No wonder people cant tell the difference between a camel, a cow and a horse

Who said all the fun stuff happens at the Sydney Royal Easter Show on the rides and in the show bag pavilion. 

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Well I can assure you there is plenty of great fun things to see in the Agricultural pavilions too

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Livestock in the Round

No-one will deny that the Sydney Royal Easter Show is a great way for farmers to engage with the people who buy what they produce. There is also certainly no denying some farmers are better at it than others. Can you believe there were exhibitors telling people at the show this beast was part camel/ part horse.

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Yes you guessed it a CAMORSE

As if there isn’t enough half truths around agriculture without farmers adding to them. This one all in jest of course – the problem was it was clear a lot of people believed them

Just to make sure the general public got the right facts this year the Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions paired up with MLA and the Target 100 team to run the Livestock in the Round and tell the great story of the Australian cattle industry from a farmer’s viewpoint. 

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The Young Farming Champions team at the Livestock in the Round yesterday. L-R Steph Fowler, Hannah Barber, Tim Eyes and Jasmine Nixon.

 

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You will be pleased to know fellow farmers, Jasmine and Hannah and Steph and Tim certainly did a sterling job of ensuring that everyone they spoke to could tell a Brahman was a beef breed and NOT part horse/part camel

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There were lots of questions from the crowd

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from big people and little people

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and no shortage of patrons keen to learn about our great sheep and cattle industries from young people who love what they do

Livestock in the Round is on in the Downs Pavilion on the hour from 10am to 3pm (Closed tomorrow whilst the dairy cows bump in)

Call in and say G’day to one of our Young Farming Champions like Hannah Barber.

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Hannah Barber

Thank you to Hannah and the team – you are all doing an amazing job of ensuring everything runs to clockwork and our customers value the wonderful food and fibre our farmers produce

Read more about our Livestock in The Round team here

Steph Fowler

Tim Eyes

Prue Capp

Hannah Barber 

Kylie Schuller

Jasmine Nixon

Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship setting the bar in building supply chain relationships

One of phenomenal opportunities for young people ( 20-35yrs) involved in the agrifood sector in Australia is on again in 2014. Applications are now open for the Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship. See here

I strongly believe successful farmers of the future will collaborate across industry, hone their business skills and build partnerships right across the supply chain. See here

Woolworths Agricultural Business Scholarship program is the ideal kick-starter to develop the mindset and skills and knowledge to do just that and my only regret is that there isn’t something similar for the over 35’s

The course is practical as well as theoretical, and covers topics such as:  

• Business strategy and planning

• Agricultural value chain

• Successful business leadership

• Business finance

• Logistics and supply chain management

• The role of government

• Understanding retail

• Sustainability and environmental issues

• Personal development

A number of our Young Farming Champions who have participated have found the experience a life changer

Young Farming Champion Jo Newton and Melbourne girl who fell in love with agriculture and now a livestock geneticist with a first class honours degree and university medal in rural science from the University of New England, said of the program in this article in the Australian

The biggest reward from the program is exchanging ideas “with other young people passionate about the future of agriculture”.

“We’re a diverse group from a wide range of backgrounds, all under one roof for two weeks,”

‘Our new insights into the supply chain is helping to put pieces of the jigsaw together, some of which I didn’t even know were missing”.

I had the opportunity to present to the successful applicants a number of years ago half way through the course and wow did they ask some thought provoking questions and all were relishing the opportunity to learn and grow.   

This year Woolworths will offer 25 young Australians the opportunity to participate in the Agricultural Business Scholarship program. I cant recommend the program more strongly and if you know a young person in agriculture who wants to build their networks and get the skills and knowledge to succeed in the tough climate for agriculture in the 21st century may I suggest you flick this article their way.  

Giving agriculture a fresh young face and a new opportunity to be heard and celebrated.

When we first began our journey with Art4Agriculture the aim was to use innovative vehicles and build partnerships to give agriculture a fresh young face and a new opportunity to be heard and celebrated.

This year has proved to be a highlight. Our partnerships with industry and the media have allowed our schools and students participating in the Archibull Prize and our Young Farming Champions to get mind blowing opportunities we didn’t even  know existed

A yearly highlight is our Sydney Royal Easter Show partnership with the Agricultural Development and Agricultural Education team at the RAS of NSW.

This year there is a huge buzz around the Archies and the finalist in the Archibull Prize which can be found partnering with their food and fibre industries all over the showground

A spotlight on Archies the Food Farm

Firstly looking at our Cattle and Sheep Industries and our partnership with MLA through their Target 100 and Bettertarian campaigns

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Brandon from Menai High School showcasing the delicious cuts of meat 

Fast Fact

Did you know that 99% of the cow is consumed by humans and only 65% of that is as meat in your diet

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Lim from St Brigids Catholic Parish Primary School

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Winmeatlee from Winmalee High School

Fast Fact

If you want to eat with understanding, make better choices and feel better for it then we suggest you eat 3-4 palm sized serves of beef and lamb per week

Our partnership with Cotton Australia see Archies on display in both the Food Farm and the Food and Fibre Pavilion

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Check out our flying surfboard Archie Jasper ( Chifley Primary School) and Miss Sophie ( Matraville Sports High School)

Lets not forget the Grand Champion

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Thanks to our partnership with Pauls we give you Udder Brilliance welcoming visitors to the Food Farm

And this from Jenny Hughes whose team pull this magnificent pavilion together

Congratulations go to the students and teachers who have again done a fantastic job to provide me with props that talk for themselves in the Food Farm, Natural Fibre Showcase, The Lounge and Tech Pavilion. Even the Sheep Pavilion will see an Archie during Week Two of the Sydney Royal Easter Show

I will do a separate post on the Archies in the Food and Fibre pavilion, the Sheep and Wool Pavilion and the Tech Arena

For the first time we had the opportunity to work with the The Land Showgirl Finalists through our Picture You in Agriculture “Speaking with Confidence” workshop

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Picture You in Agriculture presenter Ann Burbrook with the 2014 The Land Showgirl Finalists – photo Toby Peet

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Speaking with confidence as ambassadors for rural and regional Australia – photo Toby Peet

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Ann working on one with the showgirls – photo Toby Peet

Careers in Ag day

Some of our team are also on the RAS Youth Group committee which runs the highly successful Careers in Ag day at the show. Archie played a key role in this event as well ( as you would have come to expect)

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RAS Youth Group with Archie

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Archie says ‘There are Careers In Agriculture from A to Z’IMG_5168

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Young Farming Champion Steph Fowler made sure Archie was given lots of hugs and kisses to ally his nerves from being the centre of attention

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Our event director Kirsty Blades making sure everything runs to clockwork 

And we have only got to the end of Day 1

Lots more to follow with the Art4Ag Young Farming Champions coordinating the Livestock in the Round event

Our program director judging the Junior District Exhibits

Our art judge designing the Rice Growers and Cotton Australia display as well as this masterpiece

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Meet Jo Newton who is stepping up to solve the big problems in agriculture

Today we continue our series for Ausagventures #YouthinAg showcase by featuring Jo Newton one of our three young farming champions completing her PhD

Jo Newton with melissa-henry-and-the-2013-wool-young-farming-champions and 2011 YFC Melissa Henry

Jo Newton (far left) with Wool Young Farming Champions Bessie Blore, Melissa Henry, Adele Offley and Cassie Baile

Jo is one of 10 people in the Art4Agriculuture team who have been listed in the Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 

Jo is one of a team of Australian researchers transforming Wool, meat and the sheep who produce them Jo Newton

Jo Newton with her beloved sheep  – Photo Matt Cawood

Check out what Jo has been up to ……

I’ve always been a problem solver and liked asking lots of questions so I guess it was no great surprise to my family and friends that I decided to embark on a PhD as its essentially 3 years of problem solving and answering (or trying to answer) questions. My family and friends accepted my passion for sheep a long time ago though I often find that people in agriculture are surprised to learn I am from Melbourne with no background in agriculture.

My PhD topic (or big “problem”) that I’m researching is the variable success rates for early reproductive performance in sheep. What do I mean by that?

Traditionally in Australia ewes are first joined to rams when they are 18 months old so they have their first lamb at 2 years of age. If we can successfully breed ewes so they have their first lamb at 1 year of age we are cutting one whole year from the production cycle which has several potential benefits for the Australian wool and sheep industry and farmers. However, one of the current challenges with breeding ewes at younger ages is the big variation in the percentage of ewes that fall pregnant. Last year we had a range from 0% to ~90% of ewes pregnant in 1 year across the different farms I’ve been working with.

For the last 2 years I’ve been working on 2 main aspects of my project. Firstly I’ve been collaborating with a number of sheep studs across Australia to collect data on joining ewes at 7 months of age. Thanks to the cooperation of numerous farmers we have been able to record live weights, condition score and collecting blood samples from young ewes. We then monitor these ewes to see which ewes have lambs. Last year we took measurements on 4000 animals!!! This year I get to start analyzing all this data. However, the drought has impacted on the number of ewes that we had in our study so we are also collecting data for another year.

The other aspect of my work I have been working on is an analysis of some historical data. This is data which has been collected on a 8 research sites around Australia as part of the Sheep CRC Information Nucleus Flock. As my research is centred around genetics a big chunk of my time is spent in front of a computer writing computer programs. I’ve been estimating heritabilities to determine what proportion of the animal’s expression of a particular trait (i.e. whether it has a lamb) is due to it’s genes and what proportion is due to the environment. Estimating genetic and phenotypic correlations between different traits enables us to work out which traits might be linked or “correlated” to one another.

At the moment I’m doing some simulation work. What this means is that I have a virtual flock of 300 ewes sitting on my computer. I’m using my virtual flock to test different breeding program designs. I’m changing things like flock fertility, the age rams & first have lambs and whether animals have genomic information or not. I’m then comparing my different scenarios to work out which ones result in the most genetic progress for important traits. Whilst it would be great to test these things on actual sheep to measure and compare genetic progress would require years and years of waiting whereas I can get results in about a week from my virtual sheep flock! This is all possible thanks to the enormous amounts of assistance, support and encouragement I get from my supervisors Sonja, Daniel & Julius and all the staff at UNE, CSIRO and AGBU.

The next 12 months as I aim to wrap up my PhD are going to be busy and I will probably encounter a few hurdles on my way. However with the support of my peers, family, friends, supervisors and staff I know that I can make it though.

The future is a clean canvas where we can create our own art

The future is a clean canvas where we can create our own art or allow others and circumstance to randomly direct our destiny.

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This is a reblog of the blog we have created to support the schools and students participating in the 2014 Archibull Prize

We will soon be announcing the successful schools. As a result of the overwhelming responses to our expression of interest the schools this year have gone through a 3 stage process in the race to a place in the program

Starting of course with Stage 1 submitting an EOI this a was followed by Stage 2 which asked both the teachers and students to complete an entry survey

The survey helps us understand in respect to the teachers what they want for their students from the program. Wow what the teachers want for their students is very diverse and we look forward to meeting their expectations

With respect to the students we survey their entry knowledge of things like their knowledge of modern Australian farming practices, the meaning of terms like ‘food gap” and ‘ecological footprint’, what farmers are doing on their farms to ensure healthy landscapes and clean waterways and number of other questions which will give us insights to the issues we should be having two way conversations between producers and consumers about

Once the schools have completed Stage 2 we then asked them to set up their blogs using this one as an example

The Archibull Prize is not just for young Picassos. It combines art and multimedia to share the students’ journey with the community.

The blog element is worth 50% of the point score so it plays a very important role in the students and schools quest to win the Archibull Prize. It also plays a very important role in creating a buzz in their wider community and we suggest the students encourage their parents and friends to follow their blog

Whilst a blog is very easy to set up the security systems demanded by the education department in some states ( particularly QLD) means the schools have to get very creative. We are finding our schools are very creative indeed and many of the teachers are relishing the opportunity to work with their IT student gurus to up skill their IT knowledge

You can find 4 blog examples from the winning schools here.

This year the theme for the Archibull Prize is the school’s allocated ‘food or fibre industry and sustainability’

Whilst many people in the community think sustainability is all about the environment we will show the students that sustainability requires a triple bottom line approach

The students will be given on farm insights on how in recent years most Australian farmers have adjusted their farming practices to improve the animal husbandry and environmental and economic sustainability outcomes of their farming systems.

It is generally agreed sustainable farming systems have the following characteristics:

  • they are profitable
  • they conserve natural resources(especially soils, waterways and vegetation)
  • they recycle nutrients through the farming system
  • they minimise energy usage
  • they attempt to repair past environmental damage (eg soil erosion, salinity, acidification, vegetation decline)
  • they minimise the usage of chemicals

The students will be made aware that is important that sustainable agriculture involves a holistic approach that enhances livelihoods, improves wellbeing and reduces environmental impacts

sustainability

Source Steve Spencer Fresh Agenda

Examples of Sustainablility on US dairy farms

Examples from the US. Source Steve Spencer Fresh Agenda Dairy Australia Horizon 2020 project

Our food and fibre industries have lots of wonderful resources to assist the students on their journey See here

But the Archibull Prize journey is not all about the role farmers are playing, it also helps the students reflect and understand the role they can play to ensure a sustainable future.

The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”
Both the limitations and the pathways to success exist in our mind and imagination. John Schaar, Professor Emeritus at the University of California

As you go through our day today, we must own the past, manage the present, and imagine the future.
Today’s the day!  Jim Stovall

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A spoonful of medicine makes Mary a very happy little lamb

Today’s guest blog is the second in a series the Young Farming Champions are penning for Ausagventures #YouthinAg series

Our first blog featured Dr (in waiting) Steph Fowler who is one of our  three Young Farming Champions who are currently daring to conduct very different and innovative research as part of their PhD thesis.

Today we bring you update from Dr (in waiting) Danila Marini’s research looking at drugs and sheep and whether it is possible to get sheep to take their own spoonful of medicine

Danila Marini

Danila Marini Photo ABC Rural

Danila thinks sheep are smart enough to self-medicate.

“It’s just like humans. As an individual they can have varying levels of intelligence.”

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Getting ready for the first day of my experiment

My PhD project is about developing a self-medication method for pain relief in sheep, which means I’m trying to teach sheep to take their own medicine. As part of common husbandry practices sheep undergo some painful procedures such as tail-docking and castration and just like us their post operative pain can last several days. Farmers currently have anaesthetics and analgesics that can relieve the pain during the time of the procedure but have yet to overcome the logistics issues to relieve the sheep’s pain  post operatively.

This is where my project comes in! If I can add a pain relief drug to feed and teach sheep to take it when they experience pain, it’ll make the farmer’s job a little easier and keep the sheep happy and healthy

So far I have completed my first experiment. This experiment involved using a lameness model for sheep and administering 3 different drugs as an oral solution. The aim of this experiment was to see if the drugs were effective at reliving the pain associated with the lameness when administered as an oral dose. Sure enough we were able to identify the drug that was most effective and we plan to continue using it throughout the rest of my PhD.

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Introducing my sheep to pellets

This year marks the start of my second year and a big year its turning out to be! So far I have two experiments planned. The first which I have actually just started is in two parts, one is looking at the palatability of feed containing our pain relief drug, that’s testing whether it may have a flavour that sheep don’t like. The second part is a pharmacokinetic study, this involves measuring the concentration of the drug in the sheep’s plasma and will tell us what the body does to the drug and if feed intake affects that. The second experiment, planned for later in the year will test how effective the feed contain the drug is at relieving the pain of castration and tail-docking.

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My new cohort of sheep for my palatability and pharmacokinetic study

A PhD is full of ups and downs and when you work with animals there is always the potential for something to go wrong (what’s that saying “never work with children or animals”). You can also often experience a lot of down and isolating periods (statistics and writing is great for this). During these times you just have to make sure you seek support, ask your supervisors, university and friends for help and of course always make time for yourself!

But doing a PhD isn’t all doom and gloom and constant experiments and writing. Last year I was accepted to attend a PhD course about animal pain in Denmark. It was quite the experience and I got to meet a lot of students with the same passion to improve animal welfare as me as well as see some of the beautiful country. This year I will be going to the ISAE conference in Spain to present the results of my last experiment, I can’t wait for that.

I always find if you ever feel lost about your work, then talk about it. Every time I have to explain my research, what I’m doing and why, it always makes me as excited as the first day I decided to do the project.

Recently I had the amazing opportunity to talk about my project with Lisa Herbert of ABC Rural radio on Bush Telegraph. This came about thanks to Lynne Strong from Art4Agriculture who was interested in my story and asked me if I could write a small piece about myself for the blog. This leads me on to my final point.

Make sure you take every opportunity; you never know who you will meet, where it will take you or what you will learn.

Doing a PhD gives you the potential to do so much and meet a lot of people with the same interests as you. A PhD can be a tough commitment but is worth it and so far for me it’s been an amazing experience!

Read the blog post that caught the eye of Radio National and Bush Telegraph here

Hear Danila on Bush Telegraph here

Dr Steph says the path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

Art4Agriculture has partnered with the dynamic Steph Coombes to contribute content to her phenomenal resource Ausagventures for all things YouthInAg and those thinking about venturing into the exciting world of a career in Agriculture.

Each month along with 10 agricultural youth groups and organisations we will be writing a blog exclusively for Ausagventures. You can find their profiles below and scroll down to read their blogs and to see what #ausagventures they have been getting up to around the country and how you can join in here.

In our first three blog we are going to feature our three Young Farming Champions who are currently daring to conduct very different and innovative research as part of their PhD thesis.

‘Whoever said a career in agriculture was all mud and flies obviously had no idea what they were talking about’ 

Steph Fowler and fellow Young Farming Champions

Our guest blogger today is Steph Fowler in the middle with fellow young farming champions

First up we have Dr Steph ( in waiting) Fowler who is currently sitting in one the troughs in the roller coaster ride that is the journey to a PhD and a scientific legacy in the world of agriculture R&D 

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Dr Steph with her beloved carcasses

The path of research is not an easy one to walk but it is paved with passion.

My current research project is looking at objectively measuring meat quality. I am working towards being able to identify which lamb carcases will eat well and those that won’t. I am using a laser technology called the Raman spectroscopic hand held probe because it’s rapid, quantitative and non-destructive. Developing this technology for use commercially is a huge benefit to industry because you can measure the actual piece of meat that people are going to eat without destroying it and lamb producers can be paid for the quality of meat they are producing not just the weight.

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The fantastic team at DPI at Cowra (Matt Kerr, Tracy Lamb, David (my supervisor) and Heinar (the probe’s inventor).

Over the last month I have been working on trials that take the prototype probe into lamb processing plants to figure out whether we can use it to determine how tender the meat will be early on in processing. While the work is exciting and new because there’s only two of these probes in the world (one here with me for a few months and another in Germany at the institute in Bayreuth where they are made), the work can be frustrating and deflating because every so often we come across a challenge we can’t see how to solve when we need to so we can continue working. Sometimes it’s something small like an electricity supply adapter that shorts out and then causes a bigger issue or an electric plug that’s lost a wire and sometimes it’s something a bit bigger like the equipment we need not liking the cold chillers. Because I work in smaller rural towns often these problems end in me driving somewhere to get a part or find someone who can help me. Makes for some long days when you start at 5am to be ready for the first carcases to come down to pack up, drive 2 hours, find the people or the part, and get in the car and drive back to be ready to start at 5am the next day. Add onto that some tough working conditions and you have yourself a somewhat difficult working week.

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Me in the lab

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ken Jr. Keyes said “to be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what do you do have”. With a little love, help, and support from those I work with at the plant, at DPI, at uni and in my own team, the industry as a whole, and the towns and communities I work in as well as my friends and fellow PhD-ers near and far I have been able to salvage my trial and continue. Sometimes it’s been the technical help, sometimes it’s having the part in stock or knowing who does, sometimes it’s helping me make a decision or cooking a home cooked meal or offering me a bed but mostly it’s just being there, and listening and trying to understand.

Research is a rollercoaster ride the ups and downs can come minutes apart and sometimes 20 seconds can change everything. Because each project is unique it can be isolating. We each face issues and challenges that are also unique and that can feel isolating. Relationships with friends, family and significant others don’t always get off the PhD rollercoaster in the same condition that they got on either and that can feel isolating too. Combine that with the stresses of just getting ourselves through the ups and downs and that’s why I value and truly appreciate the phenomenal backing I have received over the last 2 years. I wouldn’t be still standing without it and without being reminded that it is always there.

The backing of the industry and the communities I work in, the people I work with and those who believe in me and my work inspire my passion. They keep me striving at what I do to help move the industry forward. For that I am truly grateful.

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Me and my Italian friends Gianluca and Marco. Gianluca has become one of my biggest cheerleaders ever both professionally and personally.

But no mistaking there have been plenty of highlights in my journey including last year being  awarded a travel grant to attend the graduate program at the 59th International Conference of Meat Science and Technology in Turkey, where I presented two papers; I  was selected as a Crawford Scholar, and elected to the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Youth Group. I also have lifelong memories from my opportunity as a Young Farming Champion  to share my journey in agriculture with four NSW schools as part of their journey to win the 2013 Archibull Prize.  Recently I my manuscript was selected for the Journal of Meat Science

For those who love the science here are all the details you need to read my paper

Predicting tenderness of fresh ovine semimembranosus using Raman spectroscopy
Stephanie M. Fowler, Heinar Schmidt, Remy van de Ven, Peter Wynn,
David L. Hopkins
PII: S0309-1740(14)00064-3
DOI: doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2014.02.018
Reference: MESC 6378
To appear in: Meat Science
URL Link http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174014000643

You can read Steph’s blog she wrote for her YFC application process here

Follow Steph on twitter @steph_bourke

How does one become a butterfly