Wool Young Farming Champion Katherine Bain gets the Cow Girl experience in Canada

Our Young Farming Champions are finding a career in agriculture offers many opportunities and opens exciting doors.

A number of our Young Farming Champions are travelling overseas and blogging from far flung places

Today we hear from Katherine Bain who is ticking off  her ‘See how the World Farms’ bucket list on a cattle ranch in Canada

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 Katherine Bain with her dog, Pluto, on the family farm near Stockyard Hill in Victoria 

Hi everyone, my name is Katherine Bain, and I am a 2017 wool Young Farming Champion.   At the start of this month, I began an adventure I’ve had on my bucket list for as long as I could remember – to head to Canada and work on a cattle ranch!

The ranch is located in British Columbia, a province on the west side of Canada, in the Chilcoltin region. It’s a beautiful area surrounded by snow-capped mountains and tree-covered hills. So pretty much the opposite to the rolling grasslands I’m used to back home in in Victoria!

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The ranch is called Dane Ranch and is run by Cordy Cox-Ellis. It runs roughly 1000 cows and calves, 160 replacement heifers and 90 breeding bulls. They also produce hay  to feed their cattle in the winter. The ranch runs Angus cross cows which are usually 75% Angus, and 25% either Simmental or Gelbvieh. They cross black or red Gelbvieh or Simmental, or Charolais bulls onto the cows that are more Angus in type, and then Angus, SimAngus, or Gelbvieh Balancer bulls onto the cows that look more exotic in type. The ranch also has a small herd of purebred Angus and Gelbvieh cattle.

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They do a lot of work on horseback. This day we were moving cattle into a new paddock

Currently, we are in the middle of calving! There is lots to be done including checking the pens a couple of times a day to ensure all the calves are healthy, cleaning out the barn where sick or mis-mothered calves are kept, processing newborn calves and feeding cows. Processing is a similar process that we follow with our lambs.  The calves are generally processed a couple hours after being born, as it is important to know who the mother is, so they can trace the genetics and know where they go on the range during the summer months. This is a similar process to how I ran my Coopworth Sheep Stud, to make sure we can follow the genetics and assess which ewes are the best breeders.

Processing allows Dane Ranch to inspect each animal and assess their overall health, vaccinate them and attach identification tags. They get two tags – an RFID tag and a large number tag to link it to its mother. The cross bred bull calves are castrated

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Tagging the calves – they do grow into their tags!!!

Processing can be like doing a puzzle as we have to work out which calf goes with which cow. Often the calves are sleeping while their mums are off eating, so we have to wait until they are back together to be certain we don’t make any mistakes.  Because of all the snow on the ground during winter, the cows are calved down in smaller paddocks and “containment” pens. This is to make it easier to check them throughout calving and for feeding them.

There is no grass yet, so they  get fed hay and have salt licks and mineral tubs to ensure they have a balanced diet. The snow is almost all gone now, so they will soon be put back out to bigger paddocks with fresh grass before going up onto the range!

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Feeding the cows

My jobs at the moment are mostly helping in the barn. My day starts with feeding and watering any cows in the barn and in the small pens. The water has to be refilled with a hose as the pipes freeze! The main troughs have heated pads and insulation to keep them going  throughout the very cold winters. The temperature in the winter can go as low as minus 35 Celsius with an average from December 1st to March 31st around minus 13 Celsius !!!. Thanks goodness we don’t have to worry about this at home

After feeding I help treat any calves that are unwell.  Its very important to watch them closely to ensure they don’t get scours which can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is treated with electrolytes and antibiotics if necessary.

So far working on the ranch has been pretty different to working on my sheep farm back home. Dealing with the freezing weather and snow means that extra care and planning needs to be done well before Winter sets in – mainly ensuring they will have enough hay to see them through! Learning to work with cattle has so far been an awesome experience, but I’ve got a long way to go to become a “cowgirl”!

In the coming month calving will finish and the next big thing will be branding and moving cattle onto the range. So stay tuned for the next instalment!

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Young Farming Champions Danila Marini and Max Edwards bring the research to the farm

Many of our Young Farming Champions are pursuing career in research with Dr Danila Marini and Max Edwards choosing careers in the wool industry with a special interest in on-farm technology 
Max is a fourth generation sheep farmer who grew up in the paddocks and shearing shed of Catombal Park near Wellington.  He moved to the city to study a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience at The University of Sydney, and employed emerging technology as the focus for his honours project. Using remote monitoring techniques Max set up an automatic, solar-powered weigh station on water points and trained sheep to walk across it. Their weights were recorded and matched to electronic tags in their ears, and the data was sent directly to his laptop. The project provided rich information on the factors affecting live-weight change in lambs. See the full story in The Land here. 

Max has long term plans to extend his honours research with a PhD and to branch into consultancy but for now is gaining real-world experience back on the family farm.  Surrounded by family members with diverse careers in the agriculture sector, Max and his father are making the most of the technology and expertise available to them to run their business to the optimum level.

 ‘My first year full-time on the farm has seen us cope with some out of left field animal health challenges and low rainfall but it’s been very rewarding to work with my family to build business resilience.’    

The challenges of running a family business will hold Max in good stead for his future plans and give him credibility in the world of consulting, allowing him to fuse the academic and practical aspects of agriculture.

Danila is originally a city kid whose first interaction with agriculture was as a 9 year old and her family bought a small property and started a little hobby farm where they had chickens, cattle, sheep and goats. Danila had always loved animals and attributes the hobby farm to sparking her interest in agriculture. The agriculture sector will be forever grateful she answered the call to country.

After finishing her PhD at UNE,  Danila is putting her expertise into developing technology to get the best outcomes for animals and farmers 
Below is a story on Danila’s latest work with virtual fencing for sheep. This story first appeared in the Stock Journal.  UNE researcher to discuss training sheep to virtual fences
University of New England post-doctoral fellow Danila Marini will be a guest speaker at the Angaston Ag Bureau hogget competition, on training sheep in virtual fencing systems.

 University of New England post-doctoral fellow Danila Marini  was guest speaker at the Angaston Ag Bureau hogget competition, on training sheep in virtual fencing systems.

Sheep can be trained to remain within virtual fencing systems in the same way as cattle, according to University of New England post-doctoral fellow Danila Marini.

That is the promising early result the NSW based Uni and CSIRO has found, with sheep wearing collars responding to audio cues within three to six interactions.

Dr Marini  was a guest speaker at the Livestock E-Technology for Natural Resources Management seminar, held by the Angaston Agricultural Bureau and the Society for Precision Agriculture Australia, on Friday March 23.

She is part of a team of researchers working on the three-year virtual fencing project and hopes to develop ethical training protocol for sheep.

She says Agersens is close to commercialising the technology in cattle, but far less is known about the ability to train sheep to remain within the electric fields.

The biggest challenge for sheep will be developing an ear tag or other device to deliver the electrical stimulus.

“Australia has a lot of Merinos which grow wool so a collar won’t work by itself ,’ she said.

Dr Marini’s project is now turning to finding the optimal percentage of the flock which will need collars for effective fencing,  and also whether lambs can be trained with their mothers.

Danila also outlined a couple of other projects she is involved; one in SA with the Department of  Agriculture and Water Resources looking at using virtual collars on sheep for weed management and another with Dairy Australia looking at grazing management of dairy cattle.

The team at Art4Agriculture gets a huge buzz from following the career journeys of our Young Farming Champions. We thank our supporting partners for investing in them
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Calling all Aussie Wool Producers – we want your ideas

Wool Facts (3)

Meet Deanna and Lucy tomorrow they will be engaging up to 1000 primary school students in conversations about Wool at Sydney Royal Easter Show Primary School Preview Day,  Here are some of the WOOL FACTS they will be sharing on Social Media.  We are inviting our Aussie wool producers to suggest some more.

You can suggest via the comments section on the blog, on Twitter ( @art4ag) or on Facebook (Art4Agriculture). We look forward to your big ideas

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#welovewool #FoodFarm #myeastershow #youthinag #youthvoices18 @eastershow

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Meet Lucy and Deanna talking all things wool at the Sydney Royal Easter Show

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Meet our Dynamic Duo Young Farming Champions Lucy Collingridge (L) and Deanna Johnston (R) who will be coordinating our Amazing Wool Workshops at Sydney Royal Easter Show Primary School Preview Day

Lucy is a self confessed townie finding her way into agriculture after spending January school holidays visiting family on their farm in the Central West of NSW when she was 15. Lucy now works as a biosecurity officer with Local Land Services.

Deanna grew up on her family farm 6.5 hours west of Sydney. Her earliest memories are of the shearing shed and she had already completed her Certificate IV in Woolclassing and Certificate II in Shearing by the time she was 16.  Deanna loves sharing her love of wool with everyone who will listen and found the perfect job doing shearing demonstrations at Nogo Station as part of the Outback Pioneers tourism experience

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Lucy and Deanna will offer the students plenty of opportunities to learn about wool, play with wool and even learn how to class wool.

If your want to be a wool classer like Deanna this is what she will share with you

  • Wool has to be a certain length, between 60mm and 100mm. if the wool is shorter or longer than that farmers are charged a penalty when they sell their wool. The reason for this is wool processors have set their machines up to process wool between 60 and 100mm long. If the wool is longer or shorter then they have to recalibrate their machines to process the wool.
  • To measure the wool, wool classers use their finger as a ruler. Each wool classer will know how long his/her finger is. This is so you don’t have to carry a ruler around with you in your pocket and measuring the wool against your finger is quick and easy. Do you know how long your finger is? Well you might need to know when you become a wool classer!
  • Another test the wool classer will do to ensure the quality of wool is high is a strength test. You hold the top of the staple (a clump of wool fibres) and hold the bottom of the staple and pull it. If it doesn’t break the quality is high. If the wool breaks it means that the animal may have undergone some sort of stress and put more energy into recovering from the stress than growing wool.
  • The wool classer feels the wool by running the wool between their fingers. This is to feel how soft the wool is. Softness of the wool is an indicator of how fine the wool is. The finer the wool the more suitable the wool is for clothing. If the wool feels less soft, the wool will be better suited to jackets, and maybe even carpets and curtains. Have you ever worn an itchy woollen garment? Well that’s probably because that garment wasn’t made from fine Merino wool, it was made out of broader wool.
  • The last thing a wool classer does is look at the colour of the wool. The wool should be a bright white colour. The small discolouration is just dirt and can be washed out. We want to eliminate is wool that is black and brown. Wool can only be dyed darker than the colour it is and there is no colour darker than black so black wool cannot be used in commercial processing. The way the black fibres are formed they don’t soak up as much dye so that’s another reason why we want white wool. White wool can be dyed to whatever colour.

Deanna and Lucy are looking forward to the students telling everybody how much fun they had learning about Amazing Wool

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   Its clear that Deanna thinks the wool industry is a great place to be

The future belongs to the curious


An invitation for Primary School students to meet the Young Farming Champions at the Sydney Royal Easter Show


A passion to link consumers with producers … to promote public understanding of farming, and the interconnectedness of health and well-being and the agricultural sector … is the driving force behind the role of the Young Farming Champions (YFC)

Our YFC help agriculture to build its fan base and encourage young people from all walks of life to join them and follow their career pathway into the agriculture sector. Since 2010 they have being doing this very successfully through The Archibull Prize.See our 2017 Annual Report here. The Archibull Prize is a world first. A competition that uses art and multimedia to engage school students in genuine farm experiences, and gain knowledge and skills about the production of the food they eat, the fibres they use and the environment they live in. Young Farming Champions (YFC) participate in The Archibull Prize by visiting and mentoring schools, sharing their stories and insights into contemporary farming practices and inspiring students to consider careers in agriculture.

Over the past three years the YFC have been spreading the agriculture love far and wide as keynote speakers at conferences, delivering TED talks and running events and workshops across the country.

In 2018 our YFC will be participating in a smorgasbord of events to hone their skills and deliver their unique style of engaging and inspiring future generations of agriculture ambassadors and the best and brightest to join the sector

I cant think of a better way to kickstart 2018 than a partnership with the agriculture education team at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. In the lead up to the show we will be inviting  Primary School students to sign up to meet the YFC team on Primary School Preview Day in The Food Farm. Students meeting the YFC will participate in hands on workshops for the Cotton, Wool, Horticulture and Egg Industries. They can also chat to YFC and farmer Tim Eyes who will be the star attraction at the Thank a Customer workshop.

Get a taste of Primary School Preview Day here

Secondary students will also get the opportunity to hear from  and meet the YFC at the Careers in Ag  workshop in Cattle and Horse Experience Arena

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We look forward to profiling our Event Activation Team over the next 10 days. Get a sneak peak and meet them here

#youthvoices18 #youthinag

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Meet Lucy Collingridge who is head over heels in love with wool

Today’s guest blog comes from self confessed “townie” turned #youthinag wool lover Lucy Collingridge

This is Lucy’s story

“Picture this. You’re 15 years old. It’s the January school holidays and you’re visiting family on their farm in the Central West of NSW. It’s first thing in the morning, the sun is hot, it’s going to be a scorcher. You’re introduced to the shearing team and they explain what’s going to happen in the shed today. The shearers will skillfully and efficiently  remove the wool from the sheep . It’s then the rousies job to pick up and throw the fleeces, before cleaning the board for the shearer to bring out the next sheep.  You’ve been given the job of picking up the belly wool off the board and stacking it in the corner, as well as helping the rousies and penning up when you can. You are equal parts excited and nervous, but you can’t wait to give it a go.

CLICK. There go the overheads clicking into gear as the shearers pull their cords to start their day. It’s quick work but you are enjoying it, and learning all about wool and shearing.

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Hi, my name is Lucy Collingridge and I am a self confessed wool lover. Originally from Cootamundra, I am currently working as a Biosecurity Officer for the Central West Local Land Services in Nyngan. Although I am working in pest animal management, my true passion in agriculture is in sheep in wool production.

The above recount is how my morning unfolded on the day that I fell in love with the Australian Wool Industry. Having not grown up on the land, my opportunities to be exposed to Australian agriculture were limited as a child. However, as a teenager I was lucky enough to visit family in the Central West who were keen to let me help out on the farm and learn about agriculture.

Visiting family every school holidays, I was exposed to many facets of farming. Sowing, harvesting, lamb marking, mustering, drafting, and shearing. I thrived on learning more and more about farming and I thoroughly enjoyed spending my holidays working. Why, you ask? Because there is no better feeling than being on the land, out in nature, and enjoying your surrounds while working hard and at the end of the day being able to look back on what you have achieved with pride. Whether it be drenching a couple of mobs or harvesting a couple of paddocks, it is a very rewarding feeling to look back on your productive day on the farm.

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The sheep and wool industry has been a passion of mine from the early days. Although, my high school years were spent parading cattle with the school show team, I really enjoyed the sheep and fleece junior judging as it was an opportunity to extend my basic knowledge on the fibre. Studying agriculture for my HSC gave me an understanding of Australian agriculture and lead me to studying at university. Never did I think that a “town kid” would be heading to Armidale to study a Bachelor of Agriculture, with the plan of entering the sheep and wool industry. But that is exactly what happened! I couldn’t part from the industry that I had fallen in love with only 3 years earlier.

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I have been truly lucky to have found the industry that I love. It has given me many opportunities to travel, study, and be involved with many agricultural shows, such as stewarding at the Sydney Royal Easter Show and being over-judge at the Cootamundra Show Young Judges Competition Group 9 Final. I have met many people from all walks of life, who have all welcomed me with open arms. I cannot recommend being involved with the sheep and wool industry highly enough.”

Meet Annicka Brosnan who says the world of agriculture is full of exciting choices for young people

Today we meet Annicka Brosnan a girl from the country who moved to the city to study a dual degree of Science and Arts, majoring in biomedical science, Spanish and geography. only to find her heart was in agriculture

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Dexter, a pure bred dorper, and me after he wandered into the farm office looking for food

Hi my name is Annicka Brosnan.  Have you ever woken up knowing something wasn’t quite right, something was niggling away in your mind? Welcome to everyday of my life three years ago. I was studying at the University of Queensland, a duel degree of Science and Arts, majoring in biomedical science, Spanish and geography. I was enjoying it, but still it didn’t feel right, I was tossing around ideas: medicine, vet, marine biology? Nothing was fitting however, not until I had a geography module all about agriculture. I loved it. For the first time getting up for 8am lectures on a Monday morning was no longer a struggle. Like any 18 year old that has had an epiphany, I rang my mum. I rambled, non-­‐stop for about 15 minutes before my mum finally interrupted and asked ‘What are you trying to say Annicka?’ and with absolute certainty I declared that I wanted to study agriculture.

The strange part of this anecdote is that I’m from a farming background. I have lived my whole life on the same 6 acres, a hydroponic lettuce farm. My maternal grandparents own a winery, and my paternal grandparents have a typical Western Queensland merino turned cropping, dorper and cattle property.

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Riding Teddy, our 20 year old Australian Stock Horse

Whenever I was on a property it always felt like home. I loved helping out whether it was lamb marking, grape squashing or stick picking. There is a catch though, the reason why I never considered agriculture despite all this was not once did anyone encourage it as a career path. Not a single career advisor suggested it, there wasn’t a single motivational speaker from the agricultural community at my school and it just wasn’t on my radar.

So where am I now? I’m in my second year of Rural Science at the University of New England, studying externally and working on my family lettuce farm. I’m completely loving it and learning about the in and outs of the family business is fascinating. Our family business consists of three farms, a hydroponic lettuce farm, a free-­‐range egg farm and a seasonal fruit and vegetable ground grown farm. Combined with locally grown tomatoes and mushrooms we supply around 250 cafes, restaurants and establishments in Toowoomba, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. We also do around 15 farmers markets. On weekends I often work on one of our stalls, I love connecting with our customers and being able to say, yes this is fresh and a good quality product, how do I know this, because one of my brothers picked it the day before.

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Planting out on our farm in Toowoomba

During the week, I work as an office manager. I often talk to chefs and restaurant owners about our produce: about what is working for them, where they see the market going and products they would be interested in buying. Part of this includes handling complaints and from these I have learnt the most. Talking to dad and our agronomist, we are able to trace back and identify insects, diseases or fertilizer shortages/overuse causing damage and hence showing up in the restaurants. With this knowledge we are then able to create a management plan and address the issue.

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Lulu, a merino cross and my first poddy lamb, she turns 11 this winter

 So where do I want to go from here? Everywhere! I feel the opportunities in the agricultural sector are endless and I’m just at the very beginning of an exciting career. As interesting as I find horticulture my true passions lie with animal and wool production. Over the years I have amassed my personal herd of 14 poddy lambs and a mini herd of 4 horses. I hope I will find my way into this sector of agriculture sometime in the future. Alongside wherever my career take me I would love to encourage more city kids and even kids from agricultural backgrounds like me to become involved in the agricultural sector and release the potential it has for the future and its dynamic nature. There are so many local, national and international opportunities out there whether it be in research, precision agriculture, education, business or even law.

Working in agriculture no longer means returning to the family place for life, it’s more innovative and exciting than ever. In a world of choice who knows what the younger generation could excel at and who knows where I could end up? Maybe I’ll end up in education or maybe I’ll end up mustering in the NT and disappear into the red.