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Tandou’s record crop

Monday, 14th May, 2012

By Paula Doran

It’s been a while between drinks, so to speak, at Tandou but the outback cotton farm is abuzz with activity as a record 6700 hectare crop reaches harvest.

The irrigation property south-east of Broken Hill is expected to produce between 55,000 to 60,000 bales of ginned cotton bales and around 18,000 kilograms of cotton seed this year.

And after so many years of drought, you can imagine the morale as the frenetic movement of harvesters make their way up and down the rows of cotton, and trucks buzz between deliveries to the on-site gin, back in full swing after years of relative dormancy.

For staff, like Sammy-Jo Field, who has worked at Tandou through the good, the bad and now the incredible, this season has been a significant boost.

“I worked here in 2001 during a cropping season and to come back in 2008 during the drought was very disheartening.

“But it was great that we could hold onto our key staff through diversifying into other jobs,” she said. “To be farming again Tandou is just buzzing... the office has lawn again and all stuff you take for granted is back.

“To watch such a temperamental plant grow, mature and start picking it is just such a team effort. It is fantastic.”

No doubt a boost to the Tandou coffers too, with that record-breaking crop likely to bring a multi-million dollar return.

The harvesters (cotton pickers) started work on the crop on April 17 and with a team of six machines working daily, the full pick is expected to be finished by mid-June.

According to Sammy-Jo, the on-site gin, a rare inclusion on any farm in the country (usually farmers send their pick away for ginning) is performing well.

“Last year we had quite a lot of issues/breakdowns. Since then we have made a lot of upgrades so we hope things run a lot smoother this year.”

In all, the massive crop that’s sprung from the Darling country dirt has 85 workers tending it. 

“We have some terrific experts on farm and you can’t beat local farm employee knowledge. Some have been here in excess of 20 years and have some good contacts around the world.  

“Also if outside help is required, we do our research and you get what you pay for and technology helps a lot these days,” said Sammy-Jo.

Once the cotton is compressed into modules - something similar to hay bales if you can imagine - the product will be distributed to warehouses in Melbourne and Brisbane for export, largely to China.

And with another good year on the Darling River, and full Menindee Lakes just next door, you never know, it might be a few good years in a row for Tandou.

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