Friday, May 27, 2011

Chicca's back home

I picked up Chicca from the vet yesterday and she's back on the farm. Looking a whole lot better.

Her temperature is back to normal and she has her appetite back.  We have to keep her inside for a few days until her course of antbiotics is finished (three tablets twice a day) but she doesn't mind as it's pretty wet and miserable outside now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quick trip to the vet

Chicca enjoys her 'spa'
We were just about to leave the farm this morning  to head off to Melbourne for an egg industry forum when we noticed that one of our dogs wasn't well.

Chicca didn't want to eat (highly unusual for her) and she seemed to have a high temperature so I rang our local vet straight away and arranged to take her in.

She had dropped heaps of weight (around 15 kgs). They kept her there for some tests and I didn't get back to the farm until midday so it was too late to head off to the city.

This was the forum at which the Australian Egg Corporation says it plans to unveil its new standard for 'free range' egg production - but that will happen whether I am there or not!

I should hear tonight if they went ahead with it, or whether the problems they have encountered made them delay the decision yet again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More bodgy 'free range' applications to come

A planning application lodged with Mitchell Shire at Seymour in Victoria looks like one of the first applications for a 'free range' farm being set up under the proposed high density standards which the Australian Egg Corporation is still trying to establish.

Valley Park Farms has lodged a planning application for an 'intensive animal husbandry' facility but in its press releases, the company refers to it as a 'free range' egg farm. Free Range Farmers Association has lodged an objection and asked the Shire to consider the stocking density proposed on the farm.
It pointed out the requirements of The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Domestic Poultry  which allows a maximum stocking density on free range egg farms of 1500 birds per hectare. The total amount of land on which this development is proposed is 84.7 Ha - indicating an absolute maximum farm capacity of 127,000 chickens.
The proponents are suggesting 170,000 birds in a total of ten sheds.
The land will be divided into paddocks and the property will also have ancilliary shedding, roads, laneways, and the application includes a dwelling, which all reduce the amount of land on which the birds can roam to qualify as 'free range'.
FRFA also asked the Council to establish how much of the land will be accessed by the hens every day and impose a permit limit on the number of hens to meet the requirements of the Model Code. The stocking density proposed is likely to have serious off-site implications as a result of contaminated run-off.
The application is Planning Permit No P306142/10 To use and develop the land for intensive animal husbandry with caretaker's dwelling and to remove native vegetation. Goulburn Valley Highway, Seymour.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

New solar hot water on the farm

We called Solahart to come and service the elderly solar hot water service on the farm cottage because it had stopped heating, They sent a plumber along and he fitted a new electric element but said it was pointless carrying out a service as the unit was useless. Not surprising really as we installed it nearly30 years ago. (Solahart still tried to charge us for a full service)
The newly installed Solahart unit
Anyway we got him back a week or so later to install a new system - or rather a second hand one as the casing had been damaged by hail and was an insurance write-off.

While he was here, I asked him to look at the solar unit on our main farmhouse - and that was a mistake.

The evacuated tube solar hot water system on our main house.
It's apparently the most efficient system there is -
but we are not convinced! 
It's an evacuated tube system which had a slight  water leak, so I always turned the water off to it unless we were using it for showers etc.  When he left, the leaks were worse than before he arrived, so I wish I had kept my mouth shut!!!

I'll now have to clamber around on the roof trying to reduce the leaks

As we are now heading into cold weather we need hot water - but we don't want to increase our energy consumption or our carbon footprint.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Get ready for the next round of financial turmoil

Most individuals and businesses don't spend a lot of time thinking about the global economy - after all that's what we pay our politicians and accountants for.

But the ramifications of corporate greed and political incompetence hits us all. Anyone with money in a superannuation fund, investments in the stock market, property, or simply in the business they are running, is vulnerable to problems in international financial markets.

The soaring price of gold is a stark indicator of a loss of confidence in currencies.

On Wednesday, November 3, 2010, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a second round of quantitative easing (QE2) to stimulate the economy. The plan was to purchase $600 billion of U.S. Treasury securities by the middle 2011. It was just after the November 2, 2010 General Election, and most of the world missed it because the election dominated the headlines.

For those of us who aren't sure what 'quantitative easing' means, here's Wikipedia's definition:

Quantitative easing (QE) is an unconventional monetary policy used by some central banks to stimulate their economy when conventional monetary policy has become ineffective. The central bank buys government bonds and other financial assets, with new money that the bank creates electronically, in order to increase the money supply and the excess reserves of the banking system.

This allowed the U.S. Government to authorise the Treasury Department to print money. No real currency has actually been printed, but the Federal Reserve has been able to electronically credit each commercial bank, allowing them to buy maturing U.S. bonds and treasury notes as part of their liquidity reserves. The Federal Reserve started this even before the financial meltdown of 2008, a policy which is plunging the US (and the rest of the world) into a financial disaster which is likely to last for decades..

As well as the $600 billion quantitative easing announced last November, the Federal Reserve announced that it was "reinvesting" an additional $250 billion to $300 billion from the proceeds of its mortgage portfolio in U.S. Treasury securities - a total injection of about $900 billion.

If at some stage, the Federal Reserve concludes that the U.S. economy is not growing fast enough, and decides more quantitative easing is needed, a third round may begin and then we can all kiss economic stability goodbye! Many economists believe that the Federal Reserve is already out-of-control and that the global economic system is heading for disaster.

The sad thing is that the Federal Reserve seems to believe that the policy has been working.

Accumulated problems within the U.S. economy after many years of neglect, inaction and excessive spending on pointless wars, have now been aggravated by turmoil in the Middle East and natural disasters on a scale which is mind-boggling.

From November 2008 to March 2010, the Federal Reserve bought more than $1.7 trillion in mortgage backed securities and treasury bonds. Through its quantitative easing policy, it created a portfolio of U.S. bonds and notes purchased from banks totalling more than $2.5 trillion by the March 2011. Some critics see the rising price of oil and other commodities as indicators of broader price increases which are set to spiral out of control as the U.S. risks heading into hyper-inflation territory..

Some believe that the Federal Reserve strategy may have helped stabilise the economy in the short-term, but unemployment still remains high (8.8% at the end of March 2011). Monthly U.S. home sales are still close to record low levels. New construction is also at historic lows. Banks tightened their credit criteria and have not been not lending much. As at January 2011, American banks had excess reserves of $1 trillion as customers borrowed less and  bankrupcy rates increased.

Foreign countries are balking at U.S. government's quantitative easy policies, and the U.S. will either have to start paying higher interest rates on government debt in order to attract enough investors, or the Federal Reserve will just have to drop all pretence and permanently start buying up most of the debt. Either way, the financial world will never be the same.