Ep.20 Cattle Farming In "Centralia" - Gillian Fennell (@stationmum101)

You're on the plants grow here podcast. I'm Daniel Fuller. Come along with me as we enter a hidden world of deep horticultural, ecological and landscape gardening knowledge with featured experts, industry professionals, and enthusiasts. You might think it's strange for a podcast called plants grow here to do an episode on cattle farming. But actually, it makes total sense. Because cattle farmers rely on grass and other plants to feed their stock. And good soil management is a huge part of what they do. Gillian Fennell is today's guest, and is one of my friends on Twitter, that's ranching cattle in Central Australia, or Centralia, technically at the top of South Australia. Welcome to the show, Joe. Thanks,
Daniel. Thanks for having me on. It's a it's going to be great.
I'm sure it'll be good.
You're a person that wears many hats, and one of them is a farmer's hat. Jill, can you tell me what's involved with your agricultural work?
So my husband and I live and work on a family owned Beef Cattle Station in Central Australia. So we have about a million acres of what we like to call range lands. So it's quite dry, we've got an average 200 mil rainfall per year, although we haven't received that for about five years. So we're struggling a bit at the moment. And when we're in a good Tommy run around 5000, head of cattle there. So quite lightly stopped. We don't do anything to the country, we don't fertilize or grow crops or also improve pasture we just grazing native pasture as it comes. And doing that lightly. And so we're not having great impact on the on the environment.
And yet,
a lot of it involves, as you can imagine, with a million acres, we do a lot of driving around looking at stuff and making sure everything works biggest things, making sure all the cattle have good access to water. Because surface water like in rivers and creeks, when you haven't had any rain, much for the past five years, you don't have any of that. So all of our water comes out of underground sources. So we're pumping with solar power, and making sure that that's all working correctly, and the cattle can get a drink and make sure the water is not too far away from where the food is. So that's a bit of a an ongoing development program of making sure that we can spread the cattle and water out enough so that the environment in the landscape isn't too heavily used in any particular area, to make sure that the impact is as low as possible. Okay,
and what sort of level of education is needed to not do anything to the land? Well, it
it's very interesting that there's been a big push on towards getting tertiary educated and those sorts of things in agriculture, and you know, ag science and animal science, those sorts of things are all great fields to go into and study. But there's nothing that can really compare to that on the ground experience. My husband is probably seventh or eighth generation, range land farming family, his ancestors rolled off the boat in botany, bay, Irish political prisoners. So they came over on the second fleet and basically headed straight bush after that, and, and made their way sort of west from Sydney until they ended up around berwarna. And then eventually to mandava. And, and now we're in, in South Australia. So it's it's that experience of living and working on the land and understanding your environment. And nightly and you know, with a lot of different environmental studies, and those sorts of things that are happening these days, and looking at the way landscape systems work, people are getting smarter about managing the country in a more sustainable way. But it's something you really need to live for a period of time to be able to, to understand the way the country works. We try to work with the seasons and work with the plants and animals that we have. We don't force the country to do anything that it's not meant to do. We try to tread lightly wherever we can. And, and all production systems are different, of course, where you're in a high rainfall area, and it's been heavily grazed and heavily crops for many years, you're going to need to do different things to have productive, sustainable agriculture. But we we do things a little bit different in the way we are and it can be quite challenging to get it right, because because you're in such a low rainfall area. If your country does get degraded, it takes a long time for it to recover. So you really, really got to be cautious about not doing that like for a long time, especially after the 50s when Australia was riding on the sheep's back we had wolf or pound for pound And everywhere the whole nation was covered in sheep. There was even sheep. Were we now in the 60s, which, when you travel through that country that you think that's that's pure insanity to run sheep, because sheep are very, they graze in a different way to cattle, they have different herd habits. And so they require a different environment. And so you decide are things though just mad running sheep where we were. And we can still see some areas where, of course, that was back before they had access to underground water say they were grazing and drinking in areas that were not suited. And when they ran out of water elsewhere, they're all mobbed up in one area, and we can still see the damage today that was done 6070 years ago, by not having access to bit of water points, and not having access to things like that we take for granted like motor vehicles and fences and motorbikes. So, yeah, it's, it's a constant learning experience. And in the health of our country, that is always at the forefront of our mind, because that's our gold, if we don't have a healthy environment in which to run our livestock, then we've got nothing, because we can't just go out and throw some fertilizer on it or, or plow a bit of it up and plant something else because it just won't work. Because we have no access to rainfall, we can't make the water magically appear. And, and so we have to work with the system with which we're given. And yeah, it can be quite challenging at times.
So I guess a lot of people might think that cattle and sheep would actually have a similar effect normally, can you speak on how those two animals have a different effect?
Well, it's, it mainly comes down to the numbers that you can run, because, and the way that they graze. So a lot of people don't know that cows don't have top teeth, they've only got bottom teeth. So when a cow eats something, she's if you've ever watched a National Geographic documentary, and you've seen a giraffe, wrap its tongue around the bush and pull the leaves off and back into its mouth. That's very much how cow eats. So she will wrap her tongue around a bit of Herbie Jorah or a bit of grass, and, and then just break it off against her bottom tape. Sheep have got top and bottom teeth. So they're like little scissors and horses are the same. That's why horses and sheep if they get into your garden, they will just destroy everything that you own, it will never come back because I could just mow it off at ground level. And that's why sheep require different management systems to cattle and they require shifting more frequently. Cattle on the other hand, are bigger and heavier. Both are hard hoofed animals. So cattle will trample a lot more. And in a high rainfall system that's really great. They, they trampling their dung in the grass back into the soil, and they're building soil carbon in the microbes, eating those things and enriching the soil. So that's great. But in a low rainfall area, you want to try and spread your cattle out as much as possible. So they're not trampling too much. And because because of the high temperatures as well, like we had a day last week, we got to 46.5 degrees. So the ground temperature was up around 6568 degrees. So our soil microbes, if they are still alive at that temperature, they're a long way under the soil. So we have to try and keep our very fragile top soils intact as much as possible.
Well, in Australia, we've seen some of the effects of sort of topsoil degradation, haven't we, unfortunately,
we have and it's I think it's to agriculture's credit that we turned up in a white person ignorance 200 odd years ago and thought, you know what, I'm just going to farm this bit a country like England, and nearly starve to death in the first 50 odd years. But, you know, it's I think it's a testament to the spirit of the people who became to get agriculture going in Australia was looking at necessity it was do or die, literally, because they had no knowledge of the place that a living, they could have survived on bush foods, because they wouldn't have had an idea of what to eat. And how to, I don't know, to British to ask anyone else.
Yeah, yeah. They probably wouldn't have liked it anyway.
No, and, and they've done in the past 50 years, agriculture has really turned itself around like, now bad land managers and real extreme degradation is, is the exception, not the norm. And we're learning to work together with different environmental groups and, and work in harmony with indigenous people to manage the country more sustainably, and we're doing a really good job of it. Because lancair like a lot of people say olenka does such good work. Lanka was actually started by a group of farmers. So that's, you know, we take our environment and our sustainability and their productivity quite seriously because you can't have one without the other. Sustainability doesn't mean locking country out. It means Being able to utilize your country for whatever purposes it's suited for, again and again and again without degrading it. And we're finally starting, a lot of people are finally starting to get that notion that you can't just live for this one season, you have to live for the next 100 seasons and manage your land appropriately. And I think Australian eggs getting that?
Yeah, I guess the soil is just a massive resource that is easily squandered and easily regretted doing that.
It is and, you know, there's much smarter people than I out there when it comes to soil microbes and stuff, because like, like I was saying about their high temperatures and stuff, whether we'd have any existence, from time to time is is beyond me. But, you know, it's people are finally recognizing that that the soil is the building block. And if we don't have healthy soils, and healthy river systems, and healthy water tables, then we're going to have nothing, especially in a country as dry as Australia, we have to be smarter about how we work.
So what's something about cattle farming that most people don't know, Jill?
Oh, what most people don't know, there might be a lot of things that people don't understand why we do things. I don't sure if they don't know them, like, a lot of people think it's really cruel to take carbs away from their mothers, for example. But that's actually a really good idea, because a calf doesn't know when to lady's mother alone. So he will continue to drink and drink and drink until she does, because he's getting bigger every day. And you know, the cow is just doing her best to keep him and her alive, especially if you've got cows with a really good mothering instinct, and it does differ from grade to grade. So it's in the cow's best interest and in the calf space interest to split them up at a certain age or weight depending on what system you're operating under. To make sure both have access to appropriate nutrition because if you leave a calf with its mother for too long, it'll continue to drink milk for its main source of nutrition. And why don't eat grass and drink water. Bit more a little bit of grass and drink a little bit of water. But in the long run that's not very healthy for it because cows are designed to eat grass that's, that's that's their, that's their whole aim in life is to eat grass is to eat grass. Yeah, and you cows eat cows, we call them breeders. So that's that's like the building blocks. So you have to really look after them because they are you can't make any money without your cows. Because if you don't have any cash, you don't have any carbs. So what are you going to sell, so you need to keep the carbs you cows in top order. So they get in a lot of cases, they get balanced nutrition from special animal nutritionists. And even where we live, we feed their cattle a supplement that they can have free choice of that includes every vitamin and mineral that they could possibly need. They we do soil testing and things like that, to ensure that that's getting the correct balance of things. And animal nutrition and animal health is really in the forefront of all of our minds, because that's where your profits are going to lie. And that's also good animal welfare. You can't have sickly animals that aren't getting the right amount of nutrition because you can't make money out of them. And also, you can't treat living animals that way. Even though a lot of people would say well, you're just going to eat them anyway. Yes, that's true, because they're delicious. We need to look after them. You can't just say well, I'm just because I'm going to eat that tomato plant, I'm not going to water it because that makes no sense. You need to care net to the things that you want to consume or use in the future. Otherwise you won't have those things. So you need to look after stuff. It's it's an animal welfare, I think a lot of people don't appreciate how much animal welfare like a thought of that is at the corner of everything we do, it's like the foundation of everything we do, we want to limit the amount the cattle have to walk so we put in more water points for them to drink, we want to make sure that traveling on tracks or being in the cattle yards is that is not a frightening experience for them where they might get hurt, we want them to remain calm. So we design things around how cattle think and and make sure that the tracks are designed so that they won't fall over and so that they have good airflow and they remain a nice temperature and and that they can travel in they comfortably. Everything we do is thinking about keeping the out animals as calm and as healthy as possible. Because you have to look after the things that you're responsible for. And that's we feel that quite deeply that we're responsible for all these living animals and we have to do our absolute best to make sure that they are well fed well watered well sheltered. And and well looked after.
You said that some people might say oh, you can eat them anyway, so you might as well just treat them badly. Well, that to me seems like a pretty poor reasons to treat an animal badly just because one day you're going to eat it.
Animal, this there's a difference between people who have a keen interest in animal welfare. And people who are animal activists, and they are usually not the same types of people, animal activists have the the idea that animals should not be kept under human control and that they shouldn't be used for our aims, and that they should be free because they're sentient beings. And yes, animals are sentient beings. But they're also not people. They're animals. So we need to as the humans, as you would like to think the higher order animals, we need to provide a safe, clean, healthy environment for them to exist in, we can't just have them willy nilly running about all over the place, damaging themselves.
No, that's cute. Let's leave.
Hang on, I don't think I have darling, just take this tail. She's covered in tomato sauce. But yeah, it's Um, so yeah, there's two, two different thoughts on, and two different groups of people and animal activists and animal producers generally don't get along.
Mm hmm.
It's a mystery. I don't know why
they might presuppose a few things that may not necessarily be true,
they might. And you know, a lot of people are open to people coming to their places and looking at how they handle their cattle and do those sorts of things. And if you're a genuine animal activist who wants to learn more, then you'd be open to doing that. But, you know, when when they want to sneak into places like piggeries, and farms and abbatoirs and hide cameras and retain themselves to equipment and steal lands and piglets and things like that, that sort of, it doesn't bring a better very conducive relationship to you know, it's not very conducive to having frank and open conversation.
Yeah, of course, yeah. There's no respect there. Yeah. And
we've never, I don't care what people eat, I think people should eat whatever they want to eat. That's their business. It's not my business to tell people what they shouldn't shouldn't do. And I think that's what x farmers the most is that there's a lot of people out there telling everyone what they should and shouldn't do. And we just don't generally don't like that. We don't like being told what to do.
And nobody does.
That people who are adamant that you should not be doing something, should not be eating things or doing things or whatever. And you can't respect people like that. So you can't enter into a discourse with them. And it's interesting that since COVID, came along, they were getting like a lot of airtime and on the news programs and stuff. But as soon as people realize that their food supply might be under threat. They've gotten a lot less particular about where it comes from and how it's produced. So not that we have bad standards, like I think you'd have to go a very long way, probably to find somewhere anywhere in the world these days. It has bad standards, because everyone is always trying to improve their standards of animal welfare, animal handling, hygiene, safety, everything.
But yeah,
there was a lot of interest because I think people didn't have anything else to worry about. It was it's a notion of privilege that to be so interested in animal production systems and to be able to comment on it with no experience of it. That's a from a privileged society to be able to do that. And I think people have realized that, yeah, society can do without interference and things that you don't understand from time to time. Well, it's
also interesting. One argument I've heard is that, well, I guess it's not so much an argument, but something that I've heard is that there's more animals killed per calorie in vegetable farming than there is in meat farming.
Well, that wouldn't have been a TA interesting. And it depends on whether you're going to include all the insects and everything, I guess.
Yeah, I think that that's the thing the insects, the rodents?
Yeah, like broad scale cropping, especially if there's a nice plague on which like, is the most horrific thing you could possibly imagine. Just imagine, just walking out and there's like a ground system See, see thing gray carpet that just moves in front of you. And there, we had a small mass flag at the station once and it was the most horrendous thing though. Climbing up, the curtains are everywhere, though, in our beds, it was disgusting. So imagine then harvesting your grain when there's 1000s Of Mice everywhere and not even that like before you get to that stage they have to be poisoned because you can't have a screen with full of dead mice and then take it off expect someone to make flour out of it. Yeah, all these standards to that we have to adhere to is to make sure that our grain is not full of dead rodents because that's not healthy. To be eating things like that. And it's just a nonsense argument. And we shouldn't even be having it because we shouldn't be entertaining. It's like if you eat, eat what you want to eat, we're doing a good job over here, you can go and grow your kale in a pot in your backyard and live on that if that's what you feel you compulsion to do. But the truth of the matter is, is that protein needs to come from calories, protein needs to come from a variety of sources. And we need to do that sustainably and as ethically as possible. And in most cases, to get the high amount of protein, we're going to need to use animals for that. And animals aren't just because agriculture is a system, just like your own garden is a system. The animals eat the grass and they fertilize the soil, and they eat the leftover products, like dairy cows, especially consume it, and a massive amount of, I guess what would otherwise be waste vegetable products and fruit products, and all those things can get fed back to animals, all the soybean meal and go the charge for everything gets fed back into an animal. It's a huge system that just goes around and around and around. And that's what really upsets me about people, all the cows are meeting all this methane through their burps, because they're ruminants etc, etc. But they're also then sequestering that carbon in the soil at the same time. So the cows are part of a methane cycle. They haven't made all this extra methane that's impacting on the environment, like cows are not to blame for climate change animal agriculture is not to blame for climate change, because that there's is a cycle that is continuous and has been ever since mammals first developed, I guess even I don't know about dinosaurs, I don't know how much they would have been not very familiar with the digestive habits of mind.
Not your specialty.
Not quite specially. So it's, yeah,
it's very frustrating when, when one particular part of agriculture and and often agriculture as a whole is singled out as being responsible for climate change. And then we having to be the ones responsible for fixing it. It's like, Well, do you want to eat food or not? Because if we can stop it, and we can plant all our crop grands back into trays, and but then what will people eat? Because you can't eat gas, you can't eat coal, you can't eat oil. And yes, we do need those things. And, you know, we're working on technology to make us less reliant on those sources and, but you also can eat concrete buildings that people in cities live in, you can eat an iPhone. So you in need ate like, good, clean food and water, like food and water and natural fibers like wool and linen and cotton. We need those things to live, there are a lot of other things that probably have more to do with with global warming, then agriculture that we don't need, but we want them really badly, because they're really fun. Yeah. And then they make their lives a lot easier. Like you don't need a clothes dryer. But you know, it's really convenient. If you don't, you don't need central heating or air conditioning, but it's a lot nicer to live in a house that has them. So, you know, needs versus wants. But it seems very odd to me that people would choose to attack agriculture, as being the cause, as of all this mess that we found ourselves in when actually it's just humans, humans are to blame, because we just had a good thing and we just kept going too far to get too far.
I think a lot of people are separated where their food comes from, how much blood sweat and literal tears go into the food that we eat
a lot,
a lot. And the what the efforts we go to for the things that you will never eat, like potty carbs, for example, which are carbs that we find that don't have mothers and because they become like pets is a really, really good chance they will never be eaten. Because, you know, they become so quiet. We had one that used to come inside and lick the dishwasher. And, and yeah, she was she'd wear a wig and a hat and the kids would do all sorts of things with her so she thought she will never be eaten. They're the animals that are digging out of bogs and rescuing and and then they're attacked by wild dogs usually and so you're you're treating them with with you know you're touching all the gross stuff, or the gross yucky pissy their dog bite and, and then of course, then you want to talk about antibiotics. So then they're being treated with antibiotics, so then they're excluded from the food chain anyway, so it's just Ah, yeah. And you know, when it doesn't, I know there's been a lot of talk lately and the bush was really came along and upset the applecart for everyone. And that was a devastating time last year that was just horrendous to see the way those fires ripped through Australia. And but the the drought never ended for for a lot of people, it still hasn't ended. So we're facing our fifth year now with the sub decile rainfall. So we usually get 200 mils a year. We've had 50, so far this year, which is double what we got last year. Wow.
it's pretty dry. And you know, we're not the only ones experiencing that amount of rainfall deficit. But we managing and, and that's, that's the thing that I think a lot of people miss, you know, there's a lot of been a lot of charity concerts and all those sorts of things, which I personally do not like, I do not like being held up as a charity case, I don't need a charity concert. I don't need, you know collections at the tills in Woolies and calls, I need good policy, and support from our government to operate efficiently and effectively. And that does, and that should be the same for everyone. You should not need to have charity events for people who are suffering from natural disasters. And that's a bit more probably my biggest bugbear is that our government will not call long term droughts. Now natural disaster. And I don't know any other way you could describe it, you know, even two years, three years with the subtests or rainfall. That's, that's Australia, welcome to Australia living in oil, leading one of the driest parts of the driest countries in the world. So you know, if you can't manage for three years, then you probably shouldn't be doing what you're doing. When you're looking down the barrel of a fifth year. And nothing's gone down in price, we still pay full price for all the feed that we feed our cattle, all our freight, everything like that. And, you know, cattle prices are a bit sketchy there for a while, but not too bad at the moment in which is that the only thing that's probably saved us is the rate the rise in cattle prices. It's very frustrating, because I know a lot of people in the cities, especially now that COVID has come along and a lot of people have lost their jobs and they're struggling. They're like, well, what's so special about the farmers? Why are the founders having this concert? Why are we giving donations to the farmers? I don't agree with any of that. If you want to, if you are the person who really wants to help out farmers ignore everyone except the CWA, the country Women's Association, because they live in those communities. And they have a very long history of doing the right thing by communities. And they will always help the people who need help. It's Yeah, it's mad.
Yeah, and we will have a link in the show notes for the CWA as well. If our listeners would like to check that out, especially our overseas listeners who maybe don't know about that organization. Can you tell us a little bit about that organization, Jill,
oh, country Women's Association, they are legends across Australia. If you ever have the opportunity, or if any of your listeners ever have the opportunity to find a country with tons of Australia's cookbook, the best I I have a CWA women's cookbook from Western Australia and it is not only a collection of recipes that tell you how to boil your meat in a kerosene tin. This was written in the 1920s it also gives you hints on how to best set up your homestead so it was it was written for people taking up soldier settler blocks after the First World War. And so how to cite your homestead efficiently and you know how to Tana sheep tied and recipes invalid and and then they added to it over the years. So right at the back of the book that's a page a section that's probably two pages long as cooking in a microwave. So I don't know which particular CWA lady had to roll over in a grave together to put that and you know, they're not they're not just about cooking. They're not just about you know, crafts which but that's that's part of the social aspect of what they do, but they are they write some really, really smart policy and they are really good lobbyists because never ever underestimate a country woman because she has done it tough and she knows exactly what it's like and she will not give up. Because she's the type of woman that's out there bottle feeding that sick lamb at two o'clock in the morning because God damn it it will not die while she's looking after it or else. Yeah, she's the one that carries her bath water in a bucket out to the garden to make sure that she will not lose her tomato bushes through the drought. You know she is the one that cuts up flower sacks and makes them into clothes for children. They country women are incredible. And yes, certainly put a link in the show notes because in their country within chapters overseas in some countries as well. So their international organization and they do a
lot of good work.
Maybe have to put an international link there to maybe for us listeners to know we get a few listeners in the US
Yep, that'd be great. So
I guess Brazilians might be something that's really needed on a farm. So you've sort of talked about how some of the methods that country women have, I guess adapted. What other skills make a good farmer,
you have to be, you have to be resilient, you have to be adaptable, you have to be intelligent. But that's not necessarily book learning that you have to be you have to be curious, you have to be willing to open to new ideas. It's really odd to me to hear how we say farmers are always like, so closed minded, and they can't take up new technology. And some of the most innovative people I know, are farmers, if you could see the things that they are developing and making in their sheds to stare at their own brains to solve a problem that may be unique to their situation, or may have application across many different sectors. It's incredible. They are the innovators, they, you know, they keen think is the keen environmentalists, like the number of farmers who are so proud of the number of birds and animals that they see every day. And, and you know, they they know what birds nest in what trees and those magpies have been there for years. And that's their children. That's their last year's nest over there. And, you know, it's um,
you have to be open. And but one thing I think we don't do well as farmers and it is changing with the new generation that's coming through, we don't share very well.
collaborate on occasions, but there's a sort of like, we don't share what we're thinking and feeling until it's too late. Until it's reached crisis point. We don't Yes, we Yeah, we come together for a yarn at a social event. But it's, you know, it's always very bland, like, oh, how's the weather, how's the harvest done, you know, have you had much rain and, and those sorts of things. But we wait until things reach crisis point to share our goals and aspirations for our communities and for ourselves, instead of working towards those things together. But as we're seeing the new generation of farmers come through, the ones have been University educated, or have perhaps worked in a different field where collaboration is more normal, and more accepted than they're coming back to the family farm to raise their own families. Things are changing. And, you know, I think it's going to be a really interesting time for Australian agriculture in the next 20 odd years, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens.
What's your advice to anybody who's looking to get into AG, make friends
with a farmer, and just just follow them around?
Yeah, that's a great one.
Go and spend your holidays there. And not just one farmer talk to as many different farmers you can because it's like, you can't say, oh, a farmer. There's so many different types of farmers. And and finding a specialist farmer these days is actually quite quite, quite rare. Because we're all diversified into different income streams to just try and keep our enterprise up and running. So you know, you'll see blokes who are cropping and then fattening sheep on the crop stubble or if they're making grain and high and then they fade in cattle in a little feedlot, they've got down the back, you know, got people who are growing cotton and then swapping that out and growing something else for a rotation crop. And, yeah, it it just need to really get in touch with a real life farmer, and go there. Because you might be sitting in your house, in inner city, Sydney, and you think you know what, I'd really like to be a farmer and then you spend your first 10 minutes out in the cattle yards and the breather fly in your nose and it comes out alive out your mouth. On an old time constant. And you might think you know what, I don't want to be a farmer anymore.
there's more to farming day then then like the actual physical aspect. But one thing I do know is that you have to be able to walk the walk if you want to talk the talk. So even if you want to get into AG, finance or ag consulting, or if you want to do agronomy, which is advising people on how to grow their crops and stuff like that, you will need to have some degree of practical experience. And you have to be honest, do you have to be able to say to the farmer, look, you know what, I spent 12 months on a sheep station at the back of Berk and I hated every second of it. But I really enjoyed the wall classing, or I really enjoyed, you know, this aspect of it or genetics or whatever, you have to be honest with the people that you're going to work with because we will not suffer fools and we will not tolerate failures. Because, you know, it seems like such an honor your life is on the line, but it where we work it is sometimes it is literally you know do or die because if we don't get the cattle to the right place at the right time, then they may die. Or if you don't listen to instructions in the yards and something happens to you, you may die. So you have to be open and genuine and open. honest with everyone who, who's around you, and you have to be able to have that trust. Because sometimes your life is in their hands and their life is in your hands. Literally, if, if you're directing someone to do something that you can see from one side, and they can't, then they have to trust that you're giving them the right information. So you have to be able to develop that trust. And to do that you have to be honest. And yeah, there's heaps of different things out there, I could recommend, there's a couple of people to follow on Instagram and Facebook. So if you're interested in the stuff like you've seen on ABC recently on the top in bull catching show, ring is from the top end is the place for you. They have a recruitment site and also a Facebook page. And they're on Twitter and Instagram as well. So if that's excites you riding horses and driving bull catchers and and being in the top end of Southeast Asia, in the top end of Australia, where it's hot, and there's crocodiles, and all that sort of dangerous stuff, when you want to fly a helicopter, that's for you. It's not for me, I'm not very keen on crocodiles. I'm not a big fan of the water. So lucky, I live in the desert. If you're interested in all sorts of station work, so Cattle Station, mainly in England, Western Australia, Central Station is the place for you. It's got some really good, like, things like it's got checklists for if you're going to work on a station or skills you might need or it's got even like got a dictionary of Cattle Station terminology. So you can understand some of the words that we use before you turn up there and not look like a complete idiot. That's really handy.
But don't be as though don't just use the jargon and pretend like you know more than you do. Because I've noticed, like you said, country people have a pretty low tolerance for BS.
Yes. Because we will know if you don't know what you're talking about. We will even if you're using the right words, we'll know. Yeah, and then. But that's, you know, it may well be that in in a couple of days time that everyone will be. You know, I remember when you said that thing and you thought you knew what you're talking about. Yeah. It just becomes a joke, like a standing joke. And you might even get a nickname out of it or something like because everyone no one has their own names on the station. Everyone has a nickname but it's um it's it's a it's a nice, it can be a really good place to work a lot of camaraderie. You meet Frieden friends that you wouldn't usually meet and you know, you can make lifelong friendships. Because you have to develop that trust in working so close because you're living with them. You're essentially living with all these different people and spending your life from literally sunup to sundown and then sleeping next to them in a swag so you know, they swear in this lake, you know, they snore, you know, they talk in this lake or singing this label get up at three o'clock every morning. You know, you know them intimately. And so you're either going to be their best maybe you're going to hate their guts. So it's it's a really interesting place to work. And I think everyone should at least experience it at least once. So I'd really like to see more people get out and even like gay people go camping, camping, cool, whatever. I don't like camping when you have to do for a job, it sort of loses its novelty. And camping is very, very different to working in a stock camp. So if you're sleeping at the stock camp, you're up before the sun every morning having your breakfast and your horses settled before the sun comes up.
Yes, I
camping you might laying your swag till seven or eight, stumble around and cook bacon and eggs. But yeah, no, it's very, it's a different life. And I'd like to see more people experience it. And from the other side, I'd like to see more farmers and more beef producers extending that invitation to people who wanted to come and experience it. Because I think that's the only way we're going to develop some common ground and some shared values as if we open our doors in our arms to our city cousins, and invite them to come and have a look. And they might not like everything we do. That's fine. I don't like a lot of things that people in the city do. But I'm not going to tell them to stop doing it because it's really none of my business. It's a and I just like the same respect. You know, you might not like the fact that we brand our cattle with a hot branding on. That's cool. I don't like the fact that people can stay in a nightclub till five o'clock in the morning. But it's not my business if that's what people want to do. It's I don't like the fact that, you know, lawyers are a thing. And there's so many people involved in, in industries that don't really seem to make anything. They're just about exploiting people. But yeah, it's a joke. Someone has to do it. So it's the way it's done.
That's really beautiful. Jill, you're talking about branding, and I just I just wanted to touch on that because that is a very Very interesting thing that's actually full, there are a few reasons that you would brand a cat, would you mind telling us about those?
Okay, so there's two different ways to bring in the most common way. And we don't bring in sheep people used to bring sheep on the cheek, which is not a very good idea. You don't want to touch anything space for the hotline. But that is a very old fashioned idea. So that doesn't happen anymore. So we brand cattle and obviously can't brand a sheep because company will not going to work. Because most stud cattle, especially dark colored stud cattle, a phrase branded, which is branded, instead of being branded with a hotline, it's a really, really cold one, which is done with liquid nitrogen. And that gives a nice white mark. So if you're looking at pictures of the Sydney show, or something you might see animals, horses and cattle with a white colored brand on their skin. So that's from freeze branding. But hot on branding is the way that most animals are commonly branded. And that's heated to a very, very high temperature, and set on to the skin for a small amount of time, so that it burns away the hair and, and leaves a mark a permanent mark and the animals hide. And that's done for permanent identification. So once it's branded, because each brand is registered to an individual or to a station, which will company. So that's a proof of identification. And it's sometimes they also get branded with a number and that number is the year that they were born. So you can tell how old an animal is without putting it in a head crush, which is like a head bile and like squeezing its neck, so you can get its head and open its mouth up and look at its teeth, which is the only other way to tell how old something is. So those sorts of things are important for telling the age of an animal because if an animal is not reaching its right size for its age, that's something wrong with it. Well, you need to look at it, we need to call it from the herd because it's not performing.
l also you need to be able to prove who owns it, not so much. Maybe if you've only got like three cows running around yet 20 acres down in Victoria some way. But you know, if you're in a Cattle Station, and your fences aren't that great, or in some cases in some of the bigger runs that are very underdeveloped, they might even have very many fences at all. You need to be able to prove who answers animals because yeah, that's your livelihood walking around. And I'd have to say industry, cattle industry especially and shape because it came from sheep as well have done a great job in developing some pain relief options for cattle. So even 10 years ago, pain relief wasn't a thing for animals, unless you went to the vet and got a specific dosage for everything. And you have injected each one very carefully. Now we've got more robust equipment and, and better pharmaceuticals that work in different ways and not harmful to the animal and are harmful to the human who may then consume that animal later down the track. And, you know, they're marvelous. It's the equivalent of so people might think that it's not necessary to do these things to cattle. We wouldn't do them if they weren't necessary, because it's a lot of work to start. And it's very distressing. Not very distressing, I guess it seems very distressing because cattle, especially the young ones, you grab them and they because they're a prey animal. It's their night. It's their instinct, you grab them and they think that oh my god, a lion has got me I'm going to die. Get this imminent, I must make as much noise as possible. So it first time visitors to a Kelly ads when we're doing marking it, they're always horrified by the noise because everything is is sounds like it's screaming the cow is bellowing for its cough, because her milk is pinching her because she needs the calf to come and drink it because she's too full of milk. The calf is billing for his mother because he's convinced a lion is going to get him at any moment. The Wayne is bellowing because they're very upset that they're not allowed to just live on milk anymore. Everyone's everyone's shouting over the top of all the cattle. And it can seem very distressing. But when everyone's calm and quiet, the noise does tend to subside and everyone works a lot better when even the cattle settle and they work a little bit and so the pain relief has come along. And so procedures such as branding, which you might, it's interesting, a lot of people like to compare, and it's very hard for people who aren't in the industry for me to explain to them because I don't like to say, Oh, you know, like a human because people say well, would you like it if someone branded you? And I wouldn't. But the difference is a cow's height is I don't know, maybe 10 times as thick as mine, and it's covered in here. And their pain tolerance is a lot higher than a human. So trying to explain our procedures to someone who's not in the industry can be quite challenging. To try and so they can relate to it. Because you don't want to say I will look like a baby when you take the baby away from its mother and immediately people go, oh my god, you're taking babies away from their mothers. But you're not you're weaning the cattle away from the cast to keep the cow healthy and unhealthy. You don't do that to humans, because humans are not animals. Very different scenario. It's so a lot of that emotive language and that emotive terminology. I think industry is also at fault. We miss step. And we try to relate things back to things that, you know, other people would understand, but we just try if we just make it worse is like,
what is the standard of living for Ozzy grass fed cattle when compared to animals living in for lack of a better word, cruel nature?
Ah, it's,
it's like it's, well, we have to compare it to humans. Again, it's the difference between living in a home and being homeless. It's grass fed cattle in Australia, especially in Australia, and but all over the world, with some exceptions, because, you know, in Africa, they still have lions and stuff. So I wouldn't feel to be in a grass fed cow in some parts of Africa. Or in America or basmati or something. But generally, grass fed cattle all over the world have that are domesticated and are bred for human consumption have very good standard of living, they have access nonstop to clean water to sufficient amounts of nutrition, they are checked regularly for illness or disease or injury, they are handled with care, and concern for their welfare at every opportunity, they are not allowed to suffer. If an animal has a catastrophic industry, injury or something that cannot be fixed with a little bit of TLC, it is humanely destroyed instantly, it's not left to suffer for any length of time. predation from animals is very low. Because we also undertake work to control any predators that may be coming in and upsetting the kettle. So it's a difference between living in a house and and not having to worry about going to work and, and having enough food to eat and having somewhere to sleep that safe every night and being homeless. So when you're homeless, and you know, you're always frightened and stressed, you've got nowhere safe to go foods a concern, you haven't had a bath, it's you know, it's a very stressful time. And that's what people don't seem to some people don't seem to understand that. Just because a cow is going like we say care but very rare to kill cows for me only at the end of their productive life, which is another another interesting discussion to have. But anyway, the animal is going to be killed at the end of the process. Yes, but up until the very moment that it's killed, which is instant and the Bullock doesn't know what's happened to it anyway, because it's alive one minute and dead the next because very quick, very humane. It's had a great life. We've had an excellent life. When you compare that to living in the wild, where you might run out of water and perish to death or you're walking around well beyond your natural capacity to walk to find food and water every day. You've got to worry about predators. You have if you're a cow, and there's too many bulls, then you are having a very uncomfortable time. You
have a herd of bulls on here. Yeah,
yeah. And and the cow gets no choice in the matter if the bulls decide that's what's going to happen. It's it's very unpleasant. And then you've got like, then you're faced with the fact that the cow might be trying to raise she might have a way not like a profit foot, we call it so she might have a wiener that she's trying to feed. And she's also pregnant. She's doesn't have access to proper food and water. So she's suffering she's in having in she's in poor condition. So she's gonna get sick or have injuries. It's a very stressful and often a very much shorter period of life, compared to an animal that's being raised for human consumption. Because Yeah, it's he can't compare the two. And this notion that some people have is that animals are really happy in the wild is not true. That's why we were able to domesticate animals in the first place because living in the wild was that's that's why horses and dogs and cats and cattle and sheep and goats decided and camels, you know what, I'm going to go with the people because the people will look after me. And you cannot return to this natural system because you just need to watch a documentary about African plains African plains to know that being a herbivore is not a really good deal. It's when you're a prey animal. Your life's not great. Let someone else is looking after you.
Yeah, so it's not all bad. No. So Jill, is there anything else that you'd like to tell our listeners about before We wrap this episode up,
I just like to let make sure that everyone knows because there's a lot of, and I understand what people do it because it's a, it's a tight market and you got to try and make your dollars where you can. But there's a lot of interest in regenerative agriculture and organics and biodynamics, and, you know, free range and all those sorts of labels that we like to slap on things and nine times out of 10, they're marketing to, there are no better for you. And they are no less sustainable or healthy for the environment than any other type of production system. Because especially in Australia, our standards for agriculture are incredibly high, some of the highest in the world. That's why our products are in such high demand all over the world. Because we do a really, really good job. And it doesn't matter. Like people say, Don't buy your meat from Coles or Woolies or whatever, because it's this and it's that boy you meet wherever you can afford it. If you want to support your local butcher, that's great. That's excellent. Do that if you want to buy direct from farm, that's great. do that too. But you can trust and have faith in wherever you buy your food in Australia. Unless you're buying like from some dodgy bloke at the back of a van somewhere. I wouldn't trust him. Yeah. I'm in Italy. Yeah, like it's a protein source. I don't care, eat whatever you want. I've got stacks of wild horses, I can come and eat them. It's, it's, it's gonna be safe, and it's going to be good for you. By what you can afford, don't worry about well, I can only eat meat once a week because I want to buy this organic, biodynamic, regenerative agriculture, something something and the rest of my time I'm going to eat lettuce doesn't matter where you get your food from and applies to everything, your eggs, your vegetables, your fruit, grains, your meat, your fish, if it's Australian owned, operated, and caught and slaughtered or whatever, it's going to be good. It's going to be safe. And it's going to be good for the environment. Because that's part of our it's part of the standards that we as Australian farmers have to live up to is we have to maintain certain standards and a lot of industries now. We've got the Australian beef sustainability framework and sheep are developing their own framework grains have got one. So we are constantly measuring our sustainability and environmental credentials and improving on them year on year. So buy Australian stuff, buy what you can afford shop where you like, but rest assured that every single farmer in Australia is doing the right thing by you and by the environment. It's a beautiful country. It is it is no I think people should get out and see a bit more of it. Now that can't go overseas and as a perfect chance.
Yeah, maybe go ahead and see the centre of Australia.
Now Jake, come here. I don't like visitors.
Yeah. After you've just been telling us we need more agricultural visitors.
Yeah, go go to Victoria, New South Wales.
Just someone else's phone.
They will set up for it.
Yeah, yeah, sure. I get thirsty at your farm anyway.
You might have to Yeah, it's 200 foot under the ground to get some water and you can't drink it.
It's salty. So
you'll perish. But no, it's no, I've got serious come out and come and see whatever parts of Australia like and seek out locals and talk to them. And, you know, things will be good. We're not we're not terrible, scary people. And we're not ignorant, redneck Hicks, because I it's quite interesting when they voted for gay marriage, which is excellent thing, we should have more of it because everyone should have equal rights that everyone was saying our rural Australia is going to vote against it because they're so conservative, rural Australia and remote Australia was one of the highest votes for gay marriage. Because we're very egalitarian out here. We believe that everyone should have the same rights as everyone else's. We're probably the least sexist. Like if you can do the work, do the work. We don't care. We don't care what you look like. We don't care if you're capable. you're capable. We don't care about anything other than how capable and honest and trustworthy you are. That's the only criteria we have. Everything else is irrelevant.
Thank you so much for coming on the show, Joe.
No worries. I know it was a good chat.
In Episode One of this podcast, I talked about what Ben and I were hoping to achieve with this project. And something I mentioned was arouse, hoping to get some contrasting opinions to help build a wider understanding. I understand that there are going to be some people who disagree with what was talked about in this episode. And I think that's great. If you'd really like to keep this conversation going. I'm sure that Jill would love it if you'd reach out to her respectfully on Twitter to discuss this a little bit further. She's at station mum 101. And that's mom with a use belt the Australian way. She can act as a gateway into a whole new world of agriculture for you While you're at it, you may as well follow me to add plants grow here.

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