Rain the icing on the cake for bumper 2014 field days

September 29, 2014

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An aerial image of the 2014 Henty Machinery Field Days which was attended by 60,000 national and international visitors.

Widespread rain not only added millions of dollars to the region’s winter crop but also buoyed the bottom line for exhibitors as farmers opened their wallets at the 51st Henty Machinery Field Days.

The field days, held from September 23-25, drew an estimated crowd of 60,000 to inspect the “agribusiness supermarket’’ showcased by more than 800 exhibitors on 1200 sites across 105ha.

A combination of fine weather and the school holidays in NSW and Victoria meant Henty lived up to its reputation as southern Australia’s single biggest outdoor event with a record gate on the opening day.

Widespread falls of 20-40mm across the Riverina over Wednesday and Thursday prompted farmers to travel to Henty from as far as central NSW and southern Victoria, armed with their shopping lists.

Car parks were filled to capacity, with exhibitors reporting buoyant sales and solid follow-up leads.

The field days were officially opened on Tuesday, September 23, by National Farmers Federation Drought Taskforce chairman David Jochinke.

HMFD chief executive officer Belinda Anderson said the rain had translated into a great event for 2014.

Mrs Anderson said many exhibitors experienced strong sales and enquiry as a result.

“Visitor numbers were at a record high on Tuesday and were followed by equally as strong attendance on Wednesday and Thursday,’’ she said.

“We have received extremely positive feedback from exhibitors and the public – this will only encourage us further when we sit down in a couple of weeks to begin planning for 2015.’’

A new innovation at this year’s event was the Agri-Centre showcasing innovative technology and robotic research. It was officially opened by GrainGrowers Limited director Gerry Lane, of Lockhart.

HMFD chairman Ross Edwards said the Agri-Centre was set to play an important role in the future of the field days.

“In years to come this will be built upon and will become one of the outlets for information on technology as we go towards 2050,’’ Mr Edwards said.

A highlight was the coveted Henty Machine of the Year Award being presented by Mr Jochinke to Neil Parker, Tow and Farm, Laverton North, Victoria, for the fertiliser applicator, Tow and Fert Multi 4000.

Highly commended was the Stabiliser Plus 200 cattle crush from National Stockyard Systems, Rutherford, NSW.

In other awards, the 50-tonne Crop Carrier chaser bin from Coolamon Steelworks won the Tractor and Machinery Association Award for best new Australian designed and built agricultural machine.

The Fraser Old & Sohn Farm Inventor and New Products award went to Mulwala grain grower Nico Seiling for his Rotacon 12m air seeeder. Runner-up was Brian Gaynor, Temora, NSW, with his sheep feeder creep gate.

Always a crowd favourite, the three sheep field trial drew more than 100 dogs and their handlers from around the nation.

Laurie Slater, 80, of Murrumbateman, NSW, made it a hat trick and set a new record by winning his third championship title in succession.

The Pedigree Murray Valley Yard Dog Championship was won by Peter Darmody, of Beckom, NSW.

Mildura fashion designer Judy Bond finally triumphed after entering the Henty Natural Fibre Fashion Awards for a decade by taking out the knitted and crochet section and supreme garment with a crocheted mini dress and reversible jacket.

The competition drew a record 85 entries, including 40 millinery entries, with the finalists announced on the Thursday.

Amanda Causer, of Wagga, won the millinery section, Bronwyn Packwood, Palmerston, Northern Territory, took out the accessory section and Anna Williams, Albury, won the encouragement award for best student designer.

One of the field day’s largest exhibitors, Vennings, of South Australia, reported steady interest in their range, including an 18 tonne and 29,000 litre chaser bins, and 90 cubic metre field bin.

Principal Robert Venning, of Kadina, said several chaser bins were sold on-site at Henty.

He said the rain was a blessing but cash strapped growers had put off purchases on large capital items to next year.

“When we first came to Henty we were told we would never sell a 50 tonne field bin, now we are selling 100 tonne field bins and farming is getting bigger,’’ Mr Venning said.

Wiesners general manager Chris Wiesner, of Walla Walla, reported solid inquiry on tractors and fodder machinery.

“The rain on the Wednesday night certainly made a difference – there will be a lot of follow up work to do,’’ Mr Weisner said.

Geronimo Farm Equipment national sales manager David Fagan regards Henty as the nation’s best field day.

Mr Fagan said visitors were well informed, doing their research on the internet before attending.

“We sold a lot of equipment after the rain, people were happy to spend once it rained well,’’ he said.

Australian Earthmoving Supplies sales manager Alistair Hall sold 14 wheel loaders over the three days with plenty of forward orders.

“The real buyers were there – they had done their research on the internet and had come along to see us – that’s why the field days are so important for us in keeping our brand out there,’’ Mr Hall said.

Brenton Diener, of Solar Water Pumps, South Australia, was “blown away’’ by the response over the field days.

“We anticipate we will have numerous sales from these days which made the trip well worthwhile,’’ he said.

Norwood Farm Machinery group manager Ross Johansson said buyer interest focused on compact tractors up to 120 horsepower, with eight sold off the site over the three days.

“There was strong inquiry for hay and silage equipment but the larger machinery and harvesters were a bit slow because of the dry season,’’ Mr Johansson said.

-Kim Woods