Online links to US on farm experiences

Online links to US on farm experiences

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Sam Beech covered more than 4600 kilometres in the northern United States and southern Canada last year.

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Sam Beech and his pup Bindi at his family's Chillakerup farm.

Sam Beech and his pup Bindi at his family's Chillakerup farm.

SAM Beech covered more than 4600 kilometres in the northern United States and southern Canada last year, visiting various farming operations over nine days with his brother Ben.

After receiving a large response from a request on their Twitter accounts to visit any farms throughout the US and Canada, the brothers mapped out a route to see as many properties as possible.

"About 35 people got in touch with us and we managed to see nine of them," Mr Beech said.

"We would arrive at a different farm each morning and spend a few hours or sometimes a day learning and driving around their operations.

"We saw some incredible land and very efficient farms and it was just coming into harvest, so we timed it pretty well.

"The brothers started their trip in a corn and soybean area in the northern US and then travelled up to the prairies regions of southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada, before making their way back through Montana in the US.

"We saw different farming techniques in southern Canada where they were playing with cover crops and inter-row cropping and also doing some pretty cool things manipulating soil microbes," Mr Beech said.

He biggest takeaway from the trip was realising that individual farmers were all passionate about different aspects of agriculture.

"Some guys were super keen on showing us their big machines and grain handling facilities, while others were more interested in the agronomy side of things and what was going on in their soils," Mr Beech said.

"The difference in passion was something I had never taken much notice of before, but now that I've realised it, it's something I'm observing in Australian farmers as well.

"Having an idyllic childhood growing up on his family's mixed cropping and sheep farm, Chillakerup in the Frankland River region, Mr Beech boarded at Great Southern Grammar in Albany where he was head boy.Being just over an hour's drive from the family farm, Mr Beech would come home every Friday afternoon to work on the farm on the weekends and then head back to boarding school on Sunday nights.

"Dad would save up some of the jobs that needed a few of us for the weekend and we'd get stuck into them," Mr Beech said.

"It worked out really well and I loved it."

After taking a gap year, his routine stayed much the same while attending The University of WA to study commerce, majoring in economics and agricultural science.

"I was fortunate in that I was able to schedule most of my classes and lectures for the three middle days of the week, so I could get home some weekends," Mr Beech said.

Throughout high school and university Mr Beech spent some harvest seasons at different properties around the State and also worked a couple of years over east.

Last season at Meadowbank, an MH Premium Farms-run commercial property in Cowra, New South Wales, he worked in the lamb feedlot side of the operation.

"I enjoy the animal nutrition side of things, so I was able to step in under the manager there and work alongside him with the animal nutritionists and vets on creating diets," Mr Beech said.

"We were having a lot of trouble inducting lambs into feedlots, so we worked to create an induction ration that suited the operation.

"It was a great environment to learn in, being among a lot of knowledgeable individuals that had valuable connections with experts in various fields, including veterinary science, animal nutritionists and agronomy.

"Over the past couple of years, Mr Beech has become more involved in his family's operations, helping out with the day-to-day running of the farm and becoming more involved in the financial side of the business.

"Most of the district is land settlement, so it was cleared in the late 1950s and some of it even earlier in the 1920s and 1930s," Mr Beech said.

"Dad moved out here in 1982 from his family farm at Kendenup and since then has built the farm to what it is today.

"Largely driven by tax incentives, many bluegum farms were planted in the Frankland district in the mid 1990s, however these plantations have gradually been coming back on the market since the blue chip price decreased and many of the managed investment schemes behind them collapsed.

"A big focus of our family's enterprise in recent years has been purchasing bluegum plantations and clearing them to expand our operation," Mr Beech said.

When Farm Weekly spoke to Mr Beech in late December he was helping out with harvest at Chillakerup.

"I'll probably stay through until the end of seeding, but I'd say it'll depend on when we get a new cropping manager and how quickly they settle in," he said.

With the region very fortunate with its rainfall, he said livestock and cropping went hand in hand for their operation.

"There are a lot of guys around here that are pushing the continuous cropping, but because of the livestock we don't have that reliance on chemicals and we can hold onto sheep most of the summer and feed them stubbles," Mr Beech said.

"We don't have the issues with groundcover and compaction that some do with the livestock and the current meat and wool prices make it a no brainer for us.

"Our supplement feed doesn't start until March most years and it's usually done in a few months.

"Our sheep country is still our most productive country and although some of our low lying country doesn't look very good to a lot of the cropping boys, it's where we make a lot of our money with our sheep.

"We can get a perennial pasture in there and get lambs off their mums straight onto the hook - that's the way to do it.

"Admitting sheep were a constant challenge, Mr Beech said livestock were still his favourite part of the business.

"Half our flock are a Mt Ronan maternal ewe and the other half are a Merino ewe, so we have a self-replacing Merino flock and then the other half are crossbred lambs and we tend to sell them straight off their mums into WAMMCO (Western Australian Meat Marketing Co-operative Limited)," he said.

Spending a lot of time at Chillakerup, Mr Beech had invested a lot into his family's farm, but said he didn't want to get tied down to it too soon.

"I love travelling and water skiing is also another passion of mine, so I want to continue to do that while I'm still young and my body can put up with it," he said.

"My brother and I built a ski lake on our farm which we use a lot and I've competed at State and national levels, with most of my trips based around water skiing tournaments.

"I do it more so because I love it, I'm not trying to be a professional water skier or anything, farming is too much fun.

"I usually try to throw in something ag related on my trips so that I feel like I'm being productive as well."

Mr Beech said he wanted to continue learning about all the different aspects of agriculture by tagging along with industry professionals so that eventually he could take that knowledge back to the farm.

"I know dad can teach me an incredible amount as well, but just like the farm, he's not going anywhere and I know that when I eventually do come back full-time I'll be given as much responsibility as I want," Mr Beech said.

"I have found the vast majority who are passionate about ag are happy to share their knowledge - and that's just one aspect of the sector that makes it a great industry to be a part of."

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