Reflecting on their time participating in the project, Terry and Shannon are very happy they took part. It brought great value to their business.
“We saw the Focus Farm as an opportunity to fast track our knowledge of farming in a completely different environment to what we were used to,” said Terry.
“We could have spent years finding out by trial and error what works down here, but instead we surrounded ourselves with people that know about dairying in this region – the support group – and that has really helped us to achieve our goals.”
Most of the goals set out at the start of the Focus Farm program were achieved, or were well on the way to being completed, at the end of the project.
The change to an autumn calving pattern was one of the main goals since previously the cows calved year-round in order to provide a flat milk supply for the liquid market in New South Wales. This proved to be one of the most discussed goals within the Support Group.
In the end, the decision was taken to transition the cows in two stages; using a temporary summer calving period to move the spring calvers round to autumn. Pasture improvements were another major focus. With the close support of agronomist Glenn Cain, most of the paddocks were reseeded.
Establishing an appropriate cost of production, in what was effectively a new business, was another goal of the project. Annual budgets were drawn up using any relevant historical data, and the knowledge of the Support Group. As with any business, there needs to be a decision around when to pay down debt and when to invest. Terry and Shannon chose to use the good milk income at the time to set the farm up for the future.
The plan was always to employ some labour to help take the pressure off the family and allow for more of a work-life balance. When the project commenced, the Blasches were milking 320 cows with the part-time support of Terry’s father. Cow numbers at the end of the program were approaching 400, so the need for more labour was even more imperative. This was solved somewhat with the couple’s son, Flynn, taking a year out after completing his schooling. Labour reserves were then further boosted by the recruitment of a backpacker.
Throughout the project, the Blasches were open to the ideas proposed by the Support Group and have used this advice and support to help guide their decision making. This openness – along with the couples’ drive and passion for the industry – meant the project was a great success.
“Being able to discuss ideas with the group, hear about others’ experiences and then make informed decisions, has been fantastic for our business. Being new to the area it was also a great way to meet people and many of those involved are now good friends,” said Terry.
If you are interested in becoming a Focus Farm, fill out this form and a member of the WestVic Dairy team will be in touch.