Bumper times for Riverina sheep industry-Film

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By Richard Snashall ·

Every two years a group of Hay district farmers and members of the sheep industry converge on the western Riverina for the Peppin-Shaw Ewe Flock Forum.

Over two intensive days, the group travel by bus and in a handful of 4WDs to properties around the region, scrutinising ewe flocks, catching up with neighbours, solving problems, looking at new technologies and comparing notes.

This year I was fortunate to be invited along on the Peppin-Shaw trip with camera in hand.

“Most graziers don’t get out that often,” laughs Tupra station manager David Rankin, also the forum’s acting president in 2017. “So it’s a good chance to talk with one another.”

But it’s not really a joke; these graziers don’t get out much as the properties they’re running are enormous and incredibly busy operations. To my mind, the farms are more easily measured in kilometres rather than acres or hectares. One of the properties we visited must have been close to 100 kilometres long!

The forum invites two professional assessors who look at the meat and wool characteristics of each property’s flock, but not in a competitive manner. For the 2017 forum, Jarrod Slattery from Wagga Wagga was on hand to discuss the lamb and mutton, while merino expert Courtney Sutherland came from Western Australia to talk fleece.

“There’s little to critique,” says Jarrod. “Everyone is doing a great job with their sheep”.

“It’s also great to see so many young people coming into the industry,” Courtney commented. “They’ve got a serious amount of passion, so I think the industry will be served very well into the future.”

With tremendous demand for lamb and mutton, and high wool prices, the farmers are feeling understandably upbeat. Combine all that with last year’s record rainfall and you have a great year to be on the Peppin-Shaw bus.

Witnessing the interaction between the graziers, industry representatives and jackeroos is a real delight. But not only that, it’s fascinating to meet the families and communities that live in and are the backbone of support for these remote farming operations. Along the 1000 kilometre plus route, the forum delegates were treated to warm hospitality and delicious morning teas, lunches and afternoon teas by locals, including P&C committees and branches of the Country Women’s Association.

For filming, this country offers up stunning scenery and different conditions every single day. Along with the on-ground filming and interviewing, it was great to fly my little unmanned aerial quadcopter (yes, more often than not called a drone) to capture the Riverina landscape in all its beauty. I must offer thanks for a few of the aerial shots to Ben Watts, also on the trip, who is not only a farmer but a drone educator from northern NSW.

The city and coast folk often refer to regions like the western Riverina as “harsh”. That word doesn’t sit comfortably with me. Sure, the climate is variable and the country provides extraordinary challenges for those who live there, but there is a great lifestyle and unmatched beauty in this part of Australia that these communities understand and enjoy very much. Otherwise they wouldn’t be living there.

2017 Peppin-Shaw Ewe Forum Done and Dusted!

Following on the back of an excellent spring with continuing high wool and meat prices, the 2017 biennial Peppin-Shaw Ewe Forum was always going to go well.  Nine local properties from a varying background of corporate and family entities displayed well grown young Merino ewes. Add to the mix a variety of discussions in the yard and bus covering breeding and pastoral management the event was not only informative but also entertaining for participants and exhibitors.

Over 1000 km were travelled across the plains during the two day Forum.  The first stop on the Tuesday morning was the inspection of the Wyvern young ewes at the new woolshed owned by the Field family followed by a drone display by experienced operator Ben Watts. Ben had on display several drone models for participants to view and operate. Discussions with Ben were about the different drones’ role as tools in the industry to assist large scale farmers. The bus next moved to the Mulberrygong woolshed to inspect the Burrabogie young ewes owned by Australian Food and Fibre before heading down south to view the McCrabb’s commercial ewes at the Avenel Merino Stud.  A delicious smorgasbord lunch at the Wanganella Hall included a presentation by Bayer on the new farm management app AgriWebb. The final stop for the day was the Lugsdin’s property Warrendale near Gunbar where the use of electronic tags and a wand was discussed during the sheep inspection.  A social evening at the Waradgery Club featuring the drone footage collected at the property visits was viewed to conclude the day.

On Wednesday the bus headed north east of Booligal to the Vagg’s family property Furlong. With Allan Vagg entertaining participants with his bush poetry skills to pass some time the bus returned to Booligal and then headed west. The Turner Family put on display their young ewes and the newly renovated woolshed at Woorandara west of Booligal.  Next followed a quick stop at the Morphett family’s 103 year old Alma woolshed before moving to the Dowling’s property Merritop. Dowling’s young ewes were displayed in a new set of yards near a bore towards the back end of the property.  On the local backroad to the next propert, the participants viewed a mob of goats caught in a trap yard and a solar bore used for stock waters before arriving at the Nield’s family property Benilkie. It was there they had lunch in the woolshed and inspected the house desalination plant that the Nields used, afterwards it was short trip to the yards to inspect the Benilkie ewes.   Cameron Nield also put on a very entertaining display of some skilled drone mustering to bring sheep that were out of view back to yards.  The final stop for the bus was to inspect the large mob of young ewes that Tupra had on display in the recently built Nandum yards owned by the McLachlan Family.  At each stop the Assessors made comments on the sheep in the yards after the landholder presentations.  The Assessors were Courtney Sutherland from Wagin in WA covering the wool and Jarrod Slattery from Landmark in Wagga discussing the meat attributes.

For further information on the Forum visit the website at www.peppinshaw.com.au or contact the Secretary Annabel Lugsdin on 0428539167


Drone Demonstration at the 2017 Forum

The 2017 Peppin-Shaw Ewe Flock Forum will be soaring to new heights with a drone display and demonstration by Ben Watts from Bralca. Drones are gaining momentum in Agriculture as a way to save tim6387030-3x4-700x933e and money on physically demanding jobs, while providing an unparalleled perspective of the paddock. Drones can be your personal eye in the sky for mustering stock to assisting in grazing management decisions or checking on lambing ewes with minimal disturbance. The drone demonstration will be held at Wyvern on Day One with Ben to discuss commercial application of drones in Ag. Day Two will host a drone display at Benilkie where two local farmers will have their drones available to discuss their applications and experiences of the aerial technology to their enterprises.

Drone Demonstration Information

New generation Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (commonly referred to as drones) are creating solutions in agriculture to age old challenges. The growing of crops and livestock has always required a trained eye in the field paired with a solid understanding of soils and climate to be ready to act on any unplanned issues causing stress such as disease or nutrient deficiencies. Whilst early developments of fixed cameras were a step forward in mapping single plants, commercial agriculture continued to operate on vast areas with the responsibility of millions of dollars in resources across:

· Land

· Water infrastructure

· Crops· Livestock

· Environmental areas

All of these resources can be monitored using drones fitted with purpose built sensors. A standard camera to collect either flight video or high quality still photos of points of interest is the starting point of monitoring. Capturing imagery at key times of crop emergence, tillering and flowering can assist a farmer to more accurately monitor crop density, health and to predict the variability in yield from any set of plantings. Mounting a camera fitted with filters to collect near infrared imagery provides detailed information that can be represented through a NDVI map. This index provides a live snapshot of which plants are actively photosynthesizing. Whilst NDVI maps are available from satellites, these are often on a weekly or fortnightly basis and can be affected by cloud. Also satellite maps are generally on 50m – 250m pixel size. Drone mounted systems can generate NDVI maps on any given day (outside of raining days) at an accuracy of 1- 5cm pixels. This provides up to date information on individual plants across a field that would not be visible for another 10-20 days if we were to wait on traditional visual assessment. Early identification of plant stress allows for timely identification and treatments to prevent spread of disease or early treatment of deficient nutrients before significant yield losses are caused. By using high definition maps throughout the growing period rather than looking at a yield map post-harvest, we can take a proactive approach to matching inputs where required with the aim of maintaining input costs whilst increasing yields – The result being reduced cost of production. Whilst this technology has been developed around the cropping industry, recent research has applied this to NRM &pastures within grazing systems and this has provided further benefits to the traditional industry of livestock grazing. Monitoring livestock in their grazing environment often requires accessing rugged, hard to access areas. Drones provide a new solution to firstly quickly covering these areas without the costs or risks involved in ground based monitoring, secondly aerial monitoring provides imagery of livestock in their natural state where we can observe their grazing, social and movement behaviour to better understand and manage animal production.


The drone demonstration by Ben Watts is proudly sponsored by Murrumbidgee Landcare through the Murrumbidgee Landcare Community Pop-Up Grants.

All over for 2015

Inaugral Peppin-Shaw Ewe Forum Triumphs

By Sally Ware, Committee member

Despite the Hay district officially recording the lowest rainfall in the State in 2014 and parts of the district receiving even less, the inaugural Peppin-Shaw Riverina Ewe Flock Forum was a great success with excellent crowd support and well presented ewes on display.

President David Rankin said there were many highlights seen over the two days but full credit goes to the nine property owners and managers that stepped up and put their ewes on display despite the dreadful seasonal conditions.
“We travelled right across the Hay district from Carrathool to Gunbar to west of Booligal and nearly to Coleambally and Conargo in the south witnessing some very dry properties. Despite this, each property owner was working hard to maintain their sheep in the best possible condition”.

A crowd of over 130 people turned up at Wyvern on Day One (Tuesday) to inspect sheep presented by Manager Scott Dixon and owner Michael Field and to hear Roger Fletcher from Fletcher International Exports speak in the new shed. The majority of this crowd followed on for the rest of the day as the buses moved to Peter Lawrence’s property “Amoila” and to the Booligal hotel for a bbq lunch supplied by the Booligal P & C.

The children from the Booligal school presented Roger Fletcher with a jar of pickles from their school garden and some Fletcher donated meat was auctioned with all proceeds going to the school. In the afternoon, the buses headed out west to “Yamba” owned by the Morphett family and returned via an inspection of the 101 year old Alma woolshed to the Turner family’s property “Woorandara”. After this it was back to the Booligal hotel to wrap up the day with the very popular Bayer sponsored drinks and hot lamb rolls cooked by the Booligal Hall Committee.

Day Two (Wednesday) saw the bus travel out to Burrabogie to view ewes presented by David Marshall and his staff at sunrise before moving down to Cooinbil to view a 20 stand shearing shed in action including scanning and dipping off the board. Next stop was the historic property Willurah, where Manager James Maslen and his staff presented their young ewes in portable yards followed by a tour of the shearing shed. Karl and Will Hookes’ property Wargam was the next stop, including lunch supplied by the Booroorban Social Club before finishing at the Matthew’s property Bedarbidal.

A registration and windup night was held at the Waradgery Club before and after the event and there were many guest speakers on the buses including Mark Bazeley from Riverina Wool, Roger Fletcher, Tim de Mestre, CEO of Paraway NSW, Matt O’Dwyer and Suzie Holbery, new district vet and biosecurity officer from Riverina LLS respectively and many sponsor representatives and locals.





 We urge all entrants and guests who attended to please provide us with feedback on the two days, website and booking process via email to the Secretary.

More photos on our Facebook Page!