Do You Know
Are you aware of the Association's "Sister Branch" concept? Does your branch have a "Sister Branch"? Did your branch have a "Sister Branch" and have let the contact lapse?
A strong sisterhood exists between Bunbury and Thornlie Branches who have a commitment to meet three times a year. This year they met at Pinjarra in March, shared in Xmas in July and in December, Thornlie Branch will travel to Bunbury. Another link exists between Bentley and Collie Branches who met at the Bunbury Branch Centre in September this year, with Bunbury Branch catering for lunch for the two Branches.
At a State Council meeting in 1986, a motion was carried to set up
a system of sisterhood between branches with the view that
branches with surplus funds could adopt a branch having
difficulty in maintaining their centres.
Quoting from A Continuing Story, "ties have been formed between branches particularly between those based in city and country areas. Initiated as a support during the rural economic crisis of the 1980's, they have continued to provide links of fellowship. Sister Branches maintain correspondence, often meeting annually for luncheons, picnics or rallies.
Speaking to members from these Branches, I asked them what they saw as benefits and they agreed it was very beneficial to exchange ideas and to interact socially with members from a very different area from that in which they live.
With the extremely dry seasonal conditions affecting almost the entire State, now would be a wonderful time to revisit and reconnect with your Sister Branch if you have one. If you don't, give serious thought to make a connection with another branch; it may be a branch in a very different geographic location from the one in which you live or it may be a branch nearby that is experiencing the same seasonal conditions as you.
Remember the adage, A worry shared is a worry halved.
AUSTRALIAN YEAR OF THE FARMER
Pig Farmer, Annette Howard, Koorunga Branch
"Yuk, what's that smell?" If I collected a dollar for every time someone visited our piggery and made that comment, I would have a small fortune. After you have been there for five minutes you don't even notice the smell.
Twenty five years ago we began pig farming to supplement our income. The shed which housed six sows and all the progeny was built from recycled materials and cost $2,000. Being a husband and wife team with two small children at that time, we set about raising pigs with much enthusiasm, learning from a great network of others in the district who were also rearing pigs. Despite it being seven days a week, 365 days a year, it is still a great way of life with many bonuses along the way.
In those days I would be up at 5.00am to help weigh pigs, back at the house at 7.00am to put the kids on the school bus, run around the house to put on a load of washing and make the beds, back down TO the piggery to feed, mate, move, clean – whatever was necessary. I really enjoyed working with the pigs. We would get home late at night, and I would always offer to shut the pigs up. I still believe it was better value than trying to bath and put three tired kids to bed. The one thing pigs taught me was that real friends come to see you, and not how tidy your house is. On Christmas Day, the pigs still have to be fed and sheds opened up before any presents are opened, the only day of the year you didn't have to wake the kids.
We increased our piggery to 70 sows, selling 1200 pigs a year, built new sheds, reroofed old sheds, changed our procedures to become more efficient and enjoyed the very social aspects of working in a relatively small industry. We mixed all our own rations for the pigs, transported them to market ourselves and had a great sense of pride in what we were achieving.
In 1996, at a cost of three quarters of a million dollars, we started building again, this time a grow-out unit for 4,000 pig places. While we employed some staff to assist with the building it was a family effort, mixing and pouring concrete, welding trusses, putting on sheets of tin, pipefittings, making gates and the list went on and on and on. The introduction of automatic feeding systems (provided you had electricity) was a luxury, although bucket feeding was pretty good for the figure. No more milling our own feed, it was delivered in large trucks. We also had an office with a shower and real tables and chairs. We definitely had our fill of building, to just get on with raising pigs was looking good. Alas this wasn't to be. AS fairly strong case was put, we'd have to increase and build again; to where we are now an 8,000 pig place grow-out unit. The pigs are delivered to us at three weeks of age, beautiful little bundles of much admired cute piglets. They are on our farm for around 17 weeks, when they are sold as bacon. They are placed in straw based shelters of 250 pigs for 10 weeks then moved to traditional sheds until they are ready for market. They receive six different diets while on the farm, are checked twice a day and transported by contractors. Everything is pressure cleaned between batches of pigs.
Raising pigs these days is as much about paperwork as actually working with the pigs. There are the continual procedures for Quality Assurance, the constant red tape over numerous licences, rules and regulations to maintain, promoting environmentally friendly and clean, green piggeries, codes of practice, welfare issues, biosecurity, protective clothing and of course the quality of the meat. You also now need to have industry qualifications, with a Certificate III the minimum standard. When we first started selling pig meat, a 56kg animal would have 15ml backfat; you the consumer have demanded that we now sell a 65kg animal with 10ml backfat.
We have followed our pigs to Singapore. Much WA pork has been airfreighted to Singapore as chilled meat. We have had TV commercials filmed on our farm, one for Australian Pork Limited promoting Airpork in Singapore and one to teach young children in Singapore where their pork actually comes from. We have seen pigs reared in central heating while outside temperatures in Canada are freezing.
And just for something different we are about to embark on another building expansion in our pig operation. My husband likes to remind me that "once in pigs you become a compulsive builder".