Author Archives: Craiglands

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I blinked, and it is almost the end of the year

After a lengthy post back at the start of the year where I spoke about Christmas, holidays and the start of the school year, I promised myself that I would be more up to date with my blogging.  After all, we do refer people to this website and I knew that it would not do to have outdated information or infrequent blog posts on here.  And yet, this is exactly what I have done this year.

Sigh.

I’m not going to do a recap now (after all, what will I be left with to write about in my recap of the year when it comes Christmas!!), but suffice to say that it has been a busy, lengthy and at times, challenging year.

I thought that having the 4 kids at school would free me up for doing more “working ON the business rather than IN it” but you know, it hasn’t worked out that way.  I increasingly feel pulled and pushed into every direction and sometimes I just don’t seem to get anything achieved.  That being said, I have been able to concentrate more on the calves this year than I have for the past 8 or so.  And I loved it.  Until I didn’t.

And I didn’t because we had a (still) unknown bug hit our calves over a 3 week period and we recorded the highest mortality rate EVER in our calf rearing shed.  No amount of testing, autopsies, drug therapy, TLC or prayers were going to identify and ultimately stop whatever it was affecting our babies.  At the end of the season, we lost in the realm of 23% of our calves*.  Almost a quarter.  A QUARTER.  F*@k.  This left me in a pickle, as I then needed to keep everything that survived.  I had no surplus to play with.  So regardless of the genetics, I am keeping all B&W heifers.

(*I should clarify that number, by saying that this included bull calves as well, but as I had decided to keep about 60 bull calves for meat production and paddock bulls, this figure was kept as it reflected losses of bulls we may have kept as well).

Keeping 60 odd bulls has been a mixed bag of blessings.  We decided somewhere during the first part of the year to retain some bull calves that we could use as an income stream seperate to the milk income we received.  Whilst we are passionate and committed dairy farmers, the world and the economic climate is changing around us – and it is not for the better.  Having all our eggs in one basket and relying on a single commodity to provide our income is rapidly becoming a stupid business management decision.  Sure, we have cull cows and bobby calves to provide some income from, but that has traditionally been around the 10% mark.  We recognise that we need to get at least 25-30% of our income from an enterprise that is not dairy.  Over the years, we have tossed around various ideas of what we might be able to do, from vertical integration (processing our own milk and selling) to horizontal integration (purchasing a property that we can managed for feed).  But both carry huge risks and capital outlay that we just don’t have handy right now.  So the logical move is to utilise what we already have and try to make this better.

So rather than selling all the bobby calves for market price as 4-6 day old calves (which quite frankly is about $1/kg or less), we would grow them out here and sell them when they were coming up 18months -2yrs for the meat market.  There is also the idea that given our background in herd identification, monitoring, genetics and measurements, we could keep some of the better genetic bulls and sell them as working bulls at 2yrs of age.  And possibly, get a small number tested and into the semen market.

So this is what we did.  And then, after committing to keeping around 50-55 bull calves, we got hit with the news that we are entering an El Nino episode and that grain and hay prices are about to go through the roof.  Yay……(not really).

All of a sudden, we were lumbered with excess stock that we cannot really afford to feed at inflated prices, and stock that buyers are not wanting while climatic conditions are so……shit.  So what can we do?  Well, keep them.  Feed them.  Look after them.  And hope and pray that when the El Nino season passes and people are looking to restock numbers and potentially buy in some good paddock bulls, that our patience and persistence will pay off.

The upside is that we won’t need to buy in any Holstein paddock bulls in a couple of years.

We have increasing been using genetics as a management tool for breeding and selection.  At the end of last year, I made the decision that we would not use any Holstein semen in the late cows as I did not want to be tempted to keep the resulting calves (because their genetics was in all likelihood, not going to improve my herd).  So instead, I told Mark to use Angus and a relatively new beef breed – Speckle Park.  Our first SP calves hit the ground and they were VERY popular.  Not just with buyers wanting them, but surprisingly, with Mark as well.  I had to fight him off keeping them.  In the end, I think he ended up keeping 2 or 3 heifers and 2 bulls.  The others went to living homes where I get updates on some of them from their owners (Cookie & Cream, Salt and Pepper…).  I have to admit, the SP calves really were a highlight of the calving season and ended everything on a happy note.

Speckle Park x Holstein heifer calf

Breakfast time

Having breaky

2018 babies


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….and we’re back to normal programming

Category : Family

Is it just me?  Is it because I’m getting older?  But I swear those Christmas holidays seemed so much shorter than normal.  They simply flew by!  Mind you, there were times that they seemed to drag, and those were the days that we had absolutely NOTHING on – my version of bliss, but the kid’s version of utter HELL.  And what normally ensued was fighting, arguing, the occasional punch up, a couple of blood noses, screaming, crying……you get the picture.  So of course, it became hell for me too.  Because unlike Mark, I couldn’t escape the little buggers.  I was trapped.

Proof that injuries were sustained…..H knocked out Bella’s tooth.

But on the days that the sun shone, and there were things to do, games to play, places to see, the holidays were fabulous.

 

Christmas this year had a big scale back from what the kids had enjoyed in previous years.  Present numbers were reduced and there were “themes” around what they were going to receive.  A friend of mine – Kerryn Smith – has been doing these “Four Things” each year;

  1. Something to wear
  2. Something to read
  3. Something you need
  4. Something you want

..or something like that anyway.  Those are the themes we used.  Plus they each got a big present from Mark and I as well.  Plus the Santa sacks (that contained bathers, towels, water pistols….big chunky stuff and some small $2 shop stuff!).  The kids were told that this would happen and that if they came up with a good idea for one of these themes for a sibling, that they could “nab” that one and the others would have to choose from what was left.  Of course, I actually put the money towards buying them, but I have to say, that the ideas were amazingly moderate in price.  It was fantastic!

Christmas 2017 family pic

Biddy celebrating her 10th birthday on Christmas Day! Double digits!!!

(on a side note, we were informed reliably by Tom just before Christmas that he knew that Santa was not real.  And for that measure, he also knew the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny were not real either.  Which all came as a relief to me.  I really thought that I would mourn the day when my kids stopped believing, but in fact, I celebrated this milestone.  Now Tom can help.  We had a discussion about how Santa WAS in fact real.  Very real.  But Santa is not the man in the red suit that he’d been led to believe, and to believe in.  He was in fact a great number of people that worked together to keep the magic alive for younger kids.  But moreso, it was about the fact that BEING Santa gives you great pleasure and a sense of community.  It is about what YOU can contribute, and how giving actually feels good, rather than getting presents.  I think he got it.  He helped with the gifts this year (he understands that he has to upkeep the charade of the Santa sack that he gets so that the younger ones can believe), and he is very much looking forward to being part of it all in the future.  We quoted the line, made famous by Willem Dafoe’s character, Norman Osborn in Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility”.  Tom now has the responsibility of keeping it all alive).

Anyway, Christmas went well.  I tried to set the side of the house on fire with the duck in the Webber, but luckily Mark got a water pistol for Christmas off the kids, and being the champion fighter fighter that he is, he managed to put it out with just one refill of his pistol.  Needless to say, we had the duck for dinner.  Luckily the turkey was already cooked!

Mark and I milked that arvo, and it was bloody hot.  And I forgot to take a refreshing bevvy with me to bring up the cows.  Rookie mistake.

placing flowers on Rex’s grave

The week following Christmas is a stupid one.  No-one quite knows what day it is.  Some shops are shut, others are open.  Some staff have leave, others only have the Chrissy day off.  Sleeping routines have gone out the window and the kids are not getting to bed before midnight.  It’s a crazy mish mash I tell you. We also lost our dog Rex on New Years Eve.  He tangles with the tractor and came off badly.  RIP Rex.  We also lost a few chooks, but this was by design.  They are now gracing my freezer and will form the basis of some very yummy meals.

 

But before long, we are starting to think about school starting and with Tom starting secondary school this year, we had book lists to pick up, computer to order, uniforms to be delivered.  It was a bit exciting really.  H started prep as well and hence, it was 4 sets of school shoes and 4 pairs of runners.  $850 later………

 

Mark and I attended a fire in Terang.  Hot and blustery, but a reasonable outcome all things considered.

And a great night out was enjoyed watching the Renegades thump the Sydney Sixers.  Yeah!

A relaxing 2 weeks in Apollo Bay was called for and we packed up and headed down to the beach for some sun, surf and Dooley’s ice creams (search them on Facebook).  It is always difficult to come back after that sort of break, however, school and work beckons and resistance is futile.

Dooley’s Ice-cream…….quintessential Summer

A walk through the Otways – Mait’s Rest

H was the first cab off the rank, starting prep on Wednesday.  He was so excited and looking forward to it all.  The uniform looks huge on him, but experience lets me know that it won’t be this way for long.  Biddy and Bella joined him on Thursday, with Tom also attending Trinity College for the first time on Thursday too.  Again, a very excited young man heading off to start the next chapter of his life.  I was a bit more emotional about Tom going to secondary than I was about H leaving me!

H’s first day of prep (31/1/18)

All going off to school (1/2/18)

He’s creeping up on me. I’m betting that he’ll be as tall – if not taller – than me at the end of the year.

Tom’s first day at Trinity (1/2/18)

Getting ready to hop on the bus

It’s a big step for a little kid. Four attempts to get on!

Made it! On the bus.

For Mark and I, well we scored new cars.  Well, I scored a new car, he scored my hand-me-down.  But I had it serviced and detailed and it seemed like a new car!!

So all in all, it was a pretty busy Christmas break.  I look forward to enjoying the rest of summer, hopefully catching up with more friends and family that we didn’t see over Christmas.  But for now, I am off to referee some more fighting and arguing because its Friday arvo and what else is there to do but start WWIII with your siblings?!


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Planning for 2018

Category : General Farm

A new calendar year always gives you the opportunity to start afresh.  It is a bit silly that a date on a calendar gives us the “permission” to do this, but nevertheless, we all do.

So today, I started some outlines of things that we will implement this year on farm, starting with breeding objectives and mating goals.  Over the past couple of years, we have been amassing quit a bit of information on the cows via herd tests, taking part in the Improving Herds project, submitting cows for Holstein Australia classifications and through genetically testing our calves for the past few years.  However, this information can become onerous quite quickly and what tends to happen is that it is simply set aside.  Today I worked out a rough plan of how we will start to integrate all this information together.  It’s going to take time and it will be a work in progress, but I hope that we will be able to have some firm records to measure ourselves against.

I was heartened to see that we had moved up 150+ places in Datagenes Genetic Progress Report since August 2017.  We hadn’t done particularly well in our sire selection for our 2014 drop cows, but things have picked up markedly with 2015’s data coming through.  And as I mentioned in the cow section, we joined our cows differently in 2017, so hopefully, we will see even more genetic gains as we go on.

I will also be taking more photos around the farm and uploading them on here throughout the year.  I will also be setting up a new page which will deal with current events on farm.  For those that are viewing our farm from urban areas, this will hopefully give you a better idea of the constant work that goes on within a dairy business.


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The signing off of another year

As I sit here, on the last day on 2017, I have a five minute window to reflect on what this year has been about for us.  There have been some great moments, but there have also been some terribly low ones too.  But I guess that we need them to learn from, to grow from and to show us just how great the good times are.

So what were the highlights and lowlights?

  • Mark was diagnosed with PMR (polymyalgia rheumatic) which answered a number of questions but presented us with a long recovery period on high medications
  • We spent 10 days at Apollo Bay over summer thoroughly enjoying ourselves
  • Kids started back to school with Tom entering his final year of primary school.  H starts kinder and this year marks our final year ever at Wydinia Kindergarten: 10 years all up.
  • Bella picks up tap dancing as an extra dance genre.  It is a LOUD activity.In March, we started preliminary discussions with a local architect to renovate and increase the size of our house.  This has been a long time coming and to be honest, I think there is still a long way in front of us.
  • Trevor celebrate 10 years with us and starts making good on taking long service leave (lucky bugger!)
  • Biddy is diagnosed as being unable to digest and absorb a number of carbohydrates and is on track to develop coeliac disease.  This follows on from some surgery she has just prior to Christmas the previous year.  Lots of tests ensued to work out what is the issue.  Biddy was placed on a full FODMAP elimination diet for 8 – 10 weeks and then had to reintroduce foods, one carbo family at a time.  The process is still not complete and has taken about 10 months.  Exhausting for me to work out what she can and can’t eat.  We are still working on diet.
  • Biddy and Tom go on their respective class school camps
  • Tom has increasing fainting spells and dizzy spells culminating in a seizure where his breathing and heart stopped for a bit.  scary stuff.  Tests for cardio and neuro followed but to date, nothing concrete has appeared as to why.
  • Our first ever backpacker has joined our Craiglands team.  Issy Foster, from England, is spent about 4 months with us.  She fit in amazingly well and everyone was very sorry to see her go.
  • We filmed an online advert for Puffing Billy during the first school holidays.  The filming crew obviously loved Bella as she gets quite a bit of the screen time.  You can see the clips HERE and HERE .
  • I started pilates as part of my surgery recovery (from last year) as I was having significant muscular pain.
  • In May, calving started on the farm and from now on, it is busy all the time as one activity rolls into another.
  • Mark is forced to resign from the Bonlac Supply Company board and the Fonterra Farmers Forum (of which he was chair) due to the fact that he voiced his concerns that the company was not looking out for the farmers.  Amazingly, in the months that followed, many of his PMR symptoms regressed and we now realise just how much stress he was under in the role he held off farm.
  • We nominate St Brendans Primary to take part in the “Cows Create Careers” program and give them 2 calves to rear for a few weeks.
  • Henry turned 5
  • Josh Robertson (aka Robbo) completed his Cert III in dairy and graduated at the SW Dairy Awards.
  • Bella turned 7
  • We dehorned calves for the first time using twilight sedation.  A game changer as far as labour management and animal welfare.
  • Biddy’s pony had to be put down due to old age.
  •  Our annual holiday was for 2 weeks to do the Oodnadatta Track in outback SA.  We all loved it, including Cooper the Kinder Bear who came along with us.  A memorable trip and amazing landscape.  Do it.  Put it on your bucket list.
  • Tom turned 12 at Oodnadatta
  • Biddy has a dermatologist appointment for itchy skin and turns out she has a number of skin issues (typical!).  Creams, lotions and potions are dispensed.
  • Sam becomes a mentor in a PhD program
  • We all got the flu over the third school holidays.
  • Bella undertakes her ballet and tap exams and aces the tap exam with a High Distinction!!
  • We start to get some info back on our participation in the Improving Herds project and initial data is great.
  • We use our genetic testing information to mate our heifers and cows based on BPI for the first time ever.
  • Biddy and Bella participate in their dance school’s dance concert with both of them picking up main roles.
  • Buster the rescue cat had to be put down due to kidney failure.
  • the farm hosts 8 dairy women from across Australia, including Sam, to film a segment to encourage Australian women to eat more cheese.  This advert will be aired in early 2018.
  • We welcome Emily into our Craiglands team.  Emily is undertaking a school based apprenticeship through Colac Secondary College.
  • The storm of the century  – the storm to end all storms, the 1 in 100 year event – cancels plans across Victoria including our family Christmas gathering in Gippsland. Only for the weather to be fine and sunny on SW Victoria.
  • Army worm moved in across SW Victoria and decimates pastures.  We spend $$ on getting rid of the bastards.
  • Tunnel moth moves in after army worms.  More $$ to get rid of these.
  • Silage season is great with good cuts both at home farm and at Gellibrand.
  • Robbo breaks his arm riding a bike (on his own time and off farm!).
  • Season turns off quickly after silage season, so a couple of truckloads of vetch hay is needed to get cows through summer.
  • Sophie finishes her Cert III in dairy.
  • Biddy turns double digits – 10 – on Christmas Day.
  • Rex the farm terrier died after an altercation with one of the tractors while Mark was feeding out.

That’s about it in a nutshell.  It was a busy year and on the whole, it went ok.  Looking forward to 2018, I hope that we can get some final plans drawn up for our house and as a family, get to spend more time off the farm together…even just for an afternoon or a night.  Tom starts secondary school which is exciting for everyone.  H starts primary school which is bittersweet, but the girls are looking forward to having him with them more.  H is looking forward to travelling on the bus!  Of course, we hope that some lifestyle changes for us all will result in better overall health, but I suspect that the reduction of stress on Mark will help a lot.  I also hope that next year we don’t loose as many pets, because poor Biddy suffered a bit with loss this year. Next year, with H starting school, I will be starting back on the farm 2 days a week and devoting chunks of time to updating our farm blog, website, Twitter account and Facebook page.  Keep an eye out for all that!

Have a wonderful New Year.


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Does selling drugs online really work?

Category : Uncategorized

I have been involved with a home based business for many years.  in February, I will be 9 years as a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator with my Graceful Impressions business.  Over this time, I reckon that the online component has increased substantially – not just for me, but for all other craft demos as well – to the point that if you don’t have an online presence, then basically, you are dead in the water business-wise.

In early 2018, I am about to launch another arm of my craft business; selling heat pressed and sublimated merchandise.  Again, this will require a substantial online presence to make the business work.  It is time consuming to have an online business, even though people believe that if you work form home, you have all the time int he world.  That maybe true for some, but really, the time you put into your business – whether it be a traditional bricks and mortar shop, a dairy farm or an online business – will dictate how successful you are at it.   They all require work.  In fact, I have found that unless firm boundaries are set early on, online businesses can become all consuming.  They take up all your time and focus because let’s face it, these days, we are connected 24/7.  We are online all the time and the temptation to answer emails after hours, or package up orders at night when we should be having down time, or working throughout the weekend is sometimes overpowering.

But even putting in an inordinate amount of time developing, massaging and preening an online business, I have found that it is tough.  Bloody tough.  Sometimes, ridiculously tough.  When I started out, you simply needed a blogsite.  Then you needed to photograph every project and provide instructions or links.  Then successful demos starting offering online classes.  Then the crafting community moved on to doing YouTube clips of them actually making their projects.  And if you weren’t up with all that, you were not even a blip on the average crafters computer screen.

Which leads me to my initial post topic….online drug selling.  Does it really work?  I assume it does, because I imagine that they flood the market with the hope that they pick up a small percentage.  I ask this question because I just deleted 4,500+ comments (to mainly one of my posts on this website) that was related to selling drugs and medications online.  Quite obviously, all the spam people out there have hooked onto that one post (there was really only one other post that attracted any spam and it was minor) and since October, all those comments have flooded in.  Some were about essay writing (but I bet they were about sex), others were blatantly about porn.  But the vast, VAST majority was trying to get me to click on buying Ritalin or prednisone, or endone, or drugs I have never heard of!

Even if most of these comments and emails are computer generated, someone has to code it.  Someone has to set it up.  Knowing the workload to create and maintain online info, there are people out there that are putting in some serious hours.  And knowing the amount of time I put into MY business and the minuscule returns I got for it, I have to wonder at just how much $$ is being made on this illicit market given that they are still going strong.  Very strong.

Now to work out how to turn off comments for that post…….