Wednesday 8 December, 2021 Cr Liesbeth Long – Welcome Record

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Most of you are probably aware I am a farmer together with my husband out at Timor West. We have commenced our harvest and I thought I would write about that in some detail, as some of you may not actually know what that means, apart from the obvious of removing a crop from its paddock.

You have probably noticed an increase of heavy vehicles on the roads recently consisting of mainly trucks carting grain to the Dunolly Silo, but also the odd header (which is the big machine the size of a Tiny House) or field bin (a mini silo on wheels). Traffic on the road is only a small part of harvest, which is a complex operation with lots of people doing lots of different things all at the same time, to make the process work.

My husband drives the header. It cuts the crop and threshes the grain out. This grain is then stored in the ‘box’ on top of the header. The chaff is chopped up and comes out the back of the header in a cloud of dust and all sorts of bits and pieces, you certainly do NOT want to stand near there, especially if its oats!!! Once the ‘box’ is full I, as chaser bin driver, drive slowly and precisely alongside the header and have the grain transferred from the header into my chaser bin. It is a hairy part of the process, as I need to drive super straight and at exactly the same speed as the header. If I’m too close the chaser bin can hit the ‘front’ which is the big comb that cuts and scoops up the crop. If I’m too far away, the ‘auger’ the big tube that moves the grain via a metal spiral, won’t reach. Not all farmers use a chaser bin. Some just use field bins placed around the paddock and the header drives over to them each time to unload. However, using a chaser bin means that the header never stops as you’re unloading ‘on the fly’. It is much more efficient and means that the job gets done quicker.

Once my chaser bin is full, I drive it to our truck and unload into that. Once the truck is full, our driver Dave takes it to the Dunolly Silo. Once there, it is tested for a heap of stuff such as moisture, impurities (bits of chaff, other seed etc) and in the case of canola, the oil. If the oil is above a certain percentage, we get a bonus paid on top of the going rate. There are a few different ways we can sell our grain; we can take out a pre harvest contract for an agreed price, we can sell on the day of delivery, or we can warehouse it in those big blue bunkers and sell it at a later date. We usually do a bit of all three.

The two biggest challenges of harvest are the weather and breakdowns. You can’t harvest when it is raining as wet crops won’t thresh. If there is a lot of rain the grain can sprout and then it gets downgraded, and you won’t get nearly as much money for it. The grain can also get ‘stained’ which are tiny spots of mould on it. If a breakdown occurs, you need to wait for parts to turn up so you can fix the machine and get going again. So when the weather is good farmers will go for as long as possible and sometimes we won’t get home till 11.00pm at night. Harvest usually lasts between 4-6 weeks so by the end tempers can get a bit frayed, especially when you work with your husband! And of course, my councillor obligations don’t stop either, nor would I want them to. I bring my laptop and mobile phone with me so I can attend meetings via video conferencing and tend to emails and calls. My tractor cab literally becomes my office and in fact this column was written from the cab.

But aside from all this, it is one of my favourite seasons. The three of us work as a team, turning up day after day for weeks, to get the job done in the end.

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