Home' Smart Farmer : April 2011 Contents April 2011
ETER 'Huck" Shepherd has become the
patriarch of a family farming enterprise
that embraces conventional and organic
practices, soil analysis, fertigation manufactur-
ing and consultancy to provide a complete ser-
vice to farmers.
He is known in horticultural and agricultur-
al circles from Western Australia to New South
Wales through services provided to Ferti-Tech
Australia and Australian Perry Agricultural
His son Brett and family, from Mullinger
Park, Kybybolite, near Naracoorte, runs a
growing stud ram and specialised sheep flock
business on a 500 hectare property. Other fam-
ily members are also farmers in a tradition that
goes back to early last century.
The family is able to trace its origins in SA to
the arrival of Huck's great grandparents,
Robert Shepherd and his cousin and wife Ann,
whose family, including 12 children, reached
their new homeland in 1843.
Ann was the sister of Joseph Shepherd, who
went to sea, became a shipowner and a
Ferti-Tech Australia was established in 2002
by Huck and 20 associates with a manufactur-
ing and distribution base in Western Australia
to provide expert soil fertility and fertiliser
advice. In nine years it has expanded its oper-
ations throughout WA, SA, Victoria and parts
The head office is at Bunbury with the com-
pany designing and manufacturing specialised
liquid fertilisers as part of integrated and cost-
effective recommendations to its clients.
"Green conventional is a new term on the
farming landscape, and refers to the practice of
fertility farming and harnessing what we call
the fertility bonus," FTA's general manager,
Andrew VanderSluys said.
"We emphasise fertility protection while still
using all the options available in conventional
"FTA has several products that are used with
conventional inputs to minimise microbial
harm, improve soil fertility and buffer against
residual chemical damage.
"We ensure a solid conventional farming
performance that matches any district practice
in terms of costs and yields, with an added
bonus from improved soil fertility.
"We disagree with the primary emphasis of
relying on biology to produce high yields."
Andrew said that many biological-type farm-
ing companies over-emphasised the capacity
of biology to perform in many difficult and
sub-optimal Australian farming conditions.
At the same time, many conventional com-
panies seemed ignorant and unconcerned
FTA was unusual in the fertiliser and crop-
ping inputs business because it did not pitch
itself for or against any particular cropping
system, ideology, philosophy or practice, and
picked the best outcomes from all forms of
The Australian Perry Agricultural Laboratory
was established in Adelaide in 2000, boasts
connections across the world through its asso-
ciation with Perry Agricultural Laboratory in
the United States, and is part of the business
activities of Huck and Brett.
APAL describes itself as an independent test-
ing laboratory offering more than 30 different
standard tests for soils, plants, water, pasture,
fodder and grain, compost and manure, solid
and liquid fertilisers, heavy metals, pesticide
residues, winery wastewater and lime,
dolomite and gypsum.
• Need to know more?
Ferti-Tech Australia 08 9725 6877
Green tinge 'applied'
to traditional farming
Combination of conventional and organic
Impartial ideology and philosophy
with ZANNIE FLANAGAN, CEO Adelaide Showground
MILK and bread are the basic staples of almost
everyone's household weekly food purchases
and as such, any saving is always welcome.
Inversely, an increase in price of either of
these staples immediately puts pressure on
household budgets. So when a price war on
milk starts between supermarkets, the conse-
quences are felt throughout the whole commu-
nity and right across the value chain of the
The problems began with the deregulation of
the dairy industry some ten years ago, when the
industry-set and government-endorsed price per
litre system was dismantled.
Since then dairy companies, which supply
large dairy conglomerates such as Parmalat
Australia (a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Parmalat Italy), and National Foods (owned by
Japanese company KIRIN), who package milk
for supermarkets under homebrand labels as
well as producing milk under their own brand
labels, negotiate price per litre contracts with
the dairyfarmers and then negotiate contracts
with the supermarkets. They then package the
milk under homebrand.
In relation to the discounting war, the Dairy
Australia website says:
"... while Coles management has maintained
the cuts (discounting) will be absorbed and not
passed through to processors and farmers, the
industry has flagged concerns over the erosion
in margins resulting from consumers switching
to cheaper private label products, and the pres-
sure on future contract negotiations between
processors and retailers."
You'd think this price war pressure was also
flowing through to the smaller branded compa-
nies which supply small delis, IGAs and who sell
through farmers markets.
Jeff Kernich, who is the sole remaining dairy-
farmer in Greenock in the Barossa, produces
milk under his 'Jersey Fresh' label.
"The price war has already had an effect,
especially in the city, with about a 2 per cent
drop in sales since it began," he said.
The downward price pressure will have an
effect when contracts come up for renewal with
the big companies later in the year."
In an effort to help customers stay with him
as they struggle with their food budgets, Jeff is
now selling milk in 10-litre buckets from the
farm gate at a price that reflects the lower
packaging costs. He also sells his milk direct to
consumers at the Barossa Farmers' Market.
Fleurieu Milk, an SA company that was
formed after deregulation by a small group of
dairyfarmers on the Fleurieu Peninsula, took the
bull by the horns nearly five years ago in an
effort to improve returns. It now produces a
range of products under the Fleurieu Milk label
and distributes directly to retail outlets as well
as selling at farmers' markets. It was, in fact,
one of the first producers to sign up for the
Adelaide Showground Farmers' Market and has-
n't missed a market in more than four years.
"We were all going backwards anyway, so we
didn't have anything to lose by going it alone,"
said. David Maidment, the Fleurieu Milk distrib-
"We haven't looked back since." It seems the
really discerning consumers do understand
what's going on. John says that, despite the
supermarket price war, sales are going through
the roof. "It is the last thing I thought would
happen!" John said.
We can only hope that consumers who want
to see farmers reap a fair return for their efforts
will continue to support the growing band of
dairyfarmers, independent distributors, small
retailers and independent grocers, so that future
price fluctuations do not send the little guys
Cream rises to the top of bottle
AS the principal owner of Ferti-Tech Australia,
Huck Shepherd (pictured drafting ewes at
Mullingar Park) believes he is making a beneficial
difference for all kinds of farmers in their choice of
sprays and cost-effectiveness.
"It is part of farming scientifically, and I saw the
potential for making new types of foliars at low
cost and high quality," he said.
"It is a non-regulated industry in some respects, and some people make huge claims about their prod-
"Our aim is to be very price competitive with quality products, because farmers always seem to be
doing it tough.
"We don't manufacture everything we provide, and import some products, but we do manufacture
most of what we sell, between 20 and 30 types of fertility agents and fertilisers."
FTA, which is linked to Australian Perry Agricultural Laboratory through Huck's interests, provides con-
sultancy and technical services for farming and horticulture.
"We already operate in most states and Queensland is definitely on the radar for expansion," he said.
Emphasis on top
quality in crops
chief veterinary parasitologist
SARDI Livestock and Farming Systems
THE use of one or two effective summer
drenches is the cornerstone of a worm control
program in southern Australian winter rainfall
This kills worms in the sheep at a time when
the hot, dry weather is killing their free-living
stages on the paddock. Summer drenches aim
to reduce the overall worm population before
the autumn break and thus ensure the health
of young susceptible hoggets and the next gen-
eration of lambs.
Ewes should be drenched before lambing,
and put on paddocks with the best quality
The same applies to all lambs at weaning.
The vital first summer drench is given from
around mid-November to late December when
pasture has completely dried off.
Often a single summer drench is all that is
In many cases a second summer drench is
unnecessary, but it is important to check Wo r m
Te s t every year to confirm this. This drench is
given from mid to late February, at least six
weeks before the season break to reduce pre-
lambing pasture contamination with worms.
Always check the levels of worm eggs in the
faeces to be sure that this drench is really nec-
essary, otherwise you may be rapidly selecting
for drench resistance, or wasting money on
Wo r m Te s t involves examination of samples of
dung from the mob at the laboratory for num-
bers of worm eggs. Veterinarians, farm advisers
or resellers can provide information on this
important inexpensive process. The test will
confirm whether it is necessary to drench or
Drench resistance is widespread, but most
farmers are unaware that they have a problem.
Some drenches are now of no use at all on
some properties. Levels of worm eggs in the
faeces are counted before and after treatment
with a range of available drenches. Although
they are simple to do, there is a standard
Effective drenches save money
process, so it is best to seek advice.
To support drenching decisions you need
two important pieces of information. First, a
'worm test' telling you whether you actually
need to drench, and second, a 'drench test'
confirming the effective drenches for your
property. Worm testing is very simply arranged
and you can have results within a week.
Drench testing requires planning, and is best
done in winter or spring when worm levels are
higher. If you have not done a drench test, use
only the most highly effective registered reme-
dies - examples are CydectinÒ , VirbamecÒ ,
ComboÒ and the newest drench ZolvixÒ .
Because of unseasonal summer rains, many
properties are now carrying potentially dan-
gerous levels of worms. To start an effective
control program for 2011, worm levels need to
be reduced to a minimum by early March. A
good starting point is to worm test several
flocks on the property to decide whether or
not a second summer drench is required.
The advice of SA WORMCHECK committee
is still extremely relevant.
WORMCHECK was based on the following :
for drench resistance
= development of resistance and
the dose rate
resistant worms off your farm
When you do drench,
that the drench
gun is delivering the correct dose and dose
according to body weight of the heaviest sheep
in the mob.
resistant worms from other
properties entering your farm in bought sheep
by drenching all new arrivals with a combina-
tion of drenches including CydectinÒ and
ZolvixÒ . For assistance in planning this strat-
egy contact your local vet or sheep consultant.
• Need to know more?
Meet the customer,
earn retail prices
Willunga Town Square
8am - 12.30pm
Now accepting applications
to trade from Fleurieu Peninsula
based primary producers
Enquiries 8556 4297
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