It is nearly the end of a long and hot summer; my second in Alice Springs. Having grown up with Tasmanian summers, longing for hot and dry weather, it feels as though my dreams have come true. Thankfully there has been rain in some parts of Central Australia over the summer period, allowing some pasture growth, which can be seen in the feed outlook at the end of this newsletter.

With research stations at Old Man Plains (OMP) and the Arid Zone Research Institute (AZRI), we are familiar with the new technology used to make our lives easier, like remote telemetry to control watering points for cattle, irrigation tanks and bores. Often these are connected through the existing mobile phone network or ultra-high frequency radio. As most of us know, however, lightning strikes, power fluctuations and collapsing solar panels can test the best systems and their operators! It is great that we have skilled operators in town to help out when things don’t go right, and without naming them (they know who they are), I would like to acknowledge their importance to both the pastoral and horticultural industries in Central Australia in reducing labour costs and making businesses more profitable through technology.

Breeding is another discipline that has undergone huge leaps and bounds in technology over the last 30 or so years since I went to University, both in plant and animal industries. We recently had our first AZRI harvest of 15 seedless table grape selections developed using Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) embryo capture technology. Needless to say we had an intensive sampling time over the Christmas and New Year period of some very tasty green, red and black selections of which we hope we can adapt to the growing conditions here. In the animal sphere, our Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) Droughtmaster herd has received considerable focus over the years, and the high quality genetic material attracts the attention of the local Pastoral industry through the sale of our bulls. Ongoing improvement of our herd will continue to produce a quality animal suited to the conditions of Central Australia.

For those wanting to improve their breeding skills on their own herd, I would strongly recommend the Breeding Edge course advertised within the pages of this newsletter. It could be one of the most profitable courses you will ever attend.

Stuart Smith

Last updated: 01 March 2018