MacKay – June 2013

Month 4 in MacKay! Tui is still working long hours and only gets one day off now and again, so it is difficult for us to go away anywhere or do much.  Hence we really haven’t got much exciting stuff to tell you this month.  Jude on the other hand has been walking 3-4kms every morning and only has a couple of drinks on Friday & Saturdays.  Yes, you are reading correctly!! Not alcohol during the week and no happy hours to keep her happy!!  Unfortunately to date there is no evidence of weight loss!!!!

We thought instead of the usual things we have done we would do a little research on the Sugar Cane Industry and Harvest to write about it for those of you who may be interested.

HistoryMacKay Sugar’s history spans over 130 years and has developed into Australia’s 2nd largest sugar milling company. Their Mills are located at Farleigh (11kms from MacKay), Marian (21kms), Pleystowe (12kms), Mosman (North of Cairns) & the Racecourse Mill a 5-10 min drive from where we are staying.

The sugarcane harvest generally extends from late May until mid-November, however it has been delayed this year because of recent rain.  It has jus begun, although a bit of a start/stop affair so far.  Historically, a sugarcane harvest was preceded by burning the cane – setting fire to specific blocks of cane to drive out resident rats and snakes and reduce the amount of leaf matter which accompanied the cane sticks to the factories. Now there is an increased emphasis on ‘green cane harvesting’ and the trend away from burning.

Banner-HarvestingHarvesting (known as “The Crush”) is a highly mechanised activity which utilises predominantly track harvesters and high flotation in-field transport units to deliver the harvested cane to sidings on the rail network. Cane TrainInnovative systems assist in the administration and management of harvesting and transport, including centralised traffic control, computerised mapping of farms from aerial photography, the use of satellite imagery to predict cane yield, GPS tracking of harvesters and locomotives, the provision of information to growers using SMS messaging, a phone-in communications centre, and an interactive web site. There are 46 cane haulage locomotives with a fleet of 8,100 cane bins.  Photos supplied by SGB Photography.

MacKay SugarThe Mill produces not only Raw Sugar (approx 800,000 tonnes a year) but also Molasses (in excess of 200,000 tonnes a year).  50,000 tonnes is sold to Champion Stockfeeds (near Marian Mill), where it’s processed as animal stockfeed. Approximately 50 per cent of molasses produced is sold to the CSR Sarina distillery, while the balance is exported via the Mackay Port, through Australian Molasses Trading. Bagasse (over 2,000,000 tonnes) , the cane-fibre residue (used as a renewable fuel) allows the mills to be fully energy self-sufficient and supply excess energy to the Mackay district electricity grid. Bagasse is combusted in boilers to produce high pressure steam which drives the power houses and mill turbines. The exhaust steam is used to process the sugar juice. The final product being Mill Mud/Ash, which is the remains after the cane juice is clarified and filtered. It contains soil from the sugarcane that enters the mills, sugars and bagasse particles and lime. Ash is the material that remains after the combustion of fuel (largely bagasse) in our mill boilers. These beneficial by-products are combined and distributed over farms as an organic soil conditioner and an important source of plant nutrients.

On reflection and since starting this blog, there have been a couple of things to share.  First of all we had a 40th at “The Park”.  Our Mate Carol, in the big bus! They organised a Hotel tour in a Mini Bus, unfortunately Tui was working so we didn’t go.  I managed to take some photos for them before they departed as it was time to dress fancy!  Well at least till my camera went flat!

awwwhOpening parcels

Then last Saturday night was their last night in the park as they are moving 40kms south, where they have a house.  House sitting for the neighbours for a month or so then moving into their house when their tenants move out & selling their Bus.  Even though they worked 7days on and 7 days off in the mines, we will miss them! Great couple. We had a few drinks to send them on their way!

Jase & CarolJude & Tui

Next day it was time to hitch up and go!

Jacking up the trailerThey are off

As it was such a beautiful day we decided to head out to Finch Hatton to the show and hopefully watch Tui’s brother in the chopping event.  Alas he did not chop this year!  It was amazing how many people were there, over 18,000.  For those of you who have read our previous blogs, you will know that it is an extremely small place so we were amazed at the crowd.  Met up with a couple of our mates from “The Park” and had an enjoyable afternoon. There was an amazing stand with wall hangings made of steel for sale.  Pity they were too heavy to hang in the Tiki Tourer!

Tree chopping FHWall hangings 2

Wall hangings 3Wall hangings

Another day off so we headed out to Kinchant Dam for a look. Kinchant Dam is located in the picturesque Pioneer Valley and is 41 kilometres west of Mackay.  What a beautiful spot! Built in 1977 on sandy Creek, Kinchant holds 62,800 ML of water at an average depth of 6.8 m and has a surface area of 920 hectares when full. Fish stocked here are Sooty Grunter, Sleepy Cod and since 2000, Barramundi. There are no boating or speed limit restrictions, thus it is very popular with the water ski fraternity.

Kinchant DamOff to lunch

They have a licensed Bar & restaurant and we enjoyed a lovely shared plate of Fish, chips & salad.  Camp sites and powered Van sites are available for $25 a night. Might have to go back and stay at some stage!!

Kinchant Waters BarView from Bar

On the way home we saw a Cane Train taking a load to the Mill.  The Racecourse Mill when it is churning out the smoke is a great sight.

Cane TrainRacecourse Mill smoking

Tui’s Brother gave us a call and he was chopping at the MacKay show so Tui caught up with him and his family giving a great display of what great axe men/women look like in action.

Furlyn ChoppingFurlyn's daughter

Furlyn's son 1Furlyn's son 2

It is amazing how one minute we think we have nothing to write about or share and next minute we have quite a long Blog!! Hope it is an enjoyable one to read!

Until next time “Laugh more, live longer!!”

2 thoughts on “MacKay – June 2013”

  1. Lovely to read your most recent blog guys! Can’t believe you are still there! Loved the sugar cane industry info – I learnt a lot!!
    Now what’s this I hear – no drinking during the week!? Where’s my partner in crime gone? The weather must be affecting your brain Jude!
    Love seeing all your photos and you have seen some beautiful spots. Kinchant Dam looks gorgeous!
    Glad you are both well. Sending you loads of love xxxx

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