Frugal farm fun

The green knight comes to a milk maid's rescue

The green knight comes to a milk maid’s rescue

Zoe: “I love it when we get bogged. It’s fun.”

Silence

Zoe: “I love it when we get bogged. It’s great!”
Alex: “It’s not great for Mama, Za Za.”
Zoe: (Dancing on the spot) “I LOVE IT!”
Alex: “But Mama doesn’t, don’t you Mama?”
Me: “No, Little Man.”

He was right: I wasn’t pleased to be stuck in the sticky sulphuric sludge of the gully but wind the clock back 35 years and it would have been a different matter.

I remember the delight of being bogged amidst the despair of my father. Every bogging was an adventurous departure from the daily grind, complete with desperate stuffing of the wheel tracks with bark and anything else that came to hand before spinning wheels sprayed mud from here to kingdom come as the fishtailing ute wrestled its way free.

I was reminded of all that as the three of us trudged (or skipped) across the paddocks back to the dairy at dusk and again this morning reading The Conversation’s article about the cost of raising children. It turns out parents are really no less wealthy than childless couples. One of the reasons offered by the Curtin University scholars rings true:

“When children are present, nights at home with the family, a simple visit to the park, or watching your child play sport may provide enjoyment that would otherwise be gained through income-intensive pursuits, such as holidays and going to restaurants. This is more than a direct substitution effect – parents’ own utility may increase at a lower level of financial outlay.”

The best things in life are indeed free.

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Filed under Family and parenting

Watch a calf being born

Although we keep an eagle eye over cows as they approach calving time, most give birth perfectly naturally without any help from us just like this lovely lady. Her calf was up and walking within the hour and running by the afternoon. These little animals are amazing sprinters! Just ask eight-year-old Zoe, who tried and failed miserably to outrun a three-day-old calf this morning!

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Filed under Animal Health and Welfare, Farm

This cow is over the moon!

The grass was greener on the other side of the fence.
We opened up the fresh paddock.
The cow was over the moon!

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Filed under Cows, Farm

Hoarding hay while the sun shines at the solstice

June

On the first day of winter, I wrote about the threat of a super El Nino. Since then, the warning signs have faded although the Bureau of Meteorology still says there’s a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino developing later in the season.

This far into winter, it’s been a bumper. A “bumper winter” is traditionally an oxymoron but I have more grass now than in most autumns. Here we are at the winter solstice bathing in sun!

This morning's view across the swamp

This morning’s view across the swamp

It’s a chance to hoard the precious stocks of silage we conserved last spring. A deliciously dry, warm winter is often the silver lining to a desiccating dry summer.

DropletsOnWire

 

 

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The farm on the first day of winter with a super El Nino on the way

On the first day of winter
On the first day of winter

 

“Monday morning feels so bad
Everybody seems to nag me
Comin’ Tuesday I’ll feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wednesday just won’t go
Thursday goes too slow
I’ve got Friday on my mind”

It’s winter’s first morning.  I’ve got spring and summer on my mind.
    The calves are arriving thick and fast now, with six healthy newborns yesterday. The days are a blur of hay, silage, calvings and colostrum but, mercifully, not mud. In fact, up until a week ago, the ground was so dry that the grass was growing at the same rate it does in summer – just one leaf per plant every 18 days.
     We’ve since had rain, with more forecast, and the grass has sprung into action again.  Winter’s shorter days, lack of sunlight and cooler soils will bring growth rates back again almost immediately – it’s one of Mother Nature’s few guarantees. Her moody El Ninos, however, are generally far less predictable but we’re being warned to prepare for one “out of the box” this year.
     All the tell-tale signs of an El Nino event are shaping up at a time when it would normally be far too early to forecast one of these protracted dry spells. So early, climate experts are predicting a Super El Nino. Drought with a capital “D”, the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1998, the hottest year on record.
     What am I doing to prepare? As little as possible; you won’t see me opening my cheque book again this season for anything other than the necessities.
     The truth is that we are already doing a lot to adapt to a drier climate: shifting the calving pattern, planting trees for shade and pasture shelter, sowing more resilient pasture species, reusing effluent and kitting out the dairy yard with sprinklers.
     Fingers crossed.

 

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Filed under Climate

MG capital raising program raises plenty of questions

Farming is all about taking risks. Our businesses rise and fall largely on the backs of increasingly volatile international commodity price cycles, exchange rates and the weather. Plenty of really good farmers have come unstuck through no fault of their own, other than taking a good risk at a bad time.

On the other hand, our co-op, Murray Goulburn, has always been considered a pretty safe bet. It was formed more than 60 years ago by a group of Victorian dairy farmers seeking a better deal for their milk and has grown to become Australia’s third-largest food and beverage company – dwarfed only by Coca Cola Amatil and Lion.

Our managing director, Gary Helou, doesn’t want to stop there. At a supplier meeting this week, he spoke about the need to move at “break-neck speed” with new products to capture new markets within the next three to five years, swallowing competitors along the way.

They’re exciting times for this once risk-averse co-operative. The proposal being put to farmer shareholders is to list a chunk of the co-op on the ASX so that anyone can buy a piece of the action. Farmers with excess shares will be able to sell to non-farmers but these external investors, however, wouldn’t have voting rights.

Am I in favour? Yes, if the new capital structure can:

  • Enshrine farmer control
  • Maximise farmer profitability
  • Treat all farmer shareholders equitably
  • Allow the co-operative to provide great opportunities for new generations of farmers

Those are big “ifs” and there just isn’t enough detail yet to know whether any of them are satisfied. It is incredibly heartening though that the MG Board has listened to member concerns that the initial start date of the program of July 1 was far too soon to consider the complex implications of the proposal.

That’s the beauty of a co-operative: members have a real say in their own futures. And that’s why those of us who cherish it must have no fear of asking questions.

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Filed under Farm, Murray Goulburn

A backyard campfire, sparkling satellites and a simple sunset tell a story

The sunset was fading as the moon rose slowly above the treetops last evening when Zoe remarked, “You know what? Amy was so amazed by the sunset that she took a picture of it on her phone.”.

Moon

Not long ago, when the moon was but a slip, Zoe’s city cousins came to visit. They didn’t go much beyond the confines of the garden but it was an experience of “country” all the same.

We built a little fire on the driveway to toast marshmallows and nurse steaming hot drinks. Normally languid teens who had never before struck a match crashed around in the darkness under the eucalypts for old branches to feed the flames. Uncles and aunts remembered childhood camping trips at Cockatoo and the whole group came alive with sightings of satellites drifting among the stars.

You don’t need to be from the country to see what makes life on the farm so invigorating but you do need a taste of it now and then. We’re lucky to have relatives from the city who love to visit but not everybody’s in the same boat – after all, less than 2 per cent of working Australians call themselves farmers.

It’s a real shame then, that Farm Day, which brings farmers and other Australians together once year, is in recess due to OHS liability concerns. Best of luck to Deb and her team in finding a solution.

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Filed under Community, Farm