Editorial: Peace of mind the greatest on-farm asset
16 Oct 2014
In this day and age a farmer’s ‘peace of mind’ is an increasingly precious asset, especially when it comes to the health and safety of their staff and family.
For Tasmanian grain and livestock producer Georgie Burbury, peace of mind has been boosted by the use of technology and putting into place strategies to increase work health and safety (WHS) on the 2200 hectare mixed farming operation Eastfield, near Cressy in Tasmania.
Ms Burbury said investing in better equipment and practices can not only help to prevent injuries, but can make work less stressful on the body and far more efficient and productive.
The systems put into place at Eastfield are being showcased this week as part of the 10th National Farm Health & Safety Conference currently being held in Launceston. The conference is run by Farmsafe Australia and supported by organisations including the Primary Industries Health & Safety Partnership.
Ms Burbury said it was the first time she and parents Andrew and Jane Bond, and brother Sam Bond, had the opportunity to show off the methods they’re using on-farm to create a safer working environment, particularly in the livestock side of the business.
“The farm tour is a wonderful chance to talk to people in agriculture and the health and safety area about what we’re doing,” she said.
“I’m also very much looking forward to hearing advice from participants, because on-farm WHS is ever evolving and the tour enables us to get some feedback from other growers on what they’re doing on their own properties.”
WHS became a major priority for the Bond family following the construction of a lamb feedlot in 2012 which finishes 20,000 lambs annually for domestic and export markets.
“We had to put into place livestock handling equipment that allowed us to push through big numbers quickly, and reduced the need for us to directly handle the animals,” Ms Burbury said.
“The Combi Clamp, for example, is a pedal activated machine that goes at the end of the race and enables us to crutch about 1000 sheep per day. This is four times quicker than the old way, and we no longer have to bend down or struggle with the sheep.
“It’s also much less stressful for the animals, gently squeezing and releasing them, and with padding on either side of the clamp.”
The Bond family also use an Auto Drafter for weighing lambs, an Electrodip for jetting their flock during the flystrike season and a VE machine - a conveyor belt designed to move big numbers of stock through quickly at weaning time.
“In a big operation, these stock handling machines pay for themselves in the first 12 months and leave us operators with far less aches and pains at the end of the day,” Ms Burbury said.
Safety and efficiency on the livestock side of the business enables the Bonds to have more time to prepare for the irrigated cropping portion of the business.
They have 600 hectares under irrigation, 300ha of dryland cropping and grow a range of summer crops including poppies, canning peas, onions, oats, white and red clover seed, carrot seed and beetroot seed.
The busiest times of the year include sowing, irrigating and, of course, harvest time.
The predominant safety concern at harvest is collision between machinery and overhead powerlines.
“Trucks and augers coming into contact with overhead powerlines is a common issue for grain growers Australia wide, and it’s no different here,” she said.
“The local community has set up a not-for profit group known as PASS (Proactive Agricultural Safety and Support) dedicated to safer practices in the rural industry, and that’s been a significant force in influencing ‘best practice’ on the family property.”
Ms Burbury’s mother Jane Bond was heavily involved in the foundation of the organisation, which has been a major advocate for the ‘Look out, look up’ overhead powerline signage campaign.
“In high traffic areas, like near the feedlot, the power is underground to eliminate the risk of trucks and machines colliding with powerlines,” Ms Burbury said.
“In other areas we have highly visible signage where there is a risk of machinery coming into contact with overhead powerlines. This clearly reminds operators of the hazards.
“And it gives us added peace of mind, especially with contractors who may not know the paddocks as well as other staff, coming on-farm during the busy cropping periods.”
The 10th National Farm Health & Safety Conference is running over two days in Launceston, 15-16 October 2014.
The Primary Industries Health & Safety Partnership is funded by the Research and Development Corporations for the meat processing, cotton, grains, fishing and livestock industries as well as the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. For more information visit www.rirdc.gov.au/PIHSP.