When travelling in southern Australia in the heat and dryness of a hot January with daily temperatures in the 30’s and low 40’s (Celsius) and with no sign of rain, it is a vast difference to a “winter” visit to this lush and beautiful farming region in the Western District of Victoria, Australia. No matter what time of year, if you have the opportunity to visit a farm it really is a unique experience whether you are a city or country person! Depending on the type of property visited, summer is a busy time of harvest; wheat, canola, other grains and fodder crops – with most harvesting by massive equipment often being moved between properties on the highways.
It is always interesting to learn something new; about farm animals (sheep) and how they are purchased (sometimes at online “live” auctions), and that after the harvest the sheep are moved to graze on the stubble before it is “burned” and the next crop is planted, depending on farming practices. Following is a sequence of photos on crop harvesting:
A Mixed farm or large property
Farming properties can vary in size from several hundred to thousands of acres and many are mixed farms producing combinations of high quality grains, bales of feed, beef and / or dairy cattle, sheep for meat and / or fine wool production; all depending on the location of the property, and it’s manager/owner. The highest sheep production in Victoria is in the Western District (33.7%). Many of the smaller farm homes were originally Soldiers Settlers homes which were given to returned soldiers by the government after WWI but most now have amalgamated into larger properties.
There are several historic country homes throughout the Western District and some have “open days” during the year. If you are in the area on one of these days they are definitely not to be missed. The two properties visited in the past are Mawallock (near Beaufort) and Woolongoon (near Mortlake). During our visit it was sad that the historic Carngham Station’s two-story home was lost in the fires (January 9 2013).
Brolgas & Rock Stomping
The Western District is also home to the iconic Brolga which is protected as their numbers in southern Australia are declining. It is rare these days to see these very tall, magnificent birds in their natural wetlands environment.
A most unusual feature of the entire district are the incredible volcanic rock fences which go on for miles and miles. These fences are made by hand (very labour intensive) from the rocks in the fields, most are very old with many still functional. As this surface rock is in vast amounts of fields, the pastures are often only usable for grazing although there is a “rock stomping” machine which removes the rocks so that crops can be planted. Evidently over time more rocks “float” back up to the surface.
The next generation of farmers are not only hard-working and resourceful, but often well-educated with knowledge in a range of farming skills and agricultural practices. The young farmers we met were accomplished and adaptable – knowing their abilities impact the use and productivity of their land, including environmental issues, not only today but into the futures of their children. Thank you for the privilege of sharing a few moments of your rewarding lifestyles.
- Plan your travels well and if travelling during the summer holidays (January) be aware and keep informed of weather and fire locations through the CFA (Country Fire Authority)
- A great time to visit the south-eastern state of Victoria, Australia is in their Spring and Summer – for me the “best” time is “anytime” but here is the annual weather information and lots more from Visit Victoria
- Watch your speed when driving – traffic fines are very steep and there is zero tolerance for “drunk driving” – .05 BAC is the limit
- Slow down at railway crossings – signage indicates speed reduction to 80 kph
- Australia has 23 million sheep (2012 / 13 projection)
- That works out to one sheep per person in Australia which has a current population of 22,620,600
Links & references
- Where is the Western District of Victoria
- Victoria state government history of bush fires in the Western District with devastating loss of human life and stock
- Iconic Brolga – a Western District vanishing species
- Camperdown History
- Heytesbury Soldiers Settlers Scheme
- Spectacular historic homestead of Mawallock (near Beaufort) has an Open Gardens March each year – home and 7 acres of beautiful grounds and gardens. Check with the Beaufort TI Centre, 72 Neill St., Beaufort, 3372 (Telephone (61) 3 5349 1180)
- Woolongoon (near Mortlake) mansion (2 story) with its beautiful 100-year-old gardens (check open dates with the Mortlake TI Centre, 108 Dunlop St., Mortlake, 3272 (Telephone (03) 5599 2899 )
- So you want to be a wool classer – a dying art
- Basic Bachelor degree and five years of relevant experience required before applying to immigrate to Australia as a mixed crop farmer
Shearing is always a busy & exciting time in a wool shed
“The finest bale of wool ever auctioned sold for a seasonal record of 269,000 cents per kilo during June, 2008. This bale was produced by the Hillcreston Pinehill Partnership and measured 11.6 microns, 72.1% yield and had a 43 Newtons per kilotex strength measurement. The bale realised $247,480 and was exported to India.”