Small Farms Disappeared

If the grand parents of the current Forbes farmers drove around today's farms, they would be struck by the scale and size of everything, just about everything is bigger. The farm sizes are bigger, the machinery is bigger, as scale has become a prerequisite for sustainable farming

Forbes has changed from over 100 Dairy farmers on the banks of the Lachlan, with around 100 cows each, to just one big dairy farm, with over 2,000 cows. Wheat growing and harvesting, was once a more labour intensive exercise and is now dominated by large scale machinery.

In the late 1800's the soil was tilled by a horse plough and the harvest gathered and bagged by hand, a local Mill in Forbes would ground the wheat. By the early 1900's steam engine tractors brought more productivity to Forbes, while today the multi million dollar header does the work of a team of men in just a day.

Innovation in productivity on the cereal farm never stops. Cereal producers, are continuing to scale up their operations, moving from a five metre wide seeder in the 1990's, to a six metre wide seeder to reflect their bigger farms. The cereal farmer of today, uses an air feeder, to blow the seeds into the ground into a much bigger radius. The harvesters now harvest over 60 tonne an hour, up from about 10 tonne per hour, just fifty years ago.

Selective weeding has been an important recent innovation, allowing farmers to weed out without impacting the crop. With modern grain handling, the grain is trucked into the Forbes silos, from there, the grain handlers sort the grain by grade and it is sent by train to its manufacturing customers.

Livestock has been less impacted by innovation, today Forbes livestock farmers are doing pretty much what their grand parents had been doing. The main livestock innovations, are in feedlots and disease management, such as the management of worms.

The shearing shed has improved from the first sheep farmers. The wooden sheds have transformed into more comfortable and durable sheds, capable of servicing many times the sheep than the traditional wooden versions. Blade shears have been replaced with electric shears, while the sheep dog is still as critical to the running of a sheep farm as he ever was. His role on the sheep farm has never been replaced by machinery.

The size of the saleyards has grown over time to meet growing demand. When buyers are looking for larger quantities of a specific type of livestock, they will come to a big saleyard like Forbes. There are bigger numbers of cattle at the saleyards today. The bigger numbers, represent cattle drawing from a larger area, to meet the growing needs of buyers. Buyers are buying in bigger numbers than ever before, in 2013, a new record was set with over 42,000 sheep sold in just one day. This was surpassed in March 2014 when a record sale of 50,000 sheep were sold in Forbes.