Farmers stay resilient in face of drought

AUSSIE FARMERS STAY RESILIENT IN FACE OF DROUGHT hero image

Farmers stay resilient in face of drought

Australian farmers resilient as more drought assistance announced

Australia’s 135,000 farmers are tightening their belts as the severe drought gripping the eastern states deepens and forecasts point to a dry, hot spring and summer – but it’s not all bad news.

While the Rabobank rural confidence index survey signals an expected drop in positive sentiment across regional Australia over the past three months – with 100 per cent of NSW and much of Queensland and Victoria in drought – it shows most farmers believe their businesses are well-equipped to weather the storm.

More than 93 per cent of around 1,200 farmer surveyed around Australia said they will remain viable for the next year even if the big dry continues or an El Nino event develops.

Rabobank Australia CEO Peter Knoblanche said farmers across the country are showing great resilience and adaptability to manage their businesses through worsening drought conditions.

“Parts of central and western Queensland have been in drought for seven years with only sporadic short-term relief, while the whole of NSW is drought-declared and its reach is spreading into South Australia and Victoria,” he said.

“(But) the outlook for Australia’s ag sector is fundamentally very sound, with strong commodity prices – particularly for lamb, bee, wool and cotton and, more recently, grain – ensuring the majority remain in overall strong positions.

“Farmers have managed through droughts before and have put in place the infrastructure and systems to try to mitigate the impact as best they can. That is not to say it isn’t extremely challenging, especially in areas where it has been so prolonged.”

Western Australia was the only state that bucked the trend, with improved conditions meaning 48 per cent of the state’s farmers were expecting an increase in gross farm incomes.

Farmers in Tasmania and Western Australia were more likely to be planning to increase investment in their farm business.

New drought assistance measures announced

Meanwhile, while farmers in some areas are celebrating their first taste of rain in a long while, the Federal Government has appointed a new national drought co-ordinator and increased direct assistance and concessional loans to $1.8 billion.

Under the next phase of drought assistance:

  • The Drought Communities Programme will be expanded and receive an additional $75 million to help support 60 councils in drought-stricken areas, funding local community infrastructure and other projects, such as emergency water supply.
  • Primary producers can immediately deduct (rather than depreciate over three years) the cost of fodder storage assets, such as silos and hay sheds used to store grain and other animal feed storage, making it easier for farmers to invest in and stockpile fodder. The deduction will be available for storage assets first used or installed ready for use from August 2018.
  • The instant deduction is in addition to the $20,000 instant asset write-off already available for small businesses to support capital investment in infrastructure. The write-off is one way farm businesses can take measures to improve cost-efficiency, including upgrading farm fuel storage to maximise efficiency and reduce farm fuel costs.
  • The Government is doubling the amount a farmer can borrow in low-interest loans to $2 million and increasing the total amount available for these loans to $500 million in any one year. These loans will assist with financing immediate needs such as purchasing feed and fodder. The first five years of these loans will remain interest only. Farmers with existing government loans will also be able to refinance to take advantage of the interest-only concessional period.
  • An additional $23.7 million will be provided to improve drought resilience by extending the Great Artesian Basin bore capping program that plugs abandoned bores and replaces free-running channels with new water-efficient piping.
  • There will be a special drought round under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund that will provide up to $72 million for water infrastructure in drought-affected areas.
  • An additional $2.7 million will be provided to allow the Bureau of Meteorology to develop new finer scale regional weather and climate guides, helping farmers make decisions about crop planting and stocking levels by better understanding their local climate risks.

NSW freight changes support hay transport to drought-affected farmers

In NSW, the State Government has taken action to change freight dimension allowances to reduce prices for farmers forced to look further afield to source cattle feed.

The change will allow eligible vehicles transporting hay to travel under notice and without a permit with loads 2.83m wide and up to 4.6m high on approved roads.

Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, said for vehicles that weren’t eligible the process for obtaining a permit would be made easier.

NSW is also offering a transport subsidy of $20,000 per farm business to cover 50 per cent of the full cost of freight up to a maximum of $5 per kilometre and 1,500km per journey.

Reducing Farm Fuel Costs – Tractor Tips for Broadacre Farmers

Reducing Farm Fuel Costs - Tractor Tips for Broadacre Farmers

Reducing Farm Fuel Costs – Tractor Tips for Broadacre Farmers

Broadacre farming is a fuel-intensive business. In fact, the fuel used to run farm vehicles represents more than one third of the energy consumed in the NSW agricultural sector (Energetics 2013).

If you’re a large-scale farmer, you’ll know six figure fuel bills are common, and getting the greatest fuel efficiency from your farm vehicles is critical. The NSW Farmers farm Energy Information Program AgInnovators says for the average broadacre farmer in NSW, fuel costs are one of the top three direct cash costs.

Factors that influence fuel use can be as varied as the type of fuel used, equipment maintenance schedules, the machinery you use and how you buy, measure and store your fuel. AgInnovators says efficient operation and set-up of tractors can save broadacre farmers up to 15 per cent on fuel costs.

Choose your tractor carefully

Much of the information available when buying a tractor is geared to the US and European markets, so if you want to optimise your fuel efficiency it’s important to do some homework based on your operational requirements. The most important rule is to match your tractor horsepower to equipment or loads. Tractor expert Mark Francis says the area of power ratings requires serious professional advice. The key steps to estimating your tractor power needs are:

  • Identify your priority critical field operation
  • Estimate the time you will have to complete the priority task
  • Fine the work rate (hectares per hour)
  • Determine the width of the implement required
  • Determine soil resistance
  • Determine the power required at the drawbar
  • Determine PTO power required
  • Adjust for further considerations.

Buy the right tyres

Will you buy bias ply or radial ply tyres for your vehicle? Radial ply tyres were introduced in the 1940s and can make a difference of 6-14 per cent in traction, fuel efficiency and reduced wheel slippage. You should also consider tyre size. As a rule of thumb it’s a good idea to err on the side of the larger tyres that work for your machine and your operation, because this will allow you to maximise traction and efficiency by employing a wider range of pressures.

Analysing performance – getting wheel slip right

Extras like a radar can be valuable tools in improving fuel efficiency. For example, a radar can help determine the tractor’s forward speed and compare it against tyre rotation, allowing you to better calculate wheel slip and make the most of performance.

On the paddock, wheel slippage helps realign soil particles and the right balance is important. Too much wheel slip uses more fuel and reduces tyre life. Too little will increase wear, reduce drive-train life and potentially waste fuel if there is too much ballast and the tractor is pulling excessive weight. The operator’s manual is a good guide here, and NSW Farmers also has an excellent information guide.

The tractor ballast balancing act

You can make great improvements to fuel efficiency by adjusting the weight of your tractor according to the task it’s performing. Standard weight distribution should be about 60-40, with 60 per cent of the weight on the rear axle. If you’re ploughing and are not getting the right wheel slip, adjusting the weight is critical to ensuring maximum fuel efficiency.

Get your tyre pressure right

Farm machines perform many different tasks and can operate under a wide range of loads, speeds and ground conditions. Inflating tyres to optimal pressure can make a huge difference to fuel inefficiency – up to 30 per cent. In general, tyre pressures should be lower in the paddock and higher on the road. Check your tractor manual to get your pressures right, and make sure staff get in the habit of adjusting. For a radial tyre, at least two tyre lugs should be firmly in contact with the ground.

Use adaptive Driving

In Europe, research has shown using methods like gear up, throttle down make a huge difference. Proper gear selection and throttle operation can save you up to 20 per cent in fuel efficiency. Basically, gear up throttle down means using the highest gear the machine will allow without overloading the engine, and decreasing the throttle. This is particularly effective when the tractor is underloaded. The tractor should be running at 80 per cent load for maximum efficiency.

Modern diesel engines are most efficient between 1400 and 1800 rpm. It’s a good idea to run the engine at around 1600 for best results.

Maintain, maintain, maintain

A solid program of preventative maintenance can save a world of hurt. Be sure to maintain a schedule that includes lubricating grease fittings daily, draining and refilling the transmission every 100 hours, replacing the fuel filter every 500 hours, changing the crankcase oil and filter every 100 hours, checking belt tension every 250 hours, checking batteries and checking and adjusting brakes monthly.

Document your tractor fuel efficiency

Make a fuel management plan – basically this means answering the when, where and what of fuel usage. Good fuel use records can help keep track of fuel use on different jobs or under different conditions.

Litres per hectare is the key measure when costing production of your crop.

Electronic fuel management systems can help you monitor and note when there are changes in fuel efficiency. Ideally, you should take note of factors including date of use, time elapsed, where the work was completed and over what area and amount of fuel consumed.

It’s also important to record data and keep receipts for fuel deliveries, keep log books for your tanks and ensure gauges are in good working order. Keeping accurate records helps minimise the risk of theft and aid early identification of leaks.

Get your storage right

In the past, the cost of purchasing compliant fuel storage tanks and installing bunding to ensure compliance with state regulations has made large-scale fuel storage cost-prohibitive for some farmers. Keeping tanks clean and maintained to protect fuel integrity has also been an issue. Fortunately, new products including fully-transportable self-bunded tanks not only make it possible to change your refuelling location depending on the job, but also dramatically reduce the cost of being environmentally compliant.

Ask the experts at FES about the right tank and pump options for your business.

Oil Storage for Commercial Businesses

oil-storage. oil drum spilling out oil

Commercial Oil Storage. Don’t slip up!

If you’re in any industry that runs a lot of vehicles or heavy machinery, no doubt you are keen to get the best value out of your fleet – and who isn’t? – there’s a fair chance you’ll at some stage consider designing or equipping a new vehicle maintenance facility for your business.

oil-storage. oil drum spilling out oil

A properly run maintenance depot can help your fleet operate at maximum efficiency with minimum downtime.

Getting your oil and lubricant storage right is one of the critical considerations – we’ve listed some of the key points to note for your transport facility.

The Good Oil – Avoid oil storage slip-ups

Keeping the oil you use in top condition is critical to your operations. Not only that, but getting oil storage wrong can be an expensive mistake.

For many transport operations, the best option is to design an oil storage room for storing bulk oil tanks, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) and drums.

It’s worth consulting an expert when planning this part of your operation. You’ll need to check the storage regulations in your state to determine whether you need bunded tanks, which are generally considered industry best practice.

Some operators consider constructing a bunded oil room as the most cost-effective option, but these days there are plenty of cost-effective self-bunded waste oil tank options in a variety of capacities that will give you the advantages of versatility and portability without the expensive capital works costs. What’s more, tanks like those in the F.E.S. TANKS range offer extra advantages like easy access for cleaning and testing the quality of your oil and fuel.

Self-bunded tanks vs IBCs

Did you know it is contrary to Australian Standards (AS1940) to store oils for dispensing in intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) unless you have high turnovers and can provide evidence that the container is being changed every 2-3 weeks?

The reason is that IBCs degrade due to UV exposure, making them non-compliant with the Australian Standards and not necessarily the optimum storage option for your products.

Hartex Engineering general manager Varuna Krishnaratna says insurance companies may also refuse to pay out for damage due to fires or oil spills from IBCs being incorrectly used as oil tanks.

The upshot is that if you opt for IBCs you might pay less initially, but the costs could be considerably more in the long-term in regular container replacement, compliance paperwork and containment.

Small volume waste oil tanks are a safe, economical and convenient way to avoid the headaches if you need to store and dispense smaller quantities of oils or lubricants, and importantly these small cube tanks are fully compliant with Australian standards.

F.E.S. Bloc tanks are built from high grade steel with durable fittings. They are all finished with a heavy-duty 300 micron paint finish and are self-bunded with a secondary internal container. These tanks also come with forklift pockets and lifting eyes at each corner, while their cube styling gives maximum volume (more space efficient than drums) with a small footprint.

To find out more give the experts at F.E.S. TANKS a call on 1300-651-391 or get in touch via our web form.

A Bulk Fuel Buying Guide for Farmers – Save Money Guaranteed

fuel tanker truck in the countryside

A Best Practice Guide to Purchasing Fuel for Farmers

The purchasing process is central to efficient use of diesel and other liquid fuels.

Factors influencing liquid-fuel-purchasing decisions include storage life, potential fuel losses, and the legislative and financial implications of large-scale on-site storage. Fresh fuel is more energy-efficient than aged fuel, and planning the delivery of fuel around peak demand is key to effective fuel management. There are a number of buying strategies that can help you to negotiate the best price, avoid wastage and maximise return on fuel investment.

fuel tanker truck in the countryside

Introduction

Diesel and other liquid fuels account for up to 90 per cent of energy use in the NSW cropping and extensive livestock sectors (Energetics, 2013).

While farmers typically use large qualities of fuel – six-figure annual fuel bills are common – there are limits on their ability to purchase in bulk and gain the fuel price discounts achievable in other sectors of Australian industry.

This paper considers the key drivers of liquid fuel prices, considerations for storing purchased fuel to avoid losses and reduce cost, and the potential impacts of old or out-of-season fuel on engine efficiency.

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Price fluctuations and their drivers

The price of petroleum products in Australia is affected principally by the following factors

  • the crude oil spot market(s) and supply and demand factors such as world GDP growth projections and geopolitical supply factors
  • the strength or weakness of the Australian dollar, particularly in comparison to the US dollar (as oil is bought and sold in US dollars), and
  • federal government excise and taxes including the results of the parity pricing system. Farmers receive a 38.143 cent fuel tax credit. From 1 July 2012, credit was reduced with an amount equal to the prevailing price on carbon (Australian Taxation Office, 2013).

Australia’s regional market for petroleum products is the AsiaPacific market. The diesel price in our regional market is driven by supply and demand, not production costs. Australian demand growth for diesel has been strong, particularly as a result of the mining and commodity boom of recent years. This has contributed to the increase in the regional (Asia-Pacific) demand for diesel and as a result, diesel prices have risen in the region, including Australia.

Australian wholesale prices for petrol and diesel (including spot Terminal Gate Prices) are closely linked to the Singapore prices of petrol and diesel – not to crude oil prices. Australian fuel wholesalers use a pricing methodology known as import parity pricing which is based on what it would cost to import fuel into Australia.

The Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP) publishes weekly reports on wholesale and retail pump prices for diesel and other fuels.

Around 25 percent of the diesel used in Australia is sold through retail outlets, with the other 75 percent sold in bulk to commercial/industrial customers, such as mining and transport companies, on long-term contract. Therefore, retail diesel prices are not subject to aggressive discounting between fuel retailers, as petrol more commonly is. In more remote and regional areas of Australia, diesel retail prices are set primarily by independent owner/operators. Higher prices reflect lower fuel volumes and sales along with increased freight and distribution costs. Limits to on-farm fuel storage Safety and compliance Economically, the cost of purchasing a compliant fuel storage tank plus required bunding and safety controls could be prohibitive in making large-scale fuel storage a viable, cost effective option.

Quick Tips

 

  • Don’t try to ‘pick the market’. 

Buying ‘cheap’ is generally a risky strategy.

  • ‘Fresh’ fuel is more energy-efficient.

Limit the amount of fuel you purchase to no more than a month of the supply required to support operations.

  • Keep good fuel records.

Can help for planning purchases well ahead of time.

  • Synchronise your purchasing cycle

Plan ahead for expected winter/summer fuel changes (for instance, re-stock in May for your winter fuel requirements).

  • Use a supplier that guarantees fuel quality

Use a supplier that provides detailed delivery data in a format that facilitates your own record keeping and fuel management system.

  • Maintain infrastructure.

Ensure that tanks are well sealed to keep out dust and water, and install filtration devices.

Limits to on-farm fuel storage

​Safety and compliance

Economically, the cost of purchasing a compliant fuel storage tank plus required bunding and safety controls could be prohibitive in making large-scale fuel storage a viable, cost-effective option.

What is a Bund?

“A bund is a structure designed to prevent inundation and breaches.”

Round self-bunded fuel tank with crash-protective posts

Externally self-bunded fuel tank with crash-protective posts

Square self-bunded fuel tank with crash-protective posts

Internal ISO containerised self-bunded fuel tank with crash-protective posts

Each state in Australia has legislation in the form of Acts and Regulations for Workplace Health & Safety (WH&S) and for protection of the environment. Owners of above-ground tanks and fuel suppliers have obligations under their respective state legislations, breaches of which may carry heavy penalties.

Smaller bunded tank options also exist and are adaptable to on-site requirements. Environmental regulations vary dependent on local authorities but we would recommend tanks over 4000 litres need to be protected by some form of bunding in case of leakage or rupture.

4,500litre fuel storage tank

4,500 litre internally bunded fuel storage tank.

Storage life of fuel

Fuels deteriorate and are formulated to suit specific seasonal conditions. Using old or out-of-season fuel will reduce engine efficiency and increase services costs. A sensible limit on the size of a single bulk delivery is therefore the quantity of the fuel that a farm can use while that fuel remains fresh.

Under normal storage conditions, diesel fuel can be expected to stay in a useable condition for 12 months or longer at an ambient temperature of 20 °C; six to 12 months at an ambient temperature higher than 30 °C (British Petroleum, 2005).

As diesel gets older, fine sediment and gum forms in the fuel, brought about by the reaction of diesel components with oxygen from the air. The fine sediment and gum will block fuel filters, leading to fuel starvation and to the engine stopping.

Frequent filter changes are then required to keep the engine going. The gums and sediments do not burn in engines very well and can lead to carbon and soot deposits on injectors and other combustion surfaces, and to a corresponding decrease in combustion efficiency.

Other costs to consider are the maintenance cost of tanks, and the capital tied up in the inventory of fuel being stored.

Fuel quality issues

Cleanliness of diesel is very important and can reduce engine efficiency and engine life significantly. These problems compound if large-scale storage is considered. Dust and water are the main offenders in fuel cleanliness, but there is a range of technology available for continuous tank filtration, filtration at delivery point and on-vehicle filtration. Some experiential data has shown improvements in fuel economy by up to four percent, subject to initial fuel contamination (LSM Technologies, 2013) (Parsons Australia, 2012).

The difference between summer and winter diesel is the ‘Cloud Point’ property. All diesel fuels contain wax, which is usually a liquid solution in the fuel. At low temperatures, the wax begins to solidify and crystals form in the diesel. As the temperature drops, these crystals grow and can block filters, starving engines of fuel. The Cloud Point is the temperature at which the wax crystals first appear. At this stage they are too small to block diesel engine filters.

Generally, summer and winter additives won’t have a large impact on engine efficiency. The specification for diesel varies by month so that the fuel available is appropriate for the expected seasonal weather. There is a two-month lead time on the distribution of the fuel, so that any diesel purchased in May will be winter grade, suitable for the cold period from the start of May until the end of July. To avoid winter waxing problems, plan to change over all your diesel fuel by May at the latest. It is important that you don’t keep summer fuel for winter use. Suppliers such as BP provide information on how to identify and rectify this problem(British Petroleum, 2005).

Buying strategies

The price of diesel fluctuates due to an array of factors, as discussed. However, buying diesel in bulk (greater than one or two months’ supply, for example, in large-volume users) is rarely a viable strategy for farmers due to the storage life of diesel, the cost of storage and the stringent regulatory requirements for storing flammable and combustible fuels on farms. Security of supply will also be a concern for larger operations as the diesel supply chain is structured for supply at regular intervals. Such a strategy could result in a shortfall in farm fuel supply at a critical time.

Individual farms are unlikely to consume sufficient quantities of fuel to attract significant bulk fuel discounts. In pursuit of logistical savings, distributors may in future change patterns of delivery to small consumers. Establishing or becoming part of buyer groups or cooperatives may be an alternative if this offers sufficient volume to be attractive to suppliers.

A feasibility study (Co-operative Development Services, ltd., 2001) into rural fuel cooperatives in Victoria has found that the most efficient and least risky option for supply and delivery of fuel to primary producers and other bulk fuel users is for a cooperative to act as a fuel broker. This study suggested that the risks in price volatility must be transferred by cooperatives to the supplier.

Extracted from the NSW Farmers Association ‘Farm Energy Innovation Program’. [click here]

Conclusion

You more than anyone will know your buying patterns in relation to the daily operations of the farm. What is less known is the external forces that dictate the reliability of your supply chain.

Always maintain frequent communications with suppliers so as to understand the market place and to be ahead of any potential supply and pricing issues.

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Farming Fuel Issues: An Expert Roundup from the Front Line

Corey Blacksell

Farming and fuel, what are the issues?

WHETHER you’re growing grain in South Australia, raising cattle in Queensland or nurturing organic vegetables in Gippsland, your operation will be using fuel.

It’s essential to power harvesters and generators, keep the fleets moving, transport you around the property and get your product to market.

When we asked industry leaders from diverse backgrounds what were their biggest farm fuel issues, concerns around cost and supply were at the top for farmers and rural communities.

Some had experienced fuel shortages first hand in their district – not what you want at harvest time!
Others were concerned about the ongoing uncertainty over rebates.

Here’s what they had to say.

Corey Blacksell | Blacksell Farms (SA)

Agriculture Sector: Cereals and Grains

Personal Profile: Corey Blacksell

Business: Blacksell Farms

Corey Blacksell
Image credit: Alistair Lawson, Agcommunicators

Corey farms nearly 5000 hectares of mostly cereals at Pinnaroo, in the South Australian Mallee district. He owns Blacksell Farms and is principal of Blacksell Agribusiness Solutions.

The biggest risk we face is not being able to get fuel at the peak times when we need it – I see fuel security as a big risk.

The risk is because we import our fuel, there’s not a lot of stuff sitting at port in Adelaide at any one time.

I aim to have 30,000-40,000 litres sitting on the farm as we start the harvest. Security on the farm is also getting to be a big issue – I have a box of security cameras ready to go up to tackle that one.


Alastair Rayner (NSW)Alastair-Rayner

Agriculture Sector: Beef and Cattle Livestock

Personal Profile: Alistair Rayner

Business: Rayner Ag

Alastair Rayner is a cattle man at heart and is the principal of RaynerAg. He has been committed to the beef industry for 20 years, including 17 years as a Livestock Officer (Beef Products) with NSW DPI.

Alastair is well known for his passion and enthusiasm in working with producers to increase their skills, knowledge and profits.

The two big things I hear about are cost and being able to access fuel.

Farm theft is one of the big things that is impacting a lot of people, and with on-farm storage it’s often very difficult for people to see if they’ve been victims of fuel theft.

A few months ago there was a big incident where people broke into a place at Moree and poured about $10,000 of diesel down the drain.

The big cropping operations that are doing a lot of work and need to have a lot of fuel on hand are pretty exposed.

The cost of bringing fuel on to farms and the cost of purchase adds up too – it’s one of the biggest variables in farming operations. Fuel rebates are really important to keep costs down.

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Tanya Cameron (NSW)

Agriculture Sector: Beef and Cattle Farmer

Personal Profile: Tanya Cameron

Business: Country Womens Association (President of the CWA of NSW)

tanya cameron
Image Credit: Nick Moir

Tanya is President of the Country Women’s Association of NSW, which supports and advocates for people on the land and has about 10,000 members in NSW and the ACT.

She lives at Rowena in the state’s north-west (population about 20) where she and her husband run 200-300 head of cattle, and as well as lobbying on rural issues writes a regular blog about her experiences.

For us it mostly comes down to price. Any increase in the cost of inputs has a huge impact on our bottom line.

The rumours about removing the rebate on fuel were extremely concerning and just add more uncertainty to our lives – the removal of the rebate of 38 or 39 cents in the dollar, when you are talking tens of thousands of litres per load, will create a significant deficit in any farm budget, and there are usually more than just one or two loads per year.

These price concerns do not only apply to farmers either. Rural communities in general struggle with higher prices, generally on lower incomes, due to the added transport costs of road freight, and often there is no point in ‘shopping around’.

The price on the sign of the one and only servo in town is not going to change in the time it takes to drive around the block!


Grain Growers (National Organisation)

Agriculture Sector: Grain

Business Profile: Grain Growers

grain growers organisation

Grain Growers has 17,500 members and is an independent grain producer organisation. Its national policy group is made up of 15 growers from three major grain growing regions in Australia – Queensland and Northern NSW, Southern NSW and Victoria and South Australia and Western Australia.

GrainGrowers believe the biggest issue around the use of fuel/diesel on farms is the cost. Fuel, despite the fuel excise rebate, is one of the largest cost inputs into farming.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) conduct surveys into the economic performances of Australian farms, which includes information on farm receipts, costs and financial performance (including details on fuel costs). The surveys can be found here.

Another concern for grain farmers is fuel security. In December 2012 large areas of regional Victoria ran out of diesel fuel after a problem at the Shell refinery in Geelong.
With the closing of several fuel refineries across Australia in the last few years Australia is almost completely reliant on refined fuel from Singapore and other locations. NRMA commissioned a detailed report into Australia’s fuel security in 2013 which outlines this issue in more detail.

The on-farm storage and workplace health and safety requirements of fuel is an ongoing issue for farmers but not as crucial as the cost.

It’s in the farmers best interests to ensure that not only is their fuel stored safely but effectively as well.

Problems with storage (fuel evaporation, water contamination, leaking tanks and using old fuel) can add dramatically to the cost of farm operations.


Margareta Osborn (Victoria)Margareta Osborn

Agriculture Sector: Beef and Livestock

Personal Profile: Margareta Osborn

Business: Author, farmer, wife & mother

Margareta Osborn is a fifth-generation farmer, wife, mother and lover of all things country. She is a writer of best-selling rural romance novels. She holds a Diploma of Conservation and Land Management specialising in community facilitation. Home is a beef property overlooking a beautiful lake in the Gippsland high country.

Cost is a very big issue. As we are only small we are not eligible for any assistance (rebates), and if anything happens to go wrong with supply to our local roadhouse, it causes insurrection.


Matthew Arkinstall (Qld)Matthew Arkinstall

Agriculture Sector: Beef and Livestock

Personal Profile: Matthew Arkinstall

Business: Rathdowney

Matthew and his family farm a couple of hundred Blonde D’Aquitaine beef cattle on about 400 acres at Rathdowney, in Queensland’s Scenic Rim region.

Cost and risk of theft are the main issues. We went from on-farm bowser to jerry can for a few years. 

A Farmers Guide to Farm Security Cameras

farm security cameras collage

Farm Security Camera Systems – Things to consider

When it comes to farm security, the stakes are high.

Farm crime – particularly theft of stock, fuel and machinery – is increasing in Australia, and more than three quarters of farmers report having been victims over the past 10 years. Rural police say one of the most effective solutions is farm surveillance using security cameras, which have produced images vital to successful prosecutions over recent years.

Deciding to install a security cameras on your farm is a no-brainer if you’ve been a victim of theft – but which camera should you buy and what are the essential considerations within a rural setting? Read on…..

farm security cameras collage

How do they work?

Remote outdoor security cameras consist of a camera and motion sensor in a weatherproof case.

Modern security cameras are small and are perfect for the farming and agriculture industry. They come in a variety of sizes, but as an average are around 10cm x 15cm x 5cm – and run on AA batteries or can be connected to a small solar panel.

They don’t require any wiring and can be mounted anywhere (although it’s advisable not to mount them where there’ll be too much movement, for example on branches that will wave in the wind).

When the camera senses movement (humans, vehicles or animals) it takes a photo or video. Images can be taken even in total darkness using infra-red LEDs.

Images are either stored on an SD card for download when you visit the site, or in areas with 3G coverage can be beamed instantly to your phone.

Choosing the best farm security camera for your purpose

The best starting point is clearly defining your purpose – what problem are you hoping to address by installing your farm security camera?

This will inform decisions about position, camera size and whether you’re looking for higher resolution images or a faster reaction time.

You’ll also need to consider where you’ll be mounting your cameras – do you want them visible as a deterrent, or hidden to secretly monitor activity?

Farm security hot spots – it’s all about location, location, location

Farm security cameras can serve a variety of purposes, from monitoring for intruders to protecting fuel storage and water supplies to monitoring employees and even livestock movements.

Commonly, farmers might install cameras near gates to monitor people entering and exiting the property, and around equipment and fuel storage areas.

If you’re concerned about trespassers or vandals damaging fences and allowing stock to escape, consider monitoring the points in your fence line where you’re most vulnerable.

Trigger time – is your camera a sharp shooter?

If you need the camera to capture moving vehicles, it’s worth paying attention to the trigger time, or how long it takes to snap an image or footage.

vechicle caught on farm security camera

If you’re interested in capturing people and slow moving or parked vehicles, a 1-2 second start-up like the popular ScoutGuard SG55OV8-HD (about 1.3 seconds trigger time) will meet your needs for around $300.

A bonus of this model is its small size – about 13 x 8 x 5cm, and ultra-low power consumption, so a set of AA batteries should last more than 80 days or about 5000 images. The camera will take up to three shots per trigger, or a programmed amount of video (1-60 seconds).

If you need a faster trigger time, for example to capture moving vehicles, a model like the Reconyx HyperFire might be an option, with it’s super-fast 1/5 of a second trigger speed.

The Reconyx, which starts at $680, incorporates rapid-fire technology that can capture up to two frames per second and has a battery life of up to 40,000 images.

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Working on the night moves – low profile cameras for night footage

If things that go bump in the night are your biggest concern, the Uway VH200HD is specifically designed as a black flash camera, so there’ll be no red glow to alert people their image is being taken.

For this reason, the Uway is a popular option for security use in and around sheds, in fuel storage areas and on machinery.

fuel theft caught on farm security camera

With a 1 second trigger speed it’s quick off the mark and produces high quality 8MP photos.

This model can take more than 10,000 images on 12 AA lithium batteries and can also record sound in video mode, with night footage clear to 10m and beyond.

Keeping your finger on the pulse – using cameras for remote farm surveillance

Using cameras to remotely monitor distant locations makes sense on large properties.

The video below was taken on a property in the top end where the camera was set-up near a watering hole to monitor the native animal activity. Great action and activity that was captured with the moment sensors of the camera.

For the record, the owner is pretty sure the crocodile got his lunch as on the left hand side of the screen is just more water.

If you’re considering using a camera for remote farm surveillance in a location where you don’t have regular access to check and change batteries, a solar panel is a good option.

A panel about the size of an iPhone costs around $70 and will keep your camera powered year-round without the need to install or change batteries.

The panels incorporate a built-in battery to ensure they can continue to capture images even after many days of darkness.

Systems that allow you to see footage without visiting the camera site are also becoming increasingly popular, both for use at remote sites (provided there is phone coverage) and for ensuring you know what’s happening in real time.

Cameras like the UwayMB500 can transmit images instantly to your phone by MMS when they detect movement, meaning you become aware of any potential problems sooner.
Providing both the camera and your phone have mobile detection the image will be transmitted in less than one minute, and because they use the mobile network and run on AA batteries they continue to operate even if power and telecommunications cables are cut, providing an effective back-up to other security systems.

TOP TIP: Because these cameras can be set to send an image at a particular time each day, they’re also a great option for monitoring gauges and remote equipment like pumps, meaning you can save big on travelling time.

Weighing the cost

The losses incurred by farm theft, fuel theft and vandalism can be significant – recent single thefts have caused financial losses in the tens of thousands.
With the cost of farm security cameras now as low as $300 per unit, they’re not only recommended by police as an important security tool – they’re an increasingly integral part of responsible farm management.

Join in the conversation – Any thoughts, comments or additional tips and tricks for farm security cameras leave them in the comments below.

Farm Fuel Tanks. What are the options?

Need to upgrade your farm fuel tanks?

FUEL storage tanks for farms, they can be as varied as the farms themselves.

Similarly, the type of tank you choose will depend on factors including how much fuel you use, the geographic location of your farm, transport – how expensive it is, how regularly tankers deliver to your area, the size of your property and more.

horse drawn hay maker

We want to give you some insight into the different fuel tanks within the farming and agriculture sector and how they suit different needs. Here are some of the typical options, along with the positives and negatives of each.

Above-ground tanks on a tripod stand

These are best suited to farms with lower fuel usage, as storage is typically 1250 litres to 2000 litres.

collage of above ground tanks for farming

Advantages:

  • In the past many of these tanks were supplied by the oil companies, meaning there was virtually no installation cost. However those days are gone, and the cost of supplying a farm fuel tank now generally falls to the farmer.
  • The good thing about tripod tanks is no electric pumps are needed, because fuel can be dispensed by gravity feed.
  • There’s no need for bunding required because the smaller size tanks falls below environmental legislation for fuel containment.

Disadvantages:

Access for cleaning, checking and refilling has been the major drawback. The tripod structure and security have also been problems.

  • Traditionally tripod tanks were accessed from the top, which made safety when refilling an issue. Because a driver must have three points of contact when refilling a tank, standing on a ladder while holding a nozzle was no longer an option when workplace health and safety regulations were tightened.
  • To solve this problem many farmers had their tanks converted to bottom loading, and at the same time installed gauges in the form of a piece of clear tubing running down the side of the tank which makes it easy to check fuel levels.
  • Tripod safety: Structural integrity of the tank supports needs to be carefully monitored.
  • Tripod stability: Above ground tanks are not ideal in areas prone to severe weather events like cyclones that could topple the tank or cause erosion leading to structural instability. Tripod stands need to be tied down securely in areas prone to high winds.
  • Security: With fuel theft an ongoing issue for farmers all over Australia, security should be a consideration when choosing a tank. The gravity feed on tripod tanks can make it harder to prevent theft given the ease that fuel flows under the gravity feed system. Deterrent options include a lockable ball valve or external security measures like a secured and monitored enclosure.

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On-Ground tanks

On-ground tanks aren’t limited by a support structure, so space and fuel use are the major limitations on size. Environmental regulations say tanks over 4000 litres need to be protected by some form of bunding in case of leakage or rupture. On-ground tanks can be single wall or self-bunded. They generally take a cylindrical, rectangular or square form.

collage of on ground farm fuel tanks

 

Advantages:

  • There’s no need to bother with tank stands. Having a larger capacity also means reduced transport costs.
  • With self-bunded tanks there’s no need to spend time and money building a bunding structure. Typically, buying a self-bunded tank works out at about half the cost of using a single-wall tank and building a bund. Fully portable tanks self-bunded tanks are also available in sizes up to 18,000 litres, and can be easily carried to different locations on large properties with the product in them.
  • Security: These tanks also offer a higher level of built-in security. Because they require a pump to dispense the fuel, power to the pump can be switched off when the tank is not in use to stop potential thieves. Tanks can also have a lockable hatch across all access points that can be secured with a heavy padlock when the tank is not in use.
  • Access for cleaning is also simple through built-in man hatches.

Disadvantages:

Single wall on-ground tanks need to be located within a concrete bund that will contain fuel spills. This means extra work and reduces the portability of the tank. The bund also needs to be maintained and drained after rain to ensure it is capable of carrying the tank’s full capacity in case of a spill.
A pump will be needed to dispense fuel, and this will need access to either a 12V or 240V power source.

Underground tanks

These are an economical option for farms that need an on-site storage capacity of 10,000 litres or more.

underground tank collage

 

Advantages:

  • For farms that are storing petroleum, underground tanks can save them big dollars because they reduce the loss of fuel as a result of evaporation – a significant problem when storing petrol above ground.
  • Security: Underground storage virtually eliminates fuel theft. The size of underground tanks also means farms can reduce transport costs.

Disadvantages:

  • When storing diesel, condensation tends to be a bigger issue in underground tanks. To minimise this problem it’s advisable to run the tanks at a minimum 70-80 per cent of capacity, to minimise the air space above the fuel level.
  • It’s particularly important when storing fuel underground to use a water finding paste once a week, so that water collecting below the fuel can be pumped out.
  • Long term storage of diesel fuel can lead to contamination by microbes of fungal bugs. Fuel treatments such as diesel biocides are also an option to help prolong fuel life.

Second-hand fuel storage tanks

It only takes a quick Google search to reveal there’s a market in second-hand fuel storage tanks, and they’re not always a bad option.

We often here of farmers buying second-hand fuel storage tanks from service stations. However, when doing so it’s important to know what’s been stored in it and ensure it is fully cleaned and checked for maintenance issues including rust spots and weaknesses at joins.

Fittings can also deteriorate over time leading to fuel loss, so it’s worth checking and changing these as well.

Just remember second-hand tanks could be 15-20 years old, so you’ve got a lot to maintain and upgrade to bring them up to standard. When you can get a new 1000-litre self-bunded tank from about $3500 it’s worth considering the new option before making a decision.

Conclusion

Hopefully you get an understanding of the types of farm fuel tanks available each with its own pros and cons. As well as that you also get a variety of sizes and configurations for each tank type so it is very much dependent on your personal requirements. With that please get in touch so as we can inform you on a best situation for your needs and get you up and running as soon as possible.

Fuel Theft on Farms. How to Boost your Farm Security

Fuel theft on farms – Stealing from the hand that feeds us

ASK an Australian farmer their biggest fuel-related issue and it will always be the price of fuel. Dig a little deeper and it won’t be too long before fuel theft comes up in conversation. Farmers accept wholesale fuel prices are beyond their control. Bring up the matter of fuel theft and you start to understand that this is far more personal.

burgular stealing fuel from farm

Cases of theft within the farming and agriculture sector continues to make the news, and research released by the University of New England this year shows more than one in five farmers have first-hand experience of the problem.

rates of reported crime on australian farms statistics 2014

Rural police say crop farms are a particularly attractive target for fuel thieves at harvest and seeding times.

The thefts can not only cost thousands, but mean losing valuable time if the problem is discovered too late.

Machinery like harvesters parked in remote locations is particularly at risk, with thieves draining tanks and costing farmers thousands.

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Farm fuel theft – A nationwide problem

It’s an issue that affects rural residents across state and industry boundaries.

At Buloke in north-west Victoria, thieves stole $2000 of fuel from council machinery in the 12 months to May this year while crews were working in remote locations across the 8000 square kilometre shire.

In June police in Dalby, Queensland urged property owners to consider tightening security with measures including cameras after a prime mover, the attached 25,000-litre tank and $4000 of fuel were stolen from a property while the owners weren’t home.

In October, South Australian Police reported an increase in farm fuel theft and urged farm owners to lock or secure tanks and equipment and check fuel levels regularly.

For many rural landholders, much of the problem stems from the sheer area involved – it’s hard to stop unlawful entry on large properties.

Add to that social change, with more absentee farmers and a more transient population in rural areas meaning communities are less connected, and the UNE’s Dr Elaine Barclay says many just give up on finding a solution.

“Fuel theft is a huge problem since the price of fuel went up,” she says.

“Some farmers won’t stock fuel on their farms any more, which is frustrating.”

Dr Barclay says her most recent survey of 3160 farmers in NSW and Queensland shows fuel theft tends to happen at times like harvesting or seeding, when larger on-farm fuel stores are needed – and when thefts can cost the most in lost time and productivity.

“How do you lock up a farm?

“A lot of the time they don’t think it’s serious enough to report to police, they don’t want to bother police or they don’t have enough evidence to prove a crime has taken place.”

Dr Barclay’s research shows about 74 per cent of farmers had experienced some type of rural crime over the past 12 years, with only about half of those crimes being reported. She says rural watch programs, bringing communities together to fight crime, are less effective as communities fragment.

“There’s been massive social change – you have more hobby farmers moving in, particularly in places like Armidale, where I’m based.

“Where you have smaller, tighter, longstanding communities, that is the best form of crime prevention.”

Farmers have also fought fuel theft by filling storage tanks with water to catch out unwitting thieves, and by being vigilant about measures like returning machinery to the main sheds at night – often a major logistical problem in itself for larger properties.

The full report on Crime on Farms 2001-2014 can be downloaded here

Farm security innovations – preventing fuel theft

Fortunately, Australians are an innovative lot, and farmers have worked to tackle the problem with everything from home engineered locking systems to state-of-the-art fuel monitoring technology.

Fuel Cap Locks

In Buloke, a local engineering firm came up with fuel cap locks for council equipment that are also showing promise as a potential solution for local farmers.

fuel cap locks for buloke council

 

Not Australian, but still an innovative product in relation to trying to prevent fuel theft with a simply fuel cap. The Tanklock anti-theft fuel locking device is perfect for tractors, harvesting equipment, excavators, backhoes and other heavy machinery that may be left overnight on isolated sites.

The Tanklock defies convention because the cap itself has the ability to free-spin when locked. The free-spinning motion of the cap effectively offers no resistance points and thus no torque points for which to apply spanners, crow bars, jemmy bars or grips.

Farm Gate Security Sensor 

Victorian company It’s Secure offers a shaft alarm with GPS which is ideal for mounting on remote gates and fences where machinery and fuel are being stored, providing there is 3G or 4G coverage.

shaft alarm

The alarms are mounted using magnetic clips that can be easily moved each day, and are powered by a lithium battery which can last up to three years.

They’re armed by text message and controlled remotely.

Farm Security Cameras

Cameras are also increasingly popular.

Entrepreneur Damien Byrne owns Outdoor Cameras Australia and hears stories of theft due to farm security failures every day.

“Most of it is fuel and machinery, and when it happens it is very costly,” he says.

“Even the fuel thefts aren’t just small amounts, they’re usually thousands of dollars’ worth.

“I think $5000 would be a good average amount that people lose, but a lot of it would not get reported, so it has been difficult to estimate.”

fuel theft still image at night

Damien says cameras have been proven to make a difference, and police agree.

Queensland police continue to urge farmers storing fuel to not only keep a close watch on levels but to install cameras to monitor and help prosecute thieves.

They cite a successful prosecution in August this year after a 25-year-old man was caught on camera stealing more than 1000 litres of diesel from a farm near Toowoomba.

Damien says the example is one of many, with diesel fuel and machinery theft among major reasons given by rural clients for their camera purchase.

The equipment is portable, weatherproof and simple to set up and attach to an existing structure, and can run on batteries for months at a time or even miniature solar panels in more remote areas where changing batteries could be an issue.

“Our units are small and very easy to handle and there’s no wiring required and no poles need to be erected,” he says.

“They operate on a motion sensor and they also have blackflash so intruders won’t be aware their photographs are being taken or their actions recorded from up to 10m away.”

Popular models include the UWay, which can take high quality 5MP images and high definition video and can carry a maximum 32GB of storage.

The camera can take about 5000 images on one SD card and operate continuously with a solar panel attachment. Prices start at around $500. Well worth the price as this would easily offset the loss in value of most thefts on a farm. Not only that, but think of that fist pump moment when your camera catches the intruders red handed.

uway-vh200hd security camera, black and camouflaged

Refer to our Beginners Guide to Farm Security Cameras here

Start protecting your equipment and property day and night

Outdoor Security Cameras

Set and forget.

Get back to doing the work you need to do rather than looking over your shoulder

Underground Tanks

The type of fuel storage tank on your farm will very much determine what level of security you should expect. The variety of farm storage tanks apart from shapes and sizes, extend to above-ground tanks, on-ground tanks and underground tanks. Craig Cygler, from Nqpetro, says using underground tanks for storage vastly improved security for farms that store large amounts of fuel.

He says modern storage tank designs are also making theft harder with features like lockable hatches that prevented access to the valves. Refer to this extensive guide on farm fuel tanks to understand the pros and cons of each type.

He also recommended anti-theft cap locks (as mentioned above) for farm equipment, particularly where it will be parked in remote locations.

Where to put your farm fuel tanks?

Police recommend a number of simple measures to prevent theft. The first is taking simple precautions when deciding the location of tanks.

The most secure location for a tank is underground, however this might not be practical for many properties.

When positioning above-ground tanks convenience is important, but not if it makes it too easy for thieves. Tanks should be located away from main roads and where possible where they can be seen from the house. Keep the area around the tanks clear of equipment and other obstructions to ensure clear visibility and minimise hiding places.

On large properties, where tanks are needed to service isolated areas, it’s important to locate them out of sight of a public road and keep them locked. Consider only filling remote tanks when they are in regular use, such as at sowing or harvest time.

Mobile tanks should also be locked and stored out of sight when not in use.

It’s a good idea to fence the area around fuel tanks. One recommendation is to locate them near machinery storage sheds and fencing the entire area with good quality lockable security fencing.

Other fuel security measures

The WA Police recommend other key measures including:

  • Lock your fuel tank cut-off valve rather than the nozzle and hose. If there is an electric pump on the tank locate the switch in a locked building and turn the power off when the tank is not in use.Close and lock all valve on all on-ground and overhead tanks when not in use.
  • Dip tanks regularly and monitor fuel usage so you know quickly if there is an unexplained loss. Install a flow meter to supervise fuel use.
  • Keep a book at the tank for each user to record fuel usage, or investigate an automated fuel management system.
  • Lock gates that aren’t being used. Research suggests more than 90 per cent of farm gates are unlocked or unlockable, offering an invitation to opportunistic thieves.
  • Talk to your neighbours. Let them know if you plan to be away for a while, and tell the local police so they can also keep an eye on your property.

If you experience a theft

If the problem persists despite your best efforts to boost security, Police are urging communities to work together with them to take action. New England region Local Area Commander Fred Trench says reporting the crime helps everyone.

“Farmers need to report crimes or theft so we can look at how we can better address these problems from a local perspective,” he said.

“Given that these crimes may pose a threat to the personal safety of farmers and their families, not to mention high cost to local economies, it is essential to continue to raise awareness about rural crime and look at allocating the necessary resources to combat it.”

You should also tell your fuel agent and make sure you have accurate information about when and where your farm fuel tanks are refilled.

If you have been personally affected by theft on a farm, please let us know in the comments box below as it would be good to understand your thoughts.

If you should have any concerns or questions on how to boost your fuel security around the farm, get in touch. We will make a difference.

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Top 5 Advantages of Fuel Tank Hire & Leasing

Why You Should Consider Fuel Tank Hire & Leasing

In any expanding project or times of business growth, outlay and capital can be two major hurdles that often need to be overcome while meeting increased demands and need for infrastructure.

fuel storage tanks - hire or buy

Whether its covering the cost of implementing these systems or buying new equipment, investment is often required. Hiring and leasing can provide a great alternative to traditional purchasing that allows you to adjust to these changes in demand while minimizing purchasing and maintenance costs.

Why hire fuel storage?

Hiring and leasing is a flexible option for fuel storage that allows you to reduce your outlay to a monthly payment. In fact the cost of the fuel tank hire can be factored into your ongoing fuel purchases so it can be indexed to a fixed price per litre.

Whether it’s a short-term solution to cover some immediate fuel storage demand, such as a tank failure, or a long-term way of supplementing existing infrastructure to handle issues like seasonal variance and peak-demand.

Hiring and leasing fuel storage is a way of ramping up your fuel supply when its necessary and adding additional equipment as needed.

You can always purchase when you have a clearer picture of your needs. We run through our top 5 benefits of hiring below.

Minimal Initial Outlay

Hire and lease agreements are a great way of providing the means to cover immediate demand needs without a high amount of initial investment or cash-flow. Also, our fuel management and storage systems can be upgraded and the size of your leased equipment changed as your business does.

This flexibility can be very useful for businesses that want to test the waters before making a purchasing decision as it allows you to test or trial a system, and see how it performs on-site.

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Easy Set-Up & Maintenance

Providing all the benefits of a self-bunded system, that is a tank within a tank, these systems have a minimal on-site footprint and require no major external construction for safety compliance. You can read about the benefits of self-bunded tank design here.

All tanks come with a certified maintenance document to ensure fully operational for immediate use on site.

Our tanks also provide many features for easy maintenance, such as dual-manways for inspection and cleaning, a protective anti-corrosion coating and are fully certified for compliance with all Australian safety standards and regulations.

Relocatable & Convenient

Set up of our self-bunded tanks is as easy as dropping them on-site.

Whether the project is accessed by land, sea or air – hire tanks can be a great way of providing immediate access to fuel in remote areas, off-site projects and any situation where a long-term fuel storage solution may not be financially viable.

Add-ons for Fuel Management & Security

F.E.S. TANKS have a full range of dispensing equipment that can give your hired fuel tank all the capabilities of a refuelling station, and our fuel management systems mean you can even monitor and measure metrics like fuel consumption to help with accounting and budgeting.

Dispensing equipment allows your fuel storage to act as a refuelling station – your fleet vehicles and equipment can be refuelled directly from your hired storage tank.

Worried about fuel theft and security of your hire tank? We can also provide security solutions for your hired tank, such as user-account access, that make fuel theft virtually impossible.

Free Consultancy

F.E.S. TANKS consultants have years of experience in both fuel supply and distribution – and it’s all available to our customers free of charge.

Regardless of whether the decision is made to rent or buy – we ensure that you get the right system for your needs, and are happy to provide quotes free of charge.

Not only do our staff help you stay on top of all the technical stuff, like current regulations and compliance issues for your equipment, but we can also help you figure out a combination of lease and purchasing that fits your needs perfectly.