Thursday, June 14, 2012

Analytical Review of Australia

This is my final blog about Australia and it is devoted entirely to the National Livestock Identification System that Australia has put into place to identify their cattle. The first stop of the trip was at the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria and was a reoccurring theme throughout the entire trip. Every animal that leaves the property from where they were born are scanned into their system and they are able to pull up where the animal has been and the other animals they have interacted with. If a disease were to break out in Australia they would be able to track the origin of the animal within a couple of hours. This would give them a distinct advantage if a disease outbreak were to occur because they would be able to look back and trace where the animal had been and what other cattle the animal in question had been in contact with. (This could all occur in a couple of hours, whereas in the US it may take days.) If the disease were detrimental to the national herd this would cause less of an uproar because this might cut down on the number of animals that potentially might have to be killed.

This program was government supported and they were able to get the best possible deal with the manufactures of the tag for the producers. This encouraged costs to be minimal to the producers. Also, they have different colored tags to be placed in the ear for the birthplace of the animal and then one that could be placed in the ear if for some reason the tag is lost. This signals that there is partial information on that particular animal. At no time can the animal have 2 tags. At this time only cattle are mandatorily traced through this system. Some sheep are tracked, however, this is strictly voluntary at this time. However, there is a push to turn it mandatory.

At the moment some people use an electronic tracking devices but it is not an industry-wide or countrywide practice in the US. As consumers become more conscience of food safety the ability to have lifetime traceability becomes more and more important. This is one way where I definitely envision the US beef industry being improved as far as their traceability and tracking of beef animals. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 1: The Longest Day of My Life

Rise and shine! It was 3 am when our wake-up call came and it was very early. But we loaded the bus up and took off for the airport Soon we were all checked in and on our way back. We had 4 breakfasts and needless to say; I was kind of tired of breakfast. We traveled over 30 hours and were all pretty tired when we got to KCI. I was supposed to sleep on our long flight and I’m sure I slept some but these 3 little old ladies behind me found the movies hilarious and cackled through the whole flight. It was rather annoying while I was trying to sleep.

Looking back at the whole trip and trying to remember what all happened in the past two weeks is really difficult. I didn’t realize how much ground we covered and how much we saw until today. We saw everything from a packing plant to various breeders to the Sydney Opera House. I would say that is quite a variety. Going into the trip I knew some about the beef industry but I honestly didn’t know that much. However, when I returned from the trip I feel as though I learned a lot about the various sectors from start to finish. 

We also had the opportunity to learn about an entirely new culture and while I noticed some similarities there was definitely differences between Australia and the USA. This included, their food and mentality on life along with other various things. While we were there we had a lot of chicken schnitzel and fish and chips. It seems like chips came with everything, although, that might be just where we ate. It also seemed like a lot of people were more relaxed there, they worked hard but seemed to know how to relax a lot more than people over here.

Overall, this was an amazing experience that I am very happy I participated in. I would definitely recommend traveling abroad to anyone because it gives you a new perspective on your home and made me appreciate it more. I had the opportunity to travel with some awesome people and it was great to get to know them. I can’t wait to go abroad again!

Thanks for reading!


Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Did you know that 95% of the time it is sunny in Cairns? The other 5% is rainy. Probability would suggest it would be sunny for our Great Barrier Reef but we were in the 5%. So, we set out through the rain towards the reef, just down the street from our hotel. We boarded a boat to taken us to Green Island and then to the Reef. The seas were choppy and that did not agree with some of the other passengers on the boat. Needless to say, it was very gross. 

We got to Green Island where a lot of us decided to scuba dive. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to say I scuba dived  in the Reef. Off to the actual Reef we went! It was a pontoon in the middle of the ocean.  
I decided to start out slow and snorkel first. It was amazing what you could see from above the fish. I was very glad the fish didn't come up right to me because I don't really like fish that much.  Then, it was time to put on the "big kid gear" and go from there. We suited up and had a ten minute training session of skills and was off! I learned I rely a lot on talking and I have my dad's ears. (They don't take pressure well) I am really glad I scuba dived and it was a cool experience once I figured out what the lady was saying. I felt bad for the other people in my group though because it took me a long time to start figuring it out and by that time the lady was frustrated with me and I was REALLY frustrated with the lady. But while we were down there we saw this huge fish and a shark! We also saw other little fish and coral while we were down there but the shark and big fish was definitely the highlight.
Shark!! (Insert Jaws theme song)

I had no depth perception underwater, you could not tell how far you were under the water or how close you were to the incoming objects. The scenery was amazing but I was pretty focused on my breathing underwater (that's a weird feeling) and my ears. I didn't think my ears would have as much problems adjusting to the pressure as they did but it is a VERY weird feeling! One of the guys told me they would be normal in 2-3 days, oh boy!! The sun finally decided to show its face about the time we were headed back. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
(The camera was wet)
For our farewell dinner we went to the Brazilian grill in our hotel. It was amazing. They put the sides on the table and then brought out these hunks of meat and carved them right in front of you. We had all sorts of meat including beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. This was supposedly a "good piece of lamb" but I still couldn't see what all the hype was about. It just tasted like a bland piece of meat. It's all what you're used to, I guess. After dinner I had to shop for some last minute souvenirs. I'm most excited about the "Outback hat" I got for my dad! 

I can't believe it's basically over. 


A Bit of Culture and Fish

After a very short afternoon and evening in Sydney we loaded the plane back up and took off for Cairns! Sydney was the first time I actually felt warm the whole trip! (It was pretty exciting!) The flight was the roughest flight I’ve experienced in a while because there was a lot of turbulence, etc.
After we landed I stepped outside and could feel the change in humidity. We were definitely in the tropical part now.  The afternoon was spent at the Tjapukai Culture Center. Here they performed various dances, gave didgeridoo lessons, and taught us how to throw boomerangs. The boomerang fell short and the spear did too. But I brought a boomerang home to practice my "hunting skills" I learned I could never survive as an aboriginal because my hunting skills were just not up to par. They also demonstrated how to light a fire along with the stories of their culture.They spoke their native language but this was only one of hundreds of languages in Australia. 

The experience was very interesting to see how they lived and to experience their culture. Although, we questioned whether they still lived the way they lived 100 years ago and the question was answered when our tour guide walked out after we had left in shoes and modern clothes. He hightailed it back into the center. I’m sure they reserve the ceremonial clothes, etc. for special occasions.
We were definitely hungry after the culture center so we got cleaned up and went down to Tha Fish for dinner. Now, I’m not a big seafood/fish/anything previously living in water fan. BUT I have found a fish that I liked. The coral trout was amazing it didn’t taste like fish hardly at all! It was interesting to try all the different types of seafood other people ordered. I tried a mussel! It didn’t taste terrible but given the choice I would probably not order them again. I can now say I’ve tried them though. 
Today was a day of new experiences and it was nice to see where some of the native people of Australia got their roots.

‘Til next time!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Exploring a bit of Sydney

Last night some of us convinced Graham we needed to have candy. We ended up stopping at the gas station and I found a new candy I really liked, FanTales. Today we had to leave the land of many crows (Wagga Wagga). But before we got on the road for Sydney we stopped at Charles Sturt University to visit with Dr. Chenoweth. He was at K-State previously so it was nice to meet with a fellow K-Stater for the morning. He helped start the veteranarian program at the university and truly had a passion for the welfare of the animals. We were able to see the sheep, equine, and cattle facilities. While we were there we also had the opportunity to see a Kelpy work sheep. She was very good at rounding up the sheep and getting them into the pen. She was amazing to watch but I'm still partial to the border collies(Especially our pup, Dot), but they said that due to their environment the Kelpy was probably better suited.

After the tour we loaded up on our big rig bus and headed toward Sydney. It was a good five hour bus ride and I've figured out our bus doesn't go up hills very fast. We stopped for lunch at Mickey D's and after lunch Ritchie decided our bus smelled like "an old cattle truck" and he got a little spray happy with air freshener. It's not really a surprise our bus smelled considering its been through the feedlots and farms, etc. the whole trip. This was probably the highlight on the trek to Sydney.

ACTUALLY, that was great but the true highlight was we did finally see a few 'Roos hopping on a hillside! But, you almost needed binoculars to see them but at this point I'm desperate to see one!

We had to say goodbye to our bus and Ritchie once we arrived to Sydney. We had the opportunity once we were in Sydney to shop a bit for souvenirs. Then we boarded a boat and took a dinner cruise to Sydney Harbor. It was amazing to see the Opera House and the bridge. After we unloaded the boat some of us walked around to the opera house and tried to get in but couldn't. I wish we had more time in Sydney to see some of the sights but now I know that Sydney is somewhere I would love to visit again.

Off to Canberra we go!

The first picture is the Opera House (it may be a bit blurry)

Second picture is of some of us with our junk food

Monday, May 28, 2012

Small towns are the place to be

Wagga Wagga sale yards was a hopping place this morning when we arrived to their Monday cattle sale. We were able to witness the morning auction and learn how their sale process really works. This was very interesting comparing thier sale yard to the St. Joe stockyard (the only sale yard I'm actually familiar with) or the typical American stockyards. Some buyers had a secretive signal that they used to signal the auctioneer. The auctioneer truly had to know their customers. 
We then headed across the road to Cargill meat processing plant. When we arrived we had to dress in our "marshmallow suits", needless to say, these weren't the most attractive outfits in the world...Once we were in the suits we were able to go on a tour of the plant. This was quite interesting to see the differences between the Cargill and JBS plants. One of the main differences between the two was the organization in the boning room. At Cargill you were able to follow the different products from the hanging to the finished product. We were also able to see the processing of different specialty foods, such as the tongue and stomachs. 
Our outfits for Cargill, what fun! 

Off to Temora for lunch, we headed! Temora was a truly rural Australian town. It reminded me a lot of Plattsburg except in Australia.We were able to walk around the town a bit and see how rural Australia is. I visited the chemist, Christian bookstore, post office, and other various stores. There was some very nice people in the town and it was fun to visit with them. 
How cool! (It's basically a clothing store with a few video games.) 

Next up on the rigorous itinerary was a stop at the Cargill feedlot. We were able to take a look at the operation and see how cattle are finished here. This was truly interesting experience, having no feedlot experience previously. They feed about 17,000 but have the capacity to hold 30,000. That's a lot of cattle!
So far we still haven't had any luck on the hunt for the Roos! 
Sydney tomorrow! 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sheep, shorthorns, and emus, oh my!

The first stop on our adventure was Trigger Vale farm. Here we learned about how they were trying to advance the Merino breed. They also breed white Suffolk studs. This was very interesting to hear about how him and his wife were trying to advance the breed and focus on mothering ability along with maintaining wool quality. They had the cutest lamb, named Tom, they were bottle feeding! The really neat thing about this stop was to see the passion they had for advancing the Merino breed.

The next stop for the day was a, wait for it, wait for it...EMU FARM! Its amazing how much the emus fight with each other. We learned that the emu would produce 10kgs of oil per bird and you would get $50 for one kg. That averages $500 per bird! The males are the ones that sit on the nest instead of the females.After trying to unsuccessfully feed the emus we were treated to lunch at the emu farm. We had a traditional Australian Barbi with steak, sausage, and grilled onions. For dessert we had pavlova (cherry berries on a cloud), both the times I've had this dessert have been super yummy!

Right after we finished lunch we headed on down the road to Spry's Shorthorns. This was great to learn about a breed that I, personally, have had no prior experience with. They were gorgeous animals and Mr. Spry talked about his operation and philosophy for satisfying their clients. We were able to see one of their top bulls which recently sold for $46,000.I feel privileged to see it!
After the presentation we were treated to an Australian barbecue with the Spry family. This was very yummy steak from either their genetics or one of their clients. It was a good steak! While we are on the road I've tried to spot kangaroos. So far I haven't seen the ones anyone else has seen. But I'm still hopeful I'll see a mob of them soon! On another note, did you know that instead of kangaroo whistles they have deer whistles? Who knew!
That's all for now! MaryAnn

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day Four was a Score!

Last night was an interesting hotel/motel experience. When you pulled up to it, it looked very different from our last hotel. But the rooms were REALLY nice. The mattress even had a heating pad! I’m forming my Christmas list when I’m over here, if anyone needs any ideas! ;)

This morning I was THIS close to getting my blog posted at McDonald’s. BUT I was about 30 seconds too late because the Internet was overloaded with all of us. (I feel as though, every time I miss a blogging day I lose a reader.) The whole 2 readers I have... To start the morning we went to Lawson Angus Ranch. Here we were able to see some Angus bulls and talk to Mr. Lawson about how he runs his operation. After the tour he and his wife then took us to a local winery for hot chocolate and biscuits (cookies). Yummy!

On the way to the winery we saw a dead kangaroo on the side of the road. This was pretty exciting because it gave us hope that we might see one! Needless to say, I’ve missed all the ones we’ve passed. BUT we’ve decided that if our bus hits a kangaroo we should bring it back with us and put it in Weber. (As a souvenir of course!) 

We went to Bonnie Doon for lunch and had a choice of chicken Parmesan, schnitzel, or the classic fish and chips. I chose the chicken Parmesan thinking the pasta sounded good. I was in for a surprise when it came out with chips on the bottom of the chicken. It was yummy, just a different take on the dish than I expected! Then we had key lime cheesecake to go!

After lunch we had the chance to visit Lima Park which runs a Hereford cattle and sheep operation. Mr. McMillan showed us around the operation he manages and shared with us his philosophy for making the best product possible. He runs 3000 head of sheep and 500 head of cattle. The cattle were larger than what we were used to. It was a nice operation.

One thing I have noticed around Australia is the difference between their trucks and ours. Some of their “trucks” look like a car in front with a pickup bed behind. And their working trucks look like miniatures! Needless to say there aren’t any F-350’s to be seen!

One of their working trucks

Tonight we are headed to Albury and we’re planning to visit a sheep operation, Shorthorn Cattle operation, along with an emu farm! Needless to say I’m pretty excited for the emus!!

Tune in tomorrow for the emus!!
The beautiful scenery 

Day 3: The rainy day

This morning started out with a look out the window and seeing pouring rain. What a way to start the day! No time could be wasted admiring it though as we needed to be out at 7:30 am. The first stop on the itinerary was the JBS packing facility. All I can say is, WOW! After donning our white smocks, rain boots, hairnets and earplugs we were all set to go to the floor to look at the meat production process. When switching from the all the different rooms, varying from the floors to the processing rooms we washed our hands and boots every time. All I can say is I washed my hands more in the couple hours than I probably had the past 2 days combined! This was a very eye opening experience, as I had never had the opportunity to go to a meat processing plant before. We truly were able to see almost the whole process from the beginning to the packaged product.

After lunch we were able to go to Webb Black Simmental, they are trying to spread the word to farmers through Australia about the benefits of Black Simmental. They were excited to see us and had a very impressive operation. Their barn was one of the cleanest I have ever been in! We were able to share some food and drink (carbonated lemonade and snacks) with them before we headed on our way to Seymour, where we are currently!

Upon our arrival in Seymour we checked into our motel. It’s in walking distance of a McDonalds!! (That means free WiFi!) Then we were able to go to eat in a local restaurant, called the Seymour Club. This was a very nice meal. I had roast beef with squash and mixed veggies. One wouldn’t think that roast beef would be that different from the US to Australia, but for some reason it had a different flavor. Nothing like our meat back at home! Then for dessert they served a fruit cocktail with ice cream on top. I had never heard of this before and it was quite,…different? Overall, the eating experience has been different from what we are used to.
Fruit salad and ice cream anyone? 

Before leaving for Australia I got a lot of advice on what to take, etc. Everyone said, it’s going to be chillier so dress for the weather. Well, when it’s almost summer back home it’s hard to revert back to fall clothes so I brought a hoodie and jacket and thought, “I’ll be plenty warm.” Well, needless to say, it’s colder than I thought and bus heaters are VERY slow to warm up.

That’s all for now!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

What a day!

Today began the intensive tours of the agriculture industry in Australia. This included everything from city tours to a speaker talking about ID systems in cattle. We started the morning off with a speaker talking to us about the system Australia has adopted to identify all their cattle. This is a fascinating system where all the cattle receive electronic ID tags in their ears. Then, whenever the animal is moved off the property they are scanned. This way the slaughterhouse can trace the animal through its’ entire life. This allows for easy identification, in case of disease outbreak. This was a system that was adopted in 1999 and the state of Victoria is leading the way.

The next activity for the day was a city tour of Melbourne. Here we had the opportunity to visit the Shrine of Remembrance, which is a monument to honor World War I. This was a special part of Australia’s history and was very informative. The bus driver, Ritchie, has a great sense of humor and knows his Melbourne facts VERY well.
This is a view from the Shrine of Remembrance

The next stop we had was the brewery. They are capable of making 2 million liters of beer in a 24 hour time period. That is a lot of beer! There were several large vats where the beer is malted, etc. The bottling line was the most impressive part of the brewery. The bottles move SO fast. It reminded me of Laverne and Shirley (I think they worked in a beer factory) only these bottles moved 10 times faster. The tour was followed by sampling of the different types of beer produced in the factory. I discovered beer is an acquired taste and I have definitely not acquired it.
The front of Carlton United Brewery

To conclude the evening we went to a buffet in the heart of a shopping mall. (Keep in mind this mall or building, really had stores like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Rolex, get the picture?) When told I was going to a buffet I was expecting something similar to the Golden Corral or Ryan’s. However, this was the nicest buffet I have ever been to! I didn’t think that the food here would be that different from the food back home, but so far it has been substantially different. (Or at least different than what I am used to eating.) While at the buffet I was stopped by two men wondering why there was a mass of people wearing shirts about something called “Kansas State.” As soon as I spoke, he asked if I was from the states. (I think they bet on whether we were) I guess this means Americans do have an accent…

'Til tomorrow! 


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 1/2/3 I'm not really sure what day it is...

Tuesday was probably the shortest/longest days of my life. It was short according to the clock but long according to my body. When we arrived in Melbourne we had the opportunity to visit the Healesville Nature Sanctuary. This was a lovely experience because it gave us the chance to see native wildlife up close! I really wanted to try and sneak a kangaroo home with me. (a koala wouldn't work since we don't have eucalyptus trees...) but since I don't want to be forced to stay in Australia I decided against the plan. While we were at the nature sanctuary a parrot came flying at me and tried to bite my face. Apparently he was flying slowly at me but I was looking at other birds around the sanctuary. He looked a bit like this:

To organize my first impressions about Australia I've organized a top 5 list, so here we go!

5. Australia's very similar to the U.S.A. It would be easy to forget you weren't in the US except when you listen to people talk or see a fish and chips sign.

4. Melbourne is absolutely gorgeous.

3. McDonald's has leaner sausage here and more variety.

2. WiFi is not automatically included with hotels, etc.

I am very glad I'm not driving. You wouldn't think driving on the opposite side of the road would be too different but it gives me a headache thinking about it!

That's all for today, time for bed!

'Til tomorrow!

Monday, April 30, 2012

500 Hours

In 1.8 million seconds, 30K minutes, 500 hours or basically 3 weeks we will be boarding a plane to Australia. We will be able to put into perspective all the things we have talked about and discover how this relates to Australia. In preparation for the trip we have listened to various presentations over varying topics from the currency in Australia to feedlots to emu production in Australia. We’ve also shared a couple meals together and tried to get to know each other a bit better before setting off halfway around the world with each other. The presentations have been informative and also humorous at times while we are learning about life in Australia.

 Here are some quick facts that have been presented to us:

  • In Australia there are 27.9 million head of beef cattle.
  • 4% of the world’s beef supply is produced in Australia.
  • There is a 95% voter turnout and if you fail to vote you could receive a $20 fine.
  • There are 72.74 million head of sheep in Australia. (I guess that’s why there are so many Ugg boots)
  • Australians eat 27.3 lbs of lamb a year whereas, only 40% of Americans have reported trying lamb.
  • Australia consists of 6 states and 2 territories
  • The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space.
  • There are over 1500 kinds of fish throughout the Reef.        

So, as the departure date looms my to do list is a mile and a half long but I am so excited for the new experiences that lie ahead. It will be exciting to experience the culture I have heard about. It will also be a once in a lifetime experience to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef. I also hope run into a few kangaroos or koalas while we're over there.(I'm not as big of a fan of crocodiles, but if we see a few it could be interesting.)

Needless to say, I am super excited to travel overseas for the first time and learn more about agriculture in Australia. Stay tuned for daily updates!

Until next time