Friday, 16 March 2012

March 14 - Sacramento

We awoke to a rainy Sacramento morning. Apparently it has been particularly dry this winter however it is now forecast to rain for the next 4 days in California. We began with an inspection of Superior Farms, a sheep abbatoir operating since the 1960's with 700,000-800,000 lambs processed per annum. It was very interesting to see how many product lines they have - nothing is wasted. Apart from the obvious meat for human consumption, there is meat for medical purposes, pet food and lamb skins for Ugg boots, jackets etc.
Another interesting feature of this business is that it's owned by the employees through share options accummulated through years of service to the company. This ensures good staff retention rates and minimizes compensation claims. Carcass weight of lambs is substantially larger than what we are used to with weights upto 50kg compared to the Australian average of 24kg.
This photo shows bales of lamb skins

We then went to UC Davis (University of California, Davis campus) where we were briefed on agricultural/horticultural activities in California. This university is huge with 31,000 students and 21,000 employees. It has a total budget of $2.5US billion per annum. We drove from Sacramento to Los Banos, a 3 hour drive with the Sierra Mountians to the west and vast tracts of horticulture - growing many crops like lucerne, grapes, stonefruit, almonds and citrus. It was very attractive and highly productive land.

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