Weather Update and New Beginnings!

I really want to thank all those who read my last two weather reports – they can be found here and here – and tell you how much I appreciate your concern. It really does make a difference to know people care.

Well, here’s is the final update.

It looks like, at this stage, the live export trade is not effected by the sanctions. Though we know the export market from here won’t last for various other reasons and have prepared ourselves for this. But what the ongoing effects will be for the dairy industry are yet to be seen. Watch this space……

My last post was a cryptic one, I know!

I didn’t want to say too much in case it all fell through – again!

At the beginning of August, we were offered as many of 120 cows as we wanted for free. We took 85 of them. Before it rained. When feed was short.

Madness, right?

Maybe! It brings our milking herd to just over 200 cows.

So about now you’re probably going “Great! What? Free!?!? How does that happen??”

Some of you may remember about a year ago we were going to start breeding Wagyu X calves for the Japanese export market using cows we didn’t need to pay for. Except the person we had to deal with at the time was behaving in a very shady manner. If you don’t know, its here.

Well, its now being run by a far more competent person. They offered us the cows, we took them!

The deal is, they supply us 85 cows, we supply them 85 Wagyu X calves weighing 110kg’s.

Wagyu calves are notoriously hard to keep alive. I have had a few (OK, a lot of!) people be very negative about the whole thing.

You know they were born to die?

Have you ever reared a Wagyu before?

But we have done our homework, don’t worry!!!

And we have surrounded ourselves with positive people willing to help.

I realised a long time ago that if you listen with an open mind to those who know what you don’t, the information will flow.

And it has!

So, what brought this on?

Dean, hubby’s first born, decided he wanted to come back to the family farm. It’s something I’m not 100% sold on. I feel, at 19, he needs to be out exploring the world and how he fits into it. But, it is what it is!

And he – rightly so I guess – wants to be payed…
And to be able to pay him, we need to grow our herd.

To have him home, though, means another set of hands. We have another man who turns up most days and helps because we have taken some of his cows in.

So all the stars were aligning big time!

We had hands, ability and the offer to get big without too many overheads!

We didn’t have rain or feed though. It has rained since and we are hoping the grass grows quickly.

We anguished over this decision more than we have for any other decision. This is a huge commitment. Huge!

The cows arrived 2 weeks ago. So far, we’ve handled it!

Oh, 22 Wagyu X calves turned up with the cows! Ages vary from 6 weeks old right down to 2 newborns. So I was thrown right in the deep end!

So far, so good!!!

One of the reasons I started this blog was because there is no information readily available about rearing Wagyu calves in Australia. So I thought I would put the information out as I discovered it!

And I think this would be the perfect opportunity to show the negative Nancies that it can be done, you just need to follow the rules! In the mean time, I’ll use their negativity to fuel my fire.

Maybe time will show I am cocky and arrogant. Maybe we will be game changers in the industry! Who knows.

One thing I do know is this….

You won’t know if you don’t have a go!

So, I will endeavour to keep those of you that are interested up to date with the goings on with these calves!

And, as happens, lots of other great things have started to fall into place on other fronts as well! But that’s for another day…

Exciting times ahead for us!

By the way, I have deliberately not mentioned names or companies. I am still trying to get in contact with people to get permission and set boundaries.

 

The Perfect Storm – Weather Update

I published a post the other day explaining, among other things, how the trade sanctions placed on Australia by Russia will effect us. If you missed it, here it is.

This is an update.

Thankfully, our heifers are not destined for Russia this time. This means we don’t need to figure out what we have to do with them.

Sadly, another export company has a lot of heifers already in quarantine ready for shipment to Russia and as far as I can tell, forward contracts to honor.

Our buyer said not to expect a phone call from him for a while. He has different markets and can soak these heifers up.

Personally, I’m not that upset with this. I loose sleep and am prone to bursting into tears randomly for weeks every time we send heifers away.

But the impact on the whole dairy industry is still to be felt.

We also need to take into account what will happen to the beef industry, as this effects the value of our cull cows. Its of particular concern for us as the local abattoir is Russian certified (or whatever it needs to be to export to Russia). It is also another export destination closed. Already Brazil is ramping up production and making deals to fill the void. They can also supply grain and dairy products too. Thank you Colin Bettles for this link.

And my worry that the ARA’s will discover Australia exports’ dairy cattle is happening. I’ve thought for a while now dairy would be the next big thing for them to try to dismantle once the pig and chicken industries were destroyed. Could be happening earlier than I expected.

And I feel I should explain the WMP issue too.

The farm gate pricing is directly linked to World Milk Price. Its all business. A good blog on how our milk prices are decided can be found here. Marian is a great dairy advocate worth a follow too!

The lack of rain – still an issue!

Really, there isn’t much we can fix here! All we can do is weather the storm the best we can!

 

Silly Mistakes

I made a silly mistake.

I looked at the 28 day forecast.

Mid North Coast 28-day rainfall forecast

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
26
High
27 28 29
Low
30 31 1

Aug

2
Low
3 4 5 6 7
Low
8 9
10 11 12
Low
13
Low
14
Low
15
Low
16
Low
17 18 19 20
Med
21 22
Low
Chance of rainfall somewhere within district
Nil
<25%
Low
25-50%
Medium
50-75%
High
≥75%

The high for Saturday is a 90% chance of 5-10ml.

The 12 month forecast was even more depressing.

Then on the My Weather page, I found this.

Taree Ap Year To Date
Average rainfall to Jul 781.0mm 91.0 day(s)
Total for 2014 342.4mm 91 day(s)
Total to this day 2013 1009.2mm 98 day(s)
Wettest day 90.6mm Mar 2
Lowest temperature 0.2°C Jun 28
Highest temperature 37.5°C Jan 2

It shows we’ve had less than half our rainfall for the year. On top of the less than half we had last year. If you haven’t read that blog, you can here.

We are one of the lucky few who have some fodder conserved. It’s not brilliant, but its better than nothing.

The rain is something we cannot control.

Nan’s philosophy was it always rains at the end of a drought.

Thank you – I think – to Elders Weather for the information.

 

 

 

 

Simple Pleasures

After my last post, I’ve decided to highlight the joy I find in a job that can be very hard physically and emotionally.

Today, sunrise.

Without fail, the sun comes up every morning!  And although we desperately need rain, the sunrises on these cool winter mornings lately have been spectacular.

The most intense reds and oranges.

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I am the calf rearer.  This picture was taken from the spot I feed the bigger calves next to the dairy.

And there has been a planet just above the horizon of a morning.  I’m not sure what it is, but when the moon was also there last week it was quite eerie.

image

I consider myself fortunate I get to witness the renewal dawn brings almost every day.

Especially these cool mornings, when the sun peaks over the horizon, I close my eyes and feel the warmth grow on my face.

image

Once the sun comes over the hill it rises fast, bringing with it a joyful feeling that today will be a great day.

image

The odd light frost settles on the flats but quickly melt away.

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The calves like to find a sunny spot after their feed.

image

I feel sorry for those who are still in bed at daybreak. They don’t know not what they miss.

And Life Goes On…….

I haven’t written a blog for a while.  I made a promise to myself I would only write about things that are important to me and readable and interesting to you, the reader.

I thought about the why/why nots of writing this. But if I can help just one person….. so here I am putting it out there.

Nothing here has been “going to plan”.

We had the drought that was broken by some well timed rain.  This meant our cows would have grass, the creek would have water and we could restock our fodder supply.

And we could breath again.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray…..

In a conversation with my local vet about the dry and the effect it will have on calving cows he mentioned that cows that have a tough mid trimester will often deliver badly.  That is to say, the cow will have problems at birth and/or the calf will be born in a poor condition.  The cow and possibly the calf will have health issues and down cows would be an issue.

And that’s exactly what is happening now.

The majority of births are fine.  We have a few purchased heifers that may just have been put in calf too early an are having some issues and we have had a couple of older cows get calving paralysis, one of which didn’t get up on their own again and eventually threw the towel in.

The foxes too are back at it. They take advantage of the cows while they’re calving and will chew on the soft areas – the calf’s naval, nose and dew claws and the cows teats and vulva. This I have written about before and can be read here.

But that’s not why I am writing this today.

This is for the other farmers out there doing what we do – just put one foot in front of the other, clean up the mess left by all this, and get up the next day and do it all over again.  With dairy farming there isn’t even a day off. No matter what happens, we have to be back here for milking every afternoon and be able to get up and milk in the morning.

This is about the mental health perspective.

I have written before about BDP an the effect it has on me.

I am currently struggling to keep it all together.

We have had to put a few cows down and couple of calves have also had to be destroyed due to never recovering from the traumatic birth or because of the foxes.

Its getting to me.  Its getting to both of us.

I am starting not to enjoy anything.  Everything I need to do is a mammoth task.  Music can’t cheer me up. I’m overeating and with all the wrong foods. Or I’m not eating at all. I find myself sitting in the car in town for 20+ minutes before I get out in case someone wants to ask how the farm is going. How we’re going.  Or just interact with me.  I get home an do the same except I don’t want to find out what has gone wrong this time.

The only thing I do like is reading, because I can escape into someone else’s world for a while.

I am fully aware these are signs of depression and anxiety taking hold and believe me I am fighting hard so they don’t.  The demons that have pursued me my whole life are not going to win.  I have skills now to keep this at bay.

And if worst comes to worst, there is always medication.  I will resist for as long as I can though because waking with a hangover every day is not fun at all!

I also don’t want this to become a pity party all about me and my issues.

I want the other farmers doing it very tough financially, with the weather, with sick stock, sadness all around them, and a feeling there is no end in sight to know they are not alone!  We are all doing it very tough.  And that’s not to say what they are feeling isn’t important – it is.  We are all going through it but its an individual fight.

The farmers need to recognize that nasty blackness going on underneath all the business in their heads is completely normal and nothing to feel ashamed of.

Seeking help is not failing.

If someone genuinely asks ‘are you ok’, answer honestly.  Just sharing can lighten the load.

Visit your GP and let them know.  There are services available through them to help.

There are also people you can contact over the phone or internet if going to the Dr is too much.

NSW has Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) aimed at rural and remote people.  They can connect you with services in your local area.

What ever happens, farmers should not ignore what’s going on and just suck it up.

And if you know someone who has changed, become withdrawn, drinking more, angrier than usual, really not coping, ask them are they ok.  There isn’t a lot you can do if they lie to you.  But you are able to call someone like RAMHP, Lifeline or the metal health professionals in your area and ask what your options are.

Don’t feel like its interfering – you could just save a life and a family from years of torment.

This is a poem by Murray Hartin that has been doing the rounds lately.  Everytime I  hear it or read it I cry.  I’m not sure of its the words or the crying,  but I always feel a little better after.

Just know you are doing the best you can with what you have, and don’t be too hard on yourself.

 

 

 

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