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TAS Country : September 9th 2010
mber 10, 2010 17 WATER WORKS: Electric pumps for irrigation run up a $50,000 power bill annually. INNOVATION: Rotherwood was one of the first properties in Australia where Angus herd performance was recorded. We don't have enough cows now so weuseAIandan occasional bull purchase to keep the performance up.' Continued Page 22 what no-one else has done in Victoria Valley by growing grapes. The vineyard at Home Hill is almost in the centre of Tasmania, it is 95km from Hobart by road and is the furthest vineyard from the coast. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes go to Constellation Wines and are used in their premium sparkling wine Arras. Bernard and Margaret first planted vines after Bernard attended wine appreciation classes held by Ouse primary school teacher Phil Laing, now president of the Tasmanian Wine Show Society. ''He had a good cellar hidden in the back where we were never allowed. ''We'd pay $10 a week and taste half a dozen wines in a structured tasting.'' Hydro workers, school teachers and a couple of farmers learned about wine in the late 80s just as the Tasmanian wine scene was starting,'' Bernard said. Bernard thought there may be something in winemaking so he put in three rows of vines in Home Hill. He got in touch with Hardys, now Constellation Wines, who came to look at the site on the north-easterly side of a steep hill. ''They got all excited with the dolerite gravel, it has the potential to make really good wine.'' Bernard said. The Brains signed a contract and have put in a hectare each year and they will be planting another 2000 canes next month. Cold air drains from the site which is rarely affected by frosts. Constellation have told the Brains that there is potential for high quality table wine from the grapes. ''We're hoping to expand with the grapes. ''We have a dream of having our own sparkling because with the quality they think we have we could compete anywhere,'' Bernard said. The Brains have spent $1 million building new infrastructure to get water around the the rear of the farm and irrigate poppies, barley, dry peas and pasture. They used it for the first time in spring last year. The infrastructure has been added to an original scheme built by the Brains in 1988 which allowed for duplication of all the pumps in the pump sheds. ''There was always the potential to irrigate more and to go further, '' Bernard said. ''So rather than go small and find we haven't got enough capacity, the pipe in the ground was made big enough to handle double the flow and the pumps set up on big slabs of concrete almost a metre deep. ''There was a blanked off plate in the sheds waiting for these big pumps to go in.'' The pumps and pipes at the bottom of the hill lift the water up 100m in two seperate lifts. The water comes out of ground to the second pump and then through the pump again at the halfway mark. It travels along a channel for one kilometre into a small holding dam then lifted another 60m to the main dam where it is gravity fed to travelling irrigators. The scheme is fully automated and was designed and built by Bernard who has no formal engineering qualifications. ''I sort of followed on from father,'' Bernard said. Level sensors in both dams send a signal to the next pump down the chain when the water drops. The pumps operate at off-peak times to get cheaper tariffs. ''It's not cheap but cheaper given the current pricing,'' Bernard said the annual power bill of $50,000. The top pump in the chain will keep pumping until they run out of off-peak hours or the dam is full. Bernard and Margaret's son Colin Brain is studying civil engineering. Colin is doing his thesis on mini- hydro power turbine schemes, something the Brains are keen to investigate on the farm. ''If it's reasonable we will do it because there are a couple of spots on the farm that are ideally suited for them,'' Bernard said. Bernard and Margaret's daughter Margo has just completed a masters in Journalism and Media Studies. NUTS AND BOLTS Home Hill supports five main agricultural businesses, each contributes about 20 per cent to total farm income. 1. Angus Cattle --- 160 2. Fat Lambs --- 850 fat lambs last season in a bad weather lambing 3. Wool --- 15.5 tonnes. 4. Poppies --- 26ha. 5. Grapes --- 5ha. There's no one thing that dominates the farm,'' Bernard Brain said.
September 2nd 2010
September 16th 2010