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TAS Country : November 11th 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010 Tasmanian Country 11 Farm a centre of pride and joy PASSIONATE: Teacher Rowan Morphett takes some time out at the Brooks High School farm. Picture: ROSS MARSDEN CHEWS THEFAT David Byard LIKE a number of other schools in Tasmania, Brooks High School in Launceston has a farm. The Brooks High School farm is bigger than most, 40.8ha, some freehold and a mishmash of agreements with neighbours. It seems the neighbours have been very good -- one is Landfall and the Archer family has gone out of their way to help. Recently the Archer family gave the farm nine black heifers. They are stud cattle and as such are very valuable. However, these animals have been bred for performance and as such have been treated as herd animals. This means they have never been groomed, washed, led around on a halter or tied up at a show. Luckily the animals are quiet cattle. However, they have to be broken in to a headstall, then they have to get used to being led around in show rings where thousands of people walk past. All this takes a huge amount of work. The sort of cattle handling required teaches the cattle and the people handling them the art of patience -- no mean feat. The day I visited the farm it seemed to be organised chaos. However, there was no shouting and everybody, including the staff, seemed to love what they were doing. There are 70 students on the farm on any given day and they work and learn about the many different day-to- day activities, things most farmers and their families take for granted, but things that are a million miles away for most city-based kids. The staff are very proud of former students who have gone on to work in agriculture both here and on the mainland. At least one student is in the middle of an agricultural degree. When I visited the farm, students proudly showed me a number of ribbons that had been won for cattle handling. I have to say, I was amazed at the way people who have never handled stock adapted so quickly. It was pointed out that when the agricultural shows were on, the students left home before dawn and returned well after dark. This is not just an outdoor classroom -- the students really love what they are doing, and they are clearly learning many life skills that will equip them for life's journey. Besides the cattle they ''borrow'', they have 35 Murray Grey cows. The school uses outside bulls, and Terence and Rene Harris have been extremely generous in that regard. When the calves are born, the students learn to mark the bull calves and inoculate them. The heifer calves are then sold at weaning at the annual Murray Grey sale and the steers are sold for further fattening. This gives students an opportunity to see the best and the worst of animal husbandry. Brooks High School offers two agricultural courses for students from Years 7-10. Students can repeat the first six- month course if they choose to. The second course is a certificate course for students from years 11-12 and mature-aged students. The farm also runs a small flock of Hampshire sheep, which allows students to learn about shearing and crutching. During my visit, I had a conversation with a student about genetics and she told me all about recessive genes. We also talked about milk fever and grass tetany. She certainly understood the subjects better than some full- time farmers I know. I was very impressed with the students and their knowledge of animal diseases, pasture management and strip grazing. Some of them even knew a little bit about artificial insemination. I was really pleased to find something many people don't expect from young people -- pride. The farm's horses were quite something too. There are five horses and it seemed to me that they had several purposes. The horse group has qualified staff teaching horsemanship and offering advice on how to work as a team. When we got to talk about the horses, I was shown photographs taken at different shows with numerous ribbons tied around the horses' necks. Brooks High School seems to have won its fair share of ribbons and I am not sure who was the most proud -- the staff or the students. The assistant coach of the show team started out some years ago doing an agricultural course and has never left. The horses are available every Thursday for people with disabilities, and volunteers join forces with the students to help out. Though very labour- intensive, there doesn't seem to be any problems getting volunteers. To me it seemed the whole idea was to give students who may never get near a farm animal first-hand experience, while giving them the opportunity to complete a recognised course that gives them a pathway to further employment. Who would think that all this is happening on the outskirts of Launceston. Perhaps many of these students in years to come will be part of the workforce delivering food and fibre to Tasmanian and mainland consumers. If this is the goal, then the students, volunteers and staff are to be congratulated because they are making a really good fist of it. Well done! Opinion 5.99%
November 4th 2010
November 18th 2010