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TAS Country : February 16th 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012 Tasmanian Country 13 News Improving beef production in Vietnam ROGER HANSON AGENT ORANGE: TC, the cow donated by Tasmanian Country TASMANIAN agricultural research is making a difference in Vietnam. Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) and School of Agricultural Sci- ence researchers Associate Prof Peter Lane and Dr David Parsons are helping farmers in Vietnam improve beef production. The researchers are undertaking a project in Vietnam to provide beef cattle farmers with improved tech- niques in sustainable production. The project is supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. The introduction of effective farming techniques is decreasing labour time and providing new opportunities for Vietnamese cattle farmers. Dr Parsons said projects were run- ning in three provinces in south- central coastal Vietnam, with 15 case- study farmers in each province participating. ''The project aims to increase the sustainability of cattle systems, and improve farmer livelihoods, through improved nutrition, management and utilisation of resources,'' Dr Parsons said. ''For example, growing improved forage crops for cattle can improve cattle nutrition and decrease labour.'' However, Dr Parsons said they need to verify which techniques would work in particular areas. ''In improving cattle production in tropical areas in the world we can't assume what will be the best solution,'' Dr Parsons said. ''But we can come up with a package of strategies and techniques we think can help, and then test them on-farm.'' This approach is tagged as ''best bet research'', applying the most likely successful practices, monitoring and sharing results with other farmers. ''It's still a research project, not a large-scale development project,'' he said. They are hoping any successful techniques will be used and passed on by the farmers themselves and a network of extension workers. ''We're only working directly with a small number of farmers and so to increase the impact of the project we hold farmer group meetings and work with existing extension networks,'' Dr Parsons said. The team is training the far- mers in techniques to grow and managing improved forage plants. They have been planting trop- ical grasses and legumes includ- ing tree legumes, which are high in protein. ''This means the farmers no longer have to take the cattle to the communal ground to feed, reducing pressure on the en- vironment,'' Dr Parsons said. Farmers had reported that this was saving them two to three hours of labour each day. They are also expecting im- provements in the livelihoods of children as it is often they who are involved in watching the cattle. ''With less labour time, they are able to spend more time at school,'' Dr Parsons said. A side project has involved joining forces with Bruce Montgomery, a Tasmanian journalist who is one of the founders of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange Trust. The trust provides families with a cow. Tasmanian Country has spon- sored one of the cows, named TC. Dr Parsons and his team have are assisting by providing advice on the best way to care for the cows. Rod records a milestone wool clip KAROLIN MacGREGOR MILESTONE: Rod Thirkell-Johnson who sold his 50th clip at this week's sale THIS week's Tasmanian wool sale in Melbourne marked a special milestone for well-known Tasmanian grower Rod Thirkell-Johnson. Tuesday's sale saw Mr Thirkell- Johnson sell his 50th clip at the annual Tasmanian wool auction. Mr Thirkell-Johnson said much has changed since he sold his first clip five decades ago. ''Back then, it was quite different. The wool was all traditionally dis- played and you went through and looked at it all,'' he said. ''It was much bigger in those days and everyone would come in for the sale . . . it was quite a social event.'' Mr Thirkell-Johnson said in his early years in the wool business he had been privileged to learn from some industry stalwarts such as Allan Stewart who established a highly- successful wool broker business which eventually merged to become the well known Roberts, Stewart and Co. ''Allan was very good,'' he said. ''He would take you through the wool shed and discuss the different fleeces and ask what your opinion was, which for a young wool grower was such a valuable hands-on learning experience. ''Those old wool men really knew the product inside out and they had very good relationships with the buyers and buying houses.'' Mr Thirkell-Johnson said with new measurement technology, the presen- tation of clips nowadays was quite different, but the importance of a top wool classer had not diminished. ''We've only had three wool classers here over that 50 years and having a good classer is vital,'' he said. Sheep at the family's Macquarie Hills property also have changed. Mr Thirkell-Johnson said premiums for finer wool had seen them gradually reduce the flock's average micron from between 17-18 down to 15-16. ''We've managed to get finer, but also maintain and actually increase our fleece weights,'' he said. ''The sheep are also plainer-bodied now and bigger.'' Mr Thirkell Johnson said his time in the industry also had seen a huge variation in seasonal conditions. ''The one thing about wool is that no matter how bad the season is you will always get some sort of return,'' he said. ''It's not like cropping where you can get a whole crop failure. ''The last drought was probably the most difficult time we've had as far as seasons go. ''We're still trying to rebuild our numbers after that.'' Mr Thirkell-Johnson also has seen the rise and fall of industry trends and schemes. ''We saw the rise of Zegna and the industry had very good support from them and then Mr Fuji moved in,'' he said. ''The reserve price scheme also served us well for a number of years, but, of course, that collapsed which changed things again.'' Mr Thirkell-Johnson said, despite a current softening in market conditions, he believed the industry had a strong future. ''Wool is just such a wonderful eco-friendly product,'' he said. ''With the technology now there is so much that can be done with it.'' Eric Hutchinson's Wool Report, Page 18 SEATTLE SERVICES PTY LTD Statewide Pumping & Irrigation since 1978 Call 03 6496 1263 www.seattleservices.com.au Contact us to find out why Angus continues to be the best The best Irrigator hose with the best warranty Telemetry Systems PaceSaver PowerSaver Irrigation Hose 2119154-120217
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