Milton Colburt – The man who put Radicate on the market records the History of RADICATE.
My recollection of the history of the Foot Rot cure.
My great-great grandfather who came out from England with his family and lived down near Goulburn, found himself in the area where there was a lot of sheep and a lot of foot rot and he remembered a mixture that his father use to make when they lived in France, of what they used to cure foot rot. Consequently, he taught his son and he taught his son who was my father and then my father naturally taught me as a kid.
My first recollection of knowing how to make the cure was when I was 7 years old. I can remember my dad saying to mum he got a letter from a fella from Forbes, I think it was, that wanted to know if he could get a bottle of the foot rot cure. Dad then set about, said well he would make some. What he had to do was buy the ingredients which he didn’t know how but he did he went to the local chemist and ordered the ingredients which he needed to do so and set about it the next weekend with taking numbers of jerry can that was under the bed, took the pot up the backyard put all the mixture in it together and we stood there and watched it brew.
What Dad use to do when it finished being made and let it cool down cos it got hot and we’d use the same bottles that the mixture came in well the ingredients came in which was glass bottles with a glass stopper in, he put it into that and put a label on it but he still had some labels, and then wire the stopper onto the bottle so it wouldn’t come undone. Then he get to the local delicatessen and get a cheese box which is a little wooden box that some cheeses use to be delivered in which just took the bottle exactly, then we put some straw in this box and nail the lid down and put the address and what have you on necessary and naturally in those days it went by rail, so I’d go up with him to the station and we’d go into the office there and we’d send this bottle off by rail and that’s how it started.
Again it happened a few more times while I was at high school where Dad was busy working and I had to go and order the ingredients which I did and we started to make some more and got some more enquiries and it all worked well, but that solution then was a topical solution which meant you had to paint it on. Yeah as I said it was a topical product and you had to paint it on the feet and quickly the people who bought it learnt that you couldn’t leave it, put it in a tin or anything had to put glass or otherwise it would eat the bottom out of the tin.
This went on for a while and when I was at high school we use to make some again up in the backyard exactly the same way and for a few years that went on that way where we sell maybe 1 2 3 bottles a year or something like that they were only 1-pint bottles in those days. Till I was about 16 and I heard through the members of the family, relations what have you that my uncle was going to make it and put it on the market and really promote it.
He started a company up with his four sons which was called Merino Chemical Company. Now they never knew how to make it but they remembered from what their dad wrote, that when you make it you got to make sure you are away from people because of the fumes. They lived in Marrickville and they thought the way to do it was to make it in a fireplace and they had a 2-storey place which they rented out and they started to make in the fire-place so the fumes would go up and out. They quickly learnt that wasn’t the way to do it.
At that stage Dad learnt that they were trying to do it, so he went to talk to them cos he was just as much entitled to it as they were. So, through a lot of talking and everything else they struck up a deal where we would make it and supply it to them and then they would do the sales and marketing situation.
So, the next project that we had to do was to find a place where we could make it in a large quantity and find where we could get the containers. Where we could get the right bottles and everything else to put it in. So, this we did. Mum Dad myself would go out to a property at Kemps Creek on a Saturday or Sunday take all the ingredients with us and the utensils which we bought, bigger tubs and that so we could start using it in making it in 10litre lots 5litres a product and everything, and it worked and it worked well and we made it we bottled it and we took it down and then gave it to my uncle and his family and they paid us to make it and they sold it.
Well that went on for about 3-4 years’, but they never made a go of it because they were city slickers and they didn’t want to get out in the country and sell it and push it the way it should be done. So that was the end of that and that company went out of business.
As I got older and I started after I got married and I was talking to my family about it and they all agreed that we should try to see if we can’t make it and what have you and market it ourselves. So that we did. We made it again in our backyard at Dural where we had a 5 acre property, we’d make it we’d bottle it and we’d try it and that we did and found it still worked but to get enough ingredients and to get it made I need to find somewhere where I could get the materials in a more produced form rather than their raw form. I thought I’d go to the phone book and see If I could find a chemical company that would talk to me, so I looked up the book and when do so I come to A which is the first letter of the alphabet and it was Alpha Chemical Company, I rang them spoke to them and they said come over and talk to us, I went over there to see them and I explained to them what it was how we did it this that and everything else and that’s been the start of a long association and they’ve been making it for us ever since.
When we did start to make it from there wanting to learn more about it Grant my son and I went to see his chemical teacher at university. And told him what it was and what we’re doing with it and everything else and he wouldn’t touch it. I said it won’t hurt you look you can put your finger in it and he said I wouldn’t put my finger in that if you paid me he said that’s terrible its that its this its everything else.
Anyway we pushed on from there and then we started to find people who would buy it and make it and do it and that we did for a few years until we decided we may as well do it in big time by that we got decided to change the name from what it was which was the name they created was Nonpareil which is a Latin word which means no parallel the best or can’t be beaten but we decided we changed the name from nonpareil and started a new product and Grant came up with a name of well to treat foot rot you would eradicate it and we decided to drop the E off it and just call it Radicate and that’s how come its got its name today.
We had to do trials, In the early days you didn’t have to have your products registered with the agricultural dept or the national registration authority. But as we produced on from there we had to, so we had to get the certification of our manufacture clarified then we had to do tests to prove the product would work so we could legally sell it as what we said it was a cure for foot rot. That was the start of the biggest thing I think we ever started on our life our family but we did we had to hire a vet that knew all about foot rot and what have you to work out a program to do a trial and we had to find labour to help us do so and this we organised and we stated to do the trial in 1992 and it yeah it did exactly what we said it would do.
In the earlier days of course it was a topical situation as I said you paint it on with a paint brush not use it as a foot bath and all the other products that were on the market were a foot bath which makes it much easier , so I thought well I’ll try the situation and see what I could do about making it so we could make it soluble and mix it with water. This we did, by adding another chemical to it which was a water softener which made the solution so it would mix with water and stay in solution and not strip its actives so we did all the tests we had to have 6 farms in topical NSW VIC where foot rot was bad who had 250 infected sheep or sheep in a mob that had infection.
We paired them in the earlier days as a child I don’t ever remember them being paired I think they were just treated that’s why they didn’t quite get the results that we’ve been getting. By pairing the feet and opening up the pockets of infection standing the sheep for 15min in a solution of 10 parts of water to 1 part of Radicate which I worked out I thought would be the right combination and as it proved to be it is the right strength and what have you, so the sheep’s feet are paired they are then stand in the solution for 15mins then they let it air dry they have to stand them on something dry after they have been treated for at least 15mins to allow it to air dry on the feet and as it being corrosive as it dries it sticks to the hoof or the keratin which is the hoof and then continues to do 2 things 1 is continues to cure like killing the bacteria and the other one is stop them being cross infected from another sheep.
We had to do these experiments on the farm with 200-250 sheep, 125 sheep we would have to mark and treat accordingly, weigh each sheep and record its ear number ear tag number and record whether it was a what score it was. The foot rot is scored on the basis of 1 2 score then there is a score of 3A 3B 3C and then a score 4 and then 5. We’d have to score each foot accordingly. We did that on 6 farms we had to do it at 2 week intervals, so we were doing it altogether for a period of 10 weeks. My wife Maureen had to score the sheep write down the scores of the sheeps feet and during that period of time she recorded 76000 feet to say what they were. But we proved the product was good, we proved the product would work where we could get 97% cure rate if they followed the system the right way.
That’s the biggest problem with it today is getting farmers to follow the rules they always want to change the program and do it an easier way and there’s no easier way cos if you do it a different way it doesn’t work as properly as it should.
Since then we’ve been making it manufacturing it getting it done, and distributing and selling to agents as well as direct to farmers, the big problem you have of course is foot rot is a contagious situation but weather conditions are the one that drive it so you can have a year where you got a lot of foot rot and you can have another year where you hardly have any, so it fluctuates greatly because it’s the climate and weather conditions and rain conditions is what causes it and keeps it the way that it is and it does again usually work more in the spread period which is early spring and early autumn and it works well. Having done all that, and spent $750000 to prove it all worked and everything else we eventually got it to the stage where we got it registered with the NRA which was a very difficult process,
The final report which you had to give to them was 32 segments in our report to prove all the points that we do and there was 32 pages of instructions and we had to give them 30 copies of that which was a truck load just to cart it to Canberra it took the people in Canberra a period of 4 months to go through it and analyse it all and to turn around and keep asking us different questions and to prove this or that and something else. We persevered with it all and it was all done, and it came out well. We had a good year the 1st year we had it on the market that was because it was a bad wet year then we had a few dry years since then its been up and down up and down but the current year now it looks like it’s been a pretty good year and the same things that’s different is in those days sheep wool prices were down around about the $2kg mark where today its now $16kg lamb was again cheap in price meat wise and today now lamb is one of the dearer meats on the market so it pays the farmer to treat their sheep because it pays the family more money.
It can make a difference of up to 2kg of wool on a sheep if you’ve got healthy feet at $16kg that’s $32 extra he can get for each sheep and if he’s got 4-5000 sheep that’s a lot a lot of money so that’s why people do so today. And that’s the marketing situation of how we stated and where we are up to now.