Chapter 15 Lessons from Abroad

I hope we can learn from Europe, with all their problems, and America, with their acid rains etcetera, before things become as bad in our wonderful country.

When Peg and I were in China some years ago our guide mentioned that a factory had caused a big pollution problem and the problem had to be solved. The guide could not understand me when I asked her how much it cost, and the more! tried to explain the more foolish! sounded.

What she meant to convey, of course, was that it was not a matter of cost. Theyhad a problem and it had to be solved, so their human resources were put to work, with great success. Cost did not really come into it.

After I returned from China in 1974! said on IV that within ten years China would be one of Australia's ten major trading partners. I was laughed at, but within a relatively short time, China has become the No. 4 trading partner of Australia. They wanted wool to clothe their families in cold weather.

They realised, of course, that wool, being a natural fibre, is better for our health than synthetic fibres. What used to be a vary heavy, clumsy material has become amazingly versatile through research by the Wool Board and various industries. It is now in great demand in the fashion industry, with frocks of material almost as fine as silk and with all colours of the rainbow. Australia can produce wool far better and more cheaply than practically any other country in the world. Wool will continue to be in great demand, and I do not think the 1988 boom will disappear, although we are having stock pile problems at present. Our fine wools, particularly, have a wonderful future.

I believe Australia has a great future also with range-fed beef. For the moment most people of the world are still inclined to think that grain-fed, white marbled fat beef is best, and it is quite tender, but its flavour cannot compare with our range-fed variety.

One director of a big Canadian company said to me, We love going to Australia to eat your range-fed beef, which has a really good taste. Our beef will dissolve in your mouth, but it has no taste to it whatsoever. Dietary authorities, once against beef, now claim that a certain amount of range-fed or lean beef per day is an ideal food, and is not a problem as far as heartdisease is concerned.

As producers we have to be health-conscious and use preventative means of ensuring the health of our animals and ourselves instead of spending large sums on curative medicines.

The cholesterol problem, which is all the rage at the moment, is a very interesting one. It appears now to be controlled by eating a couple of tablespoons of oat bran every day. That surely is living with Nature. Apparently, we are told, for every unit of high density cholesterol your body produces, through the use of oat bran, it pushes out two units of low density cholesterol, the problem one which clogs the arteries.

Now oat bran is in many of the breakfast foods displayed in food shops, and people are being encouraged to keep themselves fit by eating what we have been feeding our race horses on for years to help them win races!

It is a remarkable thing about humans, but if you offered to keep a man fit for $50 he would ignore you, but if he were ill and you offered to cure him for $1000 he would pay you straight away. I believe, on the subject of nutrition, that cattle know more than we do. Leave them plenty of herbs, such as button grass, lily sags and yacca, and they will seek them out, for they know instinctively that the roughage is good for them. If you have two or three sick cattle in a stockyard, leave them on the road and see what they do. One beast will rush along and chew flat Out at the leaves of one tree while another will bypass that tree and eat at the next, because they know which one will satisfy their needs.

Although I was about 41 years on the Hospital Board at Scottsdale and 17 as Chairman, I became interested in preventative medicines for myself only after I got my cattle really fit and healthy. Then I began practising the same thing for myself, especially with the help of a naturopath, Mr. Leicester Jones, of Scamander, Tasmania, who had helped many people with various forms of preventative medicines to keep themselves fit and well. In Chinese communes they use about 50 per cent herbal medicines as preventatives and 50 per cent Western medicines; they also use acupuncture. This is very sound, and their health is quite good.

When we returned from China in 1974 I suggested to the Federal Government that it send a delegation to China to investigate acupuncture and other treatments. It did this, sending about six people to China.

We have a lot to learn from other countries. About 20 years ago I had to buy spectacles. Then I read a book published in England and found that it was not generally one's eyes that deteriorate, but often it is the muscles around them, although it can be direct eye troubles.

I followed exercises for eye muscles, and as a result I have never felt the need for glasses for 15 years or more. I have found that if I exercise the eye muscles for a few minutes each day I have few problems, even reading the phone book!

Ata health conference in Sydney one delegate told me that he had the 'thickest glasses in Australia,' but after exercising his eyes although he sold spectacles to others, he had thrown his away, for he could see as well as or better than before. So this is only one benefit I have gained by doing things Nature's way. Exercise your eyes for three minutes each day and you will have fewer eyesight problems.

When visiting Canada we were impressed with how health-conscious they were. When you are at a restaurant or anywhere, if you ask for a plate of blueberries or some such thing, you won't be given cream unless you ask for it. In Australia we just assume cream goes on top of the berries. I don't think it is essential to put the cream on; it is just a habit. We have fruit cut up first thing in the morning, but we don't put cream on it and it's quite palatable.

I was surprised to be told by the general manager, Charles Gracey, of the Canadian Cattlemen's Union that there was no ranch in Canada which produced as many fat grass-fed cattle as we did apart from feed lots. I suggested that he must be mistaken, for, while we produce more than 2500 fat bullocks a year, our property would make only a holding paddock for stations in Queensland and New South Wales. (Now in 1990 we sell 3,500 to 4,000 cattle.) But, he explained, You do produce 2500 grass-fed fat bullocks a year, and there is no-one as big as that in Canada. That, of course, was before we bought Rushy Lagoon.

We visited the Calgary Stampede which was a wonderful exhibition. There were wagon races, a novelty for us since they were unknown in Australia, and the world's best were competing there for terrific cash prizes - $50,000, $75,000 and $100,000 prizes. I was amazed at the amounts involved.

We expected to see first-class riders and they certainly lived up to our expectations, though I think that Australian riders would give them a run for their money at buck-jumping and bull- or horse-riding. I do think that they were better at roping. We have quite good men who can rope a steer or calf very quickly, but I would think that, on the whole, the Canadians were better when it comes to roping.

Jeannie, our youngest daughter, was with us. She was living in Toronto at the time, as Henk, her husband, was Manager of KLM in Toronto.

There was a very big old 1929 6-seater Lincoln Convertible car. I think it was there for driving Princess Anne around and was roped off. Jeannie talked to this man and he ended up driving us around in the car and different people wondered who we were, whether we were some special guests, but I think it was just Jean's vivacious little face and comments that really got us this trip around the grounds. We had lunch at their special Millionaires Club function. He said, Oh, just go up and help yourself. We did not realise until afterwards that in a way we were not really supposed to have been there.

Later we crossed the Rockies and went to Vancouver. We were picked up by a cattleman in his plane, and he remarked, when it was obvious we did not have much luggage, that we were travelling light. Apparently, he expected us to stay at his place, but he had not told us this on the phone. Surely, he said, you did not expect to come 220 miles out over the Rockies and go home the same day.

So we stayed with him for two or three days, buying a few essentials to tide us over.

It was a 30,000-acre property, and they gave us a wonderful time. Their little son Tyler, about six years old, asked us if we would like to see a drinking cup the Indians used for hundreds of years. We agreed we would, so he took us up into the hills, where all the rocks looked the same to us. But then he came to one rock with a natural stone cup on top of it. Amazingly, there was beautiful water right up into the top of the rock. There was a cup in it, and when we drank Out of the cup the water immediately came up to the level within two inches of the top of the rock, which was a metre above the ground. The water just seemed to spill up inside this rock. There was no green grass around!

It was a wonderful place, the knowledge of which the boy's grandfather and father had passed down to him. Of course, there were a lot of Indians there when his grandfather took up the property, and apparently it was one of the Indians' drinking places. They had always replaced the cup, which was a rock fitting into the top.

The rancher mentioned when flying over to his property that they were moving a big mob of cattle and he flew out of his way to enable us to see it. He had four riders driving 200 head of cattle, and that surprised me, because two riders could easily have moved them. But, of course, they had no dogs to help them. Another thing that surprised me was that this 30,000-acre property was in the middle of the Rockies, with a rainfall of only 11 inches. His total sales were only 1000 head of cattle a year.

Then, when we went to his neighbour's 80,000-acre property our host's son flew us around. When we were in a Land Rover we saw one of the stockmen. He was fantastic, sitting his horse as though he was part of it. He wore a buckskin fringed shirt, and looked to be of half-Indian blood. Again, he did not have a stockwhip, but he knew his job and obviously was a very good man.

The rancher on this 80,000-acre property told me the ground was worth about 2500 to 3500 dollars an acre on the flat. I asked him what the land on the hillside was worth, and he replied, Two hundred dollars. When I asked why this was so, he said they could not get water to it, explaining that the flat land could be irrigated with spray irrigation from the river. But they had lots of lakes high in the hills!

I asked him why he did not gravitate the water around the hills to irrigate the slopes. This, I said, would increase their value to $2000 an acre. But, he said, we could not gravitate the water around. I told him we had done that on a fairly large scale in Tasmania, and he was surprised. When I flew around the property I concluded it was quite practicable to do it.

Again, this property sold only 1000 head of cattle each year, so the two men between them sold 2000 head, which then went on to the feed lot to be fattened, whereas our little operation in Tasmania fattened 2500 and sold them as fat bullocks. This meant that our operation produced far more than their 130,000 acres and they had aeroplanes, snow ploughs and everything you could think of. I could not believe it was an economic proposition.

One of them took us to the biggest property in Canada. It was over 250, 000 acres - about 40 miles long, with 60 employees. We were told that their sales were 2,500 head a year, which went to the feed lot to be fattened. So it was quite a surprise that these spreads handled such a small number of cattle.

Of course, the same applies to Australia. When I attended cattle sales in Brisbane before buying Rushy Lagoon, as mentioned, CSR sold 13 cattle stations, and one neighbour mentioned that I sold 2500 fat cattle a year. Elders and Dalgetty's were at the sale, which brought $43,000,000, and their representative remarked, No-one in Tasmania is selling that quantity. My neighbour said to me, You are, aren't you? and I replied, Yes. The agent said no-one in Queensland operating privately sold that many. But, of course, there are big companies selling far more. So, productionwise, our operation is big.

The scope of our land may be small compared with Queensland or the Northern Territory or Canada, but its production is quite high - and, of course, now we will double production on Rushy Lagoon within 10 years.

I forecast this when I bought Rushy Lagoon, and we are well on target. We will do it, for it is one.of the best cattle properties now. It is also good sheep country, but not necessarily the very best.

For Merinos the climate is inclined to be a bit moist, but then of course, we can produce very good wool if we have the right Spanish Merino strain and watch what we are doing. It is a very good sheep property, because we do not have droughts.

Northern Tasmania has no snow, being very mild, and the grass grows all winter as well as in autumn and spring. In the summer it dries out, but we offset that with water schemes to quite a big extent. It is more or less disease free, which is quite wonderful, for there are not many parts of the world where this is so.

In other parts of the world they have to shed their cattle in the winter, whereas we would call it a disaster if we had to do that.

I think Canada has quite a lot to show us, and in other ways we have a lot to teach Canada. The same applies to China and Russia, Their methods of farming are entirely different to ours, for they could not farm under our conditions, and I would assume we would have a battle to farm under theirs.

It is interesting when travelling overseas or within Australia, to recognise that people with knowledge, skills and ability are not coiifined to any one country or locality. They can be located in London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, New York, in a town, on a mountain top or in a village.

In some ways, those in cities have an advantage with easy access to many things. However, those in the country also have advantages with their relaxed healthy life-style, which enables them to absorb and understand a lot that occurs throughout the world. Knowledge is now readily available to people from all walks of life.

Who would have thought that the 1990 Australian crossword champion would be living at Rushy Lagoon.

We are pleased and proud of Shirley's achievements.
October 1990 Shirley has won in London, Wales
and Edinburgh - now World Champion.