The Moons of Yanakie are among three new Gippsland Focus Farms that will run until mid-2020.
Focus Farms, which are funded by Dairy Australia and managed by GippsDairy, are not 'demonstration' or 'best practice' farms, but commercial dairy farms trying to manage the variability of the dairy industry.
The Focus Farm receives support from an experienced farm consultant, who acts as a group facilitator, and a support group made up of farmers and local service providers.
The Moon farm comprises a home farm and a neighbouring lease property with a combined 540 cows. The business is a partnership between Jared and Mel Moon and Jared’s parents Alex and Tricia, who also operate Moon's Buslines. The two farms operate on separate milking platforms but as one business.
The main goal of the Focus Farm is for Jared and Mel to purchase the lease farm by the end of the current season and set the business up so it can be a viable farm going forward.
"I’ve been in a Young Guns discussion group and felt like I had gone as far as I could with that so I felt like Focus Farm could be a new challenge for us.
"Mel and I started share farming with my parents in 2014, then the current lease farm opportunity came up in 2015, so we took up the option on the lease, taking over the farm just as the April 2016 milk price crashed.
"I’d like to improve our feeding efficiency. I’ve never been one to look too much at grass covers or residuals, I’ve always just worked out my allocations on cow behaviour. I think pasture management is where there are big gains to be had.
"A lot of the older farmers in the area have been very supportive of the Focus Farm and have rung me up to offer to be on the support group, which has been great."
"It’s just a great opportunity to fine tune the whole business operation
"I grew up on a sheep and wheat farm and I work off farm, so this is a good opportunity for me to get my head around the day to day running off the business.
"I work part time in the commercial business side at Wilson's Promontory, after being a ranger previously. I manage commercial accommodation and cleaning contracts and have done emergency and risk management and been an OH&S rep as well. I'd like to use the Focus Farm to help improve on-farm safety, which is something we are looking to do. We’ve got a fair way to come in that area. We’re not doing too badly but we can improve."
"We are at the other end of the farming system. I’m back milking cows because this farm fell in our lap, so to speak. To make that possible, I stopped running the school buses and went back to milking cows. I told Jarrod and Mel I would give them five years and we are more than two and half years in – but who’s counting?
"We’re in our 50s and want to start doing some travelling. What we are prepared to do is provide the equity from our farm which will allow them to purchase this one. It’s silly for us to be part of the purchase of this land. So even though we operate as a four way partnership, we are aiming to get out.
"We hope the Focus Farm can point us in the direction where Jarrod and Mel can purchase the farm with our backing. Our intention is to milk all the cows on one farm, which would allow me to manage the home farm as a turnout block.
"I want to be able to choose when I work. I might want to work every day, but I want that choice. So I’m hoping the Focus Farm can get us going in that direction. I’m hoping it makes us focus on what we have to do to achieve that; what we have to do to our farm to allow us to milk 400 or 450 cows here. We think we can drop back by 80 or 90 cows and run it more efficiently.
"We will probably have an excess of land, but we can compensate by rearing calves to sell or maybe run some beef cows."
"I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us. I take a backseat because I run the bus business and it’s full-on.
"For me, like Mel, I’m big on the safety aspect and would like to see that improved.
"The bus business and the farm have gone ahead in leaps and bounds and I think now we need to make sure all the infrastructure and policies can catch up. Jarred grew up on the farm, so he understands the safety aspects, what happens and where things are, but if we get staff in, they haven’t got that knowledge. We need to protect them and we need to protect us and the business.
"We need to be ahead of that because, if we aren’t and something happens, all that hard work you put into pasture, the cows or building finances – that’s gone."