The signing off of another year

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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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Hell, fighting and school holidays

I take my hat off to those parents who home school.  God knows I couldn’t do it.  I have spent the better part of the 2 weeks of school holidays screaming – most likely to myself – about the state of the house, about why my kids cannot amuse themselves, about why they simply CANNOT exist in the same room as each other without an epic battle on a World War scale breaking out, about why technology is not the only form of entertainment, about why they cannot possibly be hungry every 30 seconds, and about why that even though it is holidays, they cannot stay up till all hours instead of going to bed.

School holidays are how I know that Heaven actually exists.  Because it’s been a little slice of Hell right here for the past 2 weeks.  Hell is real.  Hell is my house when school holidays are on and it is wet outside.






{more crying}

……and me trying to ignore it all.  Because even though THEY might be on holidays, I’m not.  I’m trying to get the calf registrations for 2015 and 16 all up to date. It was a ridiculous task to attempt with the kids.  But by the grace of God, the power of my mental stability, my talent for being able to tune out whinging, and the ability of myself to self medicate with wine, I was able to achieve it.  Yay me!  When I finally finished, I felt like I should win some award or something.  At the very least, I should have had a ceremony held in my name.  Or maybe a dinner cooked for me.

I’m left wondering what I did wrong.  Where did I go off the rails?  Why is it that my kids seem singularly intent on killing each other rather than banding together and seeing the benefit of having built in playmates.  I am an only child and I would have done anything to have siblings.  It completely alludes me as to why my kids cannot enjoy each other.  Or maybe this is just what families with multiple kids are like.  I dunno.

Anyway, the 2 weeks of  forced family fun are coming to an end and I cannot be happier.  There are mums out there that I hear saying “oh I love spending time with my kids”, or “I so enjoy having the kids home on holidays and I am so going to miss them when they go back”.  Really?  I think I’m missing some mum gene.

I think it was all made worse because the kids were looking forward to going away for a couple of nights.  We were set to go to Melbourne to visit relatives and go to the museum and Healesville Sanctuary, but Mark ended up with some nasty staph infection and required some pretty hefty drugs to get on top of it.  So much so, he needed to have a drip line thingy put in his arm and he had to go into A&E every 12hrs to have IV antibiotics.  I wish we could have racked up some frequent flyer miles or the like on those visits.  So because he was tied to the hospital at 9am and 9pm every day, we could only manage one day trip to Melbourne which was fun, but short lived in the minds of kids.

But the light is at the end of the tunnel.  And by that, I mean daylight savings start on Sunday.  Whoo hoo.  I am a summer girl and I love the hot weather.  My kids are hot weather kids too.  I look forward to the increased daylight, the increased warmth and the increased ability for the kids to get outside and amongst it.  It’s safe to say we are a much happier family for the months of October – April.

In retrospect, maybe I could do the home school thing……but only if the daylight hours were 15hrs a day and the outside temperature was a minimum of 25 degrees.

Monday morning will be here very soon and with it the routine of making lunches, washing uniforms, doing after school activities and cajoling kids to do their homework.  And I will be wishing that the holidays would hurry up and get here!

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Another blow to the dairy industry

In our business, we deal with people.  A LOT. From bankers, accountants, industry service providers, staff, training organisations, government bodies, R&D groups, solicitors, vets, other farmers and the general public.  And many more.

In dealing with all these people and groups, the most important part for us is building relationships.  Some of people that work on our farm (both directly and indirectly) we have known for years.  Before our kids were born.  They have been with us in the ups and the downs of the dairy industry.  They have been our counsel, our friends and our greatest supporters.  Many have stuck by us in times of low incomes (such as now) providing services that we couldn’t pay for right away.  They knew we would be good for it.  They knew we would be in it for the long haul.  They knew that we knew what we were doing.

There are a handful of people that work for companies that we have developed personal relationships with.  I know that this is also the case for other dairy farmers too.  So when one of them gets screwed by the company they work for, I am also affected.

Last week, ABS Australia held meetings and announced to their staff that a great proportion of them will be made redundant – approximately 40%.  (see Weekly Times article)  The reason given (as I read it on the social media network) is that they were dropping the service part of their business such as AI, freeze branding and dehorning.  OK, I can accept that there are others out there in the marketplace that are doing these things.  But, some of the people that were given their marching orders didn’t do these jobs.  The particular ABS guy that we use didn’t do anything remotely in relation to these jobs.  He was to sell semen and carry out the company’s GMS program.  A program, that I am lead to believe, is something that ABS is wanting to further develop and deliver to all its farmer clients.

Their timing couldn’t be worse.  Really.

A great number of dairy farmers supply MG and Fonterra and have had the rug pulled out from underneath them.  They are only now coming to grips with the impact that the decision to cut milk price will have on their business.  Our business is struggling.  I am happy to be open about that.  Our business that is currently being farmed by a 4th generation (on the same property), that has invested heavily in technology and development, that has access to great minds in service delivery and nutrition, that has vibrant, young and eager staff on board, is struggling.  I can only image what it is like for others out there.

And now, we are faced with the loss of one of the key people we use for our breeding program.  To say that I am disappointed and shocked doesn’t really express my feelings.

Getting breeding programs right on dairy farms is crucial.  We don’t just milk any cow.  We milk cows that are fit for purpose on our farm.  And this is different to someone else’s farm.  For a cow to enter the dairy, the process starts with the selection of the semen that will used over a particular cow to give us a calf that will display traits that we desire.  To get this right, there is much information that we need too wade through.  We cannot do it by ourselves.  It is ridiculous to think that we can be all things to the business.  This is why we use specialists in a range of professions.

Over the years, I have worked hand in glove with two semen reps.  They have assisted in tweeking our breeding goals and have taken personal interest in making sure that we are constantly moving towards the achievement of them.  They know the cow side of our business inside out.  Their knowledge base of our particular herd is as good as mine.  But it is more than that.

We love them.  We respect them and their judgement.  They are used within our business for slightly different aspects, but together with us, they form the backbone of the breeding team.  And now one of them is gone.  Forced to leave.  And I don’t understand why (as an aside, neither does he).

Not that long ago, the other one also faced a job crisis.  The company he was with changed ownership and whilst his job was still available, the changed conditions and expectations did not match his own professional goals.  So he left and took up a position with another semen company.  And we went with him.  Our AI program this year featured 50% of semen from this new company and 0% from his old company.

On the back of what has been going on within the dairy industry and the lack of REAL support from milk companies and government, ABS has done itself – I believe – a great disservice.  For us, our AI program is almost finished for the year.  But there are some farmers still in the midst or just starting.  They will be affected greatly.  It is just another blow to the dairy industry.

ABS clearly has not recognised that it is not really about the product.  It is all about relationships.  We didn’t stick with ABS all these years because of their great semen choice.  Believe me, there were some years there, where we were really scratching around to find bulls that would fit our system.  But we stuck with them.  There are any number of semen companies out there.  So why did we stay?  Because of our great relationship with our semen rep.  And why would we go?  Because of our great relationship with our semen rep.

Fortunately for our business, we have time up our sleeve to see where the cards fall for our guy.  He is knowledgable, approachable, reliable and an all round great bloke.  He will be snapped up for sure.  And it will be your loss ABS.

I’m guessing that in a few months time, the logos we will be wearing on our promotional gear will not bear the letters “ABS”.