After a delayed flight, and rearranging our itinerary, we made it to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Traveling from Winter in Iowa to Summer in Australia was about a sixty-degree shock! Very hot and humid as we checked out the wallabies, kangaroos, and cute little koala bears. We even watched some native dancing to the sounds of the Outback.
The next morning’s view from the hotel balcony was of the beautiful ocean. Short night, but sights to see, and Australian Ag to learn.
This group of Iowans traveled south to the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. Sugar cane was the main crop in the fields as we traveled. Fifty-five percent of Australia’s area can be grazed. Some of that grassland is very minimal. Forty percent of Australia does not produce anything for Ag. The number that stood out to me is the only 5% that can be used to grow a crop. We visited a soybean research facility. The beans looked very good in their field trials. It was interesting to find out they were genetics we used thirty and forty years ago. All non-GMO. One farmer mentioned they did not have the luxury of planting GMO. Their market is all set up for export. They received a premium for non-GMO. With only 25 million people in the whole country, they farm for export as two-thirds of their production is exported.
We visited the Port of Brisbane, where we toured the terminal of GrainCorp, the largest exporter of grain. While we were there, no ships were being loaded. With the very erratic rainfall in this country desperate at times for water, exports are boom or famine. We did see many cars and trucks that were unloaded at this part, and even a cruise ship sitting waiting for its passengers to return.
On this fifth day of our trip, we visited Gatton campus, University of Queensland. Beautiful campus that generates much of their own energy. When we walked this campus to visit some of the livestock studies, it reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. Not sure what kind of birds, but all of the flying creatures over here made noises. We checked out some pretty impressive facilities for beef cattle, but also quite a dairy operation. And did I mention it was raining the entire time we walked? Many of us were beginning to wonder about being told of the sunshine and heat!
We visited a farm that was operated by a father and two sons. They had some very fascinating conservation work, terraces installed in their fields. But these terraces were different. As you can see in the picture, they farmed perpendicular to them. They nicknamed them the roller coaster. The younger son was bringing in new technology and had custom-built a no-till planter for their operation.
In Toowoomba, we visited the John Deere dealer location with the biggest volume of any John Deere dealer worldwide. Much of the equipment we saw was made right here, at home in Iowa. The cotton pickers were fascinating!
From here, we moved on to the town of Toowoomba. I really like the name of Toowoomba! It’s the gateway to the Outback, and where my Australian friend Meg lives near. Before the trip, through Facebook messenger, I had asked Meg if she lived near Toowoomba. This started the ball rolling for some very good conversation about trying to fit into our trip a BBQ, on her family’s farm. As you may have noticed, our trip was packed very full of meetings and visits, but it worked to have this reception on an evening that we did have some free time! Great food and great conversation were shared between Iowa and the farmers of Darling Downs!
We visited Kerwee Feedlot, a cattle feedlot that finishes certified Angus beef, and also Wagyu beef for the Asian market. This feed yard holds 18,500 cattle at one time. They specialize in the high-end market. This sixty-year-old company ran a very clean, well-managed operation. Many of the cattle are shipped live to the country that imports them.
We’re about half-way through our tour. I’ll finish the trip in my next blog!