Thursday, January 10, 2013

My dad, the dairy farmer

Dad has worn a few hats in his long life (he's nearly 92) but mostly he was a farmer. The word 'farmer' covers a lot of ground but in dad's case it means 'wheat and sheep', then 'dairy', then 'sheep'. This blog is about his time as a dairy farmer because that period coincides with my youth.

In the early 1950s mum and dad moved from a wheat farm in Victoria's Wimmera district to a dairy farm in the Western District. Dad says they moved because he got sick of driving round and round in circles. The farm they bought was perfect for dairying - it had a creek flowing along one border, it had low paddocks that held good pasture over the dry months and high paddocks that were dry in the wet months, it had acres of natural bush that provided timber for new fences - and it was in a great little community.

Dad's dairy, summer 1973
Dad worked hard and made a good living off the dairy cows in the 50s and 60s, and supplemented his income with relief school bus driving, contract hay baling and sale of timber from the bush. We kids thought it was a perfect environment. A dairy farmer's daily routine is dictated by the needs of the cows so dad was always up early for the morning milking and we always had to be back for the afternoon milking (this was particularly annoying if we'd been to the beach for the day). And we could only go on holiday in May because that was when the cows were briefly 'dry'. Dad didn't need to go down to the paddock to get the cows because he could stand on the back verandah and whistle loudly and they would lift up their heads from grazing and start walking up the lane to the dairy. He always had machinery to milk the cows, a walk-in dairy system that had six or eight cows being milked at any one time. Dad's herd size was less than 40 and took more than an hour to milk - now in the same time they milk hundreds of cows in fully automated rotary dairies. At first dad would put the milk and cream in cans and take them to the end of our lane to be picked up but later he put the milk in stainless steel vats and a truck came to pump it out every day or so. I think he enjoyed his work.

Dad's dairy, summer 1973
After about 20 years the authorities started to tighten up on regulations about health, cleanliness and quality and dad decided that he didn't want to spend the money to upgrade, stopped being a dairy farmer and became a sheep and beef cattle farmer. And then they sold the farm and moved into town. But he made sure he bought a house with a big shed so he's still got somewhere to go and tinker.

5 comments:

  1. I'm also the daughter of a diary farmer. We were at Gellibrand River. Did you have a special job that involved a very wide, long-handled squeegee, gum boots and a hose?

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  2. Yes, but ours was a wide broom :)

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  3. Me too! Dad worked the dairy at Longerenong Ag College near Horsham and we used to work in it too - when the students were on holidays. I remember the gum boots, hose and big broom too.

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  4. I so remember that dairy cousin Lorraine and the farm having spent many wonderful school holidays with you and your siblings. Hiding in the milk drums. Setting rabbit traps. Sending ferrits down rabbit burrows. Skinning rabbits. Waiting patiently for the rabbito to collect our rabbits from the shelter shed where we strung them up in pairs at the end of the lane. Such excitemenmt when we collected our payment left by rabbito in a glass jar. Eel fishing in the creek. Avoiding Tiger snakes. Making hay stack cubby houses. Plucking wook off dead sheep to sell. Stripping bark of wattle trees to sell to the tanner in Hamilton. Motoring around using the motorised earth plow towing a large trailer carrying younger cousins and neighbours kids. Stilt walking. Warm baths and stinging scratches got from playing in the hay stack. Do kids have such fun today?

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  5. Oh, how we loved heading over to "the farm". Racing over to the milking shed and hay stack as soon as we arrived after a long drive . Driving the tractor up through the bush, then back through the paddocks throwing off the hay. Having my first driving lessons as a kid, in the old white Holden - what a trusting instructor I had! Escaping down the track to the shearing shed, cutting poor sheep trying to shear, being horrified when I sneakily squeezed the handle on the fuel bowser and fuel squirted out, trying not to fall through the ramps at the house, semolina for brekkie cooked on the wood stove, choosing boots from the vast array of gum boots, tailing and ringing lambs at THAT other farm down the road and being so muddy we had to go back to farm in the back of a trailer ( I think!). Such great times….

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I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.

Lorraine