital improvements and are now eyeing off the neighbour! They are a young family, working off-farm, with a multi-pronged business approach and a Nuffield report to finish – its a big year for them!  It was a lovely visit and well worth the long hours in the mini bus on this day. We arrived into Longreach late on Tuesday night.

James Walker (2012 Nuffield Scholar) met us in Longreach for dinner, which consisted of some good-quality lunchtime leftovers – although no one really needed to be fed again!

Having Wednesday in Longreach hit a lot of marks. There was both a visit to the saleyards and the animal display at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. It’s always such an honour to watch highly-skilled people work with animals, plus it was a very amusing and captive show. From there the group visited Longreach Pastoral College. They are trying to overcome some interesting historical government decisions to put to use the most amazing array of training equipment.  This is nothing new to most agricultural training enterprises Australia-wide. The visit included lunch and a short discussion with the young students who are learning new skills.

We then returned to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame for an extended visit, which is one of those icons that we all hear about. This was followed by a sunset cruise on the river and a wonderful spread with James, his wife Manny, their family and friends. We didn’t dance in the ball room, but CEO Jim took some removing from the board room table! It was a perfect evening and final night of the tour.

On our final day, we visited the Qantas Museum and a quick visit through Longreach town and it was time to head for the airport. There were no complaints from anyone – except those at the back of the minibus! We said goodbye to James and Manny, who were preparing for their next visitors, but does Royalty really rate higher than Nuffield?

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