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Beyond the Bale : Oct - Nov 08
Environment Beyond the Bale 15 Trip opens window to european way Victorian producers Andrew and Kim dufty found inspiration and confidence on their fact-finding journey to denmark and the UK W inning the inaugural ‘Raising the Baa’ competition has given victorian woolgrower Andrew Dufty more perspective on where Australian woolgrowers stand in a world driven by increasing consumer demand for environmentally sound produce and products. After their mid-winter trip to Denmark and the uK, Andrew and his wife Kim have returned to their farm, ‘Melville Forest’ at Hamilton, feeling confident that Australian woolgrowers can be leaders in a changing world. “The trip was extremely worthwhile and many of our previously held views – that all European agriculture is small-scale and inefficient – were blown away,” says Andrew, who runs 12,000 18.5-micron Merinos on his 1450-hectare property. Andrew says community concern about carbon- footprint issues appears to be limited to cities and not really thought about or discussed in rural areas: “There was plenty of talk in london, for example, about the carbon cost of importing goods from overseas and pressure to buy local.” The couple visited farmers in Denmark and the uK and travelled by train through Germany, Switzerland and France. Andrew and Kim also met with representatives of the British Wool Marketing Board, attended a wool auction in Bradford, visited a wool warehouse in Wales, inspected the national fleece show entries at the Royal Agricultural Show in Warwickshire, met with an agricultural consultant for a briefing on the local sheep industry, inspected a pasture-seed wholesaling business and visited the largest sheep producer in Denmark, who runs 2100 ewes. They also visited farms producing grain, sheep meats, organic lamb, cut flowers, strawberries and vegetable seed. On their return, the Duftys say Australian woolgrowers are equal to their international counterparts in their approach to caring for the environment. However, where Australians are at a disadvantage, they say, is the level of financial support offered to farmers in other countries by their governments – support that Andrew feels is necessary to take pressure off the land. “The level of capital investment in technology that is available to our competitors due to the support packages enables them to financially outgun us in every way,” Andrew says. “The only way we can compete is through efficiency, which is an argument wearing thin with our woolgrowers ... worn ragged by years of low prices and drought.” Andrew made the general observation that switched-on European farmers appear well-funded and cashed-up, but bottom-end farmers would not survive without government support. On average, government support reported to Andrew by growers he met is $340 a hectare per year in the uK and $550/ha in Denmark, with additional funds available for higher levels of environmental work. “Government support in the form of the Single Farm Payment is closely linked to achieving environmental outcomes. This could be something worth exploring by the Australian Government, as an alternative to drought aid.” In the uK the Duftys found wool production was declining, with cropping now the mainstay of many farms. “Many farmers consider wool a nuisance in sheep production because of the need to harvest the wool, and are using the Wiltshire breed, which sheds its wool in the paddock,” Andrew says. “The cost of shearing is about the same as the value of the wool, so many farmers are shearing their own sheep to save money – and because of a lack of shearers.” land values are about $28,000/ha in the uK, with farmers paying up to $520/ha to lease arable country. As to how they will prepare their own enterprise to cope in a changing marketplace, the Duftys say they will allocate larger areas of their land as carbon sinks, potentially generating a carbon surplus and providing the ability to earn income from an alternative source, such as tree plantations. The Duftys thanked the competition sponsors – AWI, Meat and livestock Australia and the Sheep CRC – and say such a trip would never have been possible if they hadn’t won the competition. “It’s always informative to see how your competitors are operating,” Andrew adds. More information: Andrew and Kim Dufty, 0419 842 929, firstname.lastname@example.org “The level of capital investment in technology that is available to our competitors due to the support packages enables them to financially outgun us in every way. The only way we can compete is through efficiency, which is an argument wearing thin with our woolgrowers ... worn ragged by years of low prices and drought.” Andrew dufty on the property of the largest sheep producer in denmark, who runs 2100 ewes. ú – andrew dufty PHOTO: COuRTESY AnDREW AnD KIM DuFTY
Dec 08 - Jan 09
Aug - Sep 08