Since I start to plan my six months, I decided to take the most of this oportunity. I arrived in Perth the June 22th, did one internship in the University of Western Australia, then I travel trought Australia by my own for one and a half month, to finish in Cairns. I started my second internship in a Wildlife Center in the north island of New-zealand. On the way home I spent one week in Singapor, to finally came back in France the January 3rd.
About my internships
So I did two internships : 2 months in Western Australia and 3 months in the north island of New zealand.
I decide to do this report about the first one, firstly because it was the most interesting and moreover if you want to know more about my second one, please read the report of Thomas Enguehard in 148, we did exactly the same internship, we had just invert.
It take place in a experimental farm owned by the rich University of Western Australia (UWA).
About my trips
I was not afraid to go in a foreing country and leave my family for a long period at all, my parents beeds my sister and I with the travels, and it was like we would make it one day, anyway. Every summer, for five weeks, we used to visit a different country, ... together.
So this time, I decided to travel most of the time by my own. When you travel alone, you happy to be much independant and free but you are also appreciably weaker, and sometime it's definitly not funny at all. So the first ten days was quite depressing, then I quickly learn to be more entrusted, to go to the strangers, to start dicussions, and be very ream after two or three weeks.
From this point, I really start to enjoy. I still was nothing else than a another young tourist and nobody cared about me, but for this reason every meeting, every shared satisfaction became more true, more intense. And the trip took an other dimension that I had never felt during a travel before : share with stranger was more heartfelt, it's looks make more sens.
I actually was few time really alone during my trips, I always manage to be spend the days with some other tourists in the same situation of me. They had all something in common : an open heart and mind, a will to meet differents cultures. In genetics selection, the riches is the diversity: you have to cross it to obtain new better species ; meet (very) different people from different nationality, and with different point of view on the world and you become more able to understand your environement.
Australia is the world's smallest continent, ... or the world's biggest island ! It a huge country of 7,7 millions km² (USA: 9 millions km²) with only 20 milions people (USA: 300 millions people). ”The Commonwealth of Australia" is a constitutional monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II, with a parliamentary system of government.
Western Australia (WA)
Area: 2,6 millions km² - Density: 0,7 hab/km² - Gross State Product: $50,355 per person carte wa
The Western Australia is the third of the australian territory and his biggest state. But it's mostly a hot and dry desert. The demographs used to says that the australians are city dwellers. In WA, it's more than that : there is only 2 millions people in WA and ... more than1,4 millions live in the capital: Perth!
The riches of the state is not the gorgeous sunny beaches but more the awkward mines of the center. In the last century, they found gold around Kalgourlie-Boulder, but there is also opal, iron ore (world's third-largest producer), nickel, alumina (producing more than 20% of the world's aluminium), diamonds, mineral sands, coal, oil, and natural gas. Most of the world's major resource and engineering companies have offices in Perth.
This city is just crazy. It is a millionaire town in a middle of the desert, no unemployment and last year it was the third most expensive city in accomodation of the world, right now, they are building new residenses everywhere.
In 1826, the British Army had established a base at King George Sound (later Albany) on the south coast of Western Australia in 1826 in response to rumours that the area would be annexed by France ... The first visitors of the Perth area came in July 1619 and then French, Dutch and English visitors past throu: in of all them, none had a favourable opinion to put a settlement. Perth was finally founded in 1829 by Captain James Stirling.
There an enormous problem of water reserves especially this year (2006): in june, so in winter, the total rainfall was sorrowfully 4 mm! There are thinking to desalt sea water, or even more ambitious, build a water pipeline from the east to the west coast (they built in the 1890's a 530km “goldfield pipeline” from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie who carry 23 millions liters of water per day)!
I did'nt do the internship in Perth, but more in the country-side. The closest reasonable place was Mundaring, a fast growing city, with everything on the spot, from supermarket to optician. But we came here only to buy food and nothing else, when we had to do something more specific we went to Perth. The University, and the offices, the labs, most of the specific gear or the experimental sheds was also in Perth.
UWA and ewes behaviour ...
University of Western Australia
The University of Western Australia (UWA) was established in 1911, today she is training 17,000 students in every domain. It is the biggest landowner of Perth and employ more than 1200 persons. It is a public university but not free at all. UWA is present in more than 80 research center.
The School of Animal Biology
The School of Animal Biology is a division of UWA, who is leaded by the professor Graeme Martin. In this school they are studying from marine biology to whool or milk production. She is owned tree farms, a “Large Animal Facility” (it's a large building made to study sheep, cows, or pigs in tidy rooms under the hospital norms of cleanliness), one or two sheds, a tens of vehicules (cars, pick-ups, 4wd, trucks, ... and even one bus to carry the students).
The intership take place in the Allandale Farm, an experimental farm on sheep and goat production owned by the University. She is at 2h drive from Perth on the Great Eastern Highway. The farm is managed by The School
To obtain this internship, I sent an email to Dominique Blache. He is working as a senior lecturer in the school, it's a frenchmen who don't have real link with France anymore since ages (exept family), it's an overbusy-dynamic men by giving courses and following tens of agronomical projects. His job is to manage the project called “Improving lamb survival by selection for temperament”.
There is more that 100 million sheeps in Austrialia, from Australian and New Zealand data, it's estimated that neonatal losses of lambs is in the order of 10% to 15%. For the Australian sheep industry, the cost of lamb losses has been estimated at Aus$ 10 million per year.
A joint project between the “Meat and Livestock Australia” (MLA), the UWA and the “Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization” (CSIRO) was initiated to develop a reliable and objective test for the measurement of temperament in sheep.
“Nervous” or “Calm” ewes
Over the last 14 years, the UWA Animal Biology department has established two experimental flocks of Merino sheep: “calm” and “nervous”. For that, they develop a simple and reliable test for the on-farm measurement of temperament in sheep. The “isolation box test” (IBT) involves isolating an animal in a 1.5 m3 box and objectively measuring the degree of agitation (vibrations) for 1 minute. Every generations, they keep on the flock the calmest and the more nervous ewes.
A major discovery was that calm ewes are clearly better mothers than nervous ewes: they spend more time with their lambs, have a shorter flight distance when disturbed and return to their lambs faster than nervous ewes. Consequently, lamb mortality for calm ewes was about half that of nervous ewes!
The main purpose of this project is to demonstrate that selection for temperament can yield positive reductions in reproductive loss and lamb neonatal mortality in commercial flocks.
To understand the reasons of the behaviour differences between the two flocks, the project needed some PhD Students and two friends and specialists in sheep behaviour: Raymond Nowak and Pascal Poindron both from INRA-Tours. Dr Nowak had even been employed for some months by Animal Sciences to set up the experimentation protocols with the PhD Students.
Sam was a quite brilliant student, now she is twenty-three and already in PhD. She was officially the director of the experimentations. To help her, Dominique Blache asked to R. Nowak to come back in Australia. Back in the days, he did a PhD in the UWA, to finally become researcher in sheep behaviour in France (INRA). His wife is australian. Pascal Poindron was invited too, he works also in the INRA center of Tours with Raymond. He was invited 8 years by the mexican government to develop a new research center on sheep production in the 90's. On the ground there is also Aprille, a very efficient technician and Steve the manager of the experimental farm, a hard-worked too.
The Allandale Farm
The Allandale Farm follow a normal whool and sheep-meat production system for the area. Tree thousand sheeps on one thousand five hundred hectares, they are cropping weat and grass to feed the flock.
There is a lot of different projects in the site, like ten fistuled ram, one antibiotics producer donkey, and there is also a project of selection (whool quality and quantity) on a flock of five hundred Cachmire goats who cost a lot of time to Steve and Aprille.
Steve manage all the year round the differents flocks, and bring to the scientists the needed ewes. For the first experimentation we used the main shed, the second one was outdoor in the “40Ha paddock”.
We lived in the old house of Steve, a cosy and spacious place, with Sam, Pascal and his wife Monique, some night with also Aprille, and Raymond and Drewe Ferguson (CSIRO).
The two experimentations
During this two months we did two experimentations: “Interaction between genotype and maternal behaviour on the expression of temperament” and “Observation of the on-flock behavious in natural conditions”. Both was dicted by Sam, following the advices of Pascal and Raymond.
Interaction between genotype and maternal behaviour on the expression of temperament.
- That they knew before
The temperament of an individual is clearly a function of the genotype and its environment. Recently in horses, the relative effects of genotype and environment on horse behaviour was intensively studied with the view to developing strategies to improve animal welfare. But, cross fostering studies have shown that the behaviour of the individual is not fixed at birth and can be significantly modified by maternal behaviour.
Given this, we wished to investigate the contributions of maternal behaviour and genetic who build-up the temperament of the lamb.
Tirty ewes from each selected line of the Allandale flock (so sixty ewes) have been synchronised and artificial inseminated using semen from sires that have either “nervous” or “calm”. One days before the lambing, parturition was induced with a shot of dexametasone.
At birth, lambs of a given temperament will be cross fostered to ewes from the other line. Then the behaviour of the 8 days old lamb is determined with an “open field” test. Lamb survival and growth weight had been also monitored at regular intervals until weaning (14 wks). After weaning, the temperament of the progeny has been measured using the IBT.
- Works done
I arrived in the house two weeks before the lambing. For two weeks, I had to feed (hay and palet) and take care of the sixty ewes who was previously pen in sixty individual pens (to be used to during the cross fostering). So for two weeks, I was alone and it's was actually quite boring, but then Pascal and Monique (and then Sam) went to live in the house. Since they arrived, we seriously start to thinking and plan the logistic of the final manipulation (cross fostering), I really gave and defend my opinion during this planification phase and when I could'nt explain in english I just had to speak in french to Pascal ... easier.
Two days before the parturition, we injected the first half of the the ewes with a shot of dexametasone, this hormone is aslo used in human for the dificult partirition. The day after, the other half has been injected and some ewes from the first wave started to lamb. We had to be on the shed 24h, to take away the lamb from his mother before she had time to smell it. When an other lamb born, after a few steps, like wheigt it, or scrubing the lambs each other (for the odour), we invert: it's the cross fostering.
There was four kinds of fostering:
- nervous mother with calm lamb
- nervous mother with nervous lamb
- calm mother with calm lamb
- calm mother with nervous lamb
(calm lamb mean that his mother was calm)
- Open field and quick conclusions
After 8 days, we put the lamb away of his mother alone in a square white area for 30 seconds: something very stressful for a gregarious and young animal like lamb. This test is called “open field”. We video-recorded his move, counted the bleats of him and his mother. We all worked at 100%, this experimentation was the most interesting one and was a total succes.
Pascal was very impatient to let speak the datas. He wanted to see if there was any corelation between the temperement and the number of bleating, or some other parameter that we had recorded.
What he saw was quite up-and-coming:
- all nervous-born lambs adopted by a nervous mother stayed entirely nervous.
- all calm-born lambs adopted by a calm mother stayed entirely calm.
(That's just mean that the experimentation was reliable)
- the nervous-born lambs adopted by a calm mother became less nervous but still more than the calm-born lambs adopted by a nervous mother.
- the calm-born lambs adopted by a nervous mother became less calm but still more than the nervous-born lambs adopted by a calm mother.
It's mean that there is a genetic link (around 30%) but not only, it's also means that the selection on temparement done for several generations was useful. This test will be repeated two more years: to become more accurate by obtain more datas with more lambs.
Observation of the on-flock behaviour in natural conditions.
There is very few studies on the “on-paddock behaviour” of the “young-mother ewes” and now I know why: a sheep life is very, veeerrry boring ... grazing, walking, grazing, sleeping.
The problem of this experimentation was the lack of preparation: Sam did'nt know what she wanted to learn about. And all the energy was invested on the preparation of the more difficult one (cross fostering) to finally forget about that one until two weeks before it's had to start. This kind of observation was a first for the university so nobody did'nt really know what can of parameter was recordable and also useful. Thus we decided to record the maximum: the lamb and ewe moving, every 15 min just after the parturition and every 1h later; the position of the flock every 30 min.
In parallel, Drewe Ferguson (CSIRO) wanted to calibrate a sensor for recording move of sheep: it's a little box fixed on the front leg of the ewe, into there is a embedded system who's able to know if the animal is lying or walking or grazing ... Originally, the box was made for cattle, so to calibrate it on sheep he needed to know some informations, for exemple : “observation: Ewe01 is grazing at 2:40pm” so then we read the 2:40pm signal afterward, he means : grazing.
We used a 7m hight steal tower, a night-and-day telemetric binocular (distance from the tower), a compass (angle). With the distance and the angle we were able to find the position of the animal in the paddock, we used the same sytem than the sailors.
- Works done
Before this experimentation started, I already started to work with Steve, the manager of the farm. It's a very funny men, his face really look like Mr Bean! He is very independant, and used to work and manage his task alone, with his five dogs, so sometime his behaviour looks very wild, like a dogs-gang leader which is very funny. He can take a wildly hungry behaviour for 10 sec to show to his dogs who is the boss, and then continue to speak to you sociably. I learn with him all the basic slang vocabulary, some farming skill of course but much more fun: drive fast and safly in the desert unsealed road of western australia with a 4wd and unbreakable “Ute”!
At the beginning he did'nt want to give me some tasks to do but after three or four tries, he bring me to do fencing, then I worked with the goats, ... And after a week of work with him, I had my own pick-up and I was fully independent. So I firstly did the work with Sam and Pascal, but and then I went to see Steve to work with him and his dogs.
For this experimentation we needed to observe all the day the lambing of a flock of 140 syncronized ewes so around 180 lambing. There was two team of two person, one for the morning, and one for the afternoon. I usally did the afternoon shift with Raymond, and the morning I was with Steve.
- Reason of the failure
The studied flock contain 140 pregnant ewes so around 180 lambs, 320 animals to observe, so around 10 lambing per day, with a pick of 20 lambing sometime: actually too many. Moreover, the number painted on the side of the ewe was nearly unreadable when the ewe was a bit dirty (the maximun distance in the paddock was 350m, and in the morning there was fog sometime).
So too many information to record, too many sheep, a low visibility was the main factor of the failure of this experimentation.
This internship was only the first part of my sejour in Australia, then, I traveled for more than one month between Perth and Cairns by my own. Afterwhile and for several reasons, it was the most interesting intership I did: for a agronomical ingeneer, share two months of life with two renomous INRA scientists is priceless, truly a luck.
Aussies and Kiwies
If I had wrote this report just after the intership I would say that australian people are very friendly and distressed. It's still that I think but a saw new-zealander as more friendly and more distressed people.
After, I also discover the amazing sens of kiwi-hospitality! To give an example : I tried to hitchick around Perth, and it was not so good as I thouht (like in France), in New-zealand the first time I jumped in the car of a unknow, was an unasked one! : I just walked on the verge of the road and they offer me spontaneous the lift. Hitchick was my "public transport" in New-zealand, I did more than 2000 km by this way, it was some time even too easy, people even invite me for tea-time, one guys feed me onetime!
1 millions kiwies oversea
In the 70-80's, the unprotected economy of New-Zealand crashed down. For this reason, a tousands of new-zealanders went in Australia, today it's around one million new-zealander who live in Australia. A guy said me: “if we are hospitable, it's because all the asshole went away” (something like that), and a different person said the same to me, maybe in a more stylish way. In the 80's there was no futur in New-zealand, so all the people who wanted to find economical success emigrate. Moreover, it's very easy for a kiwi to work and live in Australia.
For historical reasons, the construction of the united state and australia are a bit similar. In the start, both was a new land where everythings had to be done or was still possible, both colonised by europeans (mostly from uk) the spirit of adventure and domination against an inhospitable natural context moulded both. Economicaly, politicaly, ... the friendship link between the two nation is truly strong. Australian culture is very open to the american influences (TV, goods, ...). They are looking Amercica a bit like theirs grand sister, the prosperous, the example.
So afterwhile, I dont like the australian culture very much. Because I don't think that there is an proper “australian culture” but more a mix of both english and american (and maybe also chinese?) influences.
Cheap beer and fine wine
Like in UK, the beer is the national drink (XXXX, Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Emu Bitter, ...), compare to France, the beer is expensive, but it's nothing compare to the price of the wine. The australian wine what we found in our supermarket are usally quite bad it's just because all the good bottle are going to the USA or UK market. They can looks very boor and spend 50$ in a good bottle of wine.
There are in every city in australia a China-town. They live in community and some people don't speak english at all, sometime they actually don't need. They provide cheap and good food to the Sydney's business mens, work hard for nothing and afraid the average australian citizen. Several time in the past, they vote anti-chinese immigration laws, nowly, John Harold talk about a test of english to immigrate in Australia.
Cool don't mean open-minded
Because this country is very isolated they trully thinks that they are the most devellopped country in the area and one of the most attractive country of the world, they just are the biggest “white” or “occidental” country of the area. Raymond said onetime that the australians are short-minded people, I share this point of view.
My vision of the australian is a bit like that: they live in a big, sunny and wonderful country, they are good-workers, and love their country (patriot), but in the other hand, junk-food is as common as in the US or they are truly a bit racist sometime (yes maybe like in France too) – against the aboriginals and the chineses.
Maoris and Aboriginals
I was very surpised, who Aprille spoke about the aboos (there is roos for “kangaroos” and aboos for “aboriginals” ...). The only aboriginals that we see in town are homeless or drunk people, it's very sad.
I meet a German traveller who explain to me the situation of the lasts aboriginals villages in the country side, you need a permit to enter in the last aboriginal territories so he spent one day with a census worked (in June 06 they did the census in Australia), the census worker said that in less that 30 years, they will not remain aboriginal culture anymore if there is still one now. The youths don't go to school, they don't speak english very as well to do a decent job but they don't learn the ancestor language as well, nobody really care about all the stories, all the useless rites... Something else: the aboriginals are sitting on some billions of dollard of alumina or gold, it don't help to be well see and helped by the government.
In New-zealand, the Maori is an national language, everybody can learn this language at school and they are even universities in Maori. They just understand that Maoris culture was the only thing that nobodyelse had, it's called have an identity. Australia have money, kangoroos, koalas, sun and beautiful beaches, New-zealand have an identity.
I'm used to travel quite a lot since I'm very young, but always for relatively short period (one month) and most important : whith my family. So we always bring with us a kind of cultural “refuge”. And I would say that, during this six months, I moved a lot and understand who hard is it to leave for a long period his own contry.
I don't think that a France-grown person can live a fully pleasant life in a foreing country for a long period anyway, specialy when it's quite hard to find some vital froggies-goods like real crusty bread, or some pieces of smely cheese :)
My opinion for people who want to come in our country for working (or just be safe) became at least more reallistic. They must have some reals reasons to come, and it's not as simple as some politics would like to be. For six months I choose to be away of the french (french people, french language, culture) and even if people were friendly, even if I took good time, I always was just a stranger. I can say now that I understand a bit why imigrant people live in community and try to recreate they past life style.
This six months was very rich in everythings. I learnt more about me, more about three countries, more about the scientific methods, about the wildlife and how fragile it is. I aslo meet tens of people from everywhere.
... to the generous “region Picardie” who is open the mind of 130 youngs every year, and aslo to the “Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais” (issu de la fusion de IGAL (Institut Géologique Albert-de-Lapparent) - ISAB (Institut Supérieur d’Agriculture de Beauvais)), and all the crew who was behind the phone, just in case ...
... to Dominique Blache (director of Animal Sciences of the UWA), to Raymond Nowak (INRA) and his family, to Pascal Poindron (INRA) and Monique, to Sam (PhD student) and Ram, to Aprille (ground technician), to Steve (Farm manager) and his dogs, ...
But also to all this people I meet like Lui (Korea) and "Joe the globe-trotter" (Germany) in Freemantle, Brock (Canada) when we did 350km in 4 days in Kangaroo island by bicycle, Andreas (Germany) in Hobart, Florian (Germany) when we did Melbourne to Sydney in his car, Aidan (Australian meet in Hobart) when he offer me to sleep in his home in Camberra, Graham (UK) and Nicloas (Colombia) when we did some long hick in the Blue Mountains, Hiathes and his friend (Holland) when we share the trip between the Blue Montains (Sydney) and Brisbane in their car, the tens of people how take me when hitchick in New-zealand like Yoggi, Lucke, Peter, Lucia, ... or the 9 S'poreans and Mat (Canada) when we did an unforgeatable Happy New year in Singapor ...