100 years of farming in the subdivisions.
THE EVOLUTION OF FARMING ON THE SUBDIVISION-1912 to 2012.
Neil Barwick-August 2012.
Also including text straight from the book, "1912 Warrah subdivision".
Mick Fitzpatrick, ploughing with horses. Property "Glenore".
In 1912, dairying and wool growing were considered to be the most suited enterprises for the area, so about thirty seven of the original 84 farms started as dairies. The dairies, being mostly the smaller farms, had to
be more intensive farms. They farmed with draught horse teams to grow oats and millet for grazing. They also grew oats for grain to feed the horses and wheat and corn as grain for cow and pig feed. This meant as well as providing feed for the cows, they would
have as many as six draught horses, one cart horse to deliver the cream to Willow Tree, one sulky horse for going out or to town, and one saddle horse for mustering.
Of these small dairies, some lasted
as little as a year, some several years, but by the late teens after some poor seasons, only the better and bigger dairies were still in operation. Some sold and left, and others changed to sheep, for both wool and fat lambs.
Sheep on "Quondah", from the early years.
The family of Ernest Barwick never wanted to run a dairy. They always concentrated on producing sucker lambs. Ernest was able to draw & buy Farm 11 of 1161 acres, situated along the Dry Creek valley. He named the Farm
“Quondah” and as soon as he had built a house on it, he moved his wife Susan and young family of 3 sons from Gundy near Scone to “Quondah”. After completing the external fencing and building a shearing shed, Ernest commenced grazing
sheep and contract shearing for some of his neighbours.
Wool from "Quondah", heading off to market.
As his sons, Alan, Ronald & Edgar finished their elementary schooling at Warrah Creek school, they joined the partnership, which by then, concentrated on producing prime sucker lambs. When ready for market, these
lambs were walked into Willow Tree and trucked by rail to Homebush saleyards in Sydney. The wool produced was initially sent by bullock wagon, later by truck to Willow Tree to then be railed to Newcastle for sale.
Prime sucker lambs were produced from 1st cross ewes by Border-Leicester rams. The rams were generally bought from the stud at “Windy Station”. I remember travelling to “Windy”
with grandfather Ernest and my father, Edgar to buy rams, and having a cup-of-tea afterwards with Mr Stan Ogden, the then Station manager.
Some cattle were also grazed on the Partnership lands, and in abundant seasons,
the Partnership would take extra cattle on agistment. No cropping was undertaken; fattening of livestock was all by natural clovers and seasonal herbages.
The introduction of tractors increased quite considerably the amount of grain, mainly wheat, and other crops that were grown in the district.
In 1928, Dick Winnett purchased a tractor, one of the first in the area.
Phil Doyles Inter 10-20, pulling a scarifier.
Some of the tractors to come into the district in the next few years were Phil Doyle in 1935, who bought an inter 10-20, Ted Sevil and Don McCluand, a Fordson, and Terry Fitzpatrick in 1941, a W4 International.
With the introduction of tractors, one of the first things done to the grain harvesters was for a PTO drive to be added, and the studs removed from the drive wheel giving a smoother ride, and the ground drive cog removed. The header was now pulled by a tractor
instead of by horses. And the PTO drive of the tractor drove the moving parts of the header that separates the grain. This greatly improved harvest speed and efficiency. Grain was handled in bags, from the paddock to the silo, and onto the train.
The above photo is of George Maunder harvesting wheat. The header is an Australian made Gaston lite draught. This header at a later date when tractors were introduced, had a PTO drive added, and this would have greatly
increased harvest speed and efficiency.
By the 1950’s, my father Edgar and his family were farming land on the plains, at“Yarrabah”. My father immediately bought a Fordson Major tractor and commenced growing oats and lucerne
to fatten lambs and cattle, and produce hay for drought fodder.
The fordson major, pulling a horwood bagshaw combine, planting oats.
The majority of the farm was still native pasture. 1st cross ewes and fat lambs were slowly replaced with western bred merino wethers, some of these Rossmore blood wethers cutting 17 lbs of medium quality
wool per head. I can still hear the shearers, Tony & Barry Barwick, Maurice Seymour, Bert Smith & Malcolm Chad complaining about the size and weight of these huge western bred sheep!
Unloading bagged wheat into bulk storage at Willow Tree silo.
By the 60’s, cropping started to take off, mainly wheat. Local farmers purchased larger tractors, chisel ploughs, disc ploughs, scarifiers, boom sprayers for in-crop weed control, new bigger planters with increased
trash clearance, and bigger tractor-drawn PTO drive harvesters. All cropping was by ploughing the paddocks every time a crop of weeds had germinated. This was the conventional method of ploughing and planting with full soil disturbance, then harvesting
the crop and burning the stubble to complete the cycle.
Raphie Howard carting Duddys bagged wheat. That's what Raphie wrote on back of photo? However a few people have said that the bags look too big for wheat, and they think it might be charf, and not wheat, otherwise the truck would bust in half.
Straight after harvest, firebreaks were ploughed around the paddocks and the crop stubble was burnt as soon as conditions were safe and suitable to do so. The stubble fires were simply massive at the time, and were quite
a spectacular sight to see. They were so big they would create their own updraught and wind and clouds. The crop residue had to be burnt to allow the cultivator and planter to do their job without choking up with stubble. No fertilizer was required or used
at this stage as the beautiful deep rich black soil was still ‘new’ and fertile, and crop yields & protein levels were good.
Wheat harvest on "Burnley". Jim Whitley driving tractor, and sons Rex and Leigh operating header. Early 1960's. Wheat into bags, pre bulk handling. Looks like a sunshine HST.
The Whitleys, using a bag loader to load a truck with wheat bags.
Wheat prices were booming in the early 1960’s and wheat production quotas were introduced. To offset these quotas and resulting reduction of income, summer crops such as sorghum and sunflowers in rotation were
being grown for the first time. Crop rotations between winter & summer crops and including a fallow period, gave much improved yield, and weed and disease control. Chisel ploughs and planters with greater trash clearance meant stubble no longer
needed to be burnt, but was now mulched back into the ground. This helped to maintain soil fertility and reduce soil erosion. The 60’s also saw bulk grain handling introduced. For a short time, wheat was still bagged out of the header, and then
a bag loader tipped the bags into a truck in bulk.
The above 2 minute video shows a horwood bagshaw header, pulled by a fordson tractor, in action on "Yarrabah", about 1960. There is a bag loader loading bags into a truck at the end.
A shearer header, loading bulk grain into trucks. No more bags. "Yarrabah".
The Whitleys harvesting with a sunshine number 4. No more bags here either.
Then later, augers on headers enabled full grain bulk handling to take away the once back breaking work of lifting and moving bags. The 60’s were often a very dry time, with the 1965 drought one of the worst ever.
Dallas Cone's steiger.
In contrast, the 70’s saw some very good seasons, with regular summer floods. The 70’s also saw the further growth of summer cropping in the area, with sorghum getting more and more popular, also helped by
regular and plentiful summer rains. Today, more area is planted to summer crops, mainly sorghum, than is planted to wheat.
Machinery became bigger and bigger. Dallas Cone, who managed Millers Creek
Station was one of the first to use a Steiger articulated tractor. These tractors were bigger than anything seen before, and allowed more areas of the plains to be developed for grain.
A lot of the cropping areas were converted to strip cropping. These were strips of different crops, summer and winter, grown across the flow of water to try to contain soil erosion. By the 1980’s, soil fertility
was starting to decline. Fertilizer was starting to be used in big amounts to maintain and increase grain yields..
farming land today is no longer cultivated, but zero-tilled. Weed control is by herbicides applied with boomsprays. This allows the soil to remain covered with stubble, which decreases soil erosion, and increases the amount of soil water that can be accumulated.
The big self propelled boom sprayers can cover 1000 acres in a day, easily and in driver comfort. GPS guidance and auto-steer of boom sprays, tractor and headers means they are accurate to just centimetres and the driver can concentrate on other things
besides steering the machine. No-till planters plant crops straight back into the old stubbles.
Planting sorghum seed into wheat stubble. "Yarrabah". Tractor is auto steered by satelite guidance. Planter 9 metres wide.
Here on the plains, the main crop grown today is grain sorghum. Other crops include wheat, barley, canola and sunflowers. On the sloping country, these crops are also grown, plus oats for cattle, lucerne and many
types of improved pastures. Cattle are the dominant livestock today, replacing sheep. There are still some sheep, but getting very rare. Robert Duddy, who owns “Hudson” and “Alkoomie”, both part of the 1923 subdivision, grew cotton
in the 2010/2011 summer, and this was probably the first cotton grown on the old Warrah Estate’s original quarter million acres.
Harvesting sorghum. "Yarrabah". Header would be doing 60 tonnes an hour.
The headers of today can harvest up to 400 tonnes of grain in a working day. This means the trucks, bins and augers need to also have huge capacity to keep the grain away. Most farmers have large grain silos to store grain,
to ease delivery, and to try to gain maximum prices for what they produce. The cropping lands of the Warrah subdivisions are some of the most productive in Australia, with the highest and most reliable yields, and also some of the most valuable.
Harvesting wheat. "Yarrabah".
Spraying wheat. September 2011. Sandstone, block 63, 1912 subdivision.
Sorghum harvest. "Yarrabah" Block 14, 1914 subdivision. March 2010.
Wheat harvest on "Levondale. Block 78 1912 subdivision. Unloading on the run.