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TAS Country : December 9th 2010
mber 10, 2010 17 is big with innovation E: Malcolm Lee with some of the silos he makes at his Westbury property, Barunah. Pictures: KAROLIN MacGREGOR Diversification was something Dad started, but I guess I've taken it to a different level.' and it's got to be right,'' he said. ''I reckon about 10 per cent of our customers now are buying grain to fed to pigs. I think some may have started just growing a slip or two to put in the freezer, but I think some have ended up as pets.'' While producing small square bales has been phased out on most farms, a unique bale loader and stacker makes small bale production viable for the Lees. Mr Lee bought the New Holland 1047 Stack Cruiser in Victoria off a dairy farmer. ''I'd been looking for one for a while and this bloke was a dairy man with 10 daughters and two of them were getting married so he needed the money,'' Mr Lee said. The machine can load and stack in the barn up to 2600 bales a day. Mr Lee said it could load 120 bales in 15 minutes. ''We are in a bit of a different market and for a lot of farmers finding people to cart small bales is pretty hard, so there aren't many still doing them,'' he.The family produces about 10,000 small bales a year. Mr Lee said they aimed to get four cuts off their lucerne paddocks each year, but wet conditions during recent weeks had made things difficult. ''Lucerne can be a bit tricky, sometimes it can be two or three in the morning and you're still waiting for the dew to come down enough so you can bale it,'' he said. Most of the lucerne and oaten hay they use for chaff production, however, is baled into large round bales for storage until it is processed into chaff. Mr Lee said rodent control was a constant challenge when large amounts of grain and hay was involved but it was something they had worked hard on improving in recent years. ''You can't have the mice getting into it if you want good quality, so we just have to keep on top of it all the time,'' he said. ''It doesn't matter if it's grain or hay, if you put the product into storage at the right moisture levels and right quality, it doesn't change a lot.'' The Lees have also recently invested in machinery which enables them to produce pre- mixed horse feed using grains and chaff produced on their property. The mix, called Top Gear, includes oaten and lucerne chaff as well as steam-rolled grains and molasses. ''Some people just want to come in and buy a bag of feed that's already mixed and ready to go,'' Mr Lee said. As well as their fodder crops, the Lees also grow poppies and supply fresh market vegetables including onions and potatoes to Harvest Moon. Rather than investing in more land, Mr Lee said they had chosen to spend money on improving their existing property to maximise its production. This has involved extensive drainage work on wetter areas of the property. ''There was about 10 per cent of the property that we just couldn't use in early spring because it was too wet, so having the drainage has made a big difference,'' Mr Lee said. The whole property is also set up with underground irrigation mains so that every paddock can be irrigated if needed. A sideline business the Lees are also involved with is getting rid of waste water from the nearby Tasmanian Alkaloids processing factory. The water, which is high in nutrients and useful as a fertiliser, is carted from the factory in a specially designed tanker and spread on paddocks on farms around the district. Mr Lee said the family's involvement with Tasmanian Alkaloids started when the company was first established. ''Dad used to take every bit of waste product when they first started up,'' he said. ''It's changed a bit over the years as the processing systems have changed, but it's another way we've diversified.'' Out the back of a large shed on the property the family's other business is hard to miss. A collection of various sized Sherwell Silos sit waiting to be transported across the state. Mr Lee said they started building Sherwell silos about 25 years ago and today make about 70 a year. The silos range in size from 10 to 65 tonnes. Mr Lee said about 60 per cent of the silos they build are bought by dairy farmers. ''A lot of the dairy guys are feeding more grains and concentrated feeds now so they've got to have storage for it,'' he said. Mr Lee said he would like to see Tasmania's grain industry expand and less imported grain bought into the state. ''I've got my doubts about some of the quality of the grain that's being brought in,'' he said. ''I think we need some more work done on things like which wheat varieties will do well here because then we'd be able to grow more grain here in the state rather than bringing it in.'' Mr Lee could also be described as a petrol head and when he's not busy on the farm he competes in sprint car racing at the state's three main speedways. ''I love racing and I think it's good to have an outlet and something to do away from the farm,'' he said. ''It's a real family sport, we all go along and the girls enjoy it.'' While Mr Lee is looking to sell his race car and is planning to start doing more travelling in his motor home, which is currently being constructed, his passion for old machinery is one hobby he is unlikely to give up. In sheds around the property and alongside the main entrance Mr Lee has a significant collection of old tractors and other implements. ''I've always loved that sort of stuff,'' he said. ''A lot of these tractors and things are real pieces of history and I've always liked mucking around with things like that.''
December 2nd 2010
December 16th 2010