The Yass Antique Farm Machinery Club undertook harvesting of their Federation Wheat crops at several locations around Yass over several days late last month. Paddocks for cropping were kindly donated by Max & Kathy Hedges, Hardwicke Lane, Charlie Banks, Coolalie Road, Narelle Pateman, Burrai Place and Tony Wade’s historic Cliftonwood property on Irvine Drive. Photo: Aleks Berzins and a team of four Australian Draught Horses

Federation Wheat was developed by William Farrer following his experimentation in crossbreeding different species of wheat in the 1880s to alleviate the devastating effects of rust on early Australian wheat crops. Farrer undertook his hybridisation experiments at his father in law’s property at Cuppacumbalong and later at his own property Lambrigg Station, both in the Tharwa district. His efforts resulted in Federation Wheat being released to Australian farmers in 1903.

The Federation grain sown by the club over the last 6 or 7 years was initially sourced by club member Ray Millington from a fellow enthusiast in the Western District of Victoria. The amount of grain harvested has increased significantly over the years with the original kerosene drum full now dwarfed with a bumper yield of over 20 tonne in this season alone.

Richard Dann on his Allis-Chalmers tractor pulling the clubs Allis-Chalmers All-Crop Header

The crops were sown in the winter of 2020 using an antique ‘Sun’ Seed & Fertilizer Drill, built by the iconic Australian manufacturing company H. V. McKay Pty Ltd of Sunshine, Victoria along with a vintage 1956 Massey Ferguson 500 Series seed drill. With timely and good rains during this season, all the crops yielded well and provided ample acreage for harvesting with antique and vintage equipment owned by the club.

1944 Case LA tractor driven by Phil Wales with Jim Dean seated on the 1915 Sunshine Harvester

The harvesting days were an ideal opportunity for the club to demonstrate a timeline of harvesting techniques and equipment. Our earliest implement put to work was a Nicholson horse-drawn single wheel Back Delivery Reaper Mower from the 1870s. The mower relies on two operators, one to control the horses and another to continually rake the cut crop to form a windrow on the ground behind the machine. More suited to light crops, it did however perform very satisfactorily on the day.

Chamberlain 306 tractor driven by Kerry Thompson with his grandson Aaron aboard the Sunshine No 6 header

Further up the timeline saw a Circa 1915 H. V. McKay Sunshine Harvester put through its paces behind a vintage 1944 Case LA tractor and later a team of Australian Draught Horses under the expert control of Aleks Berzins of Exeter NSW. The same four-horse team were then put to work in front of a mid-1950’s Sunshine Binder and in no time at all had several acres of wheat on the ground, bound into sheaves and ready to be stooked.

Assisting in the harvest was a Chamberlain 306 tractor hitched up to a recently donated 1952 Sunshine No. 6 header from Michael Lees at Michelago. Michael also donated the Massey Ferguson 500 Series seed drill to the club along with a raft of other vintage farm implements.

To complete the harvest, a 1960’s vintage Allis Chalmers All-Crop header was attached to a period-correct Allis Chalmers tractor, driven by club member Richard Dann. Following the success of the harvest, ample sheaves and grain is now available for chaff cutting, grinding, reseeding and of course feeding chooks! Plans are already underway for next seasons ploughing with all club members looking forward to getting back out in the paddocks once again.

More information about what the club gets up to, how to become a member or who to contact regarding donating equipment or purchasing sheaves and Federation Wheat can all be found on our home page at www.yafmc.org.au
Helen Lee