Tag Archives: drought

Selling, buying and the family farm

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Times are changing aren’t they? almost daily we get stories of family entities putting up properties for sale, some of these are so big it make International news never alone state and territory. It then garnishes so much discussion and out cries of “keep it in Australian hands” it’s not like the opportunity has been removed from the Australian Buying it, it’s just that many don’t want it.

Perhaps as an industry we need much more feeling good stories from the media instead of print and Television media being full about drought, deaths,  couples and families walking off the farm with nothing. the hardship is the story isn’t it. Succession is also in the spot light and these family splits can be anything but nice and friendly. There is still little room for a girl, sister or daughter getting the property, it normally goes to the eldest boy and in some cases that boy hasn’t even worked on the farm for his working life but history and antiquated country beliefs still  linger so that they feel and entitlement to benefit from a younger siblings years of passion and hard work.

All these issues are emotive aren’t they? It’s like planning for retirement and old age, no one really does until “they have to”, are ‘forced to’ or the issue presents itself and others have to make a decision for you. Those of us in our 40’s and 50’s have seen it or are dealing with it aren’t we? Parents making bad travel, health, lifestyle decisions that impact on everybody and on the aging system where denial is first and foremost until a medical emergency brings it to the fore. Selling property is like this, one sometimes has to take into consideration debt needs to be paid off, families if it split all want enough to start over, pay off a mortgage or to purchase another property and if the property has parents attached they will also want their share for retirement and to live well. Most children who sell properties are aware of the parents being the lien, the debt that keeps on coming in some families.

To see Australian land for sale and to see the out cry – where are the Australians lined up to purchase the property? They are too busy living in the city to come and view the property, spend holidays at islands with cocktails and secluded bungalows rather than spend it shearing, crutching, marking, fencing, reaping, delving, etc .Being married to a farmer it’s not about the land, it’s the passion that they farmed with, the animals that they loved, that toil, the soil and the freedom to produce a commodity that contributed to the Australian economy or food bowl. At the end of the day it’s about being part of the land, that the farmer misses as the reality is there is minimal profit in farming and processors  and supermarkets want the best product at the cheapest price to the farmer so they can make money. I also get slightly bewildered at this outcry to stop investment in Australian land – why is it that those who live in suburbia can sell a house, unit or business at a really good profit yet the framer can’t, there is no method in this way of thinking, if you don’t want the land sold, buy direct from a farmer. Stop frequenting the supermarkets, the shopping centres, spend your weekend at a farmers market, drive to a producer and help out. I bet no one does.

We love where we are and plan to be here for a few more years yet. As producers of meat for human consumption we pride ourselves on the quality of our lamb and beef as do all Australian Farmers.

Old Broads and Farming

The farmer didn’t like my post yesterday, he thinks I have no understanding of what we do here on the farm, when it comes to drought management and animal husbandry. Having been with him for 13 years (I know a long time) I have marveled at how he manages the farm, the cattle, the sheep and the crops. I have long stated I won’t have time to learn what he has forgotten when it comes to farming, business planning and management of animals.

Why did he take offense? because he’s thinks the work he does I don’t see and when I comment it’s a criticism of his abilities and it’s not. It is far from it, he doesn’t see that I worry about the animals that I can’t help with, other than the odd assistance or (slavery as I call it) I can help with lamb marking, putting rings on tails & testicles, whilst vaccinating them, I am no good at crutching or shearing. We rely on our great mate Ronnie to come and help pick up, put up and as a team we can do over 300 in a day. It’s hard yakka, bending, lifting, drafting (I can do this as well) we manage to work together and enjoy each others company (thanks Ronnie).

I can help with ear tagging the cattle, mustering and weighing, I can’t do the ringing of testicles as the size of these animals scare me and he gets to them young enough they are only about 200 kilo so it’s not so hard. When we ear tag them we have to put them in the race, head bale them (hold their heads with metal doors) whilst I grab their right ear and pierce it and put the legislated ear tag in it. Boy they can make a large noise as they bellow in protest, it’s the same as having ones ear pierced.

I have watched over the summer months as he has gone outside to check waters in troughs and dams, if they are out of water he has to locate the problem and fix it. We spent the best part of one Christmas day – missing lunch with my family to dig up water pipes clear them and wait for the troughs to fill over the farm in 40 degree heat (104 fahrenheit). Cattle and sheep can die without water in one day in this sort of heat.

I have watched him go out and feed hay to animals when our feed has declined, I see him jumping on and off a hay trailer whilst the ute is moving slowly so as to spread out the hay to keep animals fed. He does this every day maintaining the quality of our animals and their food source. I have watched him and gone with him checking things over our 5000 acres, I have taken him drinks and lunch whilst he is sowing, reaping, raking and fencing. We have spent weekends planting up to 3000 trees per year to give animals shelter belts and to re-vegetate tops of hills that blow with sand.

I have adapted to farming and I do have a deep love of what it is I don’t see and I don’t have the passion nor the drive for all of it like he does. I rarely criticise anything he does as I am aware he drives heavy machinery, he can build a shearing shed from plans drawn up with Ronnie on a scrap piece of paper,  he can swear like a farmer (as only they can) at anything and everything, he can care deeply for small animals which is why I am hand rearing 2 calves & a lamb currently.

How to shut me up – sorry Chris it won’t happen.

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Retiring Old Dogs

I come back to my blog after a long absence, I did not stop writing because I didn’t have anything to say, I left because I didn’t know how to express the last couple of months in writing. The last of the summer months were hard on the farm and upon me, losing my beautiful old Pete has been upsetting, his presence has provided 16 yrs + of comfort and assurance without him it was difficult. My mother in law did a painting of him and laminated an old shot which is now on the fridge and every time I open it I give it a pat.

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Moving into the drought and into winter certainly has us all feeling a little bit of relief and I openly (much to the farmers dislike) declare I won’t go through another drought. In fact I told a couple of friends in the supermarket on Saturday, I will move back to my house in the city. He didn’t comment till over 4 hours later and stated I shouldn’t be telling people as they will think I’m going to leave him … news is I will be for the summer. It’s a tough battle mentally watching the farmer and the farm going through drought, nothing looks fresh or green, we are lucky we have had more rain than some people we know.

With Pete gone, it has allowed us to take a breather from things, re-evaluate business and draw up another plan moving forward. I have always talked about moving to retire off the farm. It is something that we both need to agree on, I can see country communities are not great places for the elderly, especially if their families have moved away, the time to stop traveling or driving leaves many isolated and that is not how I want to be nor is here the place I wish to retire in.

I find it amazing when we talk about a plan with others, I get this comment “what will the farmer do if you retire or sell?” it offends me, when I gave up a career I loved, moved away from my daughter, friends etc  these same people never said to me “what will you do living on a farm, 50+kms away from anything, not knowing anybody” not one so as we come to moving our plan forward  I understand how difficult it may be for him, but he too can adjust like I had too.

With Pete gone we have also had time to re-evaluate our working dogs and have noticed Mandy our eldest one needs to retire, she limps on her front foot and looks sore in her back legs, many years ago she jumped in the sheep yards and dislocated her hips – we nursed her back to health and now that she is moving into being 14 or 15 it is time for her to become a house dog. I am sure it’s arthritis setting in and when she looks pained we give her medication to assist. She is transitioning to be an inside dog quite well, she comes in at night jumps on the couch and slept there quite happily for a while till she found her way into our bedroom and on the floor at night scratching for a blanket. This noise woke me up as I was worried she would be too cold and uncomfortable on the carpet, then in Bordertown I found this dog bed and purchased it. As of today Mandy is now the retired dog and today the farmer said she would have to stop traveling with him, it’s stressful  to have her sliding around the front of the Ute if he has to chase cattle, so she is now the inside dog.

Mandy in her bed

Mandy in her bed

Do we identify ourselves when it is time to retire, will we be able to look and see that retirement needs to be an option whilst we are fit, well and young enough to enjoy it? or will we be like Mandy – have that moment where you jump out of the Ute, get put inside and told that’s it, she doesn’t know she’s retired as she still wants to be with him, travel in the Ute and play the vital roll of a working dog.

Welcome to the office floor Mandy, I know I’ll enjoy your company and you can enjoy your retirement.

Rain

Rain, Isn’t that a beautiful word? especially when one hasn’t seen it for a while, in our case it is only a matter of some months but in other areas of Australia is means years. No rain for long periods is not only financially destroying, it is also mentally disabling. Farmers de stocking so as to save animals lives and to save the financial burden of feeding them daily to keep them saleable. That is ‘fit for loading’ fit for human consumption’ ‘there is so much criteria one must know in farming and having drought on top of it all makes things difficult.

We have had rain over the last couple of weeks and of the 60mil kind, this has been enough to add tinges of green to our parched paddocks, put some water in dams and freshen up the earth. It has also added a layer of carpet to our chicken coop. It looks beautiful, it actually looks like someone has come in and laid down 3 inch high grass for the chooks to step onto. It has grown so much we have had to clear from the pen opening as it was too high to swing open the gate.

I like to go up and check the chooks daily to ensure they have fresh water, straw, feed and of course to collect eggs. They are great to give scraps to, currently they are eating or pecking at cat food, our four ‘shed cats’ Matilda, Frankie, Rita & Gatsby grew up with the privilege of eating Bully’s Beef prime grass-fed mince and whiska cat nuts, so if we try to give them anything else they will sit next to it and look at us as though we are giving them arsenic. it is quite funny how they do not remember being rescued from the freezing cold of winter 100kms from no where, given warm beds, baskets, food and shelter.

They cats follow me to the chook pen, they run between the rye grass, run up trees and are highly camouflaged due to their colourings. They meow loudly at you and they have occasionally been in the chook pen lolling about waiting to catch the mice that go in there, they are not predators of these largish birds, the dogs and foxes are. Our cats like mice, bunnies, frill neck lizards, but have to date not been able to eat one due to their (the lizards) protection mechanism of hard scaled skin, we have had bats, moths and skinks as well as baby birds, ones I won’t name here as it is distressing to me. our motto is if they get brought in alive and we catch them then they are set free to get away from cats, it is up to them.

Frankie

Frankie

Matilda

Matilda

Chook pen following the rain

Chook pen following the rain

Gatsby

Gatsby

Rita

Rita