The Year – Where Has It Gone??

This has been one of the biggest years of our dairy life – not that I have been in the industry for long!

First, a quick background…Two years ago in August, we moved from a farm on a floodplain where nine floods in three years had nearly sent us broke. We lost a lot of cattle and a lot of pasture but we learned a lot!

Farm in a good time

Farm in a good time

Just after we moved we got the biggest flood the valley had seen in a very long time! We were cut off from town, which is a rarity, and a lot of water inundated the farm. Thankfully we hadn’t really started many improvements along the creek and we had plenty of high ground for our cows. The other saving grace was the water got away pretty quickly without ruining feed or bogging up paddocks.If we had still been on the other farm, we wouldn’t be talking about dairy farming now!

January this year started a bit dry, but by the end of February we’d had a massive flood, again being cut off from town but not completely – we could take the scenic route into big town.Two weeks later though, we had another huge downpour. This time we were really cut off from town!! We could get out and look around but all the bridges were closed and many roads were flooded.

Same paddocks in flood

Same paddocks in flood

The problem was, that was the last of the rain….

January 2013 Flood

February 2013 Flood

We hadn’t seen a dry month since we started up. In fact, when we were share farming a little further north (not for long) we experienced a massive flood that saw the all the towns in the area on flood alert. The emergency warning signal on the ABC radio was first launched about then and has become way to familiar to us since!

And it just didn’t stop for nearly 5 years!

Until this year. It just got dryer and dryer. We kept expecting it to rain because it always had. We used all our fodder. We were lucky not to loose cows. It was very lucky we were offered a good paddock of Lucerne next door to rent or we would have been in truly dire straights!

Dry Times

Dry Times

All of our water for the troughs – what troughs there are – the dairy and the house come out of the creek. The creek has never stopped flowing in the memory of the owner. This year it came very close.Hubby had dug deeper holes where the foot valve is. Two days before it rained the pump stopped running, the foot valve was out again. This time we’d need to call the excavator in.

It finally rained in October! The feed came back in abundance. We had thought we’d be struggling with the vital dry fodder – silage an hay – that is essential for our enterprise. But we have a start!! We still need at least 450 more bales of silage or hay. And if we get the opportunity we will add more small bales to the 220 cut during this week.

Rain! This picture was uploaded by NSW Country Hour to their Facebook page.

Rain! This picture was uploaded by NSW Country Hour to their Facebook page.

As far as family goes, its been a year of milestones.Our eldest turned 18. He also got his license and a Hilux ute. He stayed for a while, but was offered a job on a feedlot out west that paid actual money. We were glad to see him go but hated seeing him leave. He needs to fend for himself to figure out who he is and what he’s about.

Miss 12 on her year 6 formal night.

Miss 12 on her year 6 formal night.

Miss 12 started her final year of primary school. She is a very bright child with a love of learning so the teachers all love her!! She has played soccer for a while and was spotted by the local Development Squad coach. She trialed and made it to the under 11′s and then the under 12′s girls Development Squad which saw us travelling often! It was made harder because the games were mostly far away up north, and we had club games on Saturday. There were three girls from the DS on her club team, and a DS boy as well. They played hard all year and won the prize for the least amount of points conceded for the year. We didn’t make the grand final, but not for lack of trying!Her crowning glory for the year has to be winning the Principals Medal at school. Of this I am very proud!

Miss 5-nearly-6 started kindergarten. She loves learning too, but has a different way of showing it!! As a TAFE teacher told me two years ago, world domination isn’t going to be enough for her!She has so much energy and confidence that it becomes an issue! Luckily she has had the best kindi teacher a child like her could ask for! She has a love for the animals though and is always pestering one or more of them!

I was glad they got a year together. It will be interesting to see the change in dynamics next year though.

Miss 5 and her cat Blacky.

Miss 5 and her cat Blacky.

Our business has struggled this year big time, but I’m pretty sure we weren’t alone!  Our milk price has dropped further and further this year. We (and most the district) came up for contract renewal this year. And a very large Co-op from Victoria came a knocking. It has been a tense six months of meetings, negotiations, more meetings, pleading with our current company to give us a sustainable price to no avail. We have decided to change supplier – again. More about that in the new year after our first milk cheque comes in!

Our plan for a while was to rear Wagyu calves for the Japanese market, but the people we were dealing with treated us like idiots, so that didn’t happen.

The best thing to happen all year to our business was the locals accepted us and realized we were here for the long haul, not the fly-by-nighters they assumed we were. We have made some truly useful connections and even better, friends! The support given to (and I hope by) us in these last eight months of hardship has been invaluable

The worst was having to make the decision to put one of my babies down.

For me personally, its been a strange year!

This time last year I was a rising star in my Nutrimetics team. I had done enough sales to earn me a trip to our big January do. By march I had a tidy little team working under me and was headed for Management! Cars, holidays, the lot!

I had also decided to add running 10k to my list of things to achieve. I’d lost a lot of weight and increased my fitness and was looking for a new challenge. So running was it! And I loved it! I started off with an Ipod on the dirt road here. I figured out pretty quickly the dirt hills were hard!! So I was getting up at 3.30 and going to town to run on the tar, under street lights. I was afraid of being hit by a car so stopped taking my headphones. It was the best move ever! Not only was I preparing my body for the day, my mind had time to sort itself out too!! I highly recommend it. Even once or twice a week.

July, that all changed.

As I mentioned before, our eldest decided to go west. That meant I had to fill the void, leaving no time for my burgeoning business or my running. I got to 8k by the way – not far off it! Now its just too hot!

I have rediscovered my passion for dairy, especially the calves.IMG_00000527

Another thing I discovered this year was Twitter. It has saved me from going insane!!  I went from contact with other humans that didn’t include talk of cows, to no adult conversation at all in a blink of an eye!!  I have made some great twiends that hopefully I get to meet some of in the new year… you know who you are!

I also discovered agripolitics…. this is a subject I am very green on! But I am loving learning all about the way things work, different views and how it all effects me. Thankfully there are some very patient people who really know their stuff who I can’t see roll their eyes at my naivety! This is an area I am hoping to make a difference in some day.

 

I have also discovered there are actually groups of people who believe the life of a human is less sacred than the life of an animal.

And finally, blogging! This is very recent, but as one twiend said, its good to get it out of your head! I am especially proud of my Mental Health Awareness Month blog – I think its made a difference.

So! What’s on the agenda for the next 12 months?

Hopefully a better milk price and a better season!

I will be attending my first Dairy Australia Conference in February and cannot wait!

Miss 12 will be starting high school – that I can wait for! The attitude is doing my head in already!

What I really want is peace – for those in war torn countries, for women, for the innocent children.

I want peace of mind for my family, knowing the bills will be paid, food on the table and clothes on our backs.

I want to know agriculture is safe from foreign ownership and threat of closure, and disease.

I want to know that if they choose, all of our children will have a chance to follow their hearts into agriculture.

Merry Christmas to you and your families. I hope its a safe one for all.

See you in the new year!!!Xmas Cow

Woman – Who Would Be One?

I have lived and worked in agriculture my whole life. I understand fully the role of women through Australia’s history. We were brought here to service men, breed workers and keep the house. I am ducking for cover….

But tell me it isn’t true and I will show you example after example of women being used this way.

Its not just our short history that has upset me of late. Rick Steins India has fascinated me. I love spices and anything cooking really. But he was talking about pepper, and happened to mention that pepper was so highly valued that all manner of goods were traded for it, including European women for dancing girls and concubines. In other words, pepper was of more value to them than their daughters.

Most of the women in history that have been given any kudos have been royalty, and even they were treated by their peers as less than their male counterparts.

Henry the 8th – esteemed King, womanizer, philanderer..

Cleopatra – Queen of Egypt, noted for having slept with many famous men..

The difference is that Henry was seen as ‘manly’.

Even in todays society, men are seen as studs, women are sluts.

Can you imagine an all girl band – Like the Bangles – having ‘groupies’ like the boy bands do, and getting away with it?

So what do we do about it?

I’m convinced the ‘I Am Woman Hear Me Roar’ movement didn’t work. In fact all it did was create angry women.

I was brought up believing I could achieve whatever I set my mind to and that I was every bit as good as any male. And I could have and I am! But that advice should have come with a warning lable stating men don’t realize this and you will have to work 10 times harder than they will for the same result. Especially in agriculture!

I have come to the conclusion that the district I grew up in was progressive. We girls were treated no different to the boys at school or on the farms. There were no princesses, everybody rode horses and motorbikes, fenced, got the wood in and learned to cook. At school the boys did sewing, the girls did woodwork. We all played footy in the mud!

When I got out into the real world of agriculture I discovered it was a mans world and fought against it very hard! I have explained before my mental illness and the bearing it had on my work.  I was working in shearing sheds as a roustabout, and we all know the (undeserved) reputation they have! And if you didn’t meet the ‘expectations’ of the shearers - a lot of whom were married with children – you were shunned. Shunning didn’t bother me. I was a loner anyway! When I started classing the real problems began though. It takes a certain amount of ego to shear sheep, and most learner shearers start off as a shed hand, shearing a sheep or two  for someone during the run. But they detested me and let me know, because I made them do the job they were being paid for. And I know from experience that if I had testicles I wouldn’t have suffered the abuse.

I am sure this not so level playing field will not resolve itself until the men of the world realize what they are doing.

Or when the media – mostly run by men – stops this.

We women of Oz should feel blessed we don’t live in India, where rape of girls and women is an every day occurrence. Or in a country that believes a raped 13yo child has committed adultery and is stoned to death. Or in Yemen, where a quarter of all females are married before they turn 15.

Its sickening…

But what can we do? I don’t know. It is getting better. The women of 2013, in most countries, have it much better than women in 1913. I am certain my daughters will have it even easier due the work we are putting in now. Especially in dairy. There seems to be a lot of women leading the way in our industry, which is good to see. I look up to them and aspire to be a leader like them in years to come.

To finish off, I will share with you and ‘enlightening’ couple of comments made to me by someone on twitter last night. I have cut and pasted the words so as to leave the clown anonymous…

@AlisonGermon I’m sorry, you will never be more worth while than a man. Its a basic tenet of conservative ideology. Read your history

come on you know its true: @alisongermon was never going to be PM from the day she was concieved  #conservativefemale

They do still exist, though as I said to another tweeter, it may be true for me, but not for my daughters. People like him are going the way of the dinosaur… I hope….